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The source of Corruption
20 Oct 2005

[Commented on the PCIJ Blog article "Corruption worsened in the Philippines"]

Mr. Duck Vader said:
Hindi mo sinagot BAKIT may LACK of TRUST (on the assumption na tama ka). Or using your flow:

Corruption –> Reduced Trust –> Draconian bureaucratic controls –> More corruption

What caused the initial corruption to lead to reduced trust?

In a way you are right that maybe God bestowed an inherent collective LACK OF TRUST on our pathetic lot . Because like everything else, whatever culture we possess today is an accident of history (or rather an accident of the course of history).

The WHY's of this lack of trust is indeed a complex story, and even the eminent Teddy Benigno himself offers only a superficial explanation:

A recent survey conducted by Prof. Jose Abueva, formerly UP president, showed that beyond the family, Filipinos hardly trusted anybody. Why? Maybe because the Philippines is an archipelago, splintered into more than 7000 islands. Progress is slow in archipelagic nations because ideas travel much more slowly, as do government services. Language difference and difficulties hinder easy understanding and coordination. Travel by boat takes much more time than land transportation over flat broad plains. Maybe also because we Filipinos have yet to achieve national unity, like the Risorgimento in Italy or successful revolutionary struggles like those of France, America, Russia, China, Japan that destroyed old, mediaeval, archaic systems that sought to choke economic progress.

And that is the fact. Regardless of the WHY's that you seem so fixated on, the REALITY is that we are stuck with this rather unsavory feature in our society -- A COLLECTIVE LACK OF TRUST. Benigno draws on the be-credentialed (I mention this because Pinoys tend to be fixated on credentials) Francis Fukuyama for further insight:

Trust is deeply related into industrial culture, adds Fukuyama, and "the creation of those large-scale organizations vital to economic well-being and compe-titiveness." How can we bolster trust in the Philippines when even our 24 senators do not understand each other? Fukuyama also mentions four outstanding "familistic societies" namely China, France, Italy and South Korea where the family constitute the basic unit of economic organization. But this is also changing now as these countries integrate into the one-currency European Union while China and South Korea grow the muscles of economic empire that need high-trust societies.

And the following observation arguably is the single biggest factor to why the Philippines is a tried but failed society at best:

And what is social capital, something we Filipinos have very little of? It is a capability, says Fukuyama, that arises "within a community of regular, honest and cooperative behavior, based on common shared norms, on the part of other members of the community". What makes social capital different from other forms of human capital? It is "usually created and transmitted through cultural mechanisms like religion, tradition, or historical habit." The most effective organizations "are based on communities of shared ethical values...Prior moral consensus gives members of the group a basis for mutual trust." Moral consensus is what we do not have.

So there you have it my gander-named pal. You do ask the right questions and I am happy to respond as usual. :D

Finally, to add more credentials to my assertions (as Pinoys do indeed get their kicks from big medals and big credentials), let me cite some little wisdoms from the venerable Nick Joaquin from his essay "A Heritage of Smallness" (a phrase that might go a bit of a way in addressing your fixation on the WHY's of the assertions I myself make):

Because we cannot unite for the large effort, even the small effort is increasingly beyond us. There is less to learn in our schools, but even this little is protested by our young as too hard. The falling line on the graph of effort is, alas, a recurring pattern in our history. Our artifacts but repeat a refrain of decline and fall, which wouldn’t be so sad if there had been a summit decline from, but the evidence is that we start small and end small without ever having scaled any peaks. Used only to the small effort, we are not, as a result, capable of the sustained effort and lose momentum fast. We have a term for it: ningas cogon.

This is a conclusion he made based on his observation that Pinoys tend to THINK small, DO small, and ACHIEVE small. A concept he introduces in the following take:

However far we go back in our history it’s the small we find--the nipa hut, the barangay, the petty kingship, the slight tillage, the tingi trade. All our artifacts are miniatures and so is our folk literature, which is mostly proverbs, or dogmas in miniature. About the one big labor we can point to in our remote past are the rice terraces--and even that grandeur shrinks, or scrutiny, into numberless little separate plots into a series of layers added to previous ones, all this being the accumulation of ages of small routine efforts (like a colony of ant hills) rather than one grand labor following one grand design. We could bring in here the nursery diota about the little drops of water that make the mighty ocean, or the peso that’s not a peso if it lacks a centavo; but creative labor, alas, has sterner standards, a stricter hierarchy of values. Many little efforts, however perfect each in itself, still cannot equal one single epic creation. A galleryful of even the most charming statuettes is bound to look scant beside a Pieta or Moses by Michelangelo; and you could stack up the best short stories you can think of and still not have enough to outweigh a mountain like War and Peace.

So there you have it folks. The reason we fail, and the reason we are CORRUPT. Because we are a SMALL people (hope this phrase is not taken to its literal extreme as most SMALL-MINDED Pinoys tend to do). And this SMALLNESS is reflected in the stature of our country today.

For the complete text of Nick Joaquin's brilliant essay "A Heritage of Smallness", watch this space:

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The article will be available sometime tonight (Australia time). Stay tuned!! :D

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