Monday, May 30, 2011

Is the Philippines Backwards, or Even Grammatically Correct?

In my communications classes at the University of Southern California, I was taught that there is perception and there is truth. Take the case of all the stray dogs roaming the Philippines, passing their fleas, ticks and rabies to people whilst helping recycle garbage into fertilizer that too often ends up where people walk, and kids play. These mangy creatures, of no observable breed, are generally skinny and lethargic, as we would be if we were uncared for and starving. Filipinos don’t seem to notice the dogs. It’s as if they were just a part of the natural landscape, like plants in pots. Foreigners notice. It is one of the first things, along with chickens flapping about in the bus, that smacks them in the eye and causes them to mutter, “Oh my God, this place is backward”.

Now is that perception or truth? For myself, backward is relative to some ideal, but I have a hard time holding the US up as any kind of ideal, for the relentless consumption, the veritable eating, of the planet being done there, and the loony rationalizations that emerge as nobs there hob for favoritism and votes. I read that Neut Gingrinch has declared that global warming is not an issue, that, indeed, dinosaurs thrived when the planet was a lot warmer. No need for us to worry. And with icons of virtue like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin leading the pack, for sure the notion that Americans are an intellectually advanced species disintegrates.

And frankly, I get nostalgic for the good old days of my youth when we walked to school through rain and snow and the heat of the radioactive cloud that hung over my town from the nearby Rocky Flats nuclear playground. We wrote letters to people far away instead of e-mailing them, and it would be hard to say the excitement a letter would generate is more backward than the impassionate greeting of an e-mail “ding”. I learned to type on an old Underwood with keys so heavy that I never had to work out with weights; I just typed. Now I sit at my Chinese made flat screen flipping words into the internet black hole as if that really mattered to anyone but myself. We have advanced so far so fast that we are now behind where we started.

Backward, indeed.

I like all the tricycles plying about the streets of my home town. I know a bunch of the peddlers personally, for they worked for a time building my home. They pedal for pesos between construction jobs. It is hard to say that they are more backward than all those Harvard trained stock brokers in starched shirts laboring at their computer screens to find every informational advantage that the common sucker does not have access to. Sweat is at least honest.

Oh, people moan about how Filipinos have raped the land and chopped down all the trees, but that is just evolution. I read that pine trees in America are actually a recent phenomenon. They have not been there “always”. Plants move in and out as God repaints every few millennia. I figure Filipinos are just one of His brushes, and so we have mountains with coconut trees and coffee plants instead of jungle trees and vines. So they slide down into the sea now and then, mixing some of God’s creatures into the mud, washing them to Indonesia. We all gotta go sometime, and why pay money to ride Raging Rapids at Knotts Berry Farm? This notion that we have to pay $500 for a jolly family day at Disneyland is backward to me. It is more honest to go to the beach and watch the naked boys doing backflips into the surf.

So I guess I agree with Neut. Bring on the dinosaurs.

As for all those dogs on the National Highway? I just pretend I am in the 50’s in some musty corner of the bowling alley, working the pinball machine. Instead of flippers, I wield a 3,000 pound chunk of metal. Instead of bumpers that light up, there are tricycle drivers that shout “eeek” and head for the rice field as I barrel toward them doing 110 KPH. Maybe it is more like Donkey Kong, now that I think about it. Indeed, I am going to start putting decals on my car for all the livestock I’ve slaughtered here with my vehicle. One dog, two chickens, three hats, a bird, three tricycle handlebars, one flower pot, and 783 million mosquitoes.

Backward is perception. Living real is truth.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Confidence as Weakness

One of the characteristics that sets Filipinos apart from other cultures, which can be seen as weakness or strength, is a durable sense of self. I have no statistics to back it up, but my guess is that Americans have more insecurities than Filipinos. A lot. It is the result of all the introspection that is done by Americans, the self-critiques that drive self-improvement but also makes for self-doubt.

Filipinos are high on themselves, as Ilda pointed out in her Get Real Post article that reported survey results showing that 48% of Filipino men believe they are sexually attractive, making them the most narcissistic men in all of Asia.

This self-appreciation is weakness if it evokes an onion skin sensitivity that rejects criticism and forms an inherent blindness against the agitations and tensions that produce growth. It is strength when it is combined with skills and discipline, as in the case of Manny Pacquiao who is skilled and disciplined at boxing, or Cristeta Comerford, US President Obama’s chef, who is skilled and disciplined at managing cookery, or Charise who is skilled and disciplined at entertaining.

Too many Filipinos exercise their durable sense of self without any skills or discipline attached, and that produces pollution, overbearing poverty, houses built on slippery slopes, poor response to typhoons, and a weak economy without any industrial strength: a lackluster tourist effort that tries to paint a glow on dead coral, trashy beaches and rebel-infested mountains; weak mining and forestry management that can’t get out from under corruption and poor industrial practices; trade that is bogged down in Customs taxes and nightmare paperwork; and fishing and farming that are managed as workplaces for the indigent rather than globally competitive industries.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can explain to a Filipino the importance of developing skills, but you can’t make him skilled. Especially if the educational system is weak, the societal umbrella is warped by favoritism instead of a premium on competence, and there are too many bodies fighting for too few substantive jobs.

You can’t develop skills if that durable sense of self blocks self awareness. Coach Roach gave Manny the self-awareness that to be a truly top-flight fighter, he needed to combine his raw athletic talent and toughness with skill and discipline. He needed to develop the ability to fight with left and right hand power. He needed to learn the technique of stepping 90 degrees to the opponent’s right and clocking him with a right cross that he can’t even see. He needed to develop the discipline to send his party-hearty friends packing when he needed to train 100%.

The primary need of the Philippines is not a President who is a hero, or more foreign investment. It is the self-awareness that “I need skills”, in business management, or technology, or language, or diplomacy, or the disciplines I exhibit in my daily life. A skilled person would not accept stray dogs on the highway killing motorcyclists, or pollution that gives people cancer, or running agriculture as farming instead of agribusiness, or hiring cousins and classmates instead of competent people, or arriving late for anything.

Self confidence is great if it is attached to skills and discipline. Otherwise, it is just the Philippines as we see it now.

Strategies, Principles and Techniques

I was reading a Reuters article on President O’bama’s forthcoming trip to Europe. There are many important topics on the various agendas with top European leaders, including Middle Eastern turmoil, the unstable European economic situation, US missiles in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Pakistan and terrorism.

One point of coordination is withdrawal from Afghanistan. The US will start pulling troops out soon. Other nations also have timetables for withdrawal.

Essentially, Afghanistan is on its own. The withdrawal will be done to give the bastard democracy enough time to settle itself, but if it fails, that is an Afghan problem. The US and its NATO paw . . . allies . . . have done what they can to give Afghans a start, and if Afghans blow it . . . tough tittie.

Then we have Libya and Syria. Both are ruthless, dogmatic states whose leaders don’t mind shooting citizens in suppressing numbers. NATO is engaged in Libya to defend citizens there, but it is not engaged in Syria where civilian blood is flowing freely. That seems inconsistent.

Indeed, it defines the fine line between how far the US and western nations should to go to defend principles of human rights. It is clear that many Middle Eastern leaders do not subscribe to western ideals of free speech and don’t mind killing to close forever mouths that argue.

Does the US respect the notion of national prerogative over the notion of freedom of citizens within that nation? That is the seminal question, I think.

Since antiquity, national borders and authorities have been open to conquest by those nations whose perceived self-interest requires dominance over others.

The US is in a dilemma because it believes both in the right of nations to pursue their own course, and it believes in certain standards of human rights, including free speech and peaceful assembly.

If the US believed every closed, autocratic, ruthless state should be taken down, then Iran would be given the Iraq solution. But in Muslim countries, it is not clear that the people want to be assisted by “Satanic” countries that offend their religious beliefs simply by being. In Lybia, the cry for help is undoubtedly “transactional”.

Help us win, then get out.

And as an American, I am inclined to say, what’s in it for me, and why should my tax money go to help you fight your rebellion?

Here is my take on what I think the US position should be regarding Middle Eastern turmoil. I will set aside Pakistan and possibly Iran as warranting separate treatment because they have or are intent on getting the capability to launch nuclear attacks on the US. But as for the rest, including Afghanistan, I believe the US strategy should be: (1) to defend itself from terrorism, (2) to marginalize the disputes in each country by paying little attention and no money to them, and (3) to grant citizens of those nations the right to worship as they see fit, to be oppressed and to die if they cannot manage to overthrow the tyrants who kill them.

I think Libyan rebels could win if they were patient, collaborative, and skilled at fighting. But zipping around in pick-up trucks wildly cheering each little victory as if the war were won is not patient, collaborative or skilled.

Within the strategy of defense against terrorism and “hands off” independent states, I think certain principles should come into play that provide exceptions. One of the principles is “undue force” based on the weapons used.

If a nation uses tanks, missiles, bombs or artillery to shell population centers, the US and its allies are correct to use force to balance the firepower. It is not wise to let little Hitler’s roam free; it is not good for the conscience. Syrian authorities have killed citizens with rifles, but not (yet) with tanks. They have not yet crossed the line. So I agree with the stance taken on Syria; hands off. And I agree with the stance taken on Libya; create a reasonably level fighting field.

Another exception is nuclear power. Iran and Pakistan are direct threats to the US and each warrants a separate agenda, for US defense.

But Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan. Spain. Let the citizens of those nations figure it out. In the modern era of worldwide communication, people are informed. They know what democracy means. If they really want it, they can have it. We (the US) don’t have to help them one dollar or one soldier’s life. Indeed, by helping, we give people a crutch. They need to walk on their own. Or fall.

When my son was two years old, he would fall down a lot as he learned to run and control his body. A parent’s natural tendency is to run over and help him up and say “poor baby”. But the better technique is to let him get up by himself. It teaches self-care. When he is playing soccer, he will not whine when he is knocked down. He will get up and compete. Or if his nation decides to oppress him. He will not weep or run about haphazardly seeking care. He will do something about it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dignity of Man

Dignity is an admirable concept. Rather like integrity or honor. These are not colors that you can see, a streak of red upon the lips or a blue t-shirt. They are not for tactile exploration, like rough or smooth or wet. However, they are slippery, not always easy to grasp or paste upon someone. They keep falling off.

I have been on a rant against the Catholic Church of the Philippines of late, occasioned by the battle about the proposed Reproductive Health bill, which pits those for women’s rights against those for creation of life. Anything that gets in the way of the creation of life is considered sinful by the Church, never mind that the priests put their Commitment to God between themselves and the creation of life, and it is declared good.

Celibacy is, in my opinion, unnatural and results in little quirks like men of the cloth chasing choirboys to satisfy some animal drive for ejaculation. That is the opposite of dignity, of course. And it rather proves that priests are not OF God, not an appendage of the Almighty, but are rather Man.

Is dignity important to the Church? I wonder. I see the squatters’ villages on the mud banks of the rivers, located there for ease of removing effluence from the neighborhood with each rain. I see young children running round downtown begging for pesos, read about the young girls traded like so much meat on the butcher’s block, hear the neighbor kid relentlessly screaming his lungs out for lack of nutrition or a hug, see kids being abandoned by their fathers and passed from family member to family member for caretaking, and see packs of boys roaming the neighborhood during the school term, never with a book in hand.

There is something undignified about these images. Yet the Church would appear to see nothing wrong with it. There is something hollow about their claim that these problems are due to the economy and poor government. It is like saying the Church has absolutely no responsibility for these things. That the most powerful moral voice in the nation is absolutely pristine, clean, apart from the undignified morass into which the millions of little lives are thrown.

I don’t buy it.

Church doctrine is a set of rules. It is manmade, and, like dignity is merely a concept, an expression. It may have meaning, or it may be 180 degrees apart from truth and wellness. It all depends on the reader.

I think the Church does a lot of good. It is an anchor for troubled souls. It provides spiritual refreshment. It teaches.

But I think the dignity it projects, of colorfully robed cardinals, of priests solemn and wise . . . wears thin and artificial against the real lives living down by the river, or sold for sex. It wears thin against young teens, pregnant for lack of education and availability of birth control measures, getting bloody coat-hanger abortions.

It does no good to simply say “this is bad”, “that is bad”, and, by making that pronouncement, somehow rise above the riffraff who must deal with the real pains of life. Somehow be apart from it. Somehow be able to claim celibacy in the creation of pain and sorrow for people.

No. No.

The church is real, it is engaged with people, it cures ills and it causes pain. It causes pain by forcing women into the undignified position of having unwanted children or sneaking out in the dead of night to get an abortion. It causes pain by mandating the birth of mouths with no food to put in them.

Dignity is to be found in balance, I think. Weighing choices and doing the best we can. It is to be found in efforts to create wholeness of the human spirit and a fundamental happiness within, regardless of the travails one must face in life. It is to be found in accepting responsibility, not denying it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Joss"

I have been wading through the entire set of books by James Clavell, five of which showed up one day on the shelves of National Book Store. My current reading is Noble House, which centers on Hong Kong in 1963. The protagonist is Tai Pan Ian Dunross, a descendant of the original British Tai Pan, Dirk Straun. I’ve already done away with Shogun, Gai-Jin, Tai-Pan, and King Rat. Only Whirlwind and The Children’s Story are left, and I suppose I will have to order them from Amazon and pay some outrageous Custom’s fee to import material that Custom’s has in a category next to drugs. After all, books influence the brain and are therefore appropriate to be banned or taxed into oblivion.

Clavell’s protagonists are strong characters living within foreign cultures, shaped by them and shaping them. I suppose that is why I enjoy his perspectives. He has a sharp eye for cultural distinctions and the natural friction that occurs when cultures intertwine. He does not condemn or praise any culture, but lets the people representing those cultures exhibit themselves, for the reader’s condemnation or praise.

One of the concepts in Noble House is that of “joss”, or fate. Or God’s will. Or karma. It is the way the outer world greets us, good and bad. It is that part of life we cannot control, and so we must bow to what it presents us – death and joy and problems and surprise solutions - and move on. It does no good to wail and weep or shout with glee, for there is a new surprise just around the corner that will humble us properly.

I look at my wife and say, ah, “joss”.

Here is a woman born in the depths of Philippine poverty, educated only for the good grace of an uncle she was handed off to. In and out of school. Bounced from this family member to that. Graduated from high school at 20.

Yet her intellectual capacity far exceeds mine, with my two college degrees. She can remember more, argue better, and hold up under stress in situations where I get shaky. She has this peculiar strength typical of Filipinos, unbending self-assurance. Had she been born in the USA, she would likely have blasted through college and would be engaged in a professional career. That self-assurance combined with education and professional refinement would have led her to the top.

And, indeed, it is her strength of character that led her to me, on an internet dating site, and the risks associated with meeting an American, not really known.

We’ve done fine. Beautifully, if you must know. Fundamentally, we like and enjoy each other, and have taken our occasional cultural “rub” as being something to talk about and resolve. Not be angry about. We have an amazingly bright and charming kid, more handsome than Piolo. He blabbers in Visayan, which I don’t understand, and in English, including a few swear words that I have to learn not to utter. The utterances usually come whilst driving and dealing with the chaos on Filipino roads.

An aspect of Filipino culture we face is the unending envy and cruelty imposed upon my wife by other Filipinas. Filipino men are generally respectful of her, although who knows what goes on inside their brains. But the women are outwardly engaged in battering my wife’s reputation, claiming to friends that she is a prostitute and selfish and has a “bad attitude”. Well, yes, she has learned to stand up for herself, even if the other party is the Barangay Captain, and she speaks forcefully.

So, in terms of those who expect subservience, she indeed has a bad attitude.

But she is not a prostitute, and has never been one. She had one boyfriend before me, and had sexual intercourse once before me. (I reveal these private details because curious spurious lascivious minds presume to know what has gone on in her bedroom before, and I wish to set the record straight).

She is considered “selfish” because she will not part with the money that will fund her life, and our child’s education – our savings – after I die. (I’m quite a bit older). It is amazing how many people believe they have a right to the money I earned, simply because they need it and we have it. It is rather the attitude of a thief.

The “selfish” tag suggests others know better than we do about how we should spend our money.

As if they would actually take care of my wife and young son if I died . . .

So “joss” it is. Friction there is. Joy there is. Yoda there is.

We’re doing fine here, thanks. Rolling with the punches. Carving out a future amongst the surprises. Laughing a lot.

Best regards to others with the spiritual and intellectual vigor it requires to cross cultures, and persist . . .

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Creed

As soon as I published my prior blog, a friend who occasionally reads my blogs sent me a note. “Uh, Joe, can you please explain that Creed paragraph? I don’t get it.”

Friends are good to have.

Here is the essence of what I meant, and an application.

A secular state is a more religious state than a state that limits itself to the doctrine of a single religion. It is freer, it is healthier, it is more vibrant. God is mysterious and any single religion falls short of explaining His mystery. If any one religion could explain God without question, we would have but one faith and one set of rules about how to live. The State could then be subservient to the Church.

But there are many faiths and even more interpretations of what God and his prior and present representatives on earth think that faith should mean.

It is the State’s responsibility to protect us from dogmatism and preserve our freedom to worship.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines has overstepped the normal bounds of restraint and engaged in a direct confrontation with secular leaders over the Reproductive Health Bill. By doing so, it abandons any pretence that it holds a high moral ground above the Manly business of passing laws. By dipping its prodigious pen into the ink of public debate, it must accept that it is open to the kind of ruthless criticism that inhabits the public arena. It can no longer claim a position of reflection and guidance above the tough, secular job of figuring out how to govern well.

In my opinion, the Catholic Church is intent upon holding the Philippines back from advancing as a modern nation of the 21st century. It is bound by rigid, antiquated doctrine that forces it to do so. Citizens of the state are not bound by that doctrine and are free to be modern. The Catholic doctrine is no longer responsive to Man’s growth as a thinking, advancing species made in God’s image, or to a planet that is populating itself to the limits of its ability to support life. The Catholic Church would – because of inflexible doctrine - hold the Philippines and its citizens to the poverty and suffering imposed by its over-birthing masses. It would hold that even non-believers are bound by Church doctrine, as if the priests, mere men beset with many sins, have some Godlike power to pronounce how the rest of us should behave.

I think enough is enough.

Enough of preferential social standing granted the Catholic Church, enough of preferential tax standing, enough of deference to men of the cloth out of respect for the goodness of their hearts.

The Catholic cloth is tattered with the agonies of the poor. It is soiled with the dirt of the uneducated. It is stained with the blood and pain of women. Now it is tainted by an abrasive and arrogant entry into public debate about an important secular issue.

The Catholic Church is behaving as if it were above the State. It is not. God is above the state, but its human representatives on earth are not.

Indeed, the Catholic Church undermines the State with each political utterance. It undermines the notion that God is available to all, and it presumes to be the sole moral authority for all Mankind.

Enough.

As long as God is mysterious, Man’s highest respect for Him is found in secular governance.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Philippine Halo Halo Party

Halo halo is not a common dessert in the US. I stand agape as I watch my wife down this colorful concoction of sweets and treats by the half-gallon. It is wonderful for the mix of goodies it contains. It is a non-discriminatory dessert.

The American Tea Party movement is predominantly based in Christian values and the Republican ideology of small government. It promotes itself as independent of any political party, but its views and actions define it as conservative and God-based, more aligned with Republican ideals than Democratic.

The Philippines has the opposite problem. Its political world is already unduly influenced by the God-based doctrine of the Catholic Church. The nation is immersed in an ideology of unfettered birthing and superstitions. The problem is that Church leaders are profoundly Man and are clearly attracted by the temptations of Satan, as is any man. Yet they declare that they, and only they, are empowered to define God for the masses, and they instruct even non-Catholics on the rules of state.

And so the cycle of poverty and all the abuses natural within a society of poverty and hopelessness continues. Child abuse, abuse of women, sexual abuse, abandonment of parental and spousal responsibility. These are the traits of a population held back by ignorance and poverty. These are the traits of the Catholic Philippines.

I look forward to the day when the masses rally and shout “enough!” Perhaps a few bold citizens will establish a Philippine Halo Halo Party, a voluntary organization of Filipino citizens who advocate a secular Philippines so that they may be free to follow the faith of their choice without submitting to the beliefs and rules of other faiths. It might argue for a political process that is strictly secular, that bans direct church engagement in political affairs, and that has as its clear objective the building of a safe and sound Philippines, for the benefit of all citizens.

The Philippine Halo Halo Party Creed might read something like:

We hold that God’s mystery is His beauty. We ought not to limit Him according to man’s limited comprehension and moral capacity, but hold that He is beyond the grasp of the few, and therefore available to all. Man’s highest respect for God is to be found in secular laws that do not condemn one man’s beliefs in favor of another’s, but pronounce the rules by which civilized people live and carry out work to build a safe, invigorating, productive society.

The party would probably originate with a small group of technologically capable Philippine citizens that is motivated to organize and lead an organization with this creed as its central belief. The goal would be to place Philippine governance beyond the reach and doctrine of Catholic, Muslim or other church leaders. That is, to be a government of all peoples. It would garner power by building a large membership representing all faiths and righteous moral persuasions, and it would serve to counterbalance untoward special-interest influences in politics and government.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Racing through the Jungle

It seems to me we are all in-bred racists. We are suspicious of other races and cultures because we don’t understand them, because others behave differently than we do, and because they seem not to like us so very much, either.

Defensiveness is built into our human genetics, rather like a porcupine manages to stick up for itself. Only instead of growing pointy quills, we grow inferiority complexes, suspicions, and angers. We hunker down to defend our ways and means. And the more aggressive of us seek to demolish those cretins who would threaten us by being different.

Hitler was not that long ago. His motivations course through the blood of many.

In the Philippines, I live a different culture daily and it drives me crazy. I was taught the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), I lived the principles of Boy Scouts (do good deeds) and I accepted the goodness of Christ (turn the other cheek, chat up the prostitute, be a good fellow at heart). Filipinos far and wide do not live by the Golden Rule, or Scout or Christian standards.

The latter might be considered odd given the predominance of Catholicism in the Philippines. But religion in the Philippines seems to be taken on as just another superstition – a super-superstition I suppose; it is not adopted as a way of building one’s moral foundation or contributing to the well-being of the Philippines. Rites, confession, go forth and sin, and for sure multiply . . .

I have commented before that I think Filipinos are biased against themselves, judging by the scale of the whitening cream industry. I was rebutted with the remark that this is just a matter of cosmetic style, not self-hating racism.

That in turn causes me to question the artistry of women who find pasty white more attractive than golden brown. But Japanese like white, too, or why do Geishas paint themselves with what looks like white enamel house paint? So I guess I am the weirdo, the out-of-step fashionista, for liking brown skin.

And I have no idea why I am given more favorable treatment in stores and banks and government offices than Filipinos get. I don’t mind, but I think it causes Filipinos to detest us favored whites; they are snarled at and sent to the back of the line as we get kissy-faced by the clerks. That is not good, because most of the offput Filipinos have guns stuffed under the old socks in the closet back home.

The striking difference between Filipinos and us westernized whities is the level of introspection we allow. Filipinos admire themselves immensely but seem to look in a mirror that shows no pimples (thanks for the perspective, Ilda). Whities see all the pimples and have a hard time finding much to admire. Yet whities are more productive than Filipinos . . . go figure. Maybe it takes critical introspection to move ahead, eh? To find a reason for change, and a way to be productive?

That, I conclude, is the main reason the Philippines is stuck in the muck: a deep racial or cultural aversion to critical introspection. Someone who reads books is insulted as a “librarian”. Someone who sees a shrink is slathered in shame. Macho is a big deal hereabouts, or glamour for the ladies. Intellectual substance is shunned.

Until someone prominent stands up and says loud and clear “We as a people are not achieving what we ought to achieve”, there is unlikely to be change. Paste-over pride is counter-productive, a way of staying blind, of excusing the deficiencies, of holding oneself up by the ears whilst one’s ass remains stuck in the muck.

In this case, the muck consists of the centuries old, unbendable values of the Catholic Church, the incredible lack of courtesy and consideration displayed by a broad swath of people, and an entire nation’s tendency to confuse individual liberty with the right to be greedy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

No Tears for bin Laden

One of the remarkable outcomes of the bin Laden killing is the reaction of mainstream Muslims. They are not angry. For the most part they are pleased and relieved.

This is a very different reaction than the great silence that followed the 9/11 slaughter when many Muslims were inwardly pleased that the arrogant “Great Satan” had been smacked down. It is very different in the Middle East, too, where Muslims widely celebrated 9/11, cheering the deaths of innocents.

What has changed?

First, Muslims recognize they are paying the heaviest price for the actions of their wild-eyed brethren. The price is mainstream discrimination against Muslims and wide-scale murders of innocent Muslims in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Second, they realize the US and its citizens are no “Great Satan”. The Satan has been within their own ranks, and he is not Great.

Bottom line, religion has little to do with what is going on. The extremists who represent that they represent Islam are wrong. They do not. Islam is a wholesome faith, not a murderous faith.

What was the name of that religious sect that drank the poisoned orange kool-aid in Africa? Jonestown or some place like that? That is what murderous extremists are, outcasts, misfits and malcontents. They strap bombs on teens and send them to market to blow up innocent people and call it good.

It is impossible to negotiate with these people. It is impossible to negotiate with any group that does not have values that mirror those of greater society and the discipline required to adhere to a set of secular principles, if the state is secular. For this reason, I believe it is foolish of the Philippines to believe it can negotiate its way to peace in Mindinao. The only way peace can be assured is by doing a better job of building commerce and providing essential services: education and health being at the top of the list.

Right now, time is being wasted and money is being wasted funding a broad scale military action that can have no favorable outcome.

If I were in charge, I would be inclined to follow the Iraq method. Identify islands of opportunity where a commercial base exists and can be expanded. Secure those areas and build. Grow outward with good deeds and marginalize the lunatics. Stop looking for a magical piece of paper that can provide a short-term solution and the illusion of harmony.

Words don’t matter. Deeds do.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

AntiPinoy Real Time

One of the perspectives that escapes my blogging friends and occasional antagonists Benigno and BenK is that the framework from which they operate - real time - is not a framework that has been used historically to judge Philippine presidents. But they expect the President to be a real-time pro.

He is not. He is just a decent, unachieving fellow who bowed to the pleas of his countrymates that he run for election to avoid the sleaze that occupied several of the other contender slots, and the palace.

But the point here is perspective.

CNN issued a report the other day that recited how much US President Obama has on his plate. It was occasioned by seeing him one night in tornado stricken Alabama, the next cracking jokes at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, and the next announcing the demise of Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, he is cutting deals with Republicans to keep government funded, is attending charity events, meeting with the Japanese prime minister, making a speech about deficit reduction, holding meetings on immigration reform, and warding off idiot Donald Trump’s birthing attack.

Donald Trump’s foolish diversion about the President’s birthplace interfered with a series of the President’s National Security meetings dealing with Osama bid Laden, which shows exactly where Trump’s head is. Deep within his own cavity.

If Sara Palin and Donald Trump are the darlings of the Republican Party, one would have to worry seriously about the well being of the nation. How do such nutcakes get on the scene?

Ahhhh. . . that question brings us back to the point of this commentary.

Boston University presidential historian Robert Dalleck explained to CNN that the daily pace of a president’s agenda has accelerated due to the rise of the internet, wireless, and other facets of the communications revolution.

“There's a ‘kind of blinding rapidity’ in which one event quickly overtakes the next, said Dalleck. Our attention -- and that of the president -- is whipped from the latest economic crisis to the newest tornado wreckage to the latest protest or outbreak of violence in the Middle East.

Faced with a pressure for constant response, modern administrations face times ‘of great pressure and intense demand over a series of compelling issues,’ he said.“

CNN goes on to quote Wendy Schiller, a Brown University political scientist:

 
"The key challenge for presidents in the 21st century is knowing when to respond immediately and knowing when to take their time to manage a given situation," Schiller said. "It is not just that Obama has been involved in such a broad range of issues and activities. It is that he has handled them each differently and appropriately," she asserted.

. . .

Schiller argued that the "24/7 news media and now social media puts far greater pressure on presidents for an immediate response or reaction to national and world events because voters learn about (developments) much more quickly than they used to."

So therein is the point. It takes a maestro to manage White House or Palace affairs. The US White House infrastructure for handling multiple public issues was set up by Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950’s.

President Aquino has attempted something similar with his multi-faceted approach to communications, but it is neither tried nor true.

It is the speed of real time communications that allows flash-in-the-pan presidential aspirants like Palin and Trump to rise quickly to prominence, and just as quickly flame out.

It is the speed of real time communications that allows critics of President Aquino to pounce on every minor flaw and translate it into a massive character or capability flaw.

What is missing from the Anti-Pinoy perspective is a measure of consideration - a measure of respect -for the pressures the President faces by operating daily under a real-time microscope, and a capacity to do something other than make headlines, real time, by sensationalizing the President’s mistakes. There seems to be some jolly good fun in operating real time to undress the President of the country whilst he is engaged in important activities and unable to respond.

It smacks of Donald Trump’s overblown sense of self, totally unaware that he is interfering with the President’s important business.

And it re-emphasizes my own belief that the Anti-Pinoy operating style is a true, old-school Filipino style, done real time. It is high on intimidation that takes the form of relentless criticism, rich with pride and self justification and largely lacking in consideration and courtesy. And it is blind to its own character.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Uncommon Filipino

I blog for three reasons. One, I enjoy connecting words in new ways to form humor, clarity and impact. Two, it helps me understand things, especially the Philippines where I live and will die. Three, I can make a little something out of my life by splattering my experiences across the internet for the pleasure or irritation of others.

I enjoy reading what others have to say, from the editorial pages of main newspapers to blog posts other than Anti-Pinoy, which is a disease that thinks it is a vaccine. The one blogger who has given me more to think about than any other is that Aussie rascal Benigno. He is unbearably irritating and outlandishly profound. Complacency is not a word that associates well with him. His only blindness is that he does not understand that by being Anti-Pinoy, he is really just being typical. He is engaging in the tear-down debate style that is too much like that of the dysfunctional Filipino persona, an Ego that defends its rooted place in life with any excuse or whine, and will use any method to avoid any vestige of responsibility, from backbiting to slander.

But, as I said, he, more than any other person, makes me think. A new concept that has emerged in my brain thanks to a recent dialogue on Beningo’s “Get Real Post” is the notion of the “Uncommon Filipino”.

Being uncommon is something to aspire toward, I think. It accepts that Filipino culture is largely dysfunctional, for when people are out taking care of themselves, they are not taking care of others. It takes the position that, “in spite of my surroundings, I chose to be different. I choose to stop blaming and start solving problems.”

It is that simple.

What is missing from the culture of Ego and self-advantage is the ability to solve problems. People are so engaged in getting what they can get that they have no time to work for the well-being of nation and community. They have no idea how to go about building.

The uncommon Filipino develops skills. Problem-solving skills. Objectivity. Direct talk.

The uncommon Filipino does not need to blame others for obstacles. He figures ways around them.

The uncommon Filipino does not need excuses. He understands life is a bit of a crapshoot and to solve some problems, you need to take risks. Some don’t work. No big deal. Case closed. On to the next problem.

The uncommon Filipino does not have time for backbiting or political game-playing. There are too many important things to do than get tied up in the muck and mud of Ego-posturing.

The uncommon Filipino does not take pride in a song or dance or boxing match, although he may enjoy them. He takes pride in progress, in achievement, in building.

The uncommon Filipino aspires to inspire others to join him, and his greatest accomplishment will be when being uncommon is common.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ack! The Chinese are coming! The Chinese are coming!

Interesting article by Brent Arends at MarketWatch the other day.

The IMF has projected that, in terms of real purchasing power, China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy in 2016, just five years from now. The US economy was three times as big as China’s only 10 years ago.

Mr. Arends seems to think people will be shocked.

What would be shocking is if the Philippines overtook Japan.

I think I was among the first Americans to drop the xenophobic view of China as a bad-boy country in 1970 when I engaged in a spirited debate with my wife about Mao Tse Tung, Communism and Chinese culture. America was still engaged at the time in Viet Nam, ostensibly to stop the “Red Tide” of communism from spreading throughout Asia.

My former wife is Chinese Singaporean, the daughter of a high government official in Singapore. Her father was a communist writer who fled from Singapore to “Red” China in the late 1940’s.

I was just a na├»ve American farm boy full of platitudes and biases. My wife had real life understanding of China. I was trying to argue with no knowledge. She won our “debate” hands down.

She helped me to understand that governments are not actually THE people, they just represent them and try to bind them together. China is an amazing amalgam of different ethnicities, languages and cultures. The US has nothing like it. The USSR was similar, and collapsed. China remains a unified whole.

The real question is whether or not China, as the fast growing big economic dog in the world, will see its role as having responsibility for the well-being of the many non-Chinese peoples of the world. The country’s success of late has been due to achieving a modicum of modern thinking and far-reaching engagement in worldwide economic affairs. As well as a determined, self-serving economic agenda. It is the discipline, sometimes imposed through harsh measures that westerners consider an abridgment of human rights, which has powered the country’s success and held it together.

China is at a crossroads. To adapt a worldly social conscience, or not.

The US has been the world’s social conscience for too long. Yet, as we see in Libya, other advanced countries can’t seem to muster the strength required to lead.

I would add that economic might is not a sports contest with nations standing as winners and losers. The people who live in those countries are the winners or losers depending on the economic and social values their leaders represent.