The Philippine Luddite Mentality

Rice AttackI was roaming the Rappler conversation threads the other day and another visitor whipped a “pfft” on some people who are protesting the Philippine research work into genetically modified rice. He referred to them as “Luddites”.

That sent me scurrying to my search button on the term “Luddite”, and this is what I got from Wiki:

  • The Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labour-saving machinery from 1811 to 1817. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work.

The Luddites undertook violent acts against industrialists and farmers who tried to use modern equipment. The government had to introduce harsh punishment to stop the raids, such punishments even including execution.

That scene in turn caused me to flash back to the riot of men who tore up a genetically modified rice plot here in the Philippines a couple of months ago. A photo of that incident headlines this blog. And I’m guessing that now, whenever I see a huge carabao plop in the middle of the farm to market road that leads to my house, I will utter a curse “damn Luddite beast” as I dodge around his amply endowed leaving.

Industrial America

Rorschach Test: Do you see pollution or wealth and jobs?

The Philippines thrives on Luddite thinking.

Well, that’s wrong. The people thrive with rationalizations associated with Luddite thinking, as the Philippines slips and slides along in backward mode.

Never has such an educated nation been so obstinate and obtuse in refusing to move to modern times. Paper is preferred over computers, cash over credit cards, carabao over tractors, sweaty jeepneys over air conditioned buses, small farms over large farms, and bug-ridden organic rice over pest-resistant modified rice.

You see, Filipinos are family people. Home is where the heart is. Filipinos ache for their farmers, for their sari sari stores, for the long suffering rice workers and fishermen, for loyal jeepney drivers and the companies who hire them. Because these businesses provide jobs and are run by aunties and brothers and cousins and classmates. The many laboring Filipinos plying the bottom of the Philippine pay scales are the core of the nation, the people who elect boxers and dynastic legends, or wives of  ruthless dictators. They think with their hearts.

I suggested to my wife that we buy a shuttle bus to haul neighborhood kids to school so they don’t have to ride or walk in the rain. She said “that’s a good way to get shot”. Her point being that the motorcycle drivers won’t stand for it. The kids are their bread and butter rides in the morning and evening.

I’ve argued here, in my naive and hopeful way, that the nation’s small farms can’t make the Philippines rich through exports. Maybe can’t even feed the Philippines. We need more large, sophisticated farming corporations. Not lackadaisical cooperatives.

A common counter-argument is generally, “we don’t want to be like the United States, controlled by greedy corporations”.

Well, that in turn generates eerie echoes of the leftist chants against monopoly capital and for laborers. Inane commie-babble from the 1950’s.

So we find that we are trying to resolve a couple of very heady forces that have been the cause for socio-economic battles for centuries. We see nations like China adopting their version of capitalism because their socialistic economic models couldn’t feed the nation.

Capitalism drives wealth generation better than any other economic model. It must be restrained by laws to stop abuses such as monopolistic control of markets or unkind labor practices, but properly regulated, capitalism generates wealth and innovates the technology that keeps us healthier, allows us to move around and communicate easily, and keeps us more broadly entertained.

It seems to me that Philippine Luddite sentiments favor poverty over riches, ignorance over intellect, and provincialism over modernism. And a well-endowed elite over common folk.

To decide whether we want to be Luddites or modern peoples, we almost have to wrestle down “the meaning of life”, or what we believe people should aspire to be.

The American dream is centered on happiness and prosperity, although the competition for those things often generates misery instead. The Philippines is a happier place, poorer, and there is not a lot of prosperity. There is a competition, however, and it is ordinarily expressed in the bringing down or dragging back those who have the audacity to try to get ahead.

Envy runs riot in the Philippines.

So the life’s choice is, do we go for wealth or do we go for simplicity of living?

For myself, I think wealth generation is important to provide the healthiest circumstance for families. I further think that education that emphasizes competition, ambition and success is the best kind. Best for the individual, to develop non-monetary riches on earth, and best for the nation, to care for its own wisely, creatively and capably.

I only have trouble with wealth generation if it creates more harm than good. For example, if it creates destructive global warming, poisons the rivers and seas, or embarks on greedy practices. whereby people are used and abused. Or if it drives us into depression because the making of wealth is so stressful, and there are more “failures” than winners.

I rather think the Philippines errs too much on the side of living simply, of living with the earth, and could use a lot more wealth, for the health and well-being of the nation’s people, and especially the children.

It is a competitive world, dog eat dog, and the nation that elects not to be strong, not to compete, is destined to be cast aside as irrelevant.

Peace, yes.

Rest in peace. No.

63 Responses to “The Philippine Luddite Mentality”
  1. The Mouse says:

    A Luddite living is better than Monsanto-dominated food industry. Food in the US is cheap brought about by massive industrialization of food. But at what cost? Obesity and related disease shot up rapidly when food was further industrialized. And for a nation with supposedly “strict” food standards, it is amazing to hear salmonella outbreak from KNOWN food suppliers. The latest was CHICKEN.

    Did the GMO/more industrialized food industry reduced America’s poverty as they earlier claimed? No. Not at all. It actually has been increasing.

    Farming corporations can be dangerous since it is centered on profit, not on improving health and food supply. Again, the US, is not the healthiest country despite a highly industrialized agriculture and exporter of corn, wheat, soy, beef, etc. And to make things worse, the government pretty much gave the FDA authority to corporations — Monsanto dudes have been dominating the FDA.

    I’d rather that the government subsidize and cooperate with farming cooperatives over farming corporations. Or the promotion of self-sufficiency. I don’t want my meat to be laden with anti-biotics fed poultry or poultry fed with GMO corn or GMO soy as practiced by food corporations in the US.

    I recommend that you watch Food Inc.

    • Joe America says:

      Very good counterpoint. Indeed, messing with the genetic code gives me the heebie jeebies, too, like a fear I’ll grow eyeballs on my elbows. And knowing how irresponsible some companies are in cheating to gain profits (tainted milk), one can expect that there will be a problem somewhere down the line, and we don’t exactly know what kind of creature that problem will create.

      I think we should be very very careful about genetics, and I don’t know what controls are in place here in the Philippines. I’ll have to dig around on that.

      Do you prefer paper to computers?

      Do you think travel to Mars is a waste of resources?

      Do you prefer Jeepneys to air conditioned shuttles?

      How committed to Luddite thinking are you?

      • The Mouse says:

        My response was specific to food as it appeared to me that the entry was centered on food. More efficient machinery that does not alter the chemical compound and health benefits of food is good. However, in our times, technology has been abused for the sake of profit and power.

        The GMO in the 90s was primarily to sell seeds that are resistant to the companies own brand of pesticide.

        Take for example the Coconut oil industry. There are two ways to extract the oil — the more natural cold pressed way which takes more labor and time but retains the healthy benefits of coconut or the hydrogenated one that is faster and easier to mass produced but destroys the essential qualities of the oil (worse, it turns the good things into bad things). Cold pressed coconut oil are usually more expensive and twice the price of the hydrogenated coconut oil.

        Since food supply concerns everyone, I don’t think it is very wise to leave it to the hands to FOR-PROFIT corporations. This is why they are scary: since they are big and have lots of money, many of them are more than willing to bribe politicians to influence public policy. Public health and safety is the least concern.

        I believe that anything concerning public health and safety should not be in the hands of FOR-PROFIT corporations. It would be more ideal if they are private-public partnership. We don’t want ourselves to be guinea pigs of companies like dow or monsanto

        I buy coconut oil from a small US company that sources their coconut oil from hand pressed method. Which basically means, they hire more people and are dedicated to retain the natural benefits of coconut oil (as well as keeping the old tradition alive)

        On typewriter: Hey, it isn’t that bad. It may be more inconvenient at the age of electricity but should the time that there’d be a mass electricity shortage, typewriters will come in handy.

        While new technologies are good, It is not wise to fore go “ancient wisdom”. Pickling and fermenting food as preservation is a lot healthier than bombarding food with sodium benzoates and nitrates

        • Joe America says:

          Thanks for the perspective on it. I particularly like your closing paragraph.

          Just an after thought. I think raw rural farming is not necessarily the best, either, and that there is a broad middle ground of educated, healthy, mass-produced food and food processing that is necessary to feed all the new birthed mouths. I don’t worry about hepatitis hereabouts for no reason. Or raw meat sitting on the butcher’s block in the sun all day, unrefrigerated. Or sloppy canning and packaging processes.

    • The Mouse says:

      I support organic and non-GMO US farmers who are being harassed by corporations like Monsanto.

      Sorry Joe, but I do not want Monsanto or Monsanto-like corporations to dominate the Philippine food industry as it does in the US. The mass production loaded with harmful preservatives has produced cheap but TOXIC and health threatening food supply. Some even are unethical to use banned chemicals in the US in developing countries (like the bananas in Latin America by US corporations)

      Big food companies also tend to buy and bribe politicians. The US corn industry lobbied against the healthier imported unrefined sugar to the US in lieu of the the High Fructose Corn Syrup(a lot LESS healthier than unrefined sugar) and basically killed sugar farmers in the tropics. For most part, the food CORPORATIONS do not have the health of the public in mind. All they have in mind is profits, even if it is at the expense of public health and are hell bent in bribing the government.

      So okay, food is cheap, but if the consequence of it is poorer health, therefore resulting to life long expensive medications, is “cheap” food (by quality and price) worth it?

      • Joe America says:

        Okay, set food aside as an area that perhaps benefits from Luddite thinking. But back to the broader issue. Why do you think the Philippines is “behind the times” in so many areas of technology and processes, and even social standards (divorce). And is that a good thing?

        • The Mouse says:

          The more pressing question is: Does the Philippines really reject technology and new ideas as a whole? I don’t think so. Certain areas yes (and sometimes for a good reason) and certain areas no. The Philippines didn’t resist cars, mass rapid transportation(over water buffalo carts and horse-drawn transportation), computers, cellphones, telephone, etc. The Philippines may be slower in adapting, but it does not necessarily imply that Filipinos are against technology. If Filipinos, as a whole are hardcore Luddites, do you think it will be the nation where social media is extensively used as a form of communication? Is it really “backward” to prefer a cogon broom and a long dustpan over a vacuum cleaner? How about hand washing the plates with sticky rice over the dishwasher (which does the job poorly)?

          Why is it that a lot of Westerns are ass scared about “ancient wisdom”? After years of trying expensive medicated shampoos for my dandruff problem…I found the answer in the kitchen! Vinegar. Luckily in the US, there is a small underground movement into rediscovering some of the “ancient wisdom” in lieu of the more toxic commercial products that has been coming out.

          Skepticism about application of newer technology is not entirely a Philippine phenomenon. Even people in the West are. Do more advanced weapons, bombs, etc really benefit human kind or production of these are just waiting for someone to pull the trigger for self-destruction? Even Carl Sagan was not excited about any possible human populating Mars or any other plant.

          • The Mouse says:

            *correction: planet

          • Joe America says:

            Good points, all. It is not backward to prefer a broom. It is backward to rely on paper for record-keeping, if forward means generating prosperity and respect for the well-being of citizens. And if prosperity means bringing food, education, and health to the broad poverty-stricken masses.

            I don’t think Westerners are “scared” about ancient wisdom. I think they are ignorant of it, with the lessons being chased to the background by the drive to prove oneself, make money and acquire goods.

            I don’t think Filipinos eschew technology because of skepticism about its value, or for any moral reason. I think they can’t afford it. The phone craziness shows what happens when technology is cheap. And computers are next. About 20 years behind Western nations, but it is coming.

          • brianitus says:

            It’ll probably excite you to know that the Philippines leads Asia in use of GMOs.

          • Joe America says:

            It’s an advanced case of impending lunacy. By the way I did NOT know that the Philippines was so active with GMOs. Thanks for the point of info.

            • brianitus says:

              Honestly, if we factor in climate challenges, we should really push for better crop production. Research is key. Now, if some first world guy has an issue with my third world problem, I’d like him to come over and till the soil with me.

          • chao-wei says:

            In discussing technology and advances therein, we forget that technology and engineering fathered science, not the other way around. “New technology” from scientific pursuits should not be nihilistic, i.e. should not disregard the contribution of past technologies.

            Technological innovation has always been geared toward a simpler way of doing things, for better living. If brooms do the work more simply than vacuum cleaners (honestly, in some areas, yes) why not?

            Science only serves to verify the truth about the universe, in which case it also only serves to edit/proofread the technological innovation tide, accepting and remastering old technologies while generating new ones. An truly obsolete technology is one which has no hope of being remastered or applied in the present time or in the future.

  2. andrew lim says:

    @Joe @ The Mouse

    Your conversation reminds me of the life of Steve Jobs, (I just finished his biography) who eschewed Western materialism during his early years, but then proceeded to make some of the best technological products of our time.

    He was into eastern religion and was a vegetarian but he was driven to make devices that made use of rare earth minerals and involved toxic substances in its manufacturing.

    When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he went for non traditional healing methods, but eventually relented to modern medicine.

    One of his favorite expressions was to say that “Apple stood at the intersection of the humanities and science”,

    Which to me means that it is not a bad thing to be part Luddite, and part Jetson. 🙂

  3. JM says:

    I agree that a lot of us Filipinos tend to judge immediately when they see “GMO” without researching about it. They tend to believe hearsay and over react easily. Frankly, I have no problem with it as long as it is proven to be safe. As for paper over computers, it depends, when I am at work, I use my laptop because I really cant perform my work without it.but when I am at home and want to read something, I prefer paper. I don’t know why but I enjoy reading a book than an e-book.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, on a personal level, I’m with you on books and find myself backlashing against modern trends like Facebooking. But if we think of how prosperity is generated, then I think paper is like horses and computers like cars. We should shoot horses, not cars.

      ahahahaha, or something like that. Maybe put them out to pasture is better.

      (One of the most depressing movies I ever saw was “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”)

    • brianitus says:

      Hi, JM. It’s nice to see someone appreciate the value of research in coming up with an informed decision.

      I’m okay with people who choose not to partake of GMOs, factory farmed food and follow whatever “ethical food” movement they are in. However, I dislike those who go against research and would go to extremes to prevent any form of progress. That behavior eliminates the creation or discovery of future options. In a way, it’s an extension of the world is flat thinking. Now, Columbus didn’t fall off the edge of the Earth, right? Someone has to conduct studies.

      Imho, if our ancient ancestors didn’t experiment with agriculture, it’s possible that the human race wouldn’t have made it this far.

  4. cha says:

    While I appreciate and respect The Mouse’s stand on Monsanto, i would also like to point out that the genetic modification of crops is not an exclusive Monsanto undertaking. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has in fact, been a pioneer in developing rice varieties more resistant to disease and thus producing higher yields since the 1970s with what was then called miracle rice. I have yet to read or hear about any dangerous consequences on the environment or on human beings themselves as a result of adopting the technology and produce developed by the IRRI.

    Their ongoing research on a new variant called golden rice (which I understand is enriched with Vit. A) is but part of a continuing effort to improve rice quality and production which after all, is the charter of this non-profit organization. Could it possibly have any harmful effects at all on the environment or on people? Maybe so, but I would think that those IRRI scientists and researchers would be looking into that as well and should therefore be left alone to do what they need to do especially by those who have very little understanding of the subject in the first place. Those scientists have their own processes in place to ensure one’s work gets validated by another, I believe.

    I am not sure the label Luddites aptly describe those who stormed the IRRI facilities and destroyed the golden rice crops that were being grown as part of the IRRI research. I’m afraid it’s a grave insult, even to the Luddites.The saboteurs were not even farmers themselves, (see Slate article link below). Real farmers, apparently would not have been able to commit such an act of disrespect and wonton destruction on somebody else’s efforts to till the land.

    Those saboteurs are not so much resisting progress as they are pushing forward a political agenda. They are driven not by the fear of losing farming jobs to a new technology (as the original Luddites were) but are simply the hollow vessels of propaganda unleashed by their irresponsible leaders from the Left to sow confusion and stand in the way of any real progress for the very people they claim to be fighting for.

    I do not know how the rest of the Philippines can stand these thugs.

    • Joe America says:

      Happy to have fired up your thinking this morning. Strike the term “Luddite” for the rice tramplers. Replace it with “political pawn”.

      Also, you make a strong case for knowledge over fear.

    • ella says:

      Cha thanks for the link. So, what do these people who stormed into IRRI suggests, it is better for us Filipinos to buy rice from other countries than produce it in the Philippines? Gezzz, the Filipinos who joined these were not thinking!

    • sandman says:

      IR-8 or “miracle rice” was introduced in the 70’s to shorten rice production from 4 months to 3 months (sowing to harvesting), and increase production, the reason why it was called Miracle Rice. To see more on how rice research are done check this out.

      • cha says:

        Thank you @Sandman for the link. Now I am even more convinced that those IRRI scientists and researchers are real experts in the field working to benefit the farmer and the general population that subsists on rice. I also like how their studies include the use of pesticides and how they are making farmers less dependent on them.

        @Ella, yes, those “rice tramplers” are not thinking. (I’d say unfeeling, too for the efforts put into those crops by the IRRI people.) Try and read the link from @sandman. It’s even more informative. Cheers!

  5. Joseph-Ivo says:

    After reading recently “Why Nation Fail” (D.Acemoglu&A.Robinson) and “The Price of Inequality” (L.Stiglitz), I’m more convinced than ever that it’s all about politics. Risks of new inventions have to be managed. Correct wealth distribution generates more wealth creation, but water runs to the sea, legislation is needed to guarantee distribution.

    I fully agree that a free marked is superior in creating wealth, but for distribution and risk management, as you said, you need regulations, meaning politics. But politics in the US are scripted to a large extend by the lobby industry. Here in the Philippines I guess by the happy few and that is the real core of the problem, all the rest are just symptoms.

    • Joe America says:

      “Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”
      Ambrose Bierce

      That was a wisdom from, like, a century ago. We keep re-learning these lessons the hard, experiential way.

      • Joseph-Ivo says:

        Isn’t politics mainly about legislation, properly regulating the free market. I get the feeling that the happy few here managed to implement a script where useless politicians are elected and all legislators focus on pork barrel only or politics as defined by Brose Bierce. In the meantime the happy few can get laws approved in their favor.

        In what bank accounts is the 7% growth ending up? Why is the education budget only 1/3 of the 6% of GDP recommended by the UN? Why is the agro-industry not organized? Infrastructure throttled to the max? … (for a complete list of questions I refer to “Why Nations Fail”)

        Incapable politicians, politicians with other priorities or both? Who selects them, who finances the few that are legislating?

        • Joe America says:

          I think the 7% growth is getting spread about quite well, actually, but I can’t figure the education budget. It would be nice to see what is OVER-funded, by UN standards. The Agro-industry IS organized but, unfortunately, it is according to local custom, which is akin to Alfred E Newman’s “What me worry?”

          But all that said, I think the Philippines is an awakening giant.

          Well, okay, maybe not a giant. But more than a dwarf.

          • Joseph-Ivo says:

            Yes, luckily it was not in the script that Napoles’ daughter would give corruption such a tangible expression on her Facebook page, followed by the indignation of the ordinary people and the predictable damage control. Yes there seems to be developing a critical mass of critical people, the anger here about vote buying on Mondays election is manifest. Yes the economy is getting too big for the happy few to control it all.

            The mammoth tanker starts turning and I see the same light as you do, but eventually capable and motivated legislators will have to regulate the free market. The 2016 elections will be crucial and may be that the indignation is peaking too soon, 2 years for the powers behind Estrada, Enrile, Binay to recuperate.

            On education: “Despite education being the No. 1 priority as demanded by the Constitution, and despite the absolute amounts being thrown its way, the budget for education has actually fallen relative to GDP over the years. Spending for education in 1997 and 1998, the last two years of Fidel Ramos’ time, accounted for 3.2 percent of GDP while today it is only 2.1 percent. That’s just a third of the investment in education the UN recommends.”
            CDQ in today’s Inquirer:

            On the 7%: the statistics on poverty don’t show that wealth is spreading but the wealth figures in Forbes of the wealthiest Filipino’s indicates that it stays in the 0.1% richest fraction of the population.

          • Joe America says:

            Yes, that all makes sense. I think one has to look at anecdotal evidence that the wealth is spreading. More car dealerships and cars on the road, good household help harder to find, longer lines at the Landbank ATM picking up cash, hotels springing up left and right, newer cars in Manila, more traffic jams, high rises going up,airplanes jammed, more heavyweight people at the mall. More kids sporting phones. Now the source of a lot of the spendable cash may be OFW’s, but it is cash into the economy, and it runs around in it. Our local community is healthy, growing, people maintaining homes better. A wholly vibrant place. Even a lot of the poor people in our neighborhood are getting to college.

            I think this is an economy that is closer to major break-out than collapse in riot.

            2016 permitting.

  6. The cynic reporting for duty…..

    “Capitalism drives wealth generation better than any other economic model. It must be restrained by laws to stop abuses such as monopolistic control of markets or unkind labor practices, but properly regulated, capitalism generates wealth and innovates the technology that keeps us healthier, allows us to move around and communicate easily, and keeps us more broadly entertained.”

    Regulated? Cynics don’t want to be regulated, and have power to resist regulation. Cynics are entertained by seeing people who are dirt-poor; the feeling of superiority is brutishly gratifying for a cynic.

    “For myself, I think wealth generation is important to provide the healthiest circumstance for families. I further think that education that emphasizes competition, ambition and success is the best kind. Best for the individual, to develop non-monetary riches on earth, and best for the nation, to care for its own wisely, creatively and capably.”

    Wealth generation of “non-monetary riches” on earth by working his/her as off. Joe, why are you going down the “Imagine” route a la John Lennon? Even the patriotic S.Korea is sooooo materialistic…. I’m drifting off topic but they say marriage in S.Korea is all bout the money from the parents’ perspective. Bottom line: Non-monetary riches are so out of character for JoeAm and FIlipinos and anyone. BWAHAHAHAHAHA

    “I only have trouble with wealth generation if it creates more harm than good. For example, if it creates destructive global warming, poisons the rivers and seas, or embarks on greedy practices. whereby people are used and abused. Or if it drives us into depression because the making of wealth is so stressful, and there are more “failures” than winners.”

    How can you separate these consequences from wealth generation especially if you have more than a million people in a country? Mass production always equate to pollution. and less pollution means less profit. Scandinavian countries can adhere to this mantra because males there know how to properly use a condom. And Scandinavian work ethic is one of the most productive and most forgiving in the world; Everyone envies their vacation leaves and pretty, tall blondes.

    The cynic’s solution: Filipinos should see each other as machines and themselves as robots; no more sentimental phrases like: “I pity you.” and “He/she has a family to feed.” and “They are human beings too.” Offspring shouldn’t be annoying and noisy gazillions of babies, but luxe mansions, furniture from IKEA, designer clothes and bags, fancy cars, elite golf club cards, visited countries abroad, etc.

    Wait… am I posting on GetReal or AntiPinoy?

    • correction: Wait am I posting like I’m from GetReal or AntiPinoy? Blame bad mood.

      No one likes doing an “unexpected” OJT for one month. Gov’t hires, doesn’t factor in barangay election-ban. FAIL.

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, my. Dare I respond? One thing, one can enjoy non-material riches best if one is materially rich first. Most in the west get material riches by working their asses off. Most in the east get material riches by knowing the right people.

      John Lennon was a right fine character, actually. He did his own thing better than most.

      It seems to me our commercial wealth drive is both the generator of our problems and the innovator of the solutions to the problems we generate. Wealth generation can be clean and principled, and indeed, there are commercial riches by being in business to help people go green and clean. I detest condoms and prefer short dark-haired Asian women, but I can work hard same as those Scandinavians.

      I wholeheartedly agree that Filipino commercial production would be enhanced by getting the emotionality out of the picture. That’s Friday’s blog, incidentally. Dispassionate is the word of the day for Friday.

      Is BongV still in Florida? ahahahahaha

      • “Most in the west get material riches by working their asses off. Most in the east get material riches by knowing the right people. ”

        West? You meant the well-connected hedge fund managers? Or those “Ivy Leaguers” who enjoyed legacy admission. Or, Did the Forbes 400 Billionaires Really ‘Build That’? OR, simply, hardwork is not enough; you need to have a “natural genius” to be self-made RICH

        Good thing you said material riches,connoting upper crust. If you said basic needs or middle class goods that’s another flame bait a la benigNO.

        Regarding Luddites and automation I always wonder about a period when supercomputers can replace the highly-skilled, cerebral pros. Not in a century, maybe 2.

        As far as I know, only the manual laborers/blue-collars are greatly affected by automation and techno leaps in history.

        I’m wary of TOTALLY eliminating emotionality in the workplace…. Humans don’t easily switch from corporate to personal. And no one wants to live in a black hole.

        • Joe America says:

          Yes, well, I was a little loose of lip. My experience in banking is that the investment guys work harder than anyone. Long hours, lots of pressure. It is not manual sweat labor, but it is work of a different kind. Understanding the esoterics and risks of complex instruments, having the courage to punch a buy or sell button and live with the results. Most of them have little hair.

          What is going on now in the US is a slow easing to the automated world you speak of. Smart machines instead of jobs. And take the simple search function for lawyers . . . that has removed a LOT of manual labor of the white collar kind, and is indeed cerebral. More of that is bound to come.

          Emotionality can be broken down into that which is healthy and that which is unhealthy. The unhealthy kind needs to go away. It injects dysfunctional personal matters into straightforward issues.

      • “Most in the west get material riches by working their asses off.” Oh you meant the hedge fund managers. OR the Ivy Leaguers–excuse the term–who enjoyed legacy admission and nice friends from college. OR the Forbes 400 Billionaires

        Good thing you said material riches,connoting upper crust. If you said basic needs and some wants, you are inviting a flame bait war against the middle.

        I’ve always wondered about the effect of high-skilled automation work (e.g., lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects) by supercomputers. Not in a century, but maybe 2 or 3.

        As far as I’m concerned, only manual laborers/clerks are affected by techno leaps in history, but the trend COULD change…..

  7. ikalwewe says:

    This is a very good observation. A country’s hesitation to adopt new technologies and innovations is not the cause of why a nation has failed (or is failing) but a symptom of a bigger disease. It is not a coincidence that countries which adopt high technology and innovations are also rich countries. America encourages its citizens to innovate and adopt new technologies – which is why it is the home of the wealthiest people (65,000 people with over 30millionUSD if I remember correctly ?). Why? There’s a balanced, political system that encourages fair economic system. The economic system ensured continuity and stability. This influences how people behave and respond. People are incentivised (wonder why there’s a red underline under that word?) to innovate and adopt new technologies because they have faith no one will suddenly change the game and take all their hard-earned wealth, for example. US govt doesn’t just expropriate businesses and livelihoods, unlike in Argentina where President Kirchner expropriated oil company or when Marcos expropriated ABSCBN. Leaders don’t just devalue your money at their whim, like what Kim did in North Korea. Also, the environment must be fair so good products prevail over bad -not like in the Philippines where your leaders can keep your competitors at bay for the right price and entry barriers apply to starting entrepreneurs (why is internet so SLOW in the Philippines?). The leaders will encourage these innovations too, because they know if they encourage good economic policies, the people will vote for them again. Unlike Tsar Nicolas I, who thought that trains would threaten his power (there was nothing in it for him to promote railway systems since he didn’t get voted). Or Stevens (Sierra leone) who sold off the rail way track. In the US, from 1820-45, only 19% of the patentees had parents who were professionals /landowners while around 40% had only primary schooling or less (one of which was Edison). These people had the chance to use their patents to start companies (again Edison). It is one thing to be poor with an idea in the US and another to be poor with an idea in the Philippines. The 19th century US was more democratic than Philippines now. When I tried to loan money in the Philippines (housing loan), I was shocked with the interest rates – 12% per year vs Japan’s 1-2% per year! (We were rejected – we weren’t just “rich” enough to loan.) What about being an entrepreneur? My friend had to pay bribe money to the QC city hall officials (for tarpaulin without receipt) to start her bbq chicken stand. My cousin(who was vice mayor) couldn’t get a license for his business from the mayor (who was from another party). All entry barriers apply!

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, there are a lot of strange goings on hereabouts. Loans are a good case in point. Credit does not play a key role in leveraging the economy up. Biblical, I suppose.

      The nation is not really focused on productivity. Period. It’s monkish.

  8. bebot says:

    I wonder if the term luddites is the appropriate label to the Filipinos who protested against the GMO. Considering the social strata of the protesters, most could have belonged to the poor families who are not educated – lack of knowledge and skills, not properly oriented to the pros and cons of the GMO and lack of intellectual analytical capabilities, as such easily manipulated/ twisted to the political agenda of the organizers.

    By and large, majority of the people, who belong to the poor families, aspire for better life- good jobs, good education, nice house/ clothes, modern gadgets ( tablets, computers, cell phone), but due to their social strata, could not afford to attain such aspirations. They are enveloped by a vicious cycle of no good job, so no good education, so no nice house/ clothes and gadgets. They sort of have given up their lives to fate ( fatalistic). But believe me, they are salivating for better lives. Just go to the malls, you can easily spot those who belong to the poor families gazing at other people who are wearing nice clothes, shoes, carrying their cell phones, adorned with jewellries. By the looks of these gazers, they are mentally and emotionally wishing they have the same entitlements of material wealth. As such, they want to elevate themselves up a notch of their social strata. Their hearts are crying for better lives, not to remain in poverty / poorness.

    • Joe America says:

      The Luddite term refers to those who deny scientific advancement for the sake of keeping manual labor. So you are right, they were protesting for other reasons. I also think your description of the poor to be “spot on”. The DESIRE to advance is there. I’m not convinced that all see how important enduring good work, versus hard work, is to achieve that, or that opportunity can be recognized when it presents itself. We’ve had a number of workers who last only a few months and aren’t really devoted to good “product”. They walk away from the job and the salary increases that would come naturally in a few months. Or if you provide a bonus for good work, their work becomes less good because they think they have you “snowed”. There is a lot of intricate dancing going on in the labor field for the poor, I think.

    • bebot says:

      I agree with you that the nation is not on productivity or manufacturing, developing farming or fishing industries. No nation can achieve real progress without first making infrastructure, manufacturing and industrialization on its priorities, not on the back burner.

      The economic growth which PNoy is achieving has no solid foundation but I would say he is doing his utmost in encouraging foreign investments for manufacturing. He has to set up a commission on foreign investments to undertake a feasibility study on the factors that would encourage more international companies to bring forth their manufacturing to the Philppines, wherein all factors in small print/ in details would be spelt out.

    • bebot says:

      The Luddites referred to the English artisans who were against the installation of new machinery / new technology that would replaced them. As English artisans, they were highly knowledgeable and skilled in their trade or handicraft. On the other hand, those Filipinos who protested against the GMO were not highly knowledgeable or skilled of their livelihood or trade because they can’t extricate themselves out from the poverty they are enduring.But I would say there are other factors preventing them from doing so.

  9. AJ says:

    My observation of some of my countrymen is that they have a mistrust of technology and some fear of change. We even have a certain store chain selling gadgets but for some reason don’t use cash registers and printed receipts.

    The latest example that comes to mind is the introduction of electronic BP monitors during our annual physical exams. The year before, they used the old pump devices for measuring blood pressure, and they only took it once. This year, they had to take my blood pressure twice, with the nurse stating that they’re still calibrating the item so they can’t really be sure if it’s correct. I would’ve thought this a fair reason if they hadn’t introduced the thing 6 months earlier (according to another friend who took an examination earlier).

    We also have this trait that makes us easy prey to rumors, especially if some “expert” or doctor’s name is mentioned so some rumor saying this food or technology will kill us can make a huge dent to promoting a good technology. Even worst is when this is labelled as something that’s introduced by some group (i.e. New World Order) to remove Filipinos from the face of the earth (e.g. RH, GMOs, vaccination, cell sites). The sad part is a lot of noisy politicians and “interest” groups will act on such rumors and sensationalize things.

  10. Geng says:

    The Mouse explained already in detail the answer to the topic of your blog so I think I just have to add something.
    There is stiff opposition to GMO from significant portions of the American people that you did not write about. There are organizations unrelentingly campaigning for the total ban of products that would spell complete disaster, if not total doom, to the nation, and the whole world.
    Monsanto is fighting with all its might and power the demands of those against their products to label them because they have to disclose the chemicals (that are unfit for human consumption) they used then to kill insects and pests that destroy organic plants.
    The company’s track record during the Vietnam war should make us aware that they have no noble intentions whatsoever of making this world a healthy and better place to live in. Theirs is simply to reap profits for their businesses; the life and the health of the human population is inconsequential and do not deserve a place in its set of priorities.
    I’d prefer to be a Luddite inhabitant of my country than to live prosperously but with health concerns that would make me poor in the long run.
    Then I’ll have the last laugh! Ahahaha!

    • Joe America says:

      Actually, two legitimate views have been expressed here, in the main.

      One view is at the minimum skeptical of genetic modification, and at the max ardently opposed. It is founded on mistrust of the health effects or the commercial use of chemicals and gene modification, when companies seeking profit push consumer well-being to the side.

      The other is that we would be errant not to trust science and research that is well-grounded. The best hope in reducing poverty and improving health on our populous orb is through objective knowledge.

      It seems to me readers will have to reflect on their own as to which of these positions make sense. I feel I have done my job to get the two perspectives on the table and doubt that I can change the minds of either set unless I spend a year researching and writing a book.

      Not gonna happen .. . 🙂

  11. pussyfooter says:

    I apologize in advance in case I’m not adding anything new to the discussion (will review the thread more thoroughly later).

    I do agree with your advocacy of wealth generation through capitalism. And imvho yes the elitist poor-kayo-mayaman-kami mindset has much to do with it, and highlights possibly one of the major factors: a generally backward, feudalist mindset that is also why we are, despite our theoretical trappings, a tremendously nondemocratic (or even anti-democratic) society. The mere concept of science, let alone its way of thinking, is not only revolutionary to most Filipinos, it’s unfortunately anathema to them. Arguments to logic and reasoning instead of to authority and to the person? Sinverguenza! *crosses self quickly* This may contribute to the “paper > electronic, cash > credit” issue in larger part than any direct Luddism. (Ludditeism? Ludditehood?) For one thing, as silly as it may sound, there are just too many old fogeys in positions of authority and Pinoy culture would never dare to innovate against them.

    That said, I personally am not a big fan of GMOs either, but that’s also from what I do know of the scientific thinking on it. I’m just a dabbler in that field of knowledge, but there’s enough sense that scientists don’t yet fully know all of the implications of direct genetic manipulation (I use “direct” in the nontechnical sense of not being via the usual techniques of genetic alteration in horti/agriculture: grafting, etc.) for me to be wary of eating that stuff.

    • pussyfooter says:

      oh and something I forgot to articulate: there’s a fairly well reviewed book, published some years ago (I can dredge up the title and author if you like), proposing that the development of democracy (…genuine democracy, not like Philippine democracy…) is intimately related to the progress of science. A very enlightening read. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Actually, you echo my sentiments, to the letter. I must say, though, that the comments here have stretched my extremes, as opposed to extremities, so that I will be even more wary of what I am eating, whilst having more confidence that the GMO scientific research is potentially of great benefit in feeding our hungry planet.

      “Luddism” works for me. 🙂

  12. David Murphy says:

    This article, if I understand it correctly, is about a Filipino attitude of resistance to technological progress. What an array of subjects are covered in the comments thus far! GMO’s, politics, wealth creation and distribution, on and on. Granted the article did wander pretty far afield from its central topic and this stimulated many of the comments but the range of the subjects in the responses is truly amazing. This suggests a very diverse and interesting mix in the readership of the blogs.
    “Never has such an educated nation been so obstinate and obtuse in refusing to move to modern times. Paper is preferred over computers, cash over credit cards, carabao over tractors, sweaty jeepneys over air conditioned buses, small farms over large farms, and bug-ridden organic rice over pest-resistant modified rice.” Are we talking about government or private enterprise or private individuals? I’d agree with the first line of this paragraph as applying to government, although even this is gradually diminishing, particularly in the central government, with the provinces still far behind. But it does not apply to the large retail establishments. Sales records, inventory management techniques and other techniques of modern business management are on a par with any advanced nation in the world. The same goes for the banking industry. They were a long time adopting advanced technology and practice but they closed the gap in a hurry. One personal example: two years ago my checks drawn on a US bank took 10 days or more to clear; now they clear, allowing for the time difference, in as little as 18 hours. And, of course, ATM’s are as common as dirt and internet banking is standard. I think this speaks volumes about the differences between government and private enterprise. As to jeepneys and carabaos, this is more relevant to private individuals and I see it as more based on economics or practicality than on technology. The farmers around here primarily use hand labor or carabao to till their fields but a few, with larger tracts. rent a tractor when they need one. Large machinery is too expensive for these people and uneconomical on this scale even if it were financially feasible. If you’ve ever driven through the midwest, say Indiana, and spent hours at 140km/hr passing fields of corn as far on either side as you could see, horizon to horizon in every direction, you understand the difference in scale. It’s like an entire province planted to one crop. As for jeepneys, I see people allowing aircon buses to pass and waiting in the exhaust fumes and heat in Manila for an ordinary bus to save a few pesos in fare. That’s the reality of economics in the Philippines. Jeepneys are locally produced without recourse to computers to function and simply maintained without the need for complex diagnostics and last forever with seemingly endless reincarnations of the recycled diesel engines. They’re hot, open to dust and exhaust fumes, underpowered and usually lacking in braking capacity but they are inexpensive relative to alternatives and thus appropriate to the existing conditions. Similar considerations apply to the cheap hardware items available. They do not last but the cost of labor to replace them (or the value of your time in fixing it yourself) is so low that it makes economic sense to the majority of Filipinos, although not to me.
    As for genetically modified organisms, GMO’s, most people don’t understand that the process to create one is to take an existing gene that has evolved over time to provide some advantage to a microorganism and to transplant that gene into a crop plant to provide the same benefit. It does not involve creating something that has never existed before. Granted that we don’t normally ingest the microorganism as food but we ingest a lot more accidentally or incidentally than we realize so our bodies are not unacquainted with these genes in our digestive tracts.. Part of the problem is that the anti-GMO contingent have used lies and bad science to bolster their opposition to GMO’s. They also resorted to filing numerous nuisance lawsuits to prevent the use of GMO seeds or crops, resulting in a law specifically prohibiting such suits; then citing the law as an example of the influence of Monsanto on government regulators. There may or may not be reason to be wary of GMO’s but the anti-GMO activists have destroyed their own credibility with their tactics. My own take is, first, that monoculture of crops carries far more potential hazard than GMO’s. The “Potato Famine” which caused widespread hunger and death from starvation and complications of malnutrition in Ireland was based upon the cultivation of a very limited number of strains of potatoes, all of which lacked resistance to one particular virus which led to the decimation of the entire crop. Today genetically identical crops are grown globally and the impact of a similar infestation from a mutated virus would not be limited to a single country. So-called ‘heritage seeds’ are preserved in seed banks across the world but to germinate them in sufficient numbers and distribute them to farmers could take years. And this is far more likely than a problem resulting from GMO’s. Second, GMO’s offer advantages in crop yields and in pest-resistance over existing strains. This lowers the cost of production of food and increases availability. For the vast majority of the worlds’ population the resultant lower cost of the food is far more important than theoretical objections to the makeup of its genetic structure. For those who wish to, and can afford to, spend discretionary money on organic/”natural” foods, there will always be a supply available at a relatively low premium over GMO’s.
    The “golden rice’ project of the IRRC is different in that, rather than being directed at improving yield or resistance, it attempts to inculcate into the rice seed a gene that produces beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is a severe problem for millions of poor people whose staple food is rice, causing blindness and death in newborns and very young children. It is estimated that the universal use of golden rice, if it proves to be a viable concept, could prevent blindness in, and save the lives of, up to half a million children a year world-wide. That’s a lot of lives saved. So you can conclude that if those 50 activists, not farmers, who destroyed the test crop of golden rice succeeded in delaying its availability, they succeeded in causing up to half a million children’s death for every year.That’s 10,000 dead children for every activist in one afternoon’s work! Even Syria’s President Assad can’t claim that kind of success. The link to Slate at the end of Cha’s comment is worthwhile and fascinating reading.
    Finally, I hate to rain on your parade but you are arguing an issue from the past century. There is another application of the techniques that grew out of the human genome study that will have far greater effects than genetically modified food. Today, right now, it is possible to modify the genetic makeup of microorganisms to produce virtually any type of oil that can be specified. Need an oil to withstand the high heat of electric transformers but has no bad environmental effects? Here you go. Need an oil to replace palm oil, currently a major cause of the destruction of the rain forests in Asia because of the vast plantations that are being created. Already done. Need an oil that is ideally suited for frying at high temperatures and does not merely have no negative effects on the cardiovascular system but is actually beneficial? Coming up. Biodiesel? Already done. Premium gasolines that don’t require massive refineries to produce? Probably; We can work on it if there’s an economic or environmental benefit. Oils for baking, cosmetics, lubricating oils for specific uses? Just tell us what you need and we’ll custom design it. What’s the source of these oils? Genetically modified algae feeding on biomass such as sugar cane product, other non-food crops. Are these products GMO’s? No, the products are produced by GMO’s but the products can be exactly identical to existing oils or tailored according to the desired specifications; they contain no genetic material. What other advantages do these products have? Uniformity, as opposed to those derived from crop sources. Constant availability as opposed to seasonal crop sources. Production not dependent on weather. Cost. More farm land available to produce crops for consumption by humans or farm animals. No need for environmentally harmful fertilizers or pesticides. By the way, do you have a problem with excess carbon dioxide in your atmosphere? We have bacteria genetically modified to produce commercial quantities of carbonic anhydrase, which converts carbon dioxide to bicarbonate which can be further reduced to organic carbon. Just let us know. We are currently producing drug precursors using the same techniques. When will these products be available? They are currently being used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and are being tested in the food industry. They will be commonplace within a decade and ubiquitous in two. The production of protein will not be far behind. Be advised.
    I’d love to respond to more of the many different issues related to this blog but I’ve already missed the kids’ dental appointment and it’s time to fix dinner. Lucky for anyone reading this.

    • Joe America says:

      As per usual, David, you are taking the blog and working it forward. Great.

      Paper processes: Both government and private. If you go to Gaisano mall here, you want to buy something, they write up a paper ticket. You take that to the checkout register. They scan it and see if the paper matches their scan. If it does, they ring it up and before bagging it, another clerk checks that what is being bagged is what is on the receipt. If the paper ticket and the scanned price are different, they have to seek clarification of which is correct. It takes FOREVER to check out . . . as if they don’t really want the customer’s mony all that much. Robinsons’ cuts out those extra steps, but cash registers are lightly manned whilst store aisles are over-manned. Again, they don’t seem to pick up any urgency when customers are lined up 15 deep. But poor service is a different issue than technology.

      Jeepney and tractors. You present the why. Jeepneys appear to be on the way out in Manila in favor of shuttle buses. Same price for the rider, fixed schedule of stops.

      GMO, yes, rehashing the argument from last century. There are commercial and human demands pushing it forward, and no dastardly outcomes that I am aware of.

      I hope dinner was good. ahahahahaha Thanks for your straight-on view.

  13. abe galon says:

    If GMO is unhealthy, why don’t I hear people get sick eating a genetically altered corn?

    Those people who destroyed the experimental rice are paid by special interest party. I want to eat GMO rice and see if I get sick.

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, very good, Abe. You’re willing to walk the talk. Good for you.

      • abe galon says:

        Hey Joe, I am really apprehensive that Yolanda did not force you with the affairs she had inflected to central Visayas. Mrs. JoeAm will be upset. Wish you well and your family in Biliran Island.

        I know there is a communication problem in your area, so I will be patient to see you up and running. Best wishes Kumpadre.

  14. “Do you prefer paper to computers?

    Do you think travel to Mars is a waste of resources?

    Do you prefer Jeepneys to air conditioned shuttles?

    How committed to Luddite thinking are you?”

    I’m late, but can’t you separate the dynamics of GMO food from other products of innovation?

    Seriously, do humans EAT computers and air-conditioned shuttles? I guess food is a much more sensitive matter than the efficient machine that one uses at work.

    Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer natural. To those who say GMO isn’t harmful, go ahead and walk the talk. If nothing bad happens to your bodies and offspring after continuous consumption, I’ll follow suit. hahaha

    GMO stance: Undecided until further experimentation….

    • Joe America says:

      I was reading that humans are hard wired to fear snakes from when we were but little monkeys and prey for the reptiles. I think fear of eating, say, worms or bugs or GMO, is similar. We are hard wired to think this is not right. BUT if we really work at it, and develop new disciplines, we can get over it. That’s on my agenda for next year. Or the year after. In the meantime, they have to sneak it onto my plate.

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