Tuesday, April 25, 2006

what do you do when you fall?

For the longest time, blogs and columns from the various news organizations have focused on a particular question: "how can we get this country out of its rut?" We of course vary on the wording but they all ask the same thing. Take for example, Manuel Buencamino's question, “What will it take to move this suspended, ‘sick and tired,’ disturbed, desperate, unconvinced middle?” MLQ3 also has a similar question: Why has the Philippines become increasingly uncompetitive? Or my own, "Who has it?" And for all our questions, we have no answers to break the mold, to shatter the status quo and the will to Forge something out of our adversity.

Then Ms. Coronel of the PCIJ, comes out with an inspiring Forging a New Social Contract, which she addressed to the UP School of Economics, Class of 2006. She summazied the facts--- our economic-socio-political situation perfectly. It is the kind of language that is moving, inspiring, thought-provoking and one I have longed to hear from people in public space and from those who aspire for public office, and her speech, in my humble opinion reflects exactly the State of the Nation.

"The generations before you — including mine, which reached adulthood in the 1980s, at the dawn of people power — have failed." Ms. Coronel admitted. There is something melancholy in Ms. Coronel's tone and similarly in MLQ3's Generation Gap. I understand your motivations. I beg your pardon, madam and sir and to your generation. Your work isn't done yet--- not by far. I ask you this: What do you do when you fall?

Your assesment of the situtation is perfectly correct. You understand this: "The current political, economic and social crisis gripping the Philippines today is a direct result of every policy, every decision by the Filipino over the last twenty years". And yes, this land is gripped by patronage politics--- largely because every Filipino is a willing participant in it, as MLQ3 quoted: replacement of an old elite class by a newer one with different interests and sources of power, even though many of the individuals and families are the same. Despite the many works decrying the static composition of Philippine elites, and the bipolarity of Philippine society, I argue that this shift is affording an unprecedented amount of upward mobility and the rapid growth of a Filipino “middle class.”

For the same token that it should be a national shame that there are kids like Christian Alvarez or kids dying because they were feeding on left over scraps and at the same time, we have generals in the military living the life of a king. In your generations' bid to provide for every whim for your sons and daughers, for family.

I am certain you are aware of what goes on in the backrooms of power. Where everything has been decided, every tender opened, every initiative made--- all sorted out and agreed to behind closed doors. So by the time a public tender comes out, they are but mere formalities, most of the time. This is what my generation is being mentored in, the status quo.

We live in a time when Patronage Politics is being institutionalized--- the railroad that is Cha-Cha is at the forefront of this. At the end of the day it may be just, it will be the law of the land. And we will adapt to it and change will be slow to counter act it.

There are two ways to go about this problem with nation building--- follow the footsteps of the generation before us or in youthful rebellion, abandon such subscription and follow our own. In many ways the latter is already happening--- not just by my generation but across this country in every generation. Mr. Quezon fondly recounts one such incident in Planters and Millers that a new middle class is growing from their time abroad, building new lives, new hopes quietly. There is a growing number of politicians who in their various Cities across this nation are transforming them to better places--- they are giving out results, fundamental results. Slow for sure and not without the occasional compromise here and there but getting there none-the-less.

Still, one great cause of lament is the terrible achievement rate (below 50%) in math, english and science in elementary and high schools in the Philippines. Or that in every survey, toping the list of concerns for Filipinos is their Health and the fact that in this country we have a terrible healthcare system beholden to the patronage spearheaded by the medical companies, but patronage none-the-less.

As all blogs have noted: the old guard, the status quo resists change. Simply because it is a natural thing to do so. And yet, there is hope across this country as new families come together. New wealth from their time abroad come home and settle or Old Families discovering new sources of income flock to financial markets and become new barons in their own right.

And Patronage Politics will still exist often becoming irrelevant to the tides of common decency, of entrepreneural zeal, if we let it. Though patronage politics will not fade away and die, not with your generation and maybe not ever because it will remain status quo, because the old guard of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her ilk will never let the old times die.

Along the way we'll have problems that crop up as we search for a better way. Take this for example, trouble encountered by my generation seeking gainful employment. Sad to say there will still be many more Christian Alvarezes, not until the day those in the backrooms of power transform from being a leech to a more symbiotic relationship with our people. And it will take many more generations until we can get to where we dream of today. Still that hope remains.

Blogs like mine and many others debate or should I say, often lament our nation's folly. And so guys like Bong Austero quotes a question from Ms. Melinda de Jesus in his blog. how does blogging fit into the larger scheme of human communication?

Francis Bacon already answered this long before our time, long before computers as we know it have been invented, and the Internet not even a dream. He said, "Read not to contradic and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider". And that is why we blog--- we let others weigh and consider our thoughts, and perhaps gleam from what we know.

In all these blogs and columns and the magic of the Internet one can say our consensus is that we agree there need be work to be done. We have a consensus on how to go about it--- in our own creative ways. Journalists bring the news to the light of day, businessmen do their thing and commercial centers and factories keep on going. The middle class in exile abroad do their thing, make money and come home to reap the fruits of their labor. And pretty soon, we'll have a better nation. In our own little profession, in our businesses, we lead and aspire to be better than we are and perhaps inspire others by our example.

Critically acclaimed and commercially successful author, Frank Herbert in his 1985 novel "Chapterhouse" wrote this: The person who takes the banal and ordinary and illuminates it in a new way can terrify. We do not want our ideas changed. We feel threatened by such demands. "I already know the important things!" we say. Then Changer comes and throws our old ideas away.

So what do you do when you fall?

Is there a Generation Gap or should our younger generation take over from our parents?

Eventually, the guard will change when the time comes. The generation that sired mine may have taken more missteps as Ms. Coronel admitted. The Generation Gap--- we view differently the world, but don't all generations do that? Many in the blogsphere lament we talk and talk here--- and nothing gets done or we create a world of conflict rather than consensus. Do you know what? The seeds are being sowed.

Ms. Coronel closed with this in her speech and reflects the thoughts, feelings and aspirations of her generation and all you need do is read MLQ3, Bong Austero's and so many people's work. "I have confidence in you, the Class of 2006. It is my hope you will have far greater clarity than we have had. The generations before you are jaded and worn out. They may no longer be capable of creativity; their energies are spent. They are stuck with old templates — imposing old solutions to new problems. We need to break out of the mold. We need your youth, your imagination, and your energy to do this."

Will the Generations be open to creative, new ideas? Seriously? This is my contribution: what will you do when you fall?


BongA said...

Whew! This piece hits the right buttons. It got me. Thanks.

Bong Austero

cocoy said...