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Monday, October 22, 2007

In Search for a Governing Principle


"Capitalism has been proven to be a system that works. the alternative, communism has not worked. the problem with Capitalism is that extreme wealth ends up the hands of a few people and therefore extreme responsibility i think goes with that wealth and i think it important the individuals who are in that fortunate position, do not end up competing for bigger and bigger boats and bigger and bigger cars but you use that money to either create new jobs or tackle issues around the world." - Richard Branson, Life at 30,000 feet
The news cycles of the past few months reflect what people see and perceive of those in power in this country. I'm not just saying it is just the Arroyos, but the whole lot of them, whether Administration or Opposition. Like i've said many times in this blog, you couldn't separate them anymore. It peeves people without end, when new scandals pop up or revelations of how people do business in this country like what Secretary Mendoza and Senator Santiago were talking about on the Senate floor about the circumstances surrounding ZTE. These scandals shatter our already battered expectation and faith in democracy. Our distrust with government grows every day, so much so that the first bloody instinct after a bomb attack is to suspect some sinister government hand at work! We have become even more disenfranchised by the sheer audacity of those in power who covert more power, more wealth at what everyone sees is at our expense.

Two things struck me as important in this TED interview with Richard Branson (see video above), which I think as a nation, we need to grasp. first he talked about how to be a successful business leader. In this regard he said, "If you treat people well, people will come back for more. I think, all you have in life is your reputation, and it's a very small world. I actually think, the best way of becoming a successful business leader is dealing with people fairly and well. I'd like to think thats how we run Virgin." second, he talked about Capitalist Philanthropy. What this means he said, "Capitalism has been proven to be a system that works. the alternative, communism has not worked. the problem with Capitalism is that extreme wealth ends up the hands of a few people and therefore extreme responsibility i think goes with that wealth and i think it important the individuals who are in that fortunate position, do not end up competing for bigger and bigger boats and bigger and bigger cars but you use that money to either create new jobs or tackle issues around the world."

I'd like to focus more on his second statement, about Capitalist Philanthropy because going forward we see this more in the world. Everyone is hitching on the capitalist bandwagon, China with its communist regime has switched its economy to Capitalism. It is simply a model that works. it is a model that moves things forward. Capitalist Philanthropy and other similar ideas I think will help balance out the ill effects of Capitalism.

Unchecked, we all know that Capitalism's ill effect all too well. That's what is happening in the Philippines. It creates incapacity, which in turn creates poverty. Wealth is being sucked to one corner of the room. This feeds the animosity towards those in power, because the wealth isn't being shared. The people in charge blindly and hysterically use power, for power's sake. They covet wealth for wealth's sake and they take little or no responsibility at all for the general well-being. How else are you to explain a society that values bribery and shady deals?

Many middle class in the country refuse to participate in further ousting leaders simply because it just isn't in the best interest of the country. No matter how we kick and scream, no matter what the circumstances are, no matter what truth there is, the impasse is that there isn't anyone to put in play who isn't tainted. the impasse is that the quality of our bench for our leadership is so shallow, who else are you going to call? the impasse isn't simply to oust "an evil, cheating," president because that's just the symptom we will be treating and not the underlying cause. It is myopic to simply think so. How so? When a cabinet secretary (with great hesitation, if i may add) says in a Senate inquiry that having people of influence lobby a project is the normal course of business in this country, ethically--- isn't that what is fundamentally wrong in our nation and not simply any one person? Even if you oust whoever is in power, ultimately we will be faced with the same set of questions years down the line. The underlying cause of our nation's political dilemma is that morally, our society is built on a house of cards that'll simply fall off and shatter.

the bigger picture isn't winning the war, it's the day after and the day after that, which ultimately is the most important question.
The EDSAs and in fact the Iraq war are very interesting in that they teach us a fundamental lesson with regard to fighting and winning elections or revolutions or war. We've gotten great at it that winning an of those three isn't the battle to be won, not anymore. The deeper wisdom, the bigger picture is that it's the months and years after that, which ultimately matter. It is difficult, a very bitter pill to swallow but it shows the maturity of our people who refuse to rush forward. Because in our case, fundamentally our question is about the far-reaching endeavor called nation-building.

A deeper underlying change is quietly creeping and I think the middle class and Filipinos in general are slowly learning that nation-building is an activity we share all the time. We do our bit for our country by excelling in the things we are great at. That there is a ripple effect when OFWs send their kids to better schools, that there is a ripple effect when more jobs are created, when the lives of people are touched upon and improved. it doesn't take being in government or being in power to exercise this good, to spread this good. Nation-building does not begin and end with slogans and t-shirts and street protests, those slogans and t-shirt fade in the wash anyway.

The ritual of nation-building is an individual cycle that starts when we get up from bed every morning to contribute something positive. It ends each night and begins again anew when the sun rises. Ultimately, it isn't just the creation of wealth for wealth's end or power for power's sake that should be the governing principle of our people. The governing principle for nation-build must take a page from the principle of Capitalist Philanthropy, which really borrows heavily from the virtues of Catholicism, if you really think about it. A proper governing principle is where hope and ultimately the cornerstone of nation-building begins. It should say, We the People, are taking responsibility not just for our own actions but for the growth of our respective fields of expertise, and a rejection of the principles of power for power sake and wealth for wealth's sake.

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