Ben Kritz: The Alien Who Shoots Straight

The blogging community in the Philippines is both diverse and small, rather like Hollywood, where all kinds of movies get made but you keep seeing the same faces showing up on the giant screen. John Travolta, Eddie Murphy and Robin William all showed up in dresses at one time or another. The Filipino blogging community is equally tight and equally quirky. Furthermore, relationships fall faster than mangos in a typhoon, both in Hollywood and the ph blogosphere.
Today I will focus on one Ben Kritz, who blogs as Ben K, and who has been pounding the blog typewriter for at least as many years as I have been in the Philippines, which is becoming a bunch.
I first encountered Ben at the defunct Filipino Voices community blog site. He quickly gained my respect because he could disagree with my newly arrived, half-baked opinions without calling me a moron, and if I happened to write something agreeable the next day, he would say so.  His own writing was blunt and intelligent even if occasionally, in my view, wrong.
Kritz Politics
The thing I like about Ben is that he has principles and sticks with them. When Bong V at Anti-Pinoy broke with AP editorial policy and into the realm of hypocrisy by deleting my comments, Ben, one of the three main guys at Anti-Pinoy at that time, put them back in.
Here’s a bit of history. BongV, benigno and Ben K all marched out of Filipino Voices in a big snit a number of years ago because FV chose to moderate their comments. Many of the FV blog threads had deteriorated into personal pissing wars, and a couple of these characters could piss with the best of them. They marched off to Anti-Pinoyand started blasting Filipino Voices(they still ridicule the site today, rather like stomping on dead bodies) for its “censorship” and failure to support “free speech”.
Well, the timeline shows all kinds of worms have turned since then. benigno and Ben K split from Anti-Pinoy after a blow-up with Bong V. I’m not sure what it was about, but it may have involved Bong V’s ardent pro Muslim perspectives.
BenK went to benigno’s Get Real blog site and they set out to promote that site as a popular voice of progressive thought in the Philippines. Ben K does many of the business articles on one of Get Real information platforms:
The final worms turned when Anti-Pinoy started deleting comments and Get Real started “spamming” contributors who irritated the authors, even if they did not engage in profanity or deal in personal insults. They just had the effrontery to disagree and be persistent at it.  Spamming is like blacklisting a contributor. It mars his ability to comment on other sites, too, not just Get Real. So benigno took it one step further thanFilipino Voices, not only banning commenters but tattooing a number on their forehead as well.
I had been criticizing Get Real here at The Society of Honor for some time and that probably contributed to benigno’s decision to eject me. I’m sure that President Aquino would like to spam the whole Anti-Pinoyand Get Real crowd, but he does not have the same autocratic right as a blog editor does.
Why Get Real Members Understand Filipinos So Well
Get Real
I check in at Get Real every now and then to read and get some ideas. My “ideas” generally are to write something the opposite of what they are busy framing as intelligence.
I didn’t really follow Ben K’s writings.
Until yesterday.
Yesterday, a slow day with no typhoons or dances to attend, I started doing a little catch-up reading and came across the most fascinating dust-up between Ben K and what appears to be a little cabal of Get Real  strategists back in late 2011. The cabal had evidently gotten together in 2010 to hatch the stance Get Real would take in its blogs and at Facebook. I have long thought that Get Real is an agenda-pushing blog site and this is testimony to that fact.
The cabal decided it would dedicate itself to pushing for re-writing the Constitution to get the economy rolling.  Translated, that means re-writing the Constitution to open the nation up to foreign investment.
Ben Kritz sans Helmet
The dust-up came when Ben K wrote an article at Get Real Business criticizing advocates  of such a Constitutional re-write for not being aggressive enough. Ben K is a free lance business consultant and I suspect he would become a very popular and rich guy if the Philippines opened up, so there is a reason he would like to see more aggressive action.
In other words, he writes to an agenda, as well.
Maybe we all do.
There is nothing wrong with being an advocate. There is something wrong with pretending to be one thing whilst doing another. Like relentlessly criticizing the President of the Philippines in the guise of being constructive agitators for an improved Philippines, when your real goal is to portray the nation as incompetent so that more people seek expertise and capital from overseas. Because then you get rich personally.
Alas, the little cabal of strategic thinkers took issue with Ben K’s criticism, even though he did not mention them by name. If thinness of skin were to be measured by the thickness of one’s blog comments, then these guys come with extraordinarily thin skin, because the words came flying, and the tone was downright snide and  nasty toward “Blunt Ben”. The nerve of the guy expressing his ideas out loud.
Kritz Humor
Here was one of the comments made by a certain Orion Pérez Dumdum, who I would note writes an occasional blog article at Get Real:
You never indicated any interest in the movement, and it was quite clear from the assholic nature of some of your previous posts dissing the Movement (why the heck do you also need to be so assholic about it, Ben?)
Here is Ben K at his “assholic” best, as he wrapped up his criticism:
Beyond that, however, the current mild push for constitutional reform unfortunately seems more likely to fail than succeed, in one of three ways: either outright by failing to remove constitutional protectionism due to a lack of effort and clear goals; by failing to produce any significant economic gains (i.e. a significant increase or growth of FDI) from the removal of constitutional protectionism, due to a lack of focus on other critical reforms to the investment environment; or by unintentionally creating a condition by which strong vested business interests can increase their favored and protected status to an even greater degree, using the lack of constitutional guidelines for ownership and investment as an excuse to do so. To be fair, this is probably an unlikely nightmare scenario; on the other hand, there is nothing in the current trajectory of the reform advocacy that would clearly prevent it from happening.
If the significant and comprehensive economic reform the Philippines needs cannot be accomplished, for the potential investor it will be a regrettable missed opportunity; but for the country itself, the stakes are much, much higher. For everyone’s sake, most of all their own, those pushing for constitutional reform ought to think about rolling up their sleeves and approaching the initiative as real work.
Kritz Serious
If these guys get bent out of shape by that commentary, I’d hate to see what they would do if someone were direct and told them they were incompetent, the key measure of competency being that something is in Committee or is actively before the Legislature for votes. Clearly these cabal guys went Ampatuan on Ben K, reading him riot in a public forum (I’m sure they have his e-mail address, which they could have quietly used if they were not so needy as to engage in face-saving public showboating in the Philippine tradition).
Ben K responded that he thinks for himself, but of course there is nothing that can be said to calm a clan of ranting Filipinos out for blood. So Ben K properly went silent and let the rest of the diatribe go irrelevant.
What I find fascination is the existence of a cabal which identified the Get Real editorial slant in 2010, to advocate for a rewrite of the Constitution. Named by Orion as members of the cabal are himself, Arnel, Chino, Lester, and Anthony. Ben K was a member, too. A guy by the name of Eduardo R. Alicias, Jr., may also be a member. Here is Eduardo’s take:
  • Mr. Ben Kritz, an ALIEN! your ideas are welcome, but what gives you the right, the nerve to impose your ideas, let alone insult us or at least some of us Filipinos on our internal efforts/discussions to improve our own country?
That of course is the peculiar definition of free speech that says “you can say whatever you want as long as I agree with it.” I guess Eduardo packs his own Humpty Dumpty dictionary.
Here is the full article and blog comments if you wish to read the glorious dirt yourselves:
Do I trust Ben K? I trust him to be principled rather than personal. And one of his principles is to advocate for those people and activities that benefit him and his consultation business. He is anti-Aquino. He was pro-Corona.  He is consistently aligned with the Get Real agenda. Yet he is not a shrill, insecure hit man. He just pushes on, relentlessly and somewhat irreverently.

Do I respect that he toes the Get Real line so precisely? I don’t agree with that line, but I respect that he can have a different take on things than me. He does not have to like that I see the Philippines optimistically, for he may believe it is misleading and overly rosy when poverty and ineptitude really suck. The interplay between the two views is where constructive output can be found. It is benigno’s refusal to allow that interplay that makes him a dog among bloggers.

The main purpose of this blog is to recognize Ben Kritz as his own man, an independent voice who lives in the Philippines, works in the Philippines, and advocates passionately for issues he believes in. He is able to discern issue from personality. He is not needy. He speaks directly. He does not insist that you be his friend or even like him. What is important is the message, the idea, the action.
Kudos, Ben K. I hope you are writing blogs and stirring up thinking here for a long, long time. It’s good for the Philippines.
Ben K’s web site is found here:

14 Responses to “Ben Kritz: The Alien Who Shoots Straight”
  1. Ben Kritz says:

    Well, now. Thank you for the endorsement. I suppose I shall have to finish today's mundane task in the pursuit of wealth and popularity rather quickly, so I can give this a proper rejoinder, and see if I can't help you pull a few of your arrows a little closer to the target.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Essentially, all great minds. But you put them in a room with a knife each, they will kill each other hahaha. Separately, they will tell you, lack of unity is one of our biggest problems.Yet it's a popular observation: Filipinos do not form big organizations; they form into small disparate groups that eventually try outdoing each other. I don't know. Maybe we reflect the thousand islands we live in. We are archipelageic even as a people.–ricelander

  3. Anonymous says:

    From: the cricketQuestion: As a relative new-commer, novice, virgin to the blog scene–and with all due respect–does any of our observations,suggestions, comments, criticism (rightous as they are), firstperson experiences with the ISLAND…have any merit besidesallow us to provide a little postive emotional ventialation?I have already had many sad experiences of Island private enterprises attempting to take advantage of the fact thatthere is no real consumer advocacy, departments, organizations,etc…! I know that the local cities are ruled by incompentenceand "family power elites"….I know the building codes arenext to criminal, I know that many of the governmental employeesare corrupt, I know that the infastructure is next to failing ifnot failing already….I know that there is no real "disaster plan" that has a chance of succeeding…I know that the roadsare a joke….the citizens need to start growing gills…Iknow that the bad management, bad leadership and bad admin-istration have probably pushed passed the tipping point….but I still have a glimmer of HOPE….but what to do that contributes to workable, immediate solutions seem to evade me! I can see a free economic enterprise system be part of thesolution…but the government needs to stop protectionalism,patronism, paternalistic activites to let this processbenefit the ISLAND population! The governmental websites seem to invite citizen input, participation and to bevolunteers…but do everything to stone wall anytype of joint-cooperation effort…they speak with forkedtongues..!The so-called professional organizations that I have polled/solicited to date….turn a blind eye to making a effortto stand up and "deliver" before the local, city, provence andnational government….!The island media–R/TV/newspress/magazines keep gaining incomefrom advertising, pandering to the 3-4 island powerfamilies,keeping the citizens in "sleep"mode and refusing to take on the full and heavy weight of responsability of the "fourth estate"What seems to be left is the internet…and I know that the majority of the islanders do not use the "electronic media"except to listen to the "tunes" and get the latest "trash talk"from the movie-stars and comedy acts! When a community isruled, regulated, mis-directed by idots…guess what you get!What to do….what do we do? Chirp!

  4. Ha, well, as a former artilleryman, I believe in bracketing the target, shooting a bunch to see where they land, then adjusting the other direction. You let me know where they landed and I'll adjust appropriately.

  5. yes, yes, great minds, I agree. I used to speak admirably of Bong V and benigno until I awoke one day with a pain in my back. Or perhaps it was lower.Everything eventually becomes animosity here because every dealing is win/lose. Every discussion is a duel.Loss of face is a demon hanging everywhere all the time. Or even the threat of loss of face. It might be possible to avoid it for a while, but eventually some jealousy or misunderstanding will lead to war.

  6. Well, jim-e, you may be a relative new comer, but y'all ain't no virgin. You understand how things work very precisely, which only comes with penetrating experiences. So I reckon you've been screwed a couple of times here. ahahahahahahaha"the government needs to stop protectionalism,patronism, paternalistic activites . . ."That would free up the dynamics of competency and competition, called ambition. So so important. And I think none of the top leaders sees the connection between their ways and means, and the results.As to what to do, what to do . . . I blog. Figuring that I may just nick an opinion maker with an idea. And if enough people are shouting intelligently, then the stupidity looks like what it is. Stupid.You can also start a Civil Liberties Union if you have too much spare time on your hands . . . or your rocker breaks down . . .

  7. Anonymous says:

    if i may, that sounds a lot like you vs. the "100-percenters" who seen to come out of the woodwork periodically. anything to not embarrass themselves… but, why?Andy (Yb-Anderson)

  8. Ah, I'm a banker, Andy. Not a shrink. But that never stopped me from forming an opinion, eh? Indeed, I'm writing an article about "face", this relentless need to justify one's decisions and acts. It ends up creating a lot of "untruth", or whatever the opposite of candor is, and makes for a surreal, dysfunctional world if almost EVERYBODY is doing it.

  9. GabbyD says:

    I think that benk is the best of the bunch. He has a tendency to make fun of people for how they look (see his pnoy pics). if you find that funny, all the best to you. He also tends to be dismissive of other people's POV and, instead of counterarguments, he'll just stop arguing, and start name-calling.But, having said that, yup, he's the best of the bunch.

  10. GabbyD, you have a way with a compliment. haha I've observed what you say as well. I generally shrug, taking the good over the bad, and knowing I am no zone of perfection, either.

  11. GabbyD says:

    An interesting fact: that my comments were deleted by orion (on AntiPinoy). But BongV, apologized to me later via email.

  12. That is interesting, indeed. I think a lot of flare-ups occur on the spur of the moment, but it is hard to unwind them. Good to know that Bong V took the effort to unwind it.

  13. GabbyD says:

    so let me amend my earlier statement: BongV is the best of the bunch.

  14. Makes sense. Of all the people around here, you are the last who should be deleted. You are like the veteran of all the blogging wars with perspectives none of the rest of us could possibly have. And you deliver them without insult or obscenity (but sometimes LOTS of questions, hahaha).

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