Stick with this. I'll get around to the Philippines shortly.
I'm fascinated by developments in Egypt. I've visited the country twice, clambering into tombs and temples in the hidden reaches of the Sahara well off the beaten tourist path. Some of those sites can't be visited today because of they are in pits of Muslim radicalism and unrest.
It is sad and shows the absurdity of the human condition. Egypt could be perhaps the top tourist destination in the world but for the lack of stability. So many antiquities to see and places to explore.
The Egyptians overthrew the dictator Mubarak in search of greater freedom, but ended up with a military command running things with an iron fist. Democracy has not yet emerged, nor the principles upon which it is based. Free speech has been curtailed. The American leaders of pro-democracy organizations were arrested, then allowed to leave the country. The Muslim Brotherhood won many congressional seats and is angling for the Presidency. Christians are afraid for their lives. There are too many voices speaking and they seem to speak defiantly. Divided, not united.
Most people in the U.S., I'm sure, had hopes for something more dignified, compassionate and inclusive . They see a grand cacophony of chaos. Not the balanced order and intelligent governorship of their idealized vision of democracy. Egypt's military leaders now seem to be striving for some kind of macho confrontation with America.
This is the kind of erratic departure from diplomatic civility that goads many westerners into thinking the whole Middle East is a snake pit of anger, dysfunction and unreliability. "Those crazy Arabs . . ."
Against that backdrop of disharmony, the Philippines looks stable, indeed. It's governmental institutions are working as they are supposed to, regulating, spending, pushing and shoving, impeaching and balancing. The military is busy fighting terrorists and building up against China, not tossing presidents. Various blowhards in the media and online are venting their clearer vision of the way things ought to be. Making things as they, indeed, ought to be. Loud and constructively argumentative, but not revolutionary.
The confined Muslim community in impoverished southwest Mindanao is restive, but the greater unconfined Muslim community is engaged in the business of commerce and making money, not trouble. Lesson: hopeless poverty leads to trouble anywhere and one ought to build opportunity for people. Guns don't bring peace. It is better to spend money to build an employment infrastructure for skilled and ambitious people to rise. Without relocating to other countries to do so.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines wields its ancient, heavy power of morality absent responsibility. But it does not run things.
The greatest threat in the Philippines has nothing to do with rebellion or dysfunctional government or the military or religion. It has to do with Filipino values. And, I suppose, the absurdity of the human condition, that it can't seem to resolve disputes pragmatically and harmoniously.
A small cadre of well-to-do power brokers feels no compunction to lead the Philippines to greatness, preferring that their families instead acquire greatness, and great riches.
Filipino values promote a trade in favors instead of a drive for competence. Accepted values provide a lush bed for corruption and pollution. But, bottom line, Filipinos far and wide seem intent on failing to do the best for their nation, whilst ironically striving in some desperation to show people a loud Filipino pride.
A Filipino's ability to feel compassion for neighbors seems negligible. Noise, trash, dogs, rude behavior. Those kinds of pollution and inconsiderate behavior thrive here. In western eyes it is inconsiderate, that is, but not here. Here it is the way it has always been.
The Philippines lacks a national comprehension that one has to give value to get value. Robust self-engagement fails to produce wealth. One has to give goodness to get goodness. When everyone is cheating and polluting, they end up being cheated and sick with pollution. And they fail to build a globally competitive community. Overabundant self-engagement erodes the vitality that sacrifice and working together can assure.
Case in point: tourists stay away because the modern era is clean. Or it's youth want adventure . . . but no surfer wants to surf amongst plastic bags. The tourist slogan is fundamentally irrelevant.
The Philippines is used up by other nations. The wealth-creation goes to China, Japan, Korea and America, oftentimes illicitly. It isn't captured in the Philippines and allowed to circulate and grow. Onions are smuggled in to avoid Customs fees. Turtles are poached, killed and sold abroad. Coral is poached, hacked up and sold abroad. Ores are dug up with little compassion for nearby residents and shipped abroad where their value is multiplied. Resources which could translate into wealth are stolen, right under regulator noses. Rather like logs . . .
This is a nation that seems to be without a national conscience.
And there is no young Turk executive, a Filipino Abe Lincoln, to swoop majestically into office to change things and open the Philippines up to development and wealth. Perhaps President Aquino has cracked the door a bit, but it is tumultous, full of friction, this push to end corruption when one's family is a part of the tradition of favors. And when the crooks do not go down easily.
Is Binay such a person?
American firms set up call center businesses here to take advantage of the cheap labor. And boy do people labor. For a pittance.
For too many people, it is a survival economy; they live on the edge of human civility.
Most Filipinos don't care. They are happy because Manny keeps winning. And "Showtime" keeps shouting its glee across the land. And they can watch the tragedy-rich teledramas and know that others have it worse.
And the oligarchs fill the time in between with loud commercials that define Filipino "needs", and the people spend their precious money on whitening creams, cosmetics, beer and cigarettes.
And the disasters roll in as if God were angry at these little islands.
No one here, of course, is responsible for the damages.
Someone else did it.
Ultimately they have to come up with the only excuse left, the Big Excuse . . . God did it.
That Big Bigot in the sky, always picking on fun-loving Filipinos.