What is your role in building a strong, upright, unified nation?
By Joe America
Let’s start with some brief definitions to get on the same line of thought about what a strong, upright, unified nation looks like.
- Strong means safe and wealthy enough to promote opportunities for citizens and durability for the State.
- Upright means morally sound, committed to the kind of “right” that helps people while avoiding the kind of “wrong” that hurts people.
- Unified means that the great majority of citizens agree and support one another rather than disagree and fight one another.
Taking them in reverse order . . .
Saying “unified” is for sure not as easy as getting there.
But I also think it is not always as complicated as we make it.
Take the drug war. (A) Most people want drugs and crime out of their lives. (B) Most people do not want innocent people killed. It is the State’s job to fulfill both of those aspirations. Today, the State is focused on A at the expense of B, and it has divided the nation. When the State figures out how to do both A and B, then unity is possible.
It is not the media or unpatriotic people who are causing today’s lack of unity. It is the choices made by the State.
Getting to ‘upright’ is harder than figuring out unity.
Historically, the morality of the Philippines is centered on people taking care of themselves. It is “right” to sneak past laws, to take or give bribes or favors, to squeeze in line ahead of someone else, or to blame others and deny accountability. Most people live by that morality and, in the extreme, exhibit the crab behavior of trying to tear down those who have the audacity to get richer or have a better life than they have.
“Upright” for many (most?) Filipinos means proving they are as good as . . . or better than . . . others. The cover of the book . . . the number of shoes, the shade of white, winning every argument, or the ability to swear at others . . . seems more important than the contents.
The Philippine Constitution overlays this well ingrained “me first” morality with Western (Christian-based) ideals that consider it “right” to follow the rules, to take care of others as the best way to take care of oneself, and to be forthright in accepting accountability and learning from mistakes. Competence is important.
So we have a huge fundamental conflict here that we can see operating every day as we watch our legislators. They say one thing and then do the other. They talk group ideals, then fail to pass an anti-dynasty law. A striking number would (and do) advocate for or enable the murder of innocents in order to get ahead, personally.
Every conversation devolves into winners and losers rather than solutions. It becomes amusing if you can rise up and observe from above what is really going on. That is the trick the great writer Kafka learned, I imagine, to discover the many absurdities in human behavior he wrote about.
But take care when doing it. You laugh a lot, you cry a lot.
Safe and wealthy are goals, a path, not an absolute we can ever achieve.
And we can always do better than where we are today.
The economy is what underpins safety and wealth and the State determines whether its investments are wise or wasteful. Corruption is wasteful. I’d argue that propaganda is wasteful. It leads to bad decisions, garbage in, garbage out. Discretionary expenditures can be wise or wasteful depending on the motives and the achievements of the people having discretionary power. In a culture of self-service, discretionary spending is often done poorly, for self rather than community, and so we see poor and dilapidated services and thinking across the land. In a culture of group well-being, investments and discretionary expenditures are generally done better, problem-solving is better, and more wealth is generated.
Safety is a bit more complicated, so we will set that aside for a different discussion.
So what is YOUR cultural preference, self-advantage or group cooperation?
Mine is group cooperation, and I believe most people who read and contribute here would agree that is the better way to run a nation. It emphasizes values like inclusion and fairness. The culture of self-advantage stacks people one above the other. To achieve unity, you have to agree that you are a lesser person than someone else. It’s demeaning.
In a quirky conundrum, those who voted for President Duterte see the elite as a problem, yet by subordinating themselves to an aspiring dictator, assure that they will always be the lessers in Philippine cultural stacking.
Amusingly or absurdly enough, they were equal under President Aquino, but did not “feel” equal. And the greatest failure of the Administration was not figuring out how to inspire the needful to feel that things were getting better, for them. Not that that is easy to do.
So what is YOUR role in building a strong, upright, unified nation?
Mine is to follow the rules, to work hard to overcome natural biases of liking what I know and distrusting that which is new, to adhere to the belief that the principles of fairness and inclusion will eventually be to my personal best advantage, and to be earnest and honest in dealing with others.
Beyond that, I apply such talents as I may have to writing about the Philippines. I consider myself a content provider, and many of you help immensely in that effort. Thank you. And thanks as well to those of you who share the content as a way to push back against the manipulators. It’s like arithmetic. It adds up. In some cases, it multiplies as other content providers pick up the ideas and recast them.
I also spend generously in the Philippines, and hope my family will be able to see as many opportunities here as they might find in the United States. It is a choice I leave to them.
It is up to Filipinos to decide if you will strive to make opportunities available to all. If you confine opportunities to the entitled, that is sure to create a “values drain”. A values drain is like a brain drain, but not only do smart people leave, upright ones do, too.