Manuel L. Quezon III
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State of the Nation
New middle class – INQ7.net is my column for today.
Manuel L. Quezon III: on-duty punditry, off-duty rants, double-duty opinions and opportunings. Resources on Philippine history.
a very interesting article indeed. alas in my opinion it still leaves some facts in the dark. after the americans assumed power in the philippines, they introduced a system in the Philippines, which in the USA itself was corruption loaden and cronies dominated public and private issues. when suffrage was introduced in the Philippines it remained a reservate of the (in english) educated, already relatively wealthy families in the Philippines. these families didn’t show any interest in developing a society, where a strong middle class would assume power in a democratic regime. but the political aspirations of these families led to diversification in various senses. first the families in power tried to enter the political apparatus in financing campaigns for their kin, to be in strategic positions in the law making assembly, to avoid any surprises. second the families, understanding the winds of economic change, diversified their predominantly agricultural enterprises into more mixed “holdings” comprising of industry, service and agriculture. third they institutionalised their grip on power, with a highly personalised, cost-intensive electoral system, which is not middle class democratic, but rather feudal, as access to passice election is not provided by merits in a party system, but by the wealth of the ones financing (kin) candidates. reimbursement of favours later! these diversifications made it necessary to engage in academic training to be in the position to manage, lead and steer enterprises, assume political power. they set up the according institutions, where not only the possibility of academic education was provided, but – most important – personal ties in the form of marriages or development of crony-networks was a secluded reserve for the rich, which should not be confused under any circumstances with a middle class. additionally the families having diversified their “businesses” clinged to each other utilising their networks of personal – rather than professional – relations to dominate. laws still are very often designed to benefit a wealthy few, lacking any long term vision as detected in political party systems. shortly after the second world war this situation resulted in the bankruptcy of the Philippine state. had not the USA intervened. i would agree to the point that the possibility of developing a middle class would have been possible, but martial law under Marcos turned the wheels back. and the wheels are – at best – not moving at all. the dominant political and economic classes does not have any interest in an educated middle class, challenging their positions of power. so the educated Philippinos, who were supposed to perform various tasks for the ruling class, chose either inner resignation or migration. it is highly ironical to see that the migrating millions even extend the life span of the unjust system in power, remitting billions each and every year. this exclusion of political participation means: there is no middle class, there is no party system, favouring “the common good”, there is no coherent socio-economic approach of the development of a middle class and the society as a whole. middle classes elsewhere were the engine of social, political and economical progress, introducing rationality, integrity, accountability. the political development in the Philippines leads more and more towards a “sultan” regime, where the sultan decides, without any participation, integration and transparency, depriving the Philippino people of their future, their basic human rights.
The middle class is actually the silent majority. We have been too loud with: “Mahirap vs mayaman!” rantings perpetuated by no less than the media (look at those local telenovela themes). Most poor people think only in black and white largely because they are misinformed or controlled by a few.
regarding the history of the pinoy middle class, you might want to check out The History of the Burgis, by Arriola and Francisco. it’s interesting and well-researched.
your column today is disheartening, but true.
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