So we want to be a “proud” people, do we? Well perhaps it is time we took the bull by its horns and ask ourselves: Proud of what exactly?
You see, this is the 21st Century. Old notions of one race being superior to another or an entire people being anointed as blessed above the rest by one deity or another no longer serve as credible bases for greatness. And yet here we see a world where the divide between the planet’s greatest and most powerful societies and its most dismal impoverished failures remains a gaping “issue” in the company of the politely politically-correct.
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The reality is that the three key ingredients in the cultural DNA of the greatest societies — both current and past — the world has seen have remained the same — might, wealth, and brains. Even today, the world’s pillars of greatness are countries with deeply-ingrained martial traditions, apply a collective aptitude for commerce, and lead the species in innovation. Warts and all, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, and China remain the planet’s movers and shakers even today and they score high marks across all three. No coincidence there. Great nations accumulate what they shrewdly acquire, are entitled to keep what they are able to defend, and cleverly capitalise the ideas they think up.
Of course not all societies can take their place in this rarefied space of macro achievers any more than everyone can be rock stars. But most ordinary people do manage to turn into decently clothed, fed, and sheltered adults and not end up living off alms in a cardboard box.
From that perspective, where is the Philippines as far as the more reasonable aspiration of becoming a decent and dignified society goes? Well, consider the national obssessions of the moment — we look up to grotesque role models who practice various modern versions of voodoo, are transfixed by the latest political tele-circuses, and bicker amongst ourselves over how to turn precious minerals buried under our land into instant cash.
We aspire to be “stable” yet set ourselves up to forever teeter upon a spindly base of ill-thought-out initiatives. While the rest of the world hooks their digital pipelines into the torrent of world-class ideas mostly articulated in the scientific,cultural, and economic lingua francas of our civilisation, our public school system is hooking up the young minds of our country into an academic drip-feed channeled over a handful of intellectually-barren national “languages”. While the rest of the world measures wealth on the basis of how much of it each of its citizens enjoy, we look to the arbitrary year 2050 which a bunch of bank “analysts” have chosen as the target for our ascent to the rank of 16th in terms of economic size — never mind that our enormous numbers may by then continue to crush the per capita share of that wealth. And while neighbouring countries point their guns, missiles, and listening devices toward the seas, our country’s armed forces remain geared for the next internal squabble and “adventure”.
Before we can answer the hard question of what exactly we as a people can be objectively proud of, we need to ask ourselves an even harder question — whether or not we have so far collectively succeeded at something of consequence that can serve as a clear basis for said pride. But hardest of all questions, however, is the question of whether we have been, are, or will be setting ourselves up to succeed.
For success does not just happen. Finding sustainable success is a systematic endeavour. It is like building a pyramid. The first layer is vast and boring. But as you build upon each layer you lay, the rise gets faster and the structure gets sleeker. That we have so far failed to see ourselves through the boring part of our development as a nation and instead celebrate the vacuous circuses that our politicians dazzle us with makes our chronic failure to launch as a credible global player less a mystery.
* * *
The prosecution team in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona flew high, burned brightly, then flamed out — in the process supplying ample fodder for an attention-deficited Philippine Media to fire into its zombie audience. Now we find “journalists” lamenting the “boring” pace of the defense team’s approach to building their case. But as defense attorney Tranquil Salvador pointed out after yesterday’s session, they are presenting their evidence systematically — layer-by-layer starting with a vast foundation of data.
Filipinos can be forgiven for failing to appreciate this approach. The cultural baggage of their tradition and history does not make systematic approaches easy for the Filipino mind to grasp.
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