In the Philippines, there are many people who claim to have a monopoly on great ideas. They claim to know what is good for you and everyone else. Some of them get very impatient about bringing their ideas into “action”. These people also think that their ideas are superior to other people’s ideas. They quickly dismiss as mere nuisances those who choose to examine things through careful scrutiny of the detail. These people — those who think they are “brilliant” — insist that the time for talking or discussing things is OVER and it is time to bring their ideas to the next level, which presumably is actual “execution”.
Indeed, in an impoverished country like the Philippines, there is no shortage of supposedly brilliant thinkers whose ideas fail the country simply because they did not want their ideas to be put under the microscope or to be subject to further critical evaluation prior to implementation. In other words, a lot of things in the Philippines — like badly-written legislation — fail because they were not examined well enough to see if they could pass the “So what?” test beforehand.
Don’t get me wrong – it is great to see that there are people who are passionate enough to do something to bring their causes and advocacies to fruition. I think it shows that there are people who have genuine concern for the country and are too eager to get things done. However, there is a danger that they could fall into the trap of wallowing too much in their own pile of crap. This usually happens the minute they stop entertaining new ideas and dissenting views. As they say, arrogance diminishes wisdom. When this happens, the advocacy becomes more about their ego and not about the idea.
When you start thinking that your ideas are always better than others, then that’s when you stop learning. How many times have we seen people proven wrong years or decades later after they arrogantly insisted they were right? The answer: countless times over the history of mankind. We see it happening right before our eyes. A lot of Aquino supporters are notorious for dismissing any suggestions that President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino is incompetent and vindictive. They are averse to criticism and other ideas. This will eventually be their undoing.
We must have room for improvement and compromise. We can’t always be right 100 percent of the time. We might see something work in other countries but just because it does doesn’t mean it will work in our own country. Analyzing what works in other places should only serve to give us an idea of what we can do but we might have to alter a few bits and pieces to suit before we can apply it to our local situation. Cultural differences can hamper the implementation of a perfectly-articulated idea that was successfully implemented elsewhere.
To cite an example, there are countries like United Kingdom of Great Britain that don’t even have written constitutions, but their society still functions to optimal levels. Meanwhile, there are countries like our own with voluminous bodies of laws but whose society still fails to function to an acceptable international standard. It could be because majority of Filipinos refuse to follow even simple guidelines, what more a big set of laws?
Opening up the economy to foreign investors to help solve the country’s unemployment is an idea that sounds rational to some but would seem unpatriotic to others. It’s actually funny how some of those who say that a parliamentary system would fit the Philippines cannot even handle a simple online discussion without resorting to name-calling and psychopathic behavior when their views are challenged. Not that I am against a parliamentary system of government for the Philippines, but it’s just plain obvious that Filipinos in general aren’t mature enough to handle opposing views, which is something one should expect in such a system where reality checks on one’s ideas are par for the course. Or take the debate around reproductive health. Giving away free contraceptive pills and making sex education readily-available could be another bright idea to curb high population growth, but these ideas may be absolutely unacceptable to a lot of people due to what they claim is its moral and financial implications.
These are just some of the issues that cannot be rushed by saying that the time for discussion is OVER. All parties need to be satisfied using mature and intelligent discussions prior to arriving at a conclusion as opposed to one party using bullying tactics just to get their way.
Once a bad idea has been implemented, many lives and billions in funds could be lost before its instigators could realize it. It can cause billions more to reverse the damage. Sometimes the damage is already irreversible. Years and even decades could be lost and generations of people’s lives could be ruined before people can begin to wonder how things could have possibly gone wrong. The Iraq war was a bad idea that was implemented even before common folks could get around to thinking about and discussing its possible consequences. Sadly, the Americans are not the only people who will suffer for years to come as a result of the ill-thought-out war.
Recent events have made some people reflect on the legacy of past world leaders and how they affected their society and the world around it. When news of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death from a stroke at age 87 made headlines around the world, the reaction was mixed. Whether they view her as their greatest or their worst leader, the one thing most people agree on is that she was one of the most “polarizing” leaders of the free world.
To those who laud Thatcher, they saw the Iron Lady’s 11-year tenure in office as the decade that Great Britain kicked some ass, so to speak. After all, the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 was thwarted when she ordered the British armed forces to “take care” of the Argentinean forces. She was also said to have been instrumental in that momentous event in 1989, which was the fall of the Berlin Wall. She could arguably have been the inspiration for some of the greatest hits from the United Kingdom. For they say that it was in the 1980s when inequality in the UK began to worsen resulting in the many riots, protests and hunger strikes that marked that decade for the UK. All that 1980s rock-n-roll fuelled by woes and discontent surely paid off in terms of music royalties — for some, at least.
Some financial industry pundits along with Prime Minister David Cameron himself also hailed Thatcher as the one who averted the possible financial collapse of the British Empire had it embraced the Euro. Even before the Euro was born, she was completely against the idea of a single currency for Europe. She was said to have fought a lone battle against adopting the Euro and the accompanying closer political and economic integration of the European nations. Unfortunately, her unpopular views caused factions within her own Conservative party that saw her leadership challenged and eventually led to her ouster in 1990. The collapse of Iceland and Greece’s economy however, vindicated her but not until decades later.
According to an excerpt from her autobiography, Thatcher’s wisdom then which was being made to come across as xenophobic by her critics, was accurate in predicting that a single currency would not be able to “accommodate both industrial powerhouses such as Germany and smaller countries such as Greece”. Germany, forecast Thatcher, “would be phobic about inflation, while the euro would prove fatal to the poorer countries because it would “devastate their inefficient economies”.
To those who loathed Thatcher, her death was a cause for celebration, a time to dance for joy – on top of her grave if it were up to many of them. History had been kind to her despite the fact that her government supposedly initiated Britain’s de-industrialization. Her government cut down on manufacturing jobs and years of social unrest took place as a result. In retrospect, it probably didn’t make sense to a lot of people then that the world’s first industrial nation was trimming down its manufacturing industry. Thatcher’s government rationalized that this would make “industrial companies leaner and release labor to expand businesses in the more lucrative service sector”. Sadly, their prediction was wrong. Those who were laid off found it difficult to find work and some ended up with low paying jobs:
The loss of skilled manufacturing jobs widened inequality, with negative consequences for social mobility. In the 1980s, income inequality between the top and bottom 20 percent of British households widened by 60 percent. Inequality continued to rise, with only minor fluctuations, under Britain’s next three prime ministers, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Basically, the British people lost their jobs even before Globalization – even before outsourcing manufacturing jobs to cheap labourers in developing countries came into vogue. No wonder some people hate her with a passion especially since Germany and France were able to maintain their manufacturing industries and sustained lower social inequality compared to Britain as a result.
It seems that Thatcher didn’t make any apologies for the loss of jobs nor the rising inequalities and the overall consequences of her government’s policies. Some claim that she lacked empathy for the poor and refer to them as “work-shy”. Ironically, her anti-poor policies seemed to have increased the number of poor people in the UK.
It is clear that Thatcher got some things right but she also got some things wrong. Some of her policies had devastating consequences to British society. Her arrogance ultimately prevented her from accepting realities.
We can only learn from the lessons of how arrogance during Thatcher’s and George W Bush’s terms destroyed lives and livelihood. So to the Filipinos who think they are ready to implement their brilliant ideas: think again. Even a luminary like Thatcher fell into the trap of wallowing in her own crap a few times in her career. It seemed to happen when she declared the discussion over.
In the Philippines, public servants quite often make mistakes that affect millions of Filipino lives because they rush into action without even thinking. Unfortunately, their actions reveal they are only concerned about their own personal agendas that hardly benefit the majority of the Filipino people.
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