Blueprint for Our Future

by Remington870 of
25 October 2002

(Page 1)

Part One of this essay is made up of excerpts from the books Beyond Terror and Fighting for the Future by Ralph Peters that I have attempted to apply to the Philippine context on my own initiative. The ideas contained in those two books seek to inspire change. I have no delusions that this essay will have an immediate influence on our way of life or how our country and its government bureaucracy operate. No single article, not even a dozen can drastically change the way our country, its citizenry and the bureaucracy function. Reforming a bureaucracy requires broad-based, non-stop grinding in order to shape it into a more efficient organization. I hope that others will understand and also contribute and together, we can work for a cumulative, positive impact. No individual has a monopoly on all the essential questions, much less all the useful answers to them. Each individual on the long road to change must be content to make his or her contribution on the collective effort to build a strong, globally competitive Republic.


We are entering a second phase of the rejection of the West. The first phase of the rejection began in the wake of the First World War. Colonial subjects who had received Western educations founded national liberation movements that aimed to remove the Western presence from their homelands while retaining Western-style institutions and values, either democratic or socialist grafted to the indigenous culture. This phase culminated in the post-Second World War collapse of empires. From Africa through Asia, newly free states, while distancing themselves rhetorically from Western examples, sought to become European with a native face. Even as many of these states drifted into authoritarian or even totalitarian rule, they retained the formal structures and economic ambitions of the West—while clinging to their European-drawn borders. The most pernicious legacy of colonialism was the example—and physical dimensions—of the nation state, which no emerging country could transcend.

Today, what appears to our eyes as a tumult of religious fundamentalism, nationalism, tribalism, and dissolution of social order in many countries around the world is, in fact, an understandable, though not preventable, response to the failure of Western governmental and social systems to flourish in the soil of other cultures. It signals an impending revision of borders on a massive scale and a process of redefining statehood while breaking the bonds of "legitimate" governmental structures. Hybrid forms of traditional modes of social organization are emerging, slowly and painfully, and relationships between those governing and those governed increasingly reject the Western model. Having failed miserably in competition on Western terms, otherwise disparate populations in Africa, Asia, and the European borderlands are attempting to develop or reconstruct their own terms of political, social and economic organization. This is not a conscious or rational process, but an instinctive fight for survival. For all of the pan-Asian, pan-African or pan-Arab rhetoric about third paths and alternative models of development, residents of the third world tacitly view the West as the standard by which they need to measure themselves. They struggled to become like those whom they reviled, and failed. Now, inarticulately enraged by the evidence of that failure, these broken states are attempting to do no less than to detach themselves from the developed world. The sole concession they are willing to make is to accept those Western material items to which they are addicted to and with which they cannot supply themselves, such as armaments and videodisc players. Otherwise, these states, from Algeria to Zaire, from Iran to Serbia, are plunging willfully backward into the embrace of the old familiar, be it the penitentiary of religion, an opiate vision of a lost golden age, or simply the primal fury of the have-not. The question we must ask is: "Will the Philippines end up joining the ranks of these broken states?"

The clans, tribes, belief groups, and peoples who are in the process of attempting to reject the West are not fully cognizant of what they are doing. For radical Islamic fundamentalists, the West is a clearer target than it is for the African rebel at a roadblock or the Filipino slum dweller attacking the gates of Malacanang Palace. Yet neither of the three can identify or recognize the full range of stimuli and impulses behind their rage and violent behavior.

How and why has this volatile situation come about? What can we do about it?

First of all, we must think objectively, without bias and slash through the inherited beliefs that one never thinks to examine and to defy the "wise men" who must bear the responsibility for society's current failures. If we are to achieve any useful understanding of the underlying reasons behind the "senseless violence" and the logic of what so often appears to us to be illogically destructive behavior, we must strive to cleanse ourselves of the received prejudices current in modern society. We must seek an "extraterrestrial" view—one that looks at the current problems as an entity from an intellectual remove. This is, of course, not wholly possible. Many paradigms, from the universal efficiency of democracy to the inherent morality of the human animal, are proving to be wrong, so much so that we need to seek as neutral a vantage point as we can achieve.

We must ask hard questions about our past, our culture, inherited beliefs and prejudices. "Why has the Philippines failed to take off economically or mature politically?" Despite some progress, the situation remains totally unsatisfactory. For the Philippines, the first phase of rejection began in earnest during the 1898 Revolution against Spain. This phase culminated when the country won its sovereignty from the United States in 1946. The EDSA 1 Revolution in 1986 was a victory of democracy over authoritarianism. The EDSA 2 as well as the so-called EDSA 3 Revolutions in 2001 should be viewed as the modern day Filipinos' response to the failure of the Western governmental and social models to work in this country and constitutes a second phase of rejection.

Is the Philippines really a nation-state, or is it actually an archipelago of indigenous tribes that was lumped together when Spain "sold" its interests in this country to the United States for twenty million dollars? Who are we really? Are we Filipinos or are we Aetas, Batanguenos, Bicolanos, Bulakenos, Cavitenos, Cebuanos, Davaoenos, Ilocanos, Ifugaos, Pampanguenos, etc. with little or no collective interest and civic responsibility beyond our provincial boundaries?

When Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines in 1521, he found flourishing communities of Malays who lived mainly by fishing, farming, and trading. The natives, the Spaniards complained, were lazy. Land was commonly held and harvests were shared. No one had to work very hard because no one was racing to amass wealth. Nature was bountiful and basic subsistence did not require much work.

The Spaniards colonized the Philippines and used it as a way station for trade with the East. Soon there arose a Filipino elite whose interests were best served by allying themselves with the colonizers. These local elite inherited the mentality of our early Spanish conquerors whose aristocratic lifestyle was supported by the easy wealth provided by vast tracts of agricultural land and tenant labor. The conquistadors themselves arrived here in a corrupt state. The Spanish mentality of the 1500s had been strongly shaped by the Moors. From their Moorish overlords and adversaries, the Spanish nobility and warrior class developed a series of prejudices against manual labor and commercial enterprise. To the Spanish gentleman or would-be gentleman, the only acceptable tool was the sword. Other Europeans had a touch of this, but grew out of it, while the Spanish worldview atrophied. For the North European, life centers around labor, the ideal result of which is the achievement that allows labor to continue on a higher plane. To the Spanish elite (and the Filipinos who inherited this vision as well) their vision of the ideal life is that of a rich, landed aristocrat (haciendero) whose life is physically luxurious—one who need not work again. The ideal result of labor is the attainment of leisure. This is a very different worldview from that of a telephone lineman for example, who wins the lottery only to report back to work Monday morning.

The Spanish ruling class also brought a codex of loyalty owed only to God, the ruler, and the self (also a Moorish socio-political framework), thus putting a low premium on any collective or civic responsibility. These Spanish legacies that Filipinos inherited combined with pre-existing Malay traits are factors that continue to hamper the country's development up to this day.

Liberal critics will argue that the "failed" cultures of Africa and Asia were victims of colonialism. Yet no African and no Islamic countries were colonized for so long or so harshly by Europe as was Korea by Japan. Singapore and Hong Kong exist because they were colonies. And Iran, although its shahs were sometimes made or unmade by foreign powers, was never a colony. Colonialism was responsible for many ills, but it ultimately falls short as an explanation for chronic underdevelopment. China was as sullied by foreign interlopers as was Egypt, and Japan suffered a military defeat in living memory that inflicted more human and material damage in real terms than did any colonial regime since the Spanish conquest of southerly America. In contrast, the more enlightened colonial regimes left functioning infrastructures and educated elites to manage them.

The Philippines won its independence from the United States in 1946, but it did not actually win real "independence" from America. The Philippines may have rid itself of American rule but not of American ideas. Filipinos embraced democracy, the American form of government and our economy relied on capitalism. By all intents and purposes, the Philippines should have succeeded in its efforts at self-development. The population retained a store of revolutionary energy. The Americans left an austere infrastructure and an educated elite (some of the infrastructure was destroyed during World War II). The country is rich in natural resources that could provide funds for development. Parity ties with America provided investments and jobs in the metropolis that served as opportunities for young Filipinos, as well as a wide variety of tutelary relations.

After a short, initial flurry of economic development, the Philippines began to decline. As in other countries, corruption spread and deformed the state. The government became addicted to deficit spending and made the classic mistake of linear extrapolation of future revenues. Since tax revenues were rising in the 1970s, they must continue to rise. Ambitious development schemes were paid for with supposedly cheap petrodollar loans that were in turn, calculated for repayment against anticipated future income. But the economy did not grow consistently as planned. Investment funds went into classically wrong projects and into individual businessmen's and corrupt politicians' pockets. Filipinos discovered that peaceful development was far more difficult than insurrection against a galvanizing oppressor.

While individual state failures might be blamed upon a lack of oil resources or transportation infrastructure, on collapsed ore prices and overpopulation, the unifying denominator in the inability to compete with the West governmentally, militarily, economically, and socially is culture. The noncompetitiveness of some cultures, such as the Arab-Persian Islamic or sub-Saharan African cultures, is highlighted by the success of other cultures in taking charge of their own destinies—despite a near-total lack of resources, the ravages of war, and a slow start out of the gate. The economic powerhouses of East Asia—Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, upstart South Korea, and, perhaps, gigantic China with its gigantic problems—have each come from behind with sufficient force to make the traditional West, of which they are becoming an effective part, very nervous.

In all of the failed or threatened countries around the world, there are two salient cultural deficiencies. There is little or no sense of responsibility for individual or collective actions, and there is no tradition of political compromise.

If you want a clear contrast between Western and Filipino culture, for instance, consider what happens when something goes terribly wrong. Contemporary Westerners blame themselves collectively and bawl over their deficiencies—we're slackers on the job or we've allowed our school systems to play intellectual hooky, we've done a bad job of raising our kids or our culture is a domain of Dead White Males. When things go wrong in Manila, Filipinos, from the top down, shrug their shoulders and point the blame at foreigners, the previous administrations, the political opposition, the will of God or simply his neighbor.

The West has evolved into a mea culpa culture, and Westerners have likely allowed their penchant for self-flagellation to reach an unhealthy extreme. But it is this willingness to find fault with themselves which, when kept within the bounds of social sanity, spurs us to accomplishment. "Its time to roll up our sleeves…We'll do better next time." In cultures where all cause is external, "Inshallah" or as in the Philippine context, "Ang Diyos ang bahala", the individual and his collective "believe" that there is nothing they can do, since any human effort to improve or fix things will be a waste of time. Everything that happens is by the will of God. It is a very comforting but at the same time, utterly debilitating way to view the world.

Even if this is the stuff of nineteenth century primers, it nonetheless bears out in historical and living examples. Cultures that do not have a mature sense of responsibility cannot compete with those that do. The East Asian states such as Japan and South Korea that are so powerfully competitive with the historical West each stand on a culture that fixes responsibility. In the Philippines on the other hand, there are two enduring questions posed by men since the nineteenth century: "What needs to be done?" and "Who is responsible?" The first is answered with a fatalistic shrug of the shoulders, and the answer to the second question is never "I am" or "We are".

Political compromise is essential to both democracy and nontotalitarian socialism. The Western countries that developed and perfected democracy each have developed traditions which encourage compromise in the political, economic, and social spheres. In the European Border States where democracy remains problematic, and in the failed cultures of the world, compromise is regarded as weakness, except where specific survival-essential compromises have been codified by tradition. Life is seen as a zero-sum game, and the leader who compromises implies that he is too weak to do anything else. Compromise is seen as a capitulation of manhood, as the gesture of a fool. This cripples democracy in Russia and attempts at dialog with the Islamic opposition in Egypt; it prevents tribal harmony in South Africa and promotes intolerance in Iran. Odd, somehow, to think that the jewels of Western culture may be so mundane: a sense of responsibility and the ability to compromise.

Entire books have been and will be written about the failure of post-colonial states to compete politically and economically. Depending on the bias of the author or professorial collective, past and current developmental disasters are blamed upon CIA plots or the malevolence of multinational corporations, on the International Monetary Fund, incorrect investment decisions, or the proxy wars of the Cold War. Rather harder to find in print is the possibility that some cultures simply may not be able to compete with other cultures.

Our population has reached 80 million and is steadily increasing which leads to greater urbanization as the countryside and traditional structures cannot support the additional offspring and the cities appear to offer better economic opportunity and a more attractive lifestyle. But our economy cannot create jobs as quickly as we are creating job seekers. Our cities will continue to see an increase in the unemployed and underemployed masses. This will result in an even further breakdown in traditional structures and values. In the end, the eventual outlet for a lifetime of frustration and unemployment is rage and violence.

It is a truism that throughout much of the 20th century the income gap between top and bottom narrowed, whether we speak of individuals, countries, or in some cases, even continents. It used to be true that individuals or countries could "make it" on sheer muscle power and the will to apply it. You could work harder than your neighbor and win in the marketplace. There was a rough justice in it, and it offered near-ecumenical hope. Unfortunately, that model is dead. Today, there is a growing excess of muscle power in an age of labor-saving machines and methods. Labor unions have moved from center stage to near-irrelevance. The trend will not reverse. Developing countries will not be able to depend on physical production industries to create employment opportunities, because there will always be another country willing to work cheaper. The value of manual and mass labor is plunging in a world of surplus population. Its effect on the non-Western world will be to condemn states, peoples, and even continents to enduring poverty.

In this world of multiple and simultaneous revolutions--in technology, information, social organization, biology, economics, and convenience--the rules of international competition have changed. There is a global marketplace and, increasingly, a global economy. The invisible hand of the market has become an informal but uncompromising lawgiver. Globalization demands conformity to the practices of the global leaders. If you do not conform--or innovate--you lose. If you try to quit the game, you lose even more profoundly. The rules of international competition, whether in the economic, cultural, or conventional military fields, grow ever more homogeneous.

Social division is the obvious result of the polarization of wealth. Although most of the world's population has always been condemned to poverty, a combination of religious assurance, ignorance of how well others lived, and hope of a better future more often than not curbed man's natural rage at wealth discrepancies. Now the slum dwellers are on to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, while hopes of prosperity even for future generations dwindle. At the same time, expectations have increased dramatically. In this age of television, videos, and satellite dishes, the young, embittered Latin American, Middle Eastern, African and Asian male gets his skewed view of how wealthy Westerners live from the hit series Sex and the City and Friends, or from satellite links beaming down Baywatch, or from reruns of Dynasty and Dallas. These are sources we may at first dismiss as laughable and unworthy of serious consideration as factors influencing world affairs. But their effect is destructive beyond the power of words to describe. A typical Filipino who graduates from school expects to find a good job that would allow his family security and reasonably increasing prosperity. For many such unemployed or underemployed Filipinos, their world is collapsing, even as the media teases them with images of an ever-richer, brighter, fun world from which they are excluded. These discarded citizens sense that the government is helpless to uplift them from their plight. Many will seek their own version of the Promised Land by migrating and working abroad, as five million other Filipinos have done before them. Of those that remain, the majority will accept their lot in life and seek solace with God and religion. Most will remain law-abiding, hard-working citizens. Some of them however, will not.

Cities have become centers of gravity. They have become the ultimate creators of wealth. They concentrate people, power, communications and control, knowledge and capability, rendering all else peripheral. While many cities are growing richer, more powerful and more efficient, others—especially in third world countries—are becoming poorer (on a per capita basis), weaker in their ability to self-regulate and unable to deliver even the most basic services that allow human beings to co-exist in great densities. Metro Manila has a population of approximately ten million—more specific figures are unavailable as local governments lose more and more control of their backyards. There are mayors and various city administrations, each with their own chain of command and other formal institutions and agencies. But real power is diffused beyond the formal government agencies into smaller communities or colonies, ethnic networks, religious organizations and crime syndicates whose leaders usurp much of the authority and some of the functions of the "legitimate" government. In a poorly functioning city like Metro Manila, there are worrisome trends. The ballooning population threatens to overwhelm state organizations and the infrastructure. As traditional rural societies grow overpopulated and impoverished, the lure of the city disproportionately draws young males—society's most volatile population segment—seeking opportunity, adventure and reinvigorated identity.

We see them everyday, but we are blind to the implications of demographic trends. To cite as an example, the railway tracks running parallel to the South Luzon expressway have long, parallel rows of multi-level squatter shanties, stretching much farther than the eye can see. These squatter colonies are the postmodern equivalent of jungles—citadels of the dispossessed and irreconcilable. Metro Manila has become an archipelago of wealth enclaves, islands of upper and middle-income residential communities that are increasingly surrounded by a sea of squatter colonies. Slum dwellers greatly outnumber legitimate Metro Manila homeowners. They represent a hybrid form of social organization and we are witnessing the birth of new tribes.

The young generations growing up in the slums and squatter colonies know nothing about acceptable norms of behavior. They have no interest in government or society beyond what they can beg, solicit or steal from it. They reject values, forms of government, laws, modes of social interaction and are only interested in the means to acquire material goods. Violence will be their only collective outlet, the only validation of their existence. For some of them, violence will become a cause in itself. Theirs will be the violence of the failure, by the failure and for the failure. For these barbarians, violence is the ultimate expression of existence, a scream of "I AM!" that is more powerful than any religious expression. It is anarchic to a degree that many of us have never imagined. Anyone who wants a preview of what these barbarians are capable of need only recall the mob that attacked the gates of Malacanang and the other events that transpired during EDSA 3. The typical barbarian we will encounter is a male who comes from the underclass, who has no stake in peace, a loser with little or no education, no legal earning power and no future. With gun or knife in hand, today's barbarian will kill those who may have slighted him, seize the women who avoid him, and plunder that which he could never otherwise possess. As society's preparatory structures such as schools, churches, communities and families increasingly become inadequate, young males who might otherwise have led productive lives will be drawn to crime.

Young people today know what they want and what they believe they deserve, but they are impatient with the legitimate means of acquiring it. The problem is simply that they disassociate the concept of "having" from that of "earning". Every major religion warns its adherents of the danger of vanity, insisting that only humility can lead to enlightenment. The younger generation no longer bothers with these fundamental insights. Everyone, everywhere wants more, usually in the most vulgar material sense, because the display of possessions seems to verify the worth of self—"I have, therefore I am." Young teenagers willingly risk jail if not their lives just to acquire illicit drugs, an expensive cellular phone or even just the latest model of athletic shoes.

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