Third Stage Sovereignty

sovereign01Blogs are like large rocks. If you write a big enough pile of them, you eventually have enough shapes – wedges and edges and planes – to fit together to form a wall. The wall may even be strong enough to become a foundation for a structure.

I rather like that notion, that The Society of Honor builds foundations. The structure we support is a lifestyle that is healthy, happy, creative, kind and productive.

Cross-cultural dynamics provide the frictions, the tensions – the energy – and the lessons for constructive development. The resolution of those conflicts leads to – “bling bling” – enlightenment.

One of the blogs from last week raised an important point. The point was made by Filipinos explaining to JoeAm why many Filipinos may read JoeAm’s blogs but not offer a lot of comments. Speculation was that it may have something to do with lack of confidence in language skills or sensitivity to criticism. We discovered that those presumptions can be wrong. Some quiet people are simply busy or have other reasons for reading but not writing.

I’ve also observed the hyper-sensitivity that seems pronounced hereabouts. I speculate that it occurs because ridicule is a frequent source of humor among young people. I wrote about that in a blog some time ago, discussing the possible role ridicule plays in developing character, either good or bad. Ridicule may heighten sensitivity towards others, encouraging one to stay safe by avoiding it, or build power (and confidence?) by deploying it.

The recent blog about who reads JoeAm’s writing also fits with several of my recent articles on Philippine sovereignty. And so I want to fit these ideas like rocks to a wall so that we might understand sovereignty better. From that, as Filipinos (I’m a proxy here), we might figure out what to do about the United States. I’ve struggled with how to explain that sovereignty is not necessarily achieved by telling the United States to get lost.

I’ve come across a new perspective on this thanks to the thoughtful discussions that always add so much to the blog.

I’ve figured out that sovereignty is a lot like confidence. It is a state of being. It is not defined solely by laws, although the word is frequently found there, as it is defined by acts, by decisions, by awareness and skill and control of self.

Sovereignty and confidence. These are the national and the individual expressions of internal strength, discipline and will.

Lets discuss three stages of development, both of the state and the individual. I’ll start with the individual, as it is easier to explain.

  • Stage One is childhood when the individual lives pretty much according to rules and orders. The direction comes from parents and teachers and maybe the church or other institutions.
  • Stage Two is adulthood. It is hard to say exactly when it is reached. It is more a long continuum of growth that may extend from the teen years all the way to death, rather than being a finite demarcation line. Because learning is a big part of becoming an adult and that, ideally, goes on to the end.
  • Stage Three is highly variable from adult to adult. It might be called “maturity”, or a quality of understanding of self in relation to one’s environment. It is represented in a level of competence at relating to other people that promotes deeper and richer understandings, and better tools at finding harmony in disagreement,

Ahahahaha. I have to laugh. Another blog that fits into this one is the recent look at the shouting Dutchman and the shallow socialite, neither of whom can claim a great deal of maturity. But we can grant they are young and still have time to work on it.

sovereign02 When an individual reaches a high state of Stage Three development, confidence runs very high. It is genuine, not bluster or showmanship. Why? Because other people no longer have power over the Stage Three individual. They are unable to shake or undercut or dominate or foist their guilt trips to try to gain the advantage.

The Stage Three person KNOWS what he knows, knows that he actually knows VERY LITTLE in the bigger scheme of things (and is therefore is not always defensive, and is open to listening), and he knows he can find a way forward that is the very best he can do. He need not play games or try to dominate others (unless he knows why he is doing it), and he feels “whole” about himself.

I trust that you know that when I say “he” I also mean “she”, rather like the term Filipino can mean either a man or the collective of all persons. I use “he” in the gender-neutral sense.

But I digress.

Confidence is a great place to be. So what about the state, and sovereignty? How is it similar to confidence?

The early years of most states are developmental as governmental institutions are shaped and fine-tuned. Once the state is settled, it has reached maturity. And as far as the quality of “state confidence”, or sovereignty, goes, it may either be weakly developed or well-developed.

In the Philippines:

  • Stage 1 consisted of 350 years in a couple of orphanages, one run by Spanish autocrats and their church of choice, and the other by American reformed imperialists. The Philippine state got a lot of strange and contradictory lessons.
  • Stage 2 is where the Philippine nation has been since 1946. It has its institutions, but it has struggled to fit them together. The nation is still on a steep learning curve. It even regressed to become a juvenile delinquent for a few years under Marcos. Sovereignty is a hot button. It is what everyone wants after so many years being beaten with this cane or that.
  • Stage 3 has not yet arrived. The Philippines has an immature view of itself as a state. It grants other nations great authority to define her worth, especially the United States. Filipinos live according to what others think. Transparency International is a god of sorts, and other list-makers, too.  Moody’s is a god with a big G. If others think Philippine singers or boxers are great, Filipinos cheer. If a Filipino gets rude treatment then angst and anger explode, the mole hill becomes a mountain and the mountain becomes another Philippine volcano.

Sovereignty is different than independence. Independence is a line, a fence, a border. Sovereignty is a quality of character. Stage Three sovereignty, to exist in the Philippines, would have to demonstrate more self-assurance in the goodness, unity and strength in the Philippine state than we see in evidence now. On this scale, Senator Santiago is representative of the Stage Two patriot. Senator Enrile, too. Indeed, he may at times be the delinquent who behaves as a Stage One patriot and deserves to be sent back to the juvenile detention center.

Senator Santiago considers the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) with the United States to be a “humiliation” because imprisonment clauses are not balanced. The U.S. soldier who commits a crime in the Philippines is boarded in the Embassy pending trial. The Philippine soldier who commits a crime in the United States is jailed in an American jail. sovereign03

Now why is that, do you suppose? First of all, does Senator Santiago:

  • Understand that contracts are not identical for each party, but are a balancing of give and take, goods and bads?
  • Understand that the VFA was crafted with the active engagement of Filipino leaders? That is, it was a Filipino act?
  • Grasp that the United States places a high value on justice that is just, and has no confidence in Philippine justice mechanisms?

The Philippines gets a LOT of value from the VFA. Her best military prospects go to U.S. military academies for training. The U.S. can undertake joint training exercises without the rigmarole of visas and other administrative headaches. And the Philippines has a legal framework in place so the U.S. can provide immediate assistance if the Philippines comes under attack.

Furthermore, I wonder if Senator Santiago can recite any case of a Filipino soldier in the U.S. being jailed.

I rather think this”humiliation” the Senator feels is a hobgoblin of the mind. It has nothing to do with practical matters. It is a ghost, a fear, not a fact.

By my thinking, Senator Santiago is undermining sovereignty by representing the Philippines as a victim of acts undertaken by others, not building sovereignty by accepting responsibility for acts undertaken by the Philippines.

Sovereignty is increased if Senator Santiago drops the blame and shame game and instead considers all the pros and cons of the VFA as a package of pragmatic issues. If the VFA needs to be recrafted, do it. This is within Philippine power, within Philippine sovereignty. If the U.S. balks, make a decision. Accede or refuse to renew the agreement. But don’t claim other states are “out to get” the Philippines when their interests are not aligned with those of the Philippines. The Philippines is fully capable of thinking in terms of her own self-interest, assessing risks, judging outcomes, and making her own decisions.

When these irrelevant nuances of emotion and esteem are removed from the national vocabulary, we will know that the Philippines is into Stage Three sovereignty. So confident of her own knowledge and abilities that she stands equal to any other state. Not above, not below. Equal. No need to strut and preen, no need to scowl and blame, no need to thrown a hissy fit if others have an agenda different than that of the Philippines.

Sovereignty does not mean going it alone any more than it means that a person has to be a loner to have confidence. Indeed, the quality of friendships is usually quite deep among people of confidence. And alliances are prized and protected among nations that excel at sovereignty.

26 Responses to “Third Stage Sovereignty”
  1. The Mouse says:

    I agree with you about the Philippines letting other countries define what it is, and I just don’t mean politically.

    There is so much insecurity about the national identity. Kinda like we’re too inclined to define ourselves as the “stereotypical Asian country”, no matter how forced and how “half Asian” the Philippines is. It seems that for decades, the Philippines, with the rise of “Asian nationalism”, is hellbent to be ashamed of non-Asian influences (read: Western). I believe the Philippines was at its best when it let all influences blend and mold to create a unique Philippine identity. This was during (ironically), the Commonwealth era. Spanish was still highly valued during this time, almost as common as English in the media and education as well as a lingua franca. Chinese merchants (living in the Philippines) were valued. Then add to it the other Asian immigrants from Japan and China and the other immigrant influences. Who the hell cares if Korea and Japan are homogenous? That is a result of their history. Meanwhile, the Philippines isn’t, even from the beginning and throughout the course of history. So, the Philippines should stop referencing homogenous countries to frame its identity.

    If the Philippines will just let its identity flow and shape itself, we may see a blossoming maturity.

    • Joe America says:

      This idea ties to what I said in the blog about the Aquino Road Map. Be proud of Philippine diversity. Who we are. Where we’ve been. That we are unique and it’s quite okay with us.

      Yes, let our identity flow, accept that it will be distinctive. It is what makes the Philippines so rich of character. Deal with other nations respectfully but always put Philippine interests first. Never ever slip into the weepy victim role.

    • edgar lores says:

      On Filipino identity:

      1. I tend to agree that the Filipino identity is a blend of native and foreign influences. I see three problems with this:
      1.1. We may have adopted foreign cultural traits but only at a superficial level.
      1.2. What we have may have adopted is not the foreign cultural traits but our reaction to these traits.
      1.3. Our adoption of foreign cultural traits has left us hollow inside.

      2. Superficiality
      2.1. Arguably, Spain’s greatest contribution was Christianity. We have all the trappings of that religion – the doctrines, the liturgy, the ecclesiastical hierarchy – but do we have the morality?
      2.2. Arguably, America’s greatest contribution was democracy. We have the three branches of government and we have regular elections. But is the government for the people? And is each man free to pursue his happiness and to attain his fullest potential?

      3. Reaction
      3.1. Arguably, Spain fostered a class society while it held dominion for three and a half centuries. Our reaction was to become obsequious of the elite and of authority. Rather than finding out things for ourselves, we depend on the authority of the Church for our moral code and behaviour.
      3.2. This obsequiousness has served the nation well as demonstrated in the millions of OFWs who have adapted to foreign employment. We are the merchant marine, the handymen and maids of the world.
      3.3. Arguably, America gave us the political notion that sovereignty belongs to the people, and freed us from colonization after half a century. Our reaction? Instead of fending for ourselves, we trade our power for favors, we dishonour our sovereignty by selling our votes, and we depend on the patronage of politicians for our livelihood. Instead of enjoying our freedom, we use it to enslave ourselves.

      4. Hollowness
      4.1. What is the core of the Filipino identity and character? There is hardly any strength only weakness.
      4.2. Unchristlike politicians steal the nation’s wealth – and we forgive them instantly. We put them in house arrest or let them languish in hospitals, all in air-conditioned comfort. And then we vote them back into office.
      4.3. Unchristlike clergymen preach unobserved morality – and we allow them to abuse children and women, and to shape our national laws. And then we tithe some more.

      5. Yesterday, the blog talked about different infrastructures. In addition to the three mentioned – physical, government and information – we need to add an infrastructure of morality and an infrastructure of intelligence. Unless we want a blossoming superficiality.

      • Joe America says:

        ob·se·qui·ous [uhb-see-kwee-uhs] adjective 1. characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning: an obsequious bow. 2. servilely compliant or deferential: obsequious servants. 3. obedient; dutiful. (

        I don’t know about the fawning part, but there is a clear passivity and obedience to perceived authority. The moral hollowness also certainly exists in terms of being a conservative society that steals and cheats on the law, or flaunts power and riches and winning, and rationalizes everything, often with blames and excuses. The Golden Rule does not exist here, broadly. There is a weak sense of personal accountability. (There are of course exceptions to this, and to what you represent, as well.)

        But yes, I agree on the need for additional infrastructure, but would wrap the two, morality and intelligence, in one infrastructure called “Values”. Until it is hauled out and put on the table, forthrightly, people will not introspect hard enough, and work hard enough, to develop strong values. It would be a good start if people would simply start to find corruption disgusting, and ostracize anyone who intentionally rips off the good people. Deport them to Holland or something.

  2. cha says:

    I like how you put the issue of sovereignty (or lack thereof) in the context of developmental stages. It appeals to the optimist in me in that alongside the recognition of current gaps or limitations in perspective evident in the Filipino response to many of its country’s problems and concerns , it also makes the point that there is a way forward, there is a next stage to the progression. We need not be stuck in a neverending prelude that has long ago announced our arrival in the world stage only to keep us waiting, dithering to make our entrance.

    Perhaps the Philippine story is moving towards denouement; an outcome or resolution, though not yet quite at hand has at least become evident. Surely there are enough evidence of late that indicate change/s from what it used to be. Attitudes are changing. More people are turning to reason rather than religion. Negativity, while still the favorite pastime of those who are insecure (or who want others to feel insecure), is being increasingly rejected. Optimism is trending. Accountability is on demand. And “Grow up or shut up” may just become the new mantra.

    The plot twist that is Noynoy Aquino has turned this story from what was shaping out to be a tragedy ( judging from previous chapters) to now become possibly one of redemption. Let’s just hope the author/s, that is the Filipino people, choose their ending (or their next development stage) wisely.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes indeed. President Aquino to me is one of the people who “gets it”. His mature response to Ma of Taiwan and in treading the Chinese line, firm but peaceful, is sovereignty in action. I trust that any dialogue with the U.S. will not be subservient to subordinate, but equals trying to figure out a clear path.

      I think Senator Santiago and other leaders who set the tone for the Philippines need to reflect on the fact that scapegoating is the OPPOSITE of sovereignty. And for sure, those leftist weirdos citing their 1950’s commie-babble are unlikely to recognize the point.

      • cha says:

        Santiago is an aberration. Sometimes she seems to get it (as in the Magna Carta For Internet Freedom, and the abolition of the pork barrel) and then at other times she just seems possessed by some darker force and spits out uninteligible and infantile nonsense like she did during the Corona impeachment and the undignified attacks of her colleagues like Ping Lacson.

        I’d place her at unstable, jumping in and out of those three stages of development you identified. If she were a book, maybe we’ll find her in the Novelty section? 🙂

        • Joe America says:

          Ha. I have hypertension, too, and can be . . . um . . . outspoken. I shall explain to my wife that she should cherish this precious novelty. That will work, I am sure . . .

        • The Mouse says:

          Meriam is kind of like “bipolar”….

          She does get things and issues right, but sometimes she is pathetic, just like her stance on defense. Without fires being shot yet, she was lamenting the US “lack of action under the MDT”, yet she is a strong opposition to VFA(even before the heightened tensions with China). Weird, eh?

  3. edgar lores says:

    1. If the Philippines is in adulthood, I would rather think it is in early adulthood.
    1.1. Like a young man, he has become independent, just having graduated from college.
    1.2. He has left the parental home of his Spanish mother and American father, found a job and is standing on his own two feet.
    1.3. He is not entirely free of his parental conditioning, the religion of his mother and the culture of his father.
    1.4. But he has freed himself from the dangerous behaviours of youth: sex leading to unintended pregnancies; petty misbehavior like bullying and plagiarism; and total self-absorption.
    1.5. And he has a goal of self-sufficient adulthood and is currently engaged in the path of how to attain it.

    2. The country’s sovereignty, in its external aspect, is being handled rather well under PNoy in regards to the Sabah imbroglio, the China sea dispute and the Taiwan fisherman’s death.
    2.1. The relationship with the US is also on firm footing, notwithstanding Miriam’s fulminations on the VFA.
    2.2. I would describe the overall approach to external affairs as one of sobriety combined with respect and firmness.

    3. The country’s sovereignty, in its internal aspect, is undergoing a sea change. The sovereign power that resides and emanates from the people is still being abused by the handlers of that power. The handlers are comprised of the three branches of government, the non-government organizations and the churches. But through each sordid revelation of corruption, the people are now aware of the abuse and are clamouring for a stop to that abuse through the media. Unfortunately, the governmental mechanisms to stop the abuse are not yet up to the task.

    4. An interesting question would be: What happens when a country reaches full maturity? Looking around, the answers are not too encouraging. There appears to be a cycle of progress, stagnation, regression, then progress again.
    4.1. The US is a prime example. It seems to be in a regressive phase with respect to external and internal sovereignty. Despite of the advance of technology, itis stuck on the political, economic and cultural fronts. The political malaise is of concern: the extremism of the far right, the entrenchment of the military complex, the rising encroachment on liberty by the security establishment, the epic fails of the legislatures on the fiscal cliff, taxation, social welfare, abortion and same-sex marriage. On culture, the issues of racism, drugs and guns continue to predominate the headlines.
    4.2. With the China boom ebbing, Australia is in for a period of stagnation. Japan has been in stagnation for some time. So, too, has Russia. And, depending on your view, there is irony in Russia offering asylum to Snowden and the UK keeping Assange in captivity.
    4.3. I have no feel for the European countries except to say that they seem to be beset by the problem of the influx of Islamic people. And old countries like Turkey and Greece seem to be in actual regression.

    • Joe America says:

      Comprehensive if somewhat discouraging overview. I’ve never seen 4.1, the U.S. condition, expressed in clearer terms. There does seem to be an erosion of the fine principles learned during youth and young adulthood. I’m wondering if the U.S. is capable of regeneration or if even more bitterness is ahead. It is indeed grim. I think the speed and ease and breadth of electronic communication is a big part of the problem. Division is accelerated, deepened.

      I frankly find the Philippines uplifting because the nation is lifting itself up. I wonder how the wrath of indignity will be applied to the courts. A separate branch of government that appears incapable of managing itself in a dignified form, witness Abad’s likening pro-RH people to Hitler. The courts and justice are big blocks to curing corruption and crime.

  4. JosephIvo says:

    Some unrelated thoughts.

    Filipinos see/feel that their state sovereignty is not absolute. “Higher” authority comes from external powers such as the non-domestic church, the 10 million OFW’s keeping half the population alive, unclear capital dictating the legislative, executive and judicial powers… All this hinders them to grow out of a “colonial” mentality or out of stage one.

    For me stage 3 has as an important element the realization that not all are zero-sum situations. That in negotiating a contract one can negotiate so that both parties get more, e.g. through synergies or by reducing friction or other waste factors. Myriam wake up, where are the synergies in the VFA, where is current friction, current waste? (But don’t be naïve neither).

    In stage 3, independence and absolute power becomes less important. States start working together to form a union, transferring part of the sovereignty to a higher level, as the States in the US did, as the European nations are doing or transfer to a lower levels as it is under discussion in the regions of the UK, Spain, Belgium… . Philippines integrate more in ASEAN, Philippines delegate more power to the regions, Bangsomoro.

    • Joe America says:

      Very good. So the Stage 3 sovereignty, which is mature and responsible, includes the capacity to concede to others certain responsibilities or rights. It has the ability to “let go” of a little control. ASEAN is a good example, and Bangsomoro, too. The parallel is the executive who can delegate to others because he is confident of his own ability to deal with outcomes, be they good or bad.

      I like the way you ask Senator Santiago to get past the emotion (humiliation!) and the limited (imprisonment clause) to consider the entire picture. If she believes crying “humiliation” is a part of the negotiation, to set the U.S. back on its heels, I fear she is unaware of how hard the U.S. negotiators will laugh.

      • ella says:

        Identity of the Philippines??? Okay is a country where everything and anything is based on religious or personal belief. There is definitely no separation of church and state. If you talk to people (from the poorest of the poor to the richest – including the most corrupt) about all almost all issues affecting their lives they will almost always mention God.

    • nasescobar says:

      Agree without you wholeheartedly. Sovereignty ultimately resides in the people but we have ceded part of it to a representative government for practical reasons. But it seems that some people do not really value their power as witness dynasts buying votes for a few pieces of lucre . And these dynasts imagine themselves to be sovereign in the royal sense untouchable in their own little fiefdoms. And there is the meddling church accountable to no one but to a power somewhere else. The people must take back their sovereignty. Why must everything be blamed on the president. Why must everything come from Manila. Now we learned that the departments of agriculture and the education have pork funds. And everybody seem to have access to pork. There are a lot of things the provinces can do setting up offices for industry, agriculture, education, health, welfare and education to mention a few. We must trust the collective wisdom of the common tao else we will never reach Stage 3 development. We will be stuck at the threshold of maturity always depending on papa, a benevolent uncle and a corrupt padrino. Let us unleash and unlock
      the pent up energies of the people in a positive way or else the deluge, God forbid.

      • Joe America says:

        I think you are herein designated our resident socialist. Or is it federalist? I don’t know. Our resident believer in distributing authority to where people know what is going on. 🙂 It is a welcome perspective.

        • nasescobar says:

          No, Mr. Joeam, I am not a socialist. I believe in the capitalist system, private enterprise.
          But I also believe in autonomy, giving people independence to run their affairs. It’s been proven that people allowed to govern themselves make honest mistakes, are more productive and less rebellious.

  5. J says:

    Interesting, Joe. But you have to understand that the Philippines, like many other former colonies/Third World countries, are still inherently insecure. Maybe a strong economy or First World status would fix that.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, and I accept that there are legitimate reasons for the insecurity. I didn’t want to come across as lecturing “y’all are insecure and its time to correct that”, so wanted to set out a definition of sovereignty that is something other than going it alone, and blaming others.

  6. bebot says:

    Senator Santiago is losing her direction, whether be a firm support of VFA in defense of territorial dispute with China, or blasting the treaty in defense of our territory against USA.The two are miles apart. I think she is deluding herself Most are opining that if the US military vases are still in the country, China would never occupy our territorial seas. It seems politicians never learn their lessons from their past mistakes. They keep on repeating making same mistakes.They need to give up on things that they think are important but might be holding us back 10 things that could allow us to progress militarily and securely against China

    The first thing that’s often required in troubled times in terms of security is some outside military input, like America, whom we know we got the right people in the right places to help us in our territorial problems. We should listen to what America say because it has the supremacy of military powers. With US help, we could turn the corners of our security vastly.

    • Joe America says:

      I’d agree insofar as the Philippines does not simply listen and do as instructed, and does not listen with jealousy in the heart, but listens forthrightly, speaks forthrightly, and makes decisions forthrightly, in the best interest of the Philippines. Maybe inviting the U.S. to leave was just a stage the Philippines had to go through, like a teenager is inclined to want to do his own thing now and then. Lesson learned. Onward . . .

  7. Lil says:

    😛 No one’s humiliating the Philippines except the Phiippines!

  8. Rein Luna says:

    that third stage (unbreakable confidence and maturity, in sovereignty and overall outlook in life) may never see the light until the people feels secure enough to trust the government at last.

    people prefer not to talk out of fear of retaliation – would you trust the PNP and DOJ with your life?; or out of apathy – “Why bother? Nothing’s gonna change anyway.” All too familiar; or due to lack of confidence as you said – perhaps lacking in education?

    the state as well only has herself to blame. we have so many things messed up right now, it’s hard to be so confident with the few bargaining chips you have.

    So, yeah, I think it starts with the government. No, actually “this” glimpse of hope was enough.

    • Joe America says:

      Interesting question, would I trust the PNP with my life, and the answer is “no”, unless I knew someone specifically that I could. Indeed, the “clean and honest” Philippines is represented in a core of the President’s men and women, and it will take time to push that out broadly, and to feel the trust that goes along with it. So it will take time, 15 to 30 years. A long, enduring, growing economy would certainly help.

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