National "Heroes": When will we get over them?
16 March 2003
We pester the elite of our society with calls for acts of heroism
when the burden of extra hard work in reality falls on the
shoulders of the poor masses.
We Filipinos have been imbued with the idea that our
hopes for prosperity lie squarely on the shoulders of the elite, the
"haves", a handful of leaders and/or a few "extraordinary" individuals.
Our society has come to (or, more appropriately never matured beyond) a
penchant for giving heroic labels to these "messiahs", as if the
Philippines is constantly waiting for a hero to rescue her from her
dysfunction. We expect heroic efforts from the few and continued
mediocrity from the majority. We expect the low product of the majority
to be subsidised by the execptional output of the minority.
When do we realise that leaders are only as good as the people they
lead? Haven't we learned enough in the last two decades that one hero's
death and a couple of pseudo-revolutions did not cure the fundamental
cause of the chronic failure of our country?
Consider the following analogies:
(1) Corporations engage "hot-shot" consultants only to be told what
they already know and get shown charts and diagrams organised from
data that has laid idle and disorganised in their own databases for
(2) Missionaries come to villages armed only with a prayer yet are
able to create relative prosperity out of resources that these same
villagers have left lying around for generations.
The most notable achievements of the country have always
been our quick fixes -- "revolutions" here and there, a smattering of
go-go boom-boom periods, Magnificent Sevens riding in from the horizon,
grandiose roll-outs of off-the-shelf solutions (democracy is one of
them), etc. etc. We as a people are not known for quiet diligence and
industry but for our *fiesta* achievements.
Our prospects for prosperity, however, lie within ourselves --
not in a messianic bunch of leaders and exceptional few who are
yet to come and not in the altruism of the more fortunate. What we need
is the courage and open-mindedness to understand clearly what we
need to do to re-tool our culture, mindsets and thought processes, and
approach to doing things so that a nation-building machine that is truly
able to compete could emerge out of the collective and
quiet achievement of the majority.
Let's change these medieval beliefs in salvation through heroic deeds
and focus more on the more mundane aspects of nation-building.
Let's allow everyone to do their jobs properly without being
burdened by expectations that accompany heroic labels.
Let's change our self-righteous penchant for calling one another to
heroic and extraordinary deeds and instead find value in the collective
effect of each individual doing their ordinary jobs properly and
Recognising achievement is different from lionising
personalities. It takes well-thought
out efforts (that requires serious evaluation of fundamental truths
about ourselves) to realise sustainable development. When one
recognises achievement, one expresses admiration and seeks
to emulate said achievement. When one lionises personalities, one
places said personality on a pedestal to worship and pin their hopes
on. The earlier focuses on acquiring traits that support
excellence. The latter focuses on expectations to live by and has
come to acquire
the stink of Erap-ism.
We've already had our fair share of heroes. It is clear today that, for
many of them, the size of their sacrifice has not been commensurate with
the willingness of the people they sacrificed for to help themselves.
The Fall of another Pinoy Idol. Jasmine Trias -- a talented American who happend to be an ethnic Filipino -- was cheered on. Nice. Until she was voted on beyond her league.
A Message to Young Filipinos. Hope in a prosperous Philippines lies in young Filipinos. They are an asset that needs to be developed rather than wasted on mindless consumerism.