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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Skin in the Game

this post has been rewritten. you may find it here: Skin in the Game (Redux)

For the longest time, I've wrestled with not voting. I've made no secret of my contempt for the mediocrity we find ourselves in and my frustration knowing there is a greater world out there that we as a people can tap into, if only, more people could see. I've shared my sentiment over and over again, most recently in The Leadership Agenda. My firm belief in a theory that people are better off leveraging their own success through their own hard work, sheer audaciousness and determination has not wavered.

Some of you may be privy to how insiders do conduct their business and how things do work. We have many names for it: "Under the table", "For the boys," just to name two. That is just how the game is played. It hasn't changed in half a century and is part of our culture.

I've always said, one of the biggest problems with our politics of the day is that you could hardly differentiate the Administration and the Opposition. People often mistake that it is suppose to be that you are either Pro-Gloria, or Pro-Opposition.

We clamor for her ouster. We yearn her removal from office. I have no love for Gloria or her ilk, but I believe those who yearn her removal from office--- by force, by impeachment are 1) making a terrible mistake, and 2) wasting their energy.

They are making a mistake because it will not change the dynamics of the game. By focusing on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, we make it personal. Yes, she has done repellent things--- which we can not prove in court and if can, why the hell not? Yes, she says one thing and does another. She makes our blood boil and her activities and that of her dogs weaken our democracy. I submit that pGMA is a symptom and simply exchanging a dog we know, for another dog who we don't know is not the cure. Point: we exchanged Erap with a Gloria and it has haunted us.

When I say "wasting their energy", it is not to say: roll over and die with her every whim. Because we can not right a wrong made by making another wrong. I believe it was our mistake to bring Gloria to power: through EDSA 2. And right here, right now: that war is over and she won. That ship has sailed. It is water under the bridge. How many figures of speech or idioms do you need?

That is a painful thing to accept. I wish it wasn't so. It also does not change this fact: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is the symbolic symptom of our problem and not the problem.

"Wasting their energy", because I submit further that this Election was over before it even began. In fact my unsolicited advice is to look towards the future: 2010.

Our eye must be on what's next. We constantly focus on reaching where our neighbors are, matching their competitiveness. I submit to you: no way in hell we can catch up, not at the state we are in and I don't think we should. I submit to you as a nation the answer to becoming a successful country can be defined in two words. We must, to borrow Intel's slogan: Leap Ahead.

Going back to the here and now, when I look at the surveys and see who are more likely to make it, I cringe at the thought that the same old names and the same old faces and same old last names are in the game. I look at the list and also cheer at the fact that some of the names that shouldn't be there more so than the people who are in the list, may not make it. As much as it is going to be business as usual, the Senate at least will not be packed by people even less deserving than those who are highly probable to win.

Some people believe this is a Gloria v. Us election. Sort of a referendum of her rule and her way. If across the country, gloria's allies in every district, in every city and in every town will lose in overwhelming numbers across every seat, no matter how well they've performed: I may be inclined to believe you. It will be the surest sign of pure disdain for pGMA. Like i've mention above that thinking is wrong.

My firm belief in a theory that people are better off leveraging their own success through their own hard work, sheer audaciousness and determination has not wavered. I believe only through entrepreneurial spirit, through professional amateurs, can we innovate and grow. it is of course, easier said than done.

When Jon Limjap of Ang Kape Ni LaTtEX fame asked:
"so tell me, will you be voting next week?"
My reply was:
"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 (translates to: same shit, different day)"
That said, this is the part where I show you my list (in no particular order), come election day:
1. Aquino, Noynoy
2. Cayetano, Allan Peter
3. Lacson, Panfilo
4. Escudero, Chiz,
5. Trillanes, Antonio
6. Arroyo, Joker
7. Zubiri, Juan Miguel
8. Pimentel, Koko
9. Villar, Manuel
10. Defensor, Michael
11. Angara, Edgardo
12. Honasan, Gregorio
Shocking really to a lot of people that i know. May be a few readers out there as well. I will cast my vote and allow me to explain this change of heart.

Truth be told, only six people really made it on my list but I never really believed in a ballot that is half-empty. you've got to play the game wholeheartedly or not at all. I filled the empty seats because of one thing or another.
  • Aquino, Cayetano, Escudero are in because I want youth and brains to make a difference.
  • Lacson is a waste in the Senate, he should be in the executive branch given he is a tank. With the current climate, he's in the list because not letting him play would be a waste of firepower, so to speak.
  • Trillanes is there because this guy needs to show us what he's made of, i don't care how many medals he's got. He's got ideas, which is good place to start. let's see him do some actual good and not create a ruckus.
  • Zubiri and Defensor are there to give the opposing voice and Palace View of the World and these guys have brains and youth also on their side.
  • Angara, Arroyo, and Villar: they've been there and done that and though their alliances--- Angara and Villar are flaky and Joker, who I think needs to retire are all questionable. then again, what the heck: they can be relied on for the most part for sound judgments.
  • Honasan, having him in the Senate where people can see him is so much better than alienating the guy.
It was a tough call between Pimentel and Roco for me, but I choose Pimentel. Yes his dad is there, which is really a big deal on the wrong side of the track, but this guy could be the diamond in the rough and so he's "what the heck, up in the air vote".

This is by no means telling you, these guys are the "more deserving ones" and should be voted into office. Contrary, I trust, you the reader, would have your own reasons and your own shopping list.

Now on to the part where I explain this change of heart.

The more people I asked and the more I've read of other people's point of view why they're voting seem to culminate in two things. one, it is their right and by God, they will exercise it and second, they believe it would be a vote against an undeserving person, i.e. keeping the "bad guys" from gaining more power. they're all perfectly valid reasons and I respect their choice in the matter and we share the same spirit, but those are not the reasons why I decided to vote.

Memories of Water wrote Res Ipsa Loquitor and had this to say:
"Thus my vote for a representative is also a vote against the perpetuation of political dynasty, traditional politics, and just plain stupid and selfish politics. I could not even call our political situation as a strong republic; in fact, even the term republic is quite dubious as well. For the past years, no palpable revision of representation was felt in the country – only the continuous perpetuation of personal political interests and idiocy."
I'd like to believe in the same way. A lot of people are saying the same thing. When I look at my list and compare it to the surveys of probable winners, this come to mind: given the survey winners are poised to win, do these people really embody those values we speak of? Because the top 25 people are either veteran political operations or they and their family have been in the business of politics since this nation has been founded. My list is littered with people who are veteran operators and those in politics, why?

In Your Leader Is Like You, MLQ3 wrote this:
"The problem is, if rich and poor alike, we know what makes for good, or desirable leaders, rich or poor alike, we also tend to say our present crop of leaders, on the whole, are uninspiring.

But let me suggest something further to you. Just because a candidate doesn’t provide it, doesn’t mean the public hunger for good leadership isn’t there. It only proves that if the larger public has a sense of traditional, ethical values, our political class has no feeling for those values."
Interesting thought. I find it most troubling because when you think about it, we're hiring these people to serve us. They're going to be doing a job but their culture and ours are at cross purposes and it will only generate friction. On another hand, setting that aside: it couldn't be any different from hiring a lawyer or a doctor or some professional to do a job--- we only need to know that they can get the job done. Put that way, i can swallow that sentiment.

Given my list: I don't have to like them but I'm putting my trust in their capability to do a job.

When I looked at this list and compared them to survey results it reminded me of this TEDTalk by Malcolm Gladwell. The title of his presentation was, "What we can learn from spaghetti sauce".

Gladwell's talk was all about his hero who was hired by the food industry way back in the 70s and 80s to find the perfect cola. they made batches of cola ranging from 8% sweetness to 12% sweetness. they surveyed thousands of people, "which of these do you like". Being the scientist that he was, plotted it in a graph.

Did you know what they got?

The data was inconclusive. everyone had their own preferences.

A few years later, Gladwell's hero was approached by spaghetti sauce company. they needed a product to compete in the market place. Gladwell's hero hypothesized people don't want one kind of sauce, they wanted different kinds of sauce. So they did an experiment. made various variations in sauce and asked people to rank them according to their preferences. When the data came in, they grouped the information into clusters and they found out that one third of americans preferred Chunky Spaghetti sauce and you know what? No one had a product to meet the needs of this market segment and so the Spaghetti sauce company earned US$600M over 10 years when they launched a product to meet that demand. More importantly, people wanted variety.




Like the spaghetti sauce experiment, we take what is given. this election will tell us, what do people want and I hope our leaders heed that call.

As I've mentioned, a lot of the people who answered my questions privately or through email and from what i've read of blogs had their reasons just like mlq3 when he concluded his "Your Leader is You": "if we do not vote, we are not people of government, but like those of the jungle."

I share in the spirit of which they make their choice but I have a different reason.

It was one of the moves Gerstner did when he started his turnaround of IBM really brought me over the top. In his book, Who Says Elephants Can't Dance, Gerstner wrote that he put his own money into the sinking ship of IBM and tied his fortunes with its success or failure. let me explain:

Without a doubt, Democracy--- life really, is a contact sport. You want to be part of the discourse, you want to contribute as a citizen, you not only have to obey the law, you have to be an active and constructive part of the discourse. You got to walk the talk.

We can not stop being participants in the game. We can not withdraw from the game and still expect to win.

When you do stop participating as a citizen, you don't get to complain. You can't go to the police and expect them to do their job. you can't complain that government hospitals suck or there is too much red tape at your local LTO. You don't get to be a part of it. You can't merely be a participant in a democracy as a critic, in fact i submit you can't be a critic--- if you haven't exercised your right to choose your leader. if such leader has failed after providing all the support you could muster, then so be it: we get to fire him or her and choose a new one the next time there is an election.

Democracy is all about participation and participation positively. we can not simply just write about it. In the same vein, we can not just simply walk the streets for someone's ouster, or for them to step down if you've never participated in democracy, if you never voted. if you did not vote, you don't get to do all those things and still call yourself a citizen. We can not just walk the talk.

We may argue that this is a sinking ship, with all its problems and difficulty growing. Even if you do believe this is a sinking ship, wouldn't you like to go down fighting than standing around waiting for the inevitable end? If we went down fighting and no one stood witness--- would it have mattered? I submit it does because we would know it.

I don't subscribe to this whole sinking ship thought. Mediocre our (mine too) moves maybe, this is far from a sinking ship.

Everyday people are leveraging their own success through their own hard work, sheer audaciousness and determination, everywhere. Democracy is a contact sport. When you leverage your own success, you can not simply divorce it from Democracy or for that matter Citizenship. You've got to be part of the positive discourse. Put it simply, you've got to have skin in the game.

2 comments:

john marzan said...

I've always said, one of the biggest problems with our politics of the day is that you could hardly differentiate the Administration and the Opposition. People often mistake that it is suppose to be that you are either Pro-Gloria, or Pro-Opposition.
We clamor for her ouster. We yearn her removal from office. I have no love for Gloria or her ilk, but I believe those who yearn her removal from office--- by force, by impeachment are 1) making a terrible mistake, and 2) wasting their energy.
They are making a mistake because it will not change the dynamics of the game. By focusing on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, we make it personal. Yes, she has done repellent things--- which we can not prove in court and if can, why the hell not?


blah blah blah, yan rin ang sinabi nila bong austero at winnie monsod.

you're all a bunch of stupid, wussy hypocrites.

I submit that pGMA is a symptom and simply exchanging a dog we know, for another dog who we don't know is not the cure. Point: we exchanged Erap with a Gloria and it has haunted us.

who's "we"?

Cocoy said...

hey john, thanks for leaving a comment.

now with regard to what you quoted... i've been saying the same thing for a number of times already. Of Leadership, Of Moral Ascendancy, Of People Power (09-06-2005), and Truth and Justice (3-3-06) just to name two.

I haven't read bong austero's recently but i did get a chance to read ms. monsod's april 28 op-ed on how we can blame pGMA a whole lot of things--- but she said, we've got to credit pGMA on "the economic numbers".

as for your second point. "we" as in "we the people". why? not everybody voted for her. not everybody was in edsa2. the fact that there was no clamor for her not to take office in edsa2 + the supreme court decisions validating her rise to power, and the fact world governments recognized her legitimacy is proof "we the people" accepted her. 2) the fact that after 2004--- (and no i didn't vote for her or the actor) there was no ground swell protesting the elections is proof, "we the people" accepted her.

now, i suppose it is human nature to say "we" when the going gets good like weren't you proud to be Filipino when some boxer won a fight? when it comes to trying to move forward, trying to solve problems, it soon becomes "you the government, you the politician, you the rich and powerful" and "i the citizen isn't at fault".

i'm sorry to rehash ancient history. i was trying to prove a point. i did a poor job if you couldn't get past those points you just quoted.

this was my point in Skin in the Game: no matter what you can say about our democracy or our government, and no matter how good or bad you are right now economically, the fact of the matter is you've got to vote. it is then, and only then can you really say you are a citizen that you take part in the risk, win or lose. that we the people have a stake on how good or bad our society turns out and by voting we reaffirm that commitment.

again john, i appreciate your comment.

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