Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Leadership Agenda

Is apathy a great evil? There is a sense of indifference coming from people and a fatalism that no matter who wins in the Philippines' May 2007 elections, the status quo will remain. Who cares who wins? Some say it is because of frustration, perhaps it is a deeper underlying anger and disdain at the mediocrity being foisted upon us. who wouldn't after all the lies, all the successive failures and all the hidden and twisted agenda and backstabbing?

When Cory Aquino was ushered to power, it created a rebirth of democracy in the Philippines and in spite of the many trials that came during her day, democracy was perhaps her biggest legacy. The stabilization and the building of the seeds of institution around a nascent democracy, a minor second to her achievement of keeping its flame alive.

During the 1990s, poised to take off and riding on the wave of investments sweeping South East Asia, perhaps the greatest success of Fidel Ramos was to create a genuine sense of unity under the banner and vision of "Philippines 2000". Never mind that as the bubble collapsed, so too did much of the wealth but the seeds of growth and achievement remained there.

Erap Estrada, no matter what one can say against the man, he can claim that his majority, his electoral victory was unprecedented and untarnished. It was proof that no machine can subvert the overwhelming desire of the people. it was proof that democracy won that day of his election yet his greatest failing was perhaps throwing away an opportunity to change this nation and this squandering of an electoral mandate also spawned an even deadlier virus by a vigilante middle class and they in turn, was used as an instrument to usurp an election.

As they say, it is ancient history and now we are here. With our economic progress such as it is, and while it is nothing extraordinary, this economy is riding once more on the wave of global progress and its success or failure determined by the Global economy.

A few days ago, Rene Azurin wrote "Indifference is a Mistake" in his BusinessWorld Column:
"This is an agenda we can all act on. I suspect, though, that unless we can get a stirred up youth to direct their fire and passion to demanding changes that matter, not much will happen. The young need to supply the energy and enthusiasm that we who are older and tireder now appear sadly lacking. They cannot be indifferent just yet. It is their future that is at stake."
Given our people's ever growing desire to work beyond the country, and while their wealth is generated elsewhere, has this Republic become a mere suburb in the sprawling nation of the world? they work abroad, their kids grow up at home, study at home and at the appointed time leave the nest and work elsewhere. And thus, has the Philippines' national government been reduced to the effectiveness and level of a homeowner's association?

Put it in this way: a man gives everything to a woman, who he loves. she in turn leaves him, breaks his heart and not even because she has another man waiting in the wings. she just leaves for no apparent reason. she comes back and the man forgives. she leaves again, hurts him and he forgives. after so many times, is the man an idiot? the feminists would write it the other way around, which doesn't really matter because the story never changes: when you've been hurt one too many times, when then do you cross the line and become an idiot?

Politics is content. In the same way you attract people's attention like buying goods or services: it is a form of content and in a world where there are so many things vying for content there is no room for people who demand you to listen to theirs. The generation of the technology savvy is the generation that gives merit to content. it approves what benefits them or what interests them. in other words, they get something out of it. If your content is terrible, is it the fault of the consumer or the producer of the content if it doesn't click?

We've entered an age where technological achievement is ushered in from private enterprise. Rarely is it spawned anymore from government initiatives and even then it is private enterprise that really takes it off the ground. The Wright Brothers took it upon themselves to fly and their desire infected others and today, aircraft has made the world a much smaller place. On another hand, look at the Internet: a byproduct of the Cold War but it was only when private enterprise started using it and leveraging it, when it started to be productive.

So what use is government now? Balancing the playing field: an arbiter, an entity that sets up rules of the game for private enterprise and individuals to play in. It seeds infrastructure when private enterprise refuses to build one or isn't interested in building one. it provides an insurance: a safety net for disasters and issues of general importance.

What happens when justice takes too long to uphold for rich and poor alike, when crime is so prevalent you can't even walk the streets carrying a cheap mobile phone safely or ride a bus without thought of being a victim of crime? When the help needed to rebuild community victims of natural disasters can not be provided for, when the infrastructure so desperately needed to be built is non-existent or inefficient, what good is government for then?

On the other hand, this is an age where private enterprise-- private individuals can band together and build communities and provide services even at the time of disasters or when the common good is of importance. Filipinos around the world do it all the time. Non-government organizations do it all the time. Individuals banding together, forming communities to solve or answer a particular need is happening every single day.

Why do we need government for, when people even with limited resources that they have, can make a difference by themselves?

Perhaps another way of looking at it is this: people are looking for a leader. Which brings us to this question: what kind of leader is a good one?

Sun Tzu said[1] that these are the characteristics of a commander or in our case a good leader are these:
  • wisdom,
  • knowledge,
  • credibility,
  • strictness,
  • benevolent,
  • courageous,
  • is a skillful analyst,
  • is unconcerned by punishment,
  • puts the army/nation/organization first,
  • is tranquil, obscure, and upright,
  • has self-discipline,
  • is clever and inventive,
  • has a wide array of encompassing talents
Do you have those qualities?

A good leader is not just in government (the cynic would say never from government) and is found in all walks of life and in all sorts of organizations and communities. In Great Men and Sacrifice, I wrote that a good leader is also obsessed about the future and our past traditions:
I have only one point in all this. Let me ask you this: in Philippine society today, how often do we obsess about our future and how often do we concern ourselves with our past/traditions?

Great men lay their lives down, sure. Often, is not the greater sacrifice living such unhappy lives, taking on risks and trials---- suffering so that others may have happy or at least better lives? Anti-Hero or Villain, Linderman has a point: "great men are willing to sacrifice to save the world." Do you have what it takes to be great?
Leaders, change, making a difference--- they're no longer a monopoly of governments anymore. Can the future be designed because everyday people, ordinary people are making a difference right now: bringing up families, creating communities, innovating business and technology, helping each other and standing together. People can create their own future, right here, right now and are doing it every single day.

Government has become a nuisance.

It isn't anymore a case of being indifferent. People from all walks of life are doing what they can to make their lives better, on their own as best they could. Government and politicians have made the whole political genre a form of entertainment, like one big massive soap opera. So in television parlance: it has jumped the shark. it is not a case of being indifferent, it is a case of making government and politicians irrelevant.

It is in the Politicians best interest to keep the status quo: the "for the boys" club, the same old ideas, the stifling of civil liberties and innovation, the "you are against us or with us" mentality and the oppression of those who have no voice (updated:) and of course employing tactics as Ricky Carandang wrote in pretzel logic:
If a cursory look at the partlists and their nominees can immediately raise questions like these, imagine what a more detailed examination could unearth. And yet the Comelec wanted the voter to simply trust their judgement and vote blindly for their partylist reps. By keeping the names under lock and key, Comelec facilitated the sale of partylist seats and exposed voters to the danger that they may actually be sending someone to Congress that did not represent them or their interests. (end of update)
Stating the obvious and the ridiculous: by what sign of good faith do politicians give us?

Kidding aside, will casting a vote now advance the greater good?

In this video from TED, BMW's Chris Bangle talked about building the next generation of SUV but what really struck me as even more important is the leadership lessons to be learned from his presentation:

download zip/mp4 here

Politicians and by politicians i mean the whole government establishment plus many of those who were there in EDSA, and a lot of the old crowd of middle-class believers are asking us to place our trust once more in the political system, in government. Seriously, it seem pointless really. We are way past indifference. If government becomes irrelevant, why bother dealing with it? "You are either against us, or with us," isn't that what the old boys taught us kids? The Everyman's leadership agenda is this: people are (and better off) leveraging their own success through their own hard work, sheer audaciousness and determination.

further reading:
[1] "Sun Tzu: Art of War", translated by Ralph D. Sawyer, p132-134.


Jon Limjap said...

so tell me, will you be voting next week?

Cocoy said...

honestly? i am still hoping something--- news, an idea, anything really, between now and the day of the election to convince me to vote.

otherwise, it would be: s^2d^2