Whenever you write, whatever you write, it is but natural to draw influence and inspiration from one’s surroundings. Influence and inspiration can come from the most unexpected and most unlikely of things and times. I found myself thinking one night about random things once again, and surprise, Isaac Newton, popped up. For those to whom the name doesn’t sound familiar, Newton is a scientist who is known for his studies in optics, the universal law of gravitation, the fundamental laws of motion, and developments in differential and integral calculus, just to name a few.
What do I know about Noynoy Aquino, on the other hand? He is the current president of the Philippines. What I do know is that he won in 2010 after his mother died in 2009. He campaigned on the promise of change and his fighting words “Hindi ako magnanakaw” (I do not steal). His critics have labeled him a do-nothing (noynoying) president, and someone who disregards the rule of law to favor his KKK (kamag-anak, kaklase, kabarilan) and to punish his family’s political enemies, to name a few. He has been very persistent in putting his political enemies Gloria Arroyo and anyone associated with her in jail, on the basis of their alleged corruption.
At this point, one may assert that Newton and Noynoy do not deserve to be compared and contrasted against each other, but hear me out. They both have their respective laws of motion to describe perfectly natural phenomena. One of them got inspired after seeing an apple fall from a tree; the other is a perfect example of the idiom “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. One of them recognizes those who came before him and that he “stands on the shoulders of giants”; the other recognizes that certain people who came before him were bad for the country, and he has seemingly taken upon himself a role as a “giant-killer” to knock them down.
Why don’t we elaborate on these points further, below?
Laws of motion
Here are Newton’s laws of motion, which form the basis for classical mechanics:
First Law: An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it, or; an object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. This is known as uniform motion.
Second Law: The net force on an object produces a proportional acceleration. If a body is accelerating, there is a force on it. The net force is a product of the mass of an object times its acceleration: F = ma
Third Law: All forces exist in pairs. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Compare the principles above, with the laws of motion for Noynoying:
First Law: An object that is at rest will forever stay at rest even if an unbalanced force acts upon it. This is known as no motion.
Second Law: The net force on an idea is the product of the mass of people who agree with it times the appeal /popularity it has with them. Popular support for an idea necessarily makes it right.
Third Law: All forces exist in pairs. For every action there is an equal and opposite inaction.
Newton’s laws attempt to explain natural phenomena. Noynoy’s laws attempt to explain his inaction as a president. Cool, huh?
Apples and Trees
One of the most common stories propagated about Newton is that he was inspired to formulate his theory of gravitation after he saw an apple fall from a tree. There are two excerpts below which have mentioned this during the respective authors’ conversations with Newton:
From William Stukeley’s Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life:
… We went into the garden, & drank tea under the shade of some appletrees, only he, & myself. amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. “why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” thought he to him self: occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a comtemplative mood: “why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths centre? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. there must be a drawing power in matter. & the sum of the drawing power in the matter of the earth must be in the earths centre, not in any side of the earth. therefore dos this apple fall perpendicularly, or toward the centre. if matter thus draws matter; it must be in proportion of its quantity. therefore the apple draws the earth, as well as the earth draws the apple.”
From John Conduitt, Newton’s assistant at the Royal Mint:
In the year 1666 he retired again from Cambridge to his mother in Lincolnshire. Whilst he was pensively meandering in a garden it came into his thought that the power of gravity (which brought an apple from a tree to the ground) was not limited to a certain distance from earth, but that this power must extend much further than was usually thought. Why not as high as the Moon said he to himself & if so, that must influence her motion & perhaps retain her in her orbit, whereupon he fell a calculating what would be the effect of that supposition.
Noynoy Aquino? Hmm, in the two and a half years that he’s been sitting as Philippine president we’ve seen just how much his mother’s son he is. Same vindictiveness, same banking on popularity, same preference for people in government based on familial ties and everything else other than merit and qualification. The idiom in English “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is very apt to describe someone like Noynoy; he also has yet to prove that he can step out of his parents’ shadows and be his own man.
In fact, he campaigned back in 2010 with a promise to change things by “eliminating corruption”, so to speak, yet experts have come to the conclusion that Noynoy is part of the problem as he too is part of the oligarchy who are most likely to put their interests first above the country’s. There are still people who are clinging to the hope that Noynoy will “change” the country but there are those among the Filipinos who foresaw even before the elections in 2010 that he stands for the status quo. It is becoming clearer by the day that what Noynoy hoped to “change” was to undo everything by his predecessor.
He was supposedly convinced to run for the presidency after his mother’s death back in 2009. I don’t know if an apple hit him in the head somewhere, though. If his track records as both a congressman and senator were not really noteworthy, what in the world convinced him and his followers that he was the right person for the job? Oh, the family name, and the “I do not steal” thingy.
Here’s a message then to all the people still stuck with idolizing Noynoy and his empty rhetoric of change: his dismal performance has been proving those who are critical of him right so far. How do you like them apples?
Standing on the shoulders of giants
Newton is highly regarded as one of the greatest and influential scientific minds who ever lived. The English poet Alexander Pope even wrote an epitaph for him as such:
Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
God said “Let Newton be” and all was light.
Newton himself had supposedly been more modest of his own achievements, and the following quote is attributed to him:
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
“Standing on the shoulders of giants” is a metaphor which is contemporarily interpreted as “developing future intellectual pursuits by understanding and building on the research and works created by notable thinkers of the past.” In other words, Newton recognized that he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did had not other scientists who came before him paved the way.
To say that Noynoy does not like his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, is putting it mildly. He has never mentioned explicitly exactly why he detests her; perhaps when she set her government to reform the Cojuangco’s beloved Hacienda Luisita, that’s when things started to become personal. With Ferdinand Marcos it’s a bit more understandable, as his father Ninoy Aquino, was one of those considered to be Marcos’ political opponents and was harshly dealt with. Yet like mother, like son, they are both consumed with undoing their respective predecessor’s works, the good along with the bad. For all the talk of “change” that Noynoy carried around, he had conveniently ignored one thing that needed to be changed about politics here in the Philippines: putting aside personal grudges. Instead of letting personal or political grudges get in the way, what our political leaders should be doing is building on what is already there, for the entire nation’s benefit. Oh well, the leaders reflect the society they govern.
If you guys remember the report about the 7.1% economic growth, then you will also remember that the Aquino administration was quick to attribute it to their “good governance” policies going around. But no, the growth is more logically attributed to GMA’s use of Keynesian Economics. Even the controversial PPP program is itself a carry-over program from the previous administration; yet Noynoy is brandishing this program as one of his “successes” despite the lack of results.
One of the biggest changes Noynoy could make is to actually stop arbitrarily canceling Gloria-era projects left and right just because they were started by his predecessor. It wouldn’t have hurt, and it would have helped to some degree, had he not cancelled the flood control projects, for example, “just because they were allegedly corrupt”. Remember what I said earlier: Noynoy probably fancies himself as some sort of giant-killer in his bid to take Arroyo down. Yet he has, so far, been unable to do anything without the programs initiated by the giant whose shoulders he is unwittingly standing on.
A good leader lives by example; he/she does not try to justify his incompetence and laziness but seeks to correct them. He/she does not go with what is popular but rather should exhibit enough character and resolve to go with what he/she believes. A good leader sacrifices himself/herself for the betterment of those who work for him/her and with/her. A good leader knows that he/she needs to win over those who oppose him/her instead of further enlarging the divide; it is counter-productive to a collective effort. Finally, a good leader is not obsessed with the past, but always looks toward the future.
Ask yourself: does Noynoy do any of the above? This is the leader that you chose, Philippines.
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