Sunday, May 27, 2007

Designing Moving On

The fundamental question that has been asked time and time again is the question on what it means to move on in a society in which our very landscape is deadly terrain. Many have come up with steps--- appropriate responses to untangle the mess that Philippine Society has found itself in. Well and good those measures are, and many are laudable efforts and are worth our effort to make use of them, but in this landscape do we find ourselves in a prisoner's dilemma or a tragedy of commons, or perhaps in something different?

So let us be honest: we have on one side--- our "aristocracy" of politicians, then in another camp, we have the "elite" business industrialists and technocrats, and on a corner our working masses of academe, regular employees, overseas workers. We have the Artisans and the Warrior Caste (the military, the police, and the mercenaries) and then we have a caste called Poor, which is really a subset of the working masses and to a certain degree, our artisans and warrior caste.

Each of these groups have their individual aspirations, hopes and their own self-interests to preserve. The "Aristocracy" needs to protect the status quo, after all, who in their right mind would let go of power, influence and wealth? The "elite" protects the most important to them: profits. The working masses want what the elite have: profits, and the artisans and the warrior caste want wealth, influence and power. Lastly, the Clergy wishes to preserve their influence and remain very much involved in the moral and day-to-day lives of people.

Let us set that aside for a bit and for a moment look at our landscape. For the sake of discussion, let us shrink our archipelago into one city: our capital. It is not simply Manila, but a giant vast organism called Metro Manila that incorporates several cities. This sprawling metropolis represents every culture, every region and every province all in our perfect diversity. Yet look at our capital from the flying skyline of Makati, Bonifacio and Ortigas to the Old City of Manila and the suburb Quezon City and other surrounding cities--- its planning, its design which is mirrored across the entire country, is as disjointed as we are.

Thousands of blogs, millions of opinion, and endless analysis have given us picture after picture of what's life in the Philippines all about and it all goes down to this: what we have appears to be myriad stake holders with their own selfish intent and are individually maximizing their own good and the way we run things is that there is no intent, no focus, no "logic", in the way we run our national life. Our signal of intention is (wait for it, drum roll please)... there is none.

We can think of the Philippines as a place where the Prisoner's Dilemma exists. It can also be viewed as a Tragedy of Commons. Funny thing though, people will refuse to move past those notions.

Given our current predicament, there is a William Churchill quote that is most appropriate:
"The Era of Procrastination, of Half-Measures, of Soothing and Baffling Expedients, of Delays, is Coming to its Close. In its Place We are Entering a Period of Consequences."
As we measure the apathy and disdain of our people in our nation's political processes, it is like a speeding train. Perhaps it will not be a huge crash. Perhaps it would be a thunderous thud. It may even be a silent whisper. It can also be averted.

Our people in general are losing faith in government and as a whole the political processes. They're largely the working masses. They are quiet. They work for a living and they raise families, no matter the political environment. A lot of them work outside the country. A lot of them work nine to five and many are professionals and they are also doing the odd jobs.

Individual effort can positively make a great impact, so it must be asked, with all the half-measures of the powers that be, what if the consequence of which is the working masses, in the tradition of prisoner's dilemma, the ones who defect?

Old news, certainly.

In the same way there are myriad ideas on how "move on" is as disjointed as we are. Perhaps it's time to look at it from a different perspective like for instance, How Much Can We Give For All We Get? William McDonough and Michael Braugart wrote that piece and it was on regenerative commerce and the new entrepreneurial spirit. They asked questions like "What do I do?", "How can my work make a better world?" and "How much can I give for all that I get?" Here's a snippet:
When the legacy of an enterprise-its long-term value to the world-drives the business agenda, it unleashes the power of commerce to create a wide spectrum of positive effects. This is perhaps best understood by the new social entrepreneurs, whose value proposition is not "How much can I get for how little I give?"-the mantra of the old capitalism-but instead, "How much can we give for all we get?" Rather than focusing on the quarterly bottom line, this new question suggests a rich, inspiring pursuit of life-affirming wealth and productivity.

"How much can we give for all we get?" is fundamentally a design question. Asked throughout the design process it guides entrepreneurs toward products, facilities and business models that grow ecological and social revenue while generating economic health. The goal is good growth for all. Instead of simply seeking to reduce the negative impacts of economic activity-the reductivist's attempt to be "less bad"-we can develop businesses built on a wholly positive agenda that aims to enhance the human footprint, leaving behind wetlands and clean water, prosperity and nutrition, fertile farmland and healthy children.
We can begin mapping out building our future, planning for it honestly and unequivocally. It begins by actually implementing projects that will take us into a desired future. It means building and doing things right now and none of these half-measures and ideas that doesn't not take into account where the world is and where our competitors are in the world stage. When we do that we answer the question of incapacity.

Can the future be designed? If we are to face a future--- a sustainable future for every Filipino, we need to decide to take action now and none of our half-measures, these childish antics and shortsighted vision. We can begin by taking a hard look at our cities and actually getting into building for the future. We need to ensure adequate fresh water, for instance. we need to build affordable and useful transportation across the various parts of the Capital (and by extension the rest of the country). We need to provide adequate and cheap power. We need to find ecologically sound and viable means of waste management. All these things are being implemented, in China for instance in Cradle to Cradle design (the community is here), which isn't really a bad way of looking at the world.

We also need to honestly look at The Elephant in the Room and one that looks forward, rather than backwards.

These are just some of many myriad things that can be done, right now. If only people really look hard into it.

There is something to be learned from social entrepreneurs. It isn't simply locked into ecological ideas. It will inspire our people and get them to believe. It is a door into better design, which is a long way of saying "designing a nation that we want to live in".

The right way to "Move On" is all about small steps. It is about creating a nation of equal opportunity. It is about creating a nation of fairness. It is about creating a nation where we sustain abundance, development and growth. The right way of doing is leaving behind ancient capitalist ideas of profit margins and bottom line and asking each of ourselves, "how can my work make a better world?" The right way to move on, is actually, honestly doing, rather than talking.