Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Society of Honor Has Moved!

The Society of Honor blog has moved to the following proprietary site:

You may follow future blogs there. Old blogs have been transferred to the new site. You may also read them here (see archives in right column). Comments have been been switched off at this site and may be taken up at the new blog.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Discussion Topic: Authoritarianism and the Stateless Society

Your mission if you agree to accept it . . .
The real JoeAm?

JoeAm will be on family vacation for two weeks, returning in early May. He drops off this blog as a voluntary mission for readers, ala "Mission Impossible". 

Here's the framing:
  • The Philippines is an authoritarian society. Interpersonal rivalries are intense, a struggle to top or topple the opposition. The government is democratic but tends toward authoritarianism: laying down the law but enforcing it selectively, officious attitude in government offices, army and local government vigilante behavior, issuing dictates left and right with no open justice system for the people. Senators doling out millions in Christmas gifts as if it were THEIR money.
  • Richard Javad Heydarian in his recent article "Why the Philippines Failed" makes a very clear point that the Philippines does not keep pace with other developing nations because it does not have a strong concept of "State" governance. This article is the beginning point for the discussion and is required reading for volunteers.
Here's the issue: How can the Philippines be both authoritarian and weak of State? 

Here's the mission:
  1. Rationalize the apparent contradicition of authoritarianism and statelessness.
  2. Explain in clear terms what has to happen -- tangibly and practically achievable -- to move the Philippines forward to become of equal stature to Japan and South Korea as a core nation in Asia.
Whether and how you proceed is up to you.

This blog will self-destruct in two weeks . . .

Loose Ends

Let us take a quick fly across the news and catch up on a few loose ends.

Anteater Jacket
22,000 Pounds Is a Lot of Anteaters

The Chinese poaching vessel that ran around on Tubbataha Reef near where the US minesweeper was recently extracted carried 11 tons of dead anteaters. Those Chinese, boy, they are weird in the cuisine and clothing departments. The maximum jail time for poaching is 12 years, and time for having endangered species is another six. So I'd give the captain the full 18 years and the next guy in charge eight and all the crew five years each at labor, assigned to assist Palawan in their re-foresting effort.

I'd guess these are not spiritual guys. They don't climb to the tops of mountains and reflect on the power and beauty of God's glorious green earth. 

Bias R Us

"Hey Joe, what's with letting the American minesweeper crew off without jail time, but demanding the Chinese get jailed? Your bias is showing!"

That is not bias, that is a crisp understanding of the TRUTH that commie leftists and ultra-nationalists deny, the United States is a part of the Philippine family and we ought not jail our own errant relatives. Especially if we want America to sweep the Chinese mines off the beaches of Palawan a year or two from now. The distinction is akin to that between a drunken uncle who staggers through the living room and breaks Mama's favorite vase, and a snarling neighbor caught red-handed on the terrace trying to steal Mama's prized Australian cockatoo.

Boston Massacre

When things like this happen, I recognize what a pitiful place our planet is in the people department. To hate so much that the murder of innocents is rationalized as righteous. I ache for the good people who were cast into tragedy by the bomber(s). They were out to celebrate and lost loved ones instead.

Separating Issue from Individual: The President

I've often urged Filipinos, particularly bloggers, to stop criticizing their President as if he were out to "get" the Philippines each time he makes a move they disagree with. Joe Klein of Time Magazine expressed this thought well as follow-up to the Boston Marathon bombing. He was speaking to American media:

  • 6. And I would urge those in the media who speak of the United States government as if it were a foreign entity to chill out. You may be further poisoning the demented. Criticism of the government is, of course, as American as oxycont . . . but it is our government and this is our President. You may disagree with one program or another–you may think (wrongly) that Obamacare is socialistic, you may think that the Patriot Act is part of a ruinous, possibly conspiratorial invasion of privacy–but this President has proved time and again that he is a strong American patriot. Any inferences otherwise may reap the whirlwind.

Chinese Fingers

I love a good headline. This one was from Reuters a few days ago.

  • "China points finger at U.S. over Asia-Pacific tension"

The article describes China's pout, or rant, about the US pivot to Asia. It quotes a Chinese minister as saying:

  •  "There are some countries which are strengthening their Asia Pacific military alliances, expanding their military presence in the region and frequently make the situation there tenser."

By howdy, isn't that the truth. I'm thinking that if China would stand down on its military build-up, maybe the US would go away and leave Asia to its broad enrichment, peacefully. And if they'd get their flippin' boats out of the Philippine EEZ, off Vietnamese islands, and away from Japanese islands, the tensions would fizzle faster than one of JoeAm's famous flat souffl├ęs.

The Chinese are horrible at looking inward and accepting accountability for problems. They remind me a lot of the Catholic  Church.

Could be their cuisine needs changing . . .

Blogging Platforms

JoeAm will be moving his blog to the Word Press platform in early May when he returns from a family vacation to Hong Kong. This will facilitate a cleaner look to the blog and layered discussion threads. The blogs are much richer and deeper when commenters engage each other.  The system will require that those who wish to comment indicate their e-mail address. Addresses will be held in private. Perhaps this will also help thin out the spam that has been infesting the Blogger blog. The web site address will be released when it is opened up for public comment.


JoeAm has refrained from engaging in election discussions, not wanting to influence Filipinos who are unable to think for themselves. The Department of Immigration made clear that we foreigners are a National Security risk and will be deported if we fool around with elections. Joe does smirk in ironic pleasure as he drives past his Barangay Captain's house, which is the vote-buying center for our area. The candidates for governor of the mighty Biliran Province are playing the election game as it is always played. Without dastardly intellectual discussion.  They won't get deported, I'm quite confident.

Giant Snails and the Slime Infestation

The state of Florida in the US is doing battle with an infestation of giant African snails. The creatures will eat anything green plus your house, if it is made of stucco, because the stucco contains calcium that the snail craves for its shell.  The creatures produce 1,200 young a year, which tops even Filipinos. The snails can be horrid as the following excerpt from a Reuters article illustrates:

  • In some Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, which are overrun with the creatures, the snails' shells blow out tires o the highway and turn into hurling projectiles from lawnmower blades, while their slime and excrement coat walls and pavements.

Sounds a little like Get Real Post to me.

The Florida government is looking for a good strong poisonto try to eradicate the slimey creatures.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sympathy for the Boston Bomber?

Jose Mario de Vega
I read a Get Real Post article that expresses sympathy with the Boston bomber. Well, not with the bomber's act, exactly, but with the motive that is likely behind the bomber: bring down US imperialism.

Here's a link to the article. It's by Jose Mario de Vega.

The article begins with a stark condemnation of the bombing and expresses condolences for the young boy who was killed. Then it turns the gut-wrenching emotion inside out with an attack on America and ends with the closing call: "DOWN WITH US IMPERIALISM!!!"

Yes, in caps, three exclamation points.

In other words, this blog writer is sympathetic to the motives of the bomber. Make no mistake about that. It is not a call for understanding, or compassion. It is a clarion call of hate raised loud and clear on that bastion of blogging integrity Get Real Post.

The article content is mainly a list, a replication of "a century of U.S. Military Intervention complied by Dr. Zoltan Grossman".

A few excerpts from the author's own words in the article:

  • I hope that those bastard imperialist and war mongers in Washington and Pentagon will not use the Boston event as a necessary pretext to bomb or attack North Korea and/or Iran!

  • I hope that the American public would not be again duped and brainwashed by their stupid, racist and imperialist government!

  • Those bastards who bomb Boston are terrorists, in the same vein, that the United States of America is the NUMBER ONE TERRORIST COUNTRY IN THE WHOLE WORLD by virtue of their long history of bloodbath, mayhem and mass murder committed against the people of the world!

  • My heart breaks for those who died and injured in Boston, in the same vein that it pierces and shatters my soul every time an American bomb drops in any part of the world killing innocent civilians, especially women and children!

And then this remarkable quote:

  • Consider the following conversation below: Guy 1: I’m really upset about the bombing. Guy 2: The one in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, or the one the media told you to be sad about?

So the author believes the gut-wrenching sympathy Americans feel about the Boston tragedy is sad because the media tells them to be sad. In other words, there is nothing about the incident on its own merits that calls for sadness. This reveals the author's own fake condolence in the article, condolence that is merely aimed at posturing himself as a sympathetic man.

He is not a sympathetic man. He is an angry manipulator.

The list of US interventions is a rather fascinating list. It is an example of when information presented out of context makes a new context, a new reality.

The implication is that the US is an aggressive war-mongering, imperialistic nation. The truth would have to be found in looking at each case and determining, was the US intervention good or bad from the perspective of the citizens of the subject nation, or was the intervention in some way aimed at defending American citizens?

I'm sure one could compile a reasonably profound balancing list of people who are thankful for the US engagement in their nation. So it is a rather interesting for what it is, a one-sided list sheared of context.

Note the sequencing of events around World War II:

  • CHINA 1948-49 Troops/Marines evacuate Americans before Communist victory.
  • PHILIPPINES 1948-54 Command operation CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.

Missing entirely is World War II, and the US interventions in Europe and Asia.

What's with this? 

What's with this is that the list is concocted for advocacy, for impact, not for accuracy, or for comprehensive truth.

It is an argument, not a study. It is the kind of argument the Boston bomber likely BELIEVED.

So who is Dr. Zoltan Grossman who originally compiled the list?

The good doctor has made his mark writing and teaching about US racism and military interventions.  He is an advocate AGAINST war. But he at least appears to teach ideas, not anger.

What about the author of the blog article on Get Real PostHis name is Jose Mario de Vega. Here is what he says about himself:

  • The writer has a Master’s degree in Philosophy, a law degree and a degree in AB Political Science. He was previously teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology at an institution of higher education in the Nilai University College at Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. He is currently a lecturer at the College of Arts, Department of Philosophy at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. As of the moment, he is preparing to publish his first book entitled “Dissidente”. It is a collection of his articles, commentaries and op-ed published by various newspapers in Southeast Asia.

He tags himself on Get Real Post as "The Radical".

I'm asking myself as I near the end of this commentary, had he submitted the post to the Society of Honor for publication, would I run it? Ought Get Real Post be condemned for running it?

You know, I probably would run it.  With an editor's comment framing why it is run. The disgrace of Get Real Post is not in running the article. It is in not allowing open comment to balance a provocative viewpoint. It is found in GRP's banning of JoeAm and others who have opposed GRP advocacies in the past. So Get Real Post walks no high ground here.

The article represents an attitude that must be dealt with to find a peaceful way forward. It fairly represents what I consider to be a simplistic, angry, narrow-minded perspective held by radicals. In other words, it is a legitimate viewpoint no matter how disgusting I find the framing to be, leveraging the Boston bombing tragedy for political gain.

Here's what I think about the whole of the matter of war and peace:

Wars are not brought to us by earnest, honest, candid people interested in finding solutions to competing or conflicting self-interests. They are brought to us by conniving power-mongers holding narrow views, expecting others to fit into their narrow views, and leveraging emotions to achieve their goals. Sometimes these people occupy US government positions. Most of the time they are elsewhere.

You can recognize them easily.

They read a lot like Jose Mario de Vega.

Addendum: Mr. de Vega's response to this blog can be found here:

I cannot respond to his blog directly because I am banned from Get Real Post. But, hey, I appreciate the time he put into it. He does have his passion.

My answer to his questions posed there would be twofold: (1) hate breeds war, and (2) information presented out of historical context breeds hate.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cross-Cultural Conversational Convergence

I've long been interested in the process whereby people communicate. Indeed, that was a part of my college education in journalism. We studied matters like non-verbal communication and how to craft arguments to win a debate. Much of the particulars of the course work has evaporated from the synaptic cobwebs of my mind, but a few lessons remain securely in place.

I remember that the order of arguments in a speech is something like 24531, where "2" is the second most powerful, and "1" is the most powerful.  You begin with a zinger, bury the weaker arguments in the middle, and end with the convincing final thrust.

We learned that the power position in a lengthy conference room is one of the end chairs, or immediately to the right of the most important person in the room. The end chair captures the attention of the whole room easily. The position next to the important person captures his power as your own. Of course a high straight-backed chair is a better position than sunk into the sofa.

This comes to mind because I frequently see Filipinos using a debate style in blog arguments that I suppose is intended to strengthen their argument. But it weakens them, at least in a westerner's eyes. It is a black and white statement of cultural convergence that often leads to a clash rather than clarity.

Take this case of two different ways of responding to someone who appears not to grasp the point you have made:

  • Response A: "You don't understand what I am saying."

  • Response B: " Perhaps I've explained this poorly."

Which is the most powerful response? In the Philippines you almost ALWAYS get Response A. The objective, of course, is to take a whack at the other person to suggest he is not bright enough to grasp what you are saying. This moves him down a peg, which is like moving you up a peg.

Yet, it is the weaker of the two responses.

The person who uses Response B "owns" the confusion. He takes responsibility for the misunderstanding and thereby holds onto the driver's stick. Or wheel. Or the control button.  He projects authority, while the Case A respondent projects whine. At least to an educated westerner.

Most people probably don't even think about it.

Another variation of the "put down" is to pick on the nits, and from that extend that the bigger picture is too flawed for acceptance.

  • Observation A: "President Aquino made a poor decision on 'X' and therefore he is a bad president.."

  • Observation  B: "President Aquino made a poor decision on X. Here are the reasons."

Observation A is the traditional Filipino method. All acts reflect the person, not the person's decision. Find the flaw and point it out as a flaw in character. Control the argument and you control the person.

The claim to power, or the need to claim it, is very pronounced in the Philippines.

I've argued that almost every interpersonal engagement here is a battle for dominance. Even the most trivial, the gossip, the teasings, the constant shadings that correct what a person says.

But it doesn't really succeed, this need to claim and project power. It too often creates animus. That means bitter anger. So you can connect a lot of dots and understand why politics is such a murderous business in the Philippines.

Of course, personal insult is a part of this dynamic, the posturing for power. Destroy the argument by destroying the person making it. I don't need to provide a case for that. Just go to your nearest anti-blog thread, or Rappler discussion thread, and you'll likely come across that particular "technique".  The need to diminish others is so prominent that, after awhile, it becomes a joke.

How do we get past this? We are all emotional people, of course. But can't we do better?

There are many formal ways to dissect a debate as to good argument or bad, fallacious or logical. To me that academic formality it is a bit of overkill, as we are mostly casual observers reaching for understanding or trying to convince others to see things as we do. 

And of course, you find the same flaws in blog arguments ANYWHERE. Not just the Philippines. But the incidence of an outright push for personal power, versus dissection of issues, is very pronounced in the Philippines. 

To the latter point, I have characterized many (most?) Filipinos as 100 percenters. They enter the  argument to prove they are right rather than to learn or be flexible. I'd say that in 5 years of pounding the blogs, I've seen someone change their opinion maybe once or twice.

That to me is unnatural. Think about it. With all the knowledge out there, the greatest share held by others rather than us, it is peculiar to believe that the correct conclusion rests in our brain and nowhere else.

Yet we too often insist on placing winning above being candid and sincere and precise and honest.

There is a surreal quality to a culture that engages in dialogue for reasons other than discovery. It is crazy-making sometimes. It is impossible to carry on a simple, frank discussion. Everything is wrapped in emotional competitiveness, like banana leaves defining the bibinka.

I'd argue that discovery is a higher ground than winning, and the Philippines would be a better, more productive place if people did not invest so much energy tearing others down.

Here are a few of rules I try to follow, succeeding precisely 83.6 percent of the time to employ them:

  • Be a student first and then a teacher. Put learning on a higher plane than winning. It is amazing how that focuses on the issue rather than the person.  It also grants others the honor of being helpful. Or do you have something against making others feel happy or satisfied?

  • Recognize that ignorance is not a fault.  Wiki any subject. What percent of the information is new to you? If you did not know 100%, you are in some capacity ignorant. Perhaps the other person is coming at you from the part you don't know. Like, where he has lived or worked or studied, a place that you cannot possibly know. And to pretend you DO know is a very gross ignorance indeed. So let the other person work earnestly to remove your ignorance a little. Grant him that honor.

  • Have the strength to be flawed. That's very difficult in the Philippines because the culture is so absolutely unforgiving. But there is a certain disarming quality to someone who has the strength and candor to laugh at his own flaws. It takes away the critic's ammunition. That is why it is called "disarming".

Perhaps you have techniques that work for you, too. Don't hesitate to share them.

Our goals, of course:

  • More knowledge.
  • Walking the high road.
  • Greater satisfaction.