Why the focus and circus around retribution while more pressing and forward-looking initiatives like growing the economy, for one, languish at the bottom of media hyping priorities? It could be because Filipinos are culturally predisposed to being retrospective rather than prospective in the way we think.
Back in 2009 just as the campaign of then presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was kicking off, I proposed that we evaluate ourselves as a people and reflect over whether we are fixated on the past or looking to the future…
Are we a people fixated on the past (retrospective) or focused on the future (prospective)? The way that we as a people seem inclined to regard the coming 2010 presidential election provides some insight into how we might answer that question.
We seem to be generally retrospective in the way we evaluate our candidates. The thing with being retrospective in our evaluation is that it is easy. Data is readily available. As such retrospective approaches to evaluating political candidates abound on the Web. The retrospective approach is so prevalent that it utterly dominates the national â€œdebateâ€.
A good case study of the sort of backward-looking approach to thinking that Filipinos are stuck in is in the style of discourse of the Aquino administration’s most influential bagpipe player Inquirer.net columnist Conrado de Quiros. Back in 2009, de Quiros wrote what pretty much amounted to a manifesto of the Aquino campaign (and one which was to guide the subsequent Second Aquino Administration as we now observe). In his seminal 2009 piece It is Good versus Evil, de Quiros described an analogy to recent American politics to describe the Filipino situation at the time…
Barack Obama didnâ€™t just represent an â€œalternativeâ€ to George W. Bush, he represented an end to centuries-old oppression, breathtakingly embodied by Bush. He represented the long journey of Kunta Kinte to freedom, armed with Martin Luther Kingâ€™s dream, â€œWe shall overcome.â€ If he did not, he would not have brought tears to the eyes of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey when he won. If he did not, he would not have won.
Deductive vs inductive evaluation
De Quirosâ€™s and his ilkâ€™s approach to thinking is the worst kind of deductive thinking â€” one based on incomplete data or information that is deliberately framed along narrow lines. It is the kind that routinely adds to the ballooning miseries of this world â€” from the assumptions made based on historic â€œtrendsâ€ that resulted in horrific financial crashes to the it-canâ€™t-happen-again attitude that characterises the safety strategy of the Philippinesâ€™ passenger shipping industry.
In the above examples I cited, incomplete bases are proposed for voters, pundits, and â€œexpertsâ€ to make a deductive analyses of how a candidate may perform in office. Itâ€™s like reading about how Germany and Japan started World War II and then concluding that World War III will most likely be started by those two countries.
Cut to the present and we see now how Noynoy’s monomaniacal focus on crushing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is sucking out all semblance of perspective from his government. The kernel of the “platform” (if you can even call it that) of the Second Aquino Administration remains the rather quaint tagline Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap (“No corruption means no poverty”). The thinking around this slogan goes like this:
The Philippines has had a long history of corruption. The Philippines has been an impoverished country for much of that history. Therefore eliminating corruption will result in an elimination of poverty.
Building around that spectacular display of flawed thinking, Aquino and his henchmen now put up the proverbial photo of Arroyo on the proverbial dart board and invite the nation to vent their spleen against that effigy — effectively distracting the public from his so-far lackluster and woefully disorganised effort at building a strong economy. If it weren’t enough that practically zero results have so far been achieved, Noynoy’s approach may have even subtracted from the equity built up from the previous administration. Wallace Business Forum consultancy president Peter Wallace observes how…
The drive to root out corruption has led to much lower-than-expected government spending and delays in putting infrastructure projects out for tender as deals are reviewed and the government sets to build watertight contracts.
Wallace said had spending been as planned in the first half of the year, annual growth would have been 6.3 percent – more than 50 percent stronger than actual growth of 4 percent.
The payoff of hitting graft would be a cleaner and more open system in future, which should lead to better growth and more investment, but that is not a guaranteed outcome.
More importantly, Aquino’s legal team had all but bungled a rushed effort to shore up a no-results five-year run around at putting legal substance to accusations of plunder and fraud being thrown at Arroyo when Department of Justice Leila De Lima baldly defied a Supreme Court Order to lift a travel ban MalacaÃ±ang had imposed on Arroyo who, at the time, was seeking medical treatment abroad. We can then add on top of time wasted muddling the economy along for the last 500 days, the plunging the country into a dangerous constitutional crisis, the ramifications of which we might not yet fully appreciate. To do appreciate so requires us to be a bot more prospective and a bit less retrospective in the way we think.
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