Sometimes we forget that only a very tiny tiny minority of Filipinos are able to articulate the kinds of ideas exchanged within the circles of people who think. One can find lots of brainwaves splashing about in the Philippine social media scene where so much could be discussed about people and events and so many issues muddled into amorphous blobs of utter incoherence. Unfortunately, very little, if any, true insight on ideas that underpin the very nature of what the future holds for us can be found.
We see so many pretty pictures, symbols, and gestures being flashed all over the place — specially in times of short-lived bursts of patriotic fervour. But very little follow through — the kind that builds upon stuff, whether it is a fleeting instance of national unity or a rare Eureka! moment — ever makes it past the tickertape parade.
Given the glacial rate at which “structures” and “social forces” change — specially in the Philippines — actually believing that these serve as limits not only to one’s own individual prosperity but to the prosperity of every Filipino already makes one a prisoner of Da Pinoy Condition.
So what will it be?
– aspire to overstep the boundaries of these “structures” and “social forces” that imprison our minds so that we can;
– imagine a Philippines so fundamentally different as to re-shape the landscape of challenges that face us in a way that helps us focus on stuff that are truly important; and,
– undertake efforts underpinned by more insightful notions of what the real issues are?
… or do we continue to lie under the proverbial guava tree waiting for …
– the solutions that gods reveal;
– the livelihood that Governments create,
– the capital that foreigners provide; and,
– the passions that “heroes” inspire.
The choice is quite simple, really.
We may whine about, say, $20,000 spent on a president’s dinner in New York City — money that, as the “thinking” goes, could have been better spent on things more relevant to the average Filipino.
But then in the course of dwelling on that “thinking” we conveniently forget how we are renowned for splurging on multi-lechon fiestas even while deep in debt or spending hard-earned OFW dollars on karaoke machines and celphones instead of saving these funds for a rainy day or investing them in appreciating assets.
It is so obvious how no amount of money thrown into solving The Pinoy Condition has yielded any real results. Despite the the International Rice Research Institute being based in the Philippines, we have become among the world’s biggest rice importers. Despite being among the biggest foreign aid recipients from the United States and Japan, we remain the least-promising of American allies in the region. Despite having hosted one of the biggest American military facilities this side of the globe, we are today the most militarily flaccid. The ADB once issued a report back in the early 90’s showing how the Philippines registers among the lowest realisation rates for development funds disbursed among its debtors.
In general, despite being among the most naturally-endowed countries, we are among the world’s most impoverished societies. There is irony in how the citizens of a land that abounds in so much natural wealth and social mobility earns a significant bulk of their living from lands where nothing but sand and warfare can be found and where liberties taken for granted at home are all but missing.
But then that is why such ironies so routinely escape us. Because those that rule in Philippine society (mandated by the popular vote) always trump the exceptional.
Craig Nelson introduces his book Rocketmen, with the story of a 1969 Senate briefing (shortly after Apollo 11 landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon) where Fermilab physicist Robert Wilson is asked how a $250 million atom smasher he proposes be built will contribute to the security of the United States. Wilson responded by saying that it will contribute nothing, but that the American people’s capacity to undertake endeavours like those is what makes the United States of America worth defending.
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