Are the noisiest advocates of social ‘change’ doing more harm than good?

There is an adage modern doctors live by that encapsulates what their real role is in the holistic process of healing — Do no harm first. The human body is a wondrous but complex system. We never quite known what is going on in the way its billions of component parts interact. Yet many modern medical practices have reduced diagnosis and treatment of many ailments to formulaic exercises — and propagated the delusion that they have nailed down solid causal relationships between theory and effect.

constitutional_reform_philippinesDoctors are quick to diagnose “difficult” children as suffering from, say, “attention deficit disorder” and prescribe pills that suppress or enhance one or the other of one or a number of chemicals that interact within the brain and collectively contribute to governing brain function. The bodies of even the most physically-fit adults are engulfed by large doses of antibiotics at the first sign of infection, never mind that healthy immune systems eventually learn how to combat common bacterial and viral infections on their own.

Considering the complexity of the brain and the human anatomy overall, many such practices and approaches amount to intervention in systems we hardly know much about by applying measures that were developed within a very narrow range of design parameters.

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What did we get out of an overzealous medical practice that is quick to intervene in systems honed by millions of years of evolution? An entire generation of medicated and allergic people. We also get an astoundingly wealthy pharmaceutical industry that makes its money from kids growing up popping pills to “cure” bad behaviour and minor injuries.

You then start to wonder about all these “initiatives” to change stuff in the Philippines and the hubris with which their instigators proclaim expected “results”. You have well-intentioned “social media practitioners” presuming to govern — no, control — election campaigns. We see “advocacies” that seek to change entire systems of government. We’ve enacted laws that stipulate intentions to make the sex lives of Filipino women “more satisfying.”

What “results” do we expect out of all these lofty projects? A “smarter” vote? More prosperous Filipinos? More “empowered” women? But of course. Who wouldn’t want a smarter, wealthier, and happier country after all?

Think again.

The point these “activists” seem to miss is in the ironically simple truth that their fellow charlatans in the consulting industry also profess to their clients — that everyone is ultimately personally reponsible for their own smarts, their own wealth, and their own happiness. As big an industry as pharmaceuticals is the self-help industry where “life coaches” encourage their adherents to “take control” of their lives, where caricatures of drill seargeants bark orders at fitness nuts enrolled in weekend “boot camps”, where investment “gurus” educate ordinary folk on the merits of betting their life savings on real estate.

Hawking “change” to suckers who, left to their devices, are blind to obvious solutions to their personal woes sitting right under their noses has always been a profitable underaking. That line of work trades on people’s deeply-ingrained feelings of inadequacy and fear of randomness inherent to living in a real world where natural and man-made disasters can strike anytime without warning and where the inherently incapable in most occasions get the smallest pieces of the pie.

The illusion being propagated here is that more intervention is necessarily good. These “thought leaders” forget that democracy, free markets, and life itself are all vastly complex self-correcting systems that sort themselves out eventually. When we apply a narrowly-thought-out set of principles within a small supposedly clearly-understood aspect of these vast systems to implement “solutions”, we are never quite sure what unintended consequences may strike outside of the scope of the theoretical models we used to develop said “solutions”.

It is quite ironic that the word “freedom” is a word that is in abundant overuse in the rhetoric of the vacuous “movements” and “initiatives” that drive the Philippine national “debate”. The only change we really need to see in a society whose people already enjoy the power to choose their leaders is a change in thinking — so that it is not the droll, irrelevant, and unimaginative ideas that rule Filipinos’ minds but the ones that have been critically evaluated and rigorously scrutinised.

13 Replies to “Are the noisiest advocates of social ‘change’ doing more harm than good?”

  1. The political process in the Philippines is a purposely inept, corruption plagued mess that is the governing body that controls 100 million people’s tax peso’ really doesn’t take much of either of the two thought processes mentioned to figure out what has and is going on. It is pretty obvious, what is happening, so maybe it is not necessary at all.
    Drastic action might work better.

  2. “The only change we really need to see in a society whose people already enjoy the power to choose their leaders is a change in thinking — so that it is not the droll, irrelevant, and unimaginative ideas that rule Filipinos’ minds but the ones that have been critically evaluated and rigorously scrutinised.”

    The only system that actually provides for rigorous scrutiny of the executive is the parliamentary system.

    Also, Filipinos don’t choose their own leaders… at least not while the Smartmatic machines are “malfunctioning”.

    1. It isn’t the system of government. Government’s failure is a symptom of the sickness of the society that spawned it.

      You can have a parliamentary democracy or a bicameral legislature or a communist, totalitarian state. I won’t matter. The British parliamentary system certainly didn’t prevent unscrupulous Labour MPs from creating “ghost employees” or dissuade them from billing personal home renovations to the British taxpayer. America’s vaunted system of checks and balances failed to prevent Charlie Rangel of New York from maintaining a vacation home in Central America and renting it out on the backs of the US taxpayer.

      For as long as our politicians leave much to be desired, our bureaucrats incompetent, and the electorate clueless, we will be making the same mistakes. Profound change has to begin with the people.

  3. Then the way to evaluate man’s worldview must be in earnest and it must be done now. But with the philosophical outlook based on Atheism and dialectic Materialism getting more prevalent? No change will be expected whatsoever! Besides, there is actually no hope if such a worldview is the one promoted especially by the intellectuals . Why do I rant about this? It is because humanity as a whole actually lost its way and that the search for what life is for, how the world is ordered must be based on some worldview that CANNOT be relativistic but of ABSOLUTES and of true meaning. Sadly, this is not what is happening now.

    “For as long as our politicians leave much to be desired, our bureaucrats incompetent, and the electorate clueless, we will be making the same mistakes. Profound change has to begin with the people.” – This is but a tip of the iceberg on man’s quest on how society should be through the worldview it will exercise.

  4. Too many cooks have already spoiled the broth. There will be no changes. Easy to see that we all can’t get along…and even if all the blogsites for social change unite and band together, the numbers still won’t match the overwhelming majority of people who don’t know how to use a computer to read stuff like this, even if they still get to vote for the candidates we love to hate. I’d give parliamentary a chance or a law that only allows taxpayers to vote just to avoid that stupid “masa vote”…but some still want to stick with the presidential system and blame our leaders, who are just a reflection of what we’ve become as a people.

    Love the article, and still believe in the core message…but it made me assess on how this site makes me feel now compared to the earlier days of AP when it seemed more fun and friendly and less angry and egotistical (Pwe!). I’ve “gotten real” long before Benigno came onto the scene. Although his writing continues to be inspiring, compelling and thought-provoking, I don’t see any social changes on the horizon that would give me an ounce of hope that I’ve lost a long time ago. That being said, I continue to support this site as long as the core message remains the way it’s always been…but it’s time for me to look elsewhere. Thanks anyway, writers.

  5. Modern medicines have their limitations. Some have harmful side effects. You can also be misdiagnosed by incompetent doctor. Then, you become worse; wrong medicine applied to you. We still don’t know much about the human body. Especially the human brain. Bakit kumatok ang ulo ni Aquino. You will never know the answer. Bakit naging maraming asawa si Kris Aquino. You will never know the answer.
    There is a material world; and a spiritual world, as taught by religions. There is evil in this world, as taught, again by religions…

  6. if the people have become as corrupt as the politico’s in the country then the country is truly screwed. It is not necessarily the case though. The people in power now have been there for a long time and they and their families have a stranglehold on the entire economy, they run it, own it, and make sure no one else gets a piece of it.They do as they like and care about no one but themselves. Until that is changed expect no change what-so-ever.
    It is a fact that the Philippines is a failed state, much like Haiti, only no one really wants to admit it. Time after time the same shit happens and nothing is done to prevent the next event whether it is a typhoon killing 1000’s due to lack of planning, restructuring infra-structure to modern day standards or the next criminal/politician getting caught handing out the people’s money and laughing about it when caught.
    The longer the ridiculous-corruption riddled mess of a government is ‘allowed’ yes, ‘ALLOWED’, to keep doing what it is doing the less credibility it will have, not that it has much anyway, that could actually be the impetus needed for a real change…and a few million people w/balls.

    1. There’s also the Bowel Movement.

      Their method of protest is to sit on a throne and do the Thinking Man pose.

      They donate all their output as fertilizer. 😛

  7. This is how I felt with the RH Bill and I said so in my post here in GRP August 7 2012 . It assumes if you give da pinoy da tools da pinoy will make it work. Well da pinoy thrives in chaos. The beauty of this grand social experiment is that it’s funded by you and me. Yes the taxpayer. Just teaching dependence instead of resourcefulness.

    Allow me to quote that blog I wrote:

    The Pinoy’s problem with the concept of family planning is the second word. They really don’t plan anything.

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