Saturday, July 19, 2008

In the Absence of Empathy or Foresight...

...solving a problem is often a matter of getting the right group of people to feel the pain.



The Filipino masses are in too much pain and yet we are not near solving the problem called Gloria Makapal-Arroyo.

Does this mean that we need the middle class to feel the pain too because they might be the "right people?" I wonder if they aren't suffering from the oil price hikes.

Or could it be that the right people are the poor ones but we need to conscienticize them? I think they are in a state of what Paolo Freire calls first internalized oppression, rendering them incapable of grasping the root of their pain.

cvj said...

Hi Chyt, i consider the 'right group' of people to be those who are capable of taking action to remedy the situation.

I don't think the masa, who are preoccupied with subsistence, have the spare bandwidth to act on public issues, even though these issues affect them the most.

By comparison, the Middle Class is in a better position to act, but I share Manolo's frustration when he said that:

"Damned if you do, damned if you don’t? When things are relatively easy, no one wants to rock the boat. When times are tough, we’re told everyone’s too busy trying to keep body and soul together to want to rock the boat. The former is what I heard from middle and upper class types, to justify their reluctance to be politically engaged. The latter is what I hear from them now, to justify their continuing reluctance to be politically engaged."

What i hope the Middle Class realizes by now is that the promise of economic gains in exchange for their tacit support for Gloria Arroyo even after finding out that she has cheated, have turned out to be yet another case of smoke and mirrors, and that's even before considering the present food and oil price crises.

Regarding conscienticizing the poor, if you don't mind me asking, what do you think is the root of their pain?

EQ said...

Senator Chiz Escudero said politicians and political parties have their attention trained at the 2010 presidential elections and they are more comfortable that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would finish her term.

"We have already suffered and sacrificed for seven years, what is two years?" he said of Arroyo's administration.

To Chiz Escudero,patience is long,long,long suffering!

cvj said...

Hi Equalizer, thanks for dropping by!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm middle class. If you can give me an example anytime in the history of mankind of middle class taking the reigns of politics and being successful at improving a country, then yes, I'll do your bidding and be more political.

Because as far as I know, most of the radical improvements in human conditions have top to bottom roots (Lee Kuan Yew, the CCP in China, the upper class revolt against the English in America, etc.).

cvj said...

Hi Anonymous, i don't think your characterization of China's Communist revolution is accurate. It was a peasant revolt where the lower class kicked out their Upper Class.

The French Revolution, which gave us the Declaration of the Rights of Man, was led by their middle class. However, my expectation of the Philippine Middle Class is not that high. I certainly don't expect it to take any leadership position.

All i'm asking is for the Middle Class to stop siding with the Oppressors in the Upper Class and enable the poor to choose their leaders and find their way out of poverty. If ever it regains its credibility (and only if it regains its credibility) the Middle Class can also act as the nation's conscience to prevent any tyranny of the majority coming from the Masses. You wouldn't want to keep relying on thugs funded by the Upper Class, or do you?

Anonymous said...

I said radical improvements in human conditions.

cvj said...

Radical change is normally not in the interest of the Middle. As a class, don't you think we're better off embracing evolution instead?

Anonymous said...

Quezon number three from the feudal quezon bloodline attended an MBA class and he concluded Australia evolution is the way for the Philippines?

This is how he figures out what to suggest for the country?

cvj said...

I gather that's his preference and from your reaction, i sense that you're expecting something more radical (or fundamental) before you give your buy-in.

Anonymous said...

I'm just gonna watch from the sidelines and wait for a philosopher king.

cvj said...

That sounds like the typical Filipino Middle-Class mindset.

Anonymous said...

The middle class who engage right now are time wasters.

Christ just enjoy life. Taking to the streets doesn't change a thing.

Or maybe taking to the streets is enjoyable for some middle class, in which case I say kudos, do whatever makes you happy.

cvj said...

I'd rather be a 'time waster' than a free loader, but to each his own.

Anonymous said...

Also a note on MLQ's evolutionary theory. Somebody remind him that:

1. Revolutionary changes in politics brought about revolutionary changes in economics. Hence, your Asian Tigers led by Asian dictators.

2. Evolution is slow. Which is why economic progress in the Philippines is slow. Which is why land reform has taken 5 decades already.

I say the philosopher king deal is our best bet as has been historically proven by our Asian neighbors.

So why of all the ten republican presidents we've had none have become a philosopher king? Maybe it's the mandatory four/six year tenure as required by democracy that is the problem?

You may say we've had Marcos who lasted 20 years. But I say it takes at least two long term dictators to get the formula right:

China-50 years of Mao followed by 20 years of Deng Xiaoping

South Korea-20 years of Syngman Rhee followed by 30 years of Park Chung Hee

Taiwan-40 years of Ching Kai Shek followed by 20 years of Chiang Ching Kuo

Singapore-40 years of Lee Kuan Yew followed by his son Goh Chok Tong (since 1990 and counting).

Malaysia-15 years of Tunku Abdul Rahman followed by 30 years of Mahathir Mohammad.

Maybe, just maybe, if we didn't dissolve ang bagong lipunan and voted Arturo Tolentino to continue Marcos' plans we'd be better off as our Asian neighbors above.

But instead we followed the democratic route, just like our blood brothers/fellow basket case Indonesia who voted a blind man and other incompetent tenured presidents after the iron fist rule of Suharto and Sukarno.

Anonymous said...

Which is why I can totally understand the middle class' tacit support for a parliamentary change that can put a long term dictator in our top post. Dictators just plain work. But it takes two. We shouldn't let Marcos' mess discourage us no more than the Chinese haven't been discouraged by Mao's failings. To forge ahead, a second dictator is needed to iron out the kinks.

Gloria could be that second dictator.

Anonymous said...

"I'd rather be a 'time waster' than a free loader, but to each his own."

I think you're being contrarian just so you can oppose me, coz you're not making any sense. So you'd rather waste your time than get some free shit doing nothing? C'mon man.

cvj said...

The question of dictatorship versus democracy deals with the matter of how to arrive at decisions. It says nothing about the actual decisions that are made, so what makes you so sure that a dictator would arrive at the right decisions and that we wouldn't end up like Burma, Zimbabwe or North Korea?

As i mentioned before, if a dictatorship addresses the problem of inequality, then maybe we would see some benefit. What made a difference in most of the countries that you mentioned is their having addressed the issue of land inequality (via land reform). (Singapore did not have a hinterland so they were lucky in that sense. Still, where they saw fit, they expropriated land from their farmers.)

Perhaps you can study the actual policies that were implemented by the countries that you mentioned so you could at least choose the right kind of dictator and not just place your hopes on Gloria Arroyo being our next 'philosopher king'.

Anonymous said...

Gloria is not that bad I think. Under a democratic setup she looks corrupt because she holds together different power group's advocacies.

Right now she has to balance a lot of power brokers and grabbers, the military, the landowners, the pork barrel hungry congressmen, the oligarchs, and the church, which expends a lot of time and energy but ultimately results in centrist policies.

If you give her a liiitle bit more power she could go far right or far left as she wishes. Will she do some bad decisions? She very well might. But free from the shackles of appeasing power interests, she could push for reform that will make radical improvements in human conditions.

Anonymous said...

The problem with you "democratics" is that you keep waiting for the perfect white knight to rescue the Philippines under the current democratic setup. The thing is the very democratic setup that you so cherish will make any politician "look evil"-the free press and filibustering congressmen will do that with the most evil of intentions. So leaders are end up appeasing these "watchdogs" that lead to ineffective centrist policies.

Ramos and Gloria ain't that bad believe me. Don't believe the media and the politicians.

cvj said...

Anonymous, from your comments above, it is clear that you are the one who has been waiting for a 'white knight' [aka philosopher king], although your willingess to consider Gloria Arroyo for that role at this late stage reveals that your standards are somewhat lower. My belief has always been that there is no such person and that it would take an active and vigilant public to discipline and guide whoever comes next.

The problem i see with your approach is that you are more sensitive to the costs of public resistance while ignoring the costs of expediency (via apathy).

It's as if the pattern of corrupt leaders getting foreign loans for overpriced infrastructure projects and the public having to pay for these loans while these same leaders stash away a good portion of the proceeds in foreign banks for their own benefit has not been a factor in our continued deterioration.

While you believe that giving free rein to Gloria as dictator will reduce the costs of resistance, i don't think that is necessarily the case. Given the structure of Philippine Society, it is debatable whether even under a dictatorship, Gloria can go as far right or as far left as she wishes. Marcos was a genius and a master politician but he still had to accommodate the Oligarchs. Gloria has already established the habit of having to pay off her allies for continued support so i doubt she could wean them away from that practice. Under these circumstances, how can she introduce reforms that are beneficial to the impoverished majority but would happen clash with the interests of the elite minority?

For genuine revolutionary changes, you would need the support of the masses against the elite (or at least to get the elite to cooperate). Do check out my previous post on the distinction between an elitist dictatorship and a popular dictatorship. This may help you to at least be more discerning in what to look for in a dictator.

In any case, whether it be a dictatorship or a democracy, the non-participation of the Middle Class would help ensure its continued irrelevance given the resources of the Oligarchs and the numbers of the masses.

Anonymous said...

"Marcos was a genius and a master politician but he still had to accommodate the Oligarchs. "

No he didn't. He stole from the oligarchs (the Lopez's) and created new ones (Danding).

Anonymous said...

If fact, you're entire thesis of dictators accommodating anybody is laughable. The reverse is true, the oligarchs the world over and throughout history had to accommodate to the dictator. Either that or they conspire against him.

Lucio Tan, Fabian Ver, these people would be nothing had Marcos made something out of them.

Just because Gloria, or any politician under a democratic setup, is buying the favors of power brokers doesn't mean she will when she becomes dictator. What will happen is that the dictator will reward those who have been kind to her when she wasn't the top dog.

cvj said...

Anonymous, i currently live and work in authoritarian state, so i know how sensitive the leadership can be to the public's sentiments. (I suppose that's a big part of the reason why it tries to control the media so that negative sentiments cannot prosper.) Having the public on your side, and applying force to a dissenting minority is a more efficient way of wielding power.

What you hold in your mind is a cartoon version of a dictator. Any political leader, whether it be in a democracy or a dictatorship, has to cultivate alliances to keep himself/herself in power. Why do you think a new set of Oligarchs emerged under Marcos?

Whether he/she does this by force of fear, persuasion, strategic betrayal or bribes is a matter of circumstance and the leader's personal qualities (what Machiavelli calls 'virtu'). The labels 'democratic leader' or 'dictator' does not change that.

Anonymous said...

"The labels 'democratic leader' or 'dictator' does not change that."

You can't trivialize the difference between the two as "mere labels". Democracy is so inefficient. Let's make the North Rail an example. It takes too long and too many steps for the executive department to come up with a feasibility plan, for congress to debate and pass and enabling law, to allocate a budget, not to mention the delays in court injunctions by the judiciary whenever insignificant aggrived parties, like squatters who shouldn't be there, are impeding the forward motion of the project. In a dictatorship, that project would've been finished in 1/3 of the time because there are no courts or congress to impede, because the president is the court and the congress.

You might argue that democracy provides checks and balances against corruption, but let's have a reality check. In the Philippines, there's corruption anyway in our present democratic setup. So wouldn't you rather have an expensive, tangible train under a dictatorship or an expensive "vapour" train under a democracy? There's a reason why Marcos was able to build infrastructure projects that last to this day and that is because he was not inconvenienced by court injuctions.

cvj said...

Anonymous, my intent is not to 'trivialize' the distinctions between democracy and dictatorship. We both appreciate that there is a difference which is why we are on opposite sides of the discussion. What i just pointed out is that, from what i've seen, popularity and alliance-making are also factors in a dictatorship. An individual dictator cannot be so powerful as to have no need to satisfy a group of stakeholders. Depending on how a particular Society is structured, these stakeholders can be the Oligarchs, the Military, other politicians, the Church or on some occasions, even the public at large.

What you're describing with your North Rail example is a combination of red tape and a slow judicial process which do not have to be givens in a democracy. Besides, efficiency can work both ways. What if the absolute dictator, instead of spending on trains, just decided to wire transfer the money to a foreign Bank? Isn't that what Marcos did as well?

Anonymous said...

"a combination of red tape and a slow judicial process which do not have to be givens in a democracy."

Therein lies your problem Mr. CVJ. You solve problems and formulate solutions as if the Philippines is not corrupt, like it's a First World nation. I look at problems with the view that the government will steal.

May I suggest a new way of thinking sir: "The Philippines will always be corrupt and I will frame all my thesis in the context of this unavoidable, unchangeable fact of life."

cvj said...

Anonymous, i think that's because we're projecting our own respective traits onto other people. Even if your version we're true, you can see that the worst plunder we have experienced is under the Dictatorship of Marcos and the quasi-Dictatorship of Gloria Arroyo, so how can a dictatorship help in the Philippine context?