With political airspace in the Philippines currently congested by allegations, accusations, and speculations of thievery flying back and forth between political cliques, factions, and camps, one couldn’t be blamed for losing any remaining semblance of faith in the old idealistic notion that a stint in government office grants one a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to “make a difference”. Yet this often dished-out admonition persists…
Why don’t you just run for office instead of just sitting around criticizing the government?
…implying that being “in the government” is the only way one can be of value to Philippine society.Is it only in government that one can make that “difference”? I don’t think Bill Gates or the late Steve Jobs will subscribe to that notion. Neither would Henry Sy or any of the Ayalas or Lopezes, for that matter. When one considers the number of lives touched, the number of jobs created, and the enduring value added to national economies by these and many other great industrialists, we begin to appreciate the irony in the way we seem to find more comfort in the lionisation of public “servants” than in the celebration of wealthy entrepreneurs.
But then, quite some time back I made this rather important observation:
Great nations were not built on good intentions. They were built on business sense. Real change in Pinoy society will never be achieved through the “sacrifice” of altruistic “heroes”. True change will be driven by people who find no shame in expecting a buck for their trouble.
It is these sorts of people who out of sheer focus on making a tidy buck, find clever ways to make light bulbs last longer or package ten-centavo trinkets into 50-peso must-haves. These are the sorts of people upon whom great nations are built. They find better ways of doing and making things and expect to be rewarded.
In the last several years, it has become evident that much of the promise of the 1986 EDSA “people power” “revolution” was not realised. People will be quick to point out that nothing much has changed for the better. Same politics, same names, same bullshit populist rhetoric, same fundamental motivations. It turns out, that the lack of “freedom” and “justice” that supposedly marked the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos was nothing but a lame excuse put forth to explain the Philippines’ poverty. 1986 was supposed to be the year that Filipinos “regained” their “freedom”. Perhaps they have. But Filipinos are still poor. And so, it turns out, it seems it wasn’t a lack of “freedom” and “justice” that kept Filipinos poor during the Marcos years.
For that matter, has there really been a material increase in freedom and justice since 1986? That remains quite debatable. More likely, the majority of Filipinos will dispute that notion that they are any freer than they were before 1986. And certainly the Philippines remains the same inherently unjust society it has always been for much of its history. Walang masumbungan. The average Filipino has nobody to turn to — not the police, not the army, and certainly not their politicians who, as is being progressively revealed to us today, are collectively perpetrating a profound institutionalised thievery the extent of which we are only beginning to understand.
Will even one senator go to jail? Probably not. That’s Philippine “justice” for you.
Nothing has changed.
Yet, when visitors and balikbayans come over for a visit, their wide-eyed wonder at how much has “changed” is very palpable. It is important to point out, however, that this “change” that is the source of their wonder — the gleaming skyscrapers, the tony shopping malls, and the festive round-the-clock bustle — are all the outcomes not of “honourable” politicians but of people out to make a buck for themselves. And they have achieved their goals and built all of that stuff not because of the Philippine government but despite it.
So let’s stop stumbling all over ourselves to hang medals on our traditional “heroes”. Let’s instead, celebrate wealth and the people who exhibit a talent for creating and accumulating it.
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