A report on a recent Pulse Asia survey reportedly shows that more than 90 percent of Filipinos face the New Year with a feeling of “hope”.
“Amid the various challenges Filipinos face on a daily basis, most of them continue to remain optimistic, with 92 percent saying they will face the new year with hope. This is the prevailing sentiment in every geographic area and socio-economic grouping,” Pulse Asia said.
Hope in what exactly? Pulse Asia offers no insight on that matter, of course. Its job is limited to collecting and crunching the data and reporting the numbers. Indeed, the responsibility for substantiating any sort of hope lies in each individual. Failing that, said “hope” is hollow at best — a mere prayer and not much else.
Presumably, Filipinos’ hopes revolve around the prospect of seeing greater prosperity in the New Year. A better job, more money, more luck. Except for that last one, it takes skill to acquire all these. So the questions Filipinos should really be asking themselves are:
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Do I have the skills to find a better job or make more money?
Am I capable?
Noted columnist Randy David pointed out what may be a sad indictment of the true nature of this hope writing in his Inquirer piece today how…
Filipinos tend to speak more about hope when they know they have reached the limits of their capabilities. Thus, they hope for miracles—the sudden reversal of a dire situation through divine intervention—because they cannot see themselves as the potential prime movers behind such reversals. Behind this recognition of the limits of their agency lies a basic distrust not just in their own capacity to effect meaningful change, but also in institutions.
Take note of these words: reached the limits of their capabilities.
The word “capability” is key to deciphering the “hope” conundrum because the concept is a pillar of our confronting definition of poverty:
Poverty is a habitual entering into commitments one is inherently incapable of honouring.
This is the main idea in a seminal article that explored the mystery of why Filipinos are inherently impoverished. It’s simple, really. Capability is acquired and applied to resources at hand. Resources alone don’t guarantee prosperity. And so…
Despite the Philippines being host to abundant natural resources, and now, an enormous supply of people, the society as a whole lacks a collective ability to apply this enormous number of people to the task of turning these resources into any sort of valuable economic output of consequence. Instead, natural resources are harvested raw and sold raw — mineral ore, logs, overseas foreign workers. Overseas, these then get turned into iPhones, karaoke machines, those shirts with the Philippine islands embroidered onto their left breasts, Honda Civics, Havaianas, and Starbucks tumblers after which they are shipped back to the Philippines to be purchased using OFW cash.
We then get to the question on whether Filipinos were ever capable to begin with. Much is said about how, in the aftermath of World War II, the Philippines was the richest county in the region, second only to Japan. Why then does the Philippines now find itself way behind — way way behind countries like South Korea which was wracked by war into the 1950s and recently overtaken by Vietnam which only found peace well into the 1970s?
Looking to the New Year, the real challenge for Filipinos is not as much in mustering the “hope” they love to chatter about ad infinitum and more about building resolve to come to grips with what they, as a people, are capable of and matching this reckoning with a more realistic level of commitments. One easy example is population. Sustaining an enormous population is a commitment. Do Filipinos possess the capability to honour that commitment. The evidence at hand to support the evident conclusion is stark.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.