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Feb 09

The Castro conundrum

My column for today is, Faith, not fear.

It was inspired by questions I’ve been getting and a talk by Randy David (part 1 is up on Inq7.net) that I attended Tuesday evening at the Polo Club. Listening to him triggered a sense of shocking familiarity. David doesn’t read blogs, and so he is generally unaware, I think, of the currents of thought in blogs, but it is comforting, in a sense, to see many ideas I’ve expressed here also appear in his talk:

1. Politics as fundamentally concerned with communication
2. The political class is endangered and desperate
3. The crisis in education is fundamental
4. The change in the citizenry which makes it more discerning
5. The public is upset with both sides of the national leadership
6. The system is unable to heal/rectify itself

As someone who loves history, and finds explanations for what’s happening today in what happened in the past, there is, of course, a conservative, or more accurately, preservationist streak in my attitude towards things. So one’s reformist instincts are tempered by worrying over the tendency of upheavals to destroy more than should be done away with. But there is a larger lesson, which is that precisely the destruction of what should be preserved becomes inevitable, when a society delays reforms.

A documentary I just watched on Fidel Castro (part 1 and part 2 are available online) serves as a cautionary tale of how impeding reforms can doom all hopes of achieving them in the explosion that follows.

When the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista fled his country in January, 1959 with over a hundred of his cronies and a 100 million dollars of loot, Cubans from all walks of life joyously lined up to pay their back taxes. They greeted Castro as a liberator. Castro began bravely: he immediately instituted land reform, and the first plantation to be taken over by the state was his family’s (his mother never forgave him). A broad, united front of oppositionists established a council and Castro became Prime Minister. Then, slowly, the revolution unraveled, a revolt was launched against Castro, who defeated it and turned Cuba into a Communist, totalitarian state. As Castro put it, “The people do not want elections. In the past, they produced bad governments.” Soon after he began the first round of arrests -20,000 people- that continue to this day, 47 years after he came to power.

Click below to download the PDF file of Randy David’s “The National Situation.”

Randy David The National Situation-1

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  1. Jon Mariano

    MLQ3, thanks for providing Prof. Randy David’s speech. We are again seeing the power of the internet (including blogs). In the past, we(OFWs and those stationed outside of the Philippines) won’t have the opportunity to even hear of this.

    Even if governments don’t want to be open, or even try suppress, they will not be successful as just like water, information will find a way to get out.

  2. joey

    Manolo, I read RD’s speech & his article in INQ..I have read him in the past.
    The ULTRA tragedy was something that could have been avoided.It also boils down to incompitence & serious irresponsibility on the side of the organizers & lack of coordination w/ the proper authorities.
    I saw it comming that groups & personalities will readely exploit the tragedy to get back at goverment.They would somehow connect & interrelate the events for their own ends.
    I think anyone who would use the event sugar coating it w/ fancy words is really desperate.
    poverty has been w/ us as long as we can remember.Politicians have used it to gain power.private individuals have used it too to make money.
    The question is, are we using poverty for our own ends or do we seriously want to solve the problems?
    Are we entertaining illussions of solving the problems overnight as we change our leaders?
    If RD knows better I’m sure his aware that problems are solved sistematicaly.
    If RD knows any better & enlarges his thoughts.It would take around severeal years of a steady GDP growth so that the benifits of the economy may be felt by those w/ lesser in life.
    Those who are not hard working & have the skills will never fill anything & I don’t think any goverment can be faulted for that.
    One thing is being ignorant.Another thing is not wanting to know & painting politics into matters that require hard work & focus.
    It seems that we have made politics as an escape valve to run away from what we are supposed to face as real men.
    I would like to beleave that we can use communication skills by transmiting value.Good value.Universal values.
    It makes me wounder what a RD has to contribute to building society?
    Intelect & academics are as good as we as individuals are able to translate what we learned into positive constructive actions.
    History is as important as understanding events in the context of the times.Because we leave in a dynamic world.Civilizations have survived & evolved because people have learned to adpat to the changinging times.
    Society is about human beings.Before there can be politics we must first be dissent human beings.That have a sence of responsibility for each other.
    Having simpathy for the poor does not mean anything if one does not make a difference in their quality of life.
    We will just be another “wawawee” that creates illussions & baseless dreams.
    Problems are made to be solved.What is wrong why we can’t seem to solve problems like the rest of the world does?
    Is it because we have a penchant to highlight all that is negative & ugly?
    Is it because we waist so much time in fighting “personalities” & turn our backs to the hard work needed?
    What is the bottom line?That we are feeding on peoples being paranoid & weakneses? For what purpose?
    at the end of our days, maybe we should ask ourselves what universal values have we communicated.
    Maybe our problem is that we do not have the courage to think out of the box.
    We seem to have so many points of disconnect from the real world & our idealissims.
    Does he inspire people to do better?Most of all that he say anything new, or is he just feeding the peoples illussions & dreams.
    Are we better & more resposible citizens after?
    rather then attacking & exploiting situations & forums.We should be more concerned to being better citizens.

  3. Jon Mariano

    I have the impression that Randy David’s speech is very good summary of the national situation. There was an anylysis of what has happened to our institutions, then he offers a vision for the future, then the things that needs to be done (his idea, which i find appealing).

    Joey, aside from spellchecking, kindly mold and structure your thoughts more logically. You feel so strongly about issues but you are putting your ideas in a roundabout way. MS Word has a very good spellchecker, just press PF7, or Click on tools then Spelling and Grammar, it will then check on your spelling and grammar and offer suggestions. (It would mean that you will write your comments in MS Word first, check it for spelling and grammar, then cut and paste into the comment box of this blog, or other blogs). Please don’t take offense in this comment.

  4. joey

    no problem jon, altjough don’t have the time to do all that stuff

  5. Karl

    Being a master of the art of typo myself…

    Would like to comment…mine was a result of submitting without reading first and sometimes I am tactless that is why i have many comments not posted…

    But I don’t do it on purpose… and Mr. Legarda(Joey) I think you are already doing it on purpose as in cell phone texter (sms) style…

    Lets thank manolo for allowing us to have opposing views and lively discussions..but let’s not over do it..please

  6. Karl

    Fidel Castro
    Longer than than the reign of Saddam,Suharto or longer than most if not all 20th century leaders and he is still strong…(correct me if I am wrong)
    Whether or not the reason behind him staying is out of fear or respect;This should not make us think that there is no hope for reform…

  7. Jon Mariano

    In the four things that Randy David said need to be done, education should be given the highest priority. For even our national hero Jose Rizal believed in it as the key to end the shackles of Spain. Educated people will make for a better society, and it can help achieve the other three things he mentioned are essential for our future as a nation. Of course, the devil will be in the details how to achieve them.

    (Nobody is immune to the “Typo” syndrome, that’s why it’s good to check your comments before posting it, if you can. I’m using the text based web browser named Lynx and I can’t use cut and paste with it so I actually cannot do a spelling check before posting. Lynx is nice to use at the workplace, it’s not very obvious that you’re surfing the net, or posting comments.)

  8. mlq3

    joey, we profoundly differ on the point of politics -i happen to think it is indivisible from any kind of human endeavor. the problems start precisely when people think politics can be separated from human activities.

  9. joey

    no i’m not karl, just that typing is not my forte but will try to work on it, thanks anyway

  10. joey

    yes manolo, everytime i write i realize that.although i do agree that there is politics in everything.
    i also ask myself if politics be our guide first or do we know how to detach ourselves from it when times call for doing the right things.
    pgma’s reform agenda for exsample.extremly unpopular, almost like doing political suicide.if we look at the political side of it.any leader will think twice & will most probably compramise at the end & leave it for someone else to do.just like has been happening for ages in our country.in a way so as not to provoke contreversy.
    but bitter as the pill is, we also see that it was the right thing to do.
    we are such a left behind country.why is it so?
    we need so many pratical laws for our country.why is it not happening?
    there are so many things that need to be done.why are they not happening?
    from my point of view.we have inserted politics into everything.
    is it correct to having done so?
    politics is not about black & white. it’s about the shades of gray.question is, is it doing our country good? is it inspiring the people to be better?
    or just like the pinoy saying goes – weather weather lang – panapanahon –
    what kind of culture are we cultivating?
    what true vales is it giving us?
    manolo, let’s face it.the politics we have is not of statesmen of the past.that was when the world was different.
    manolo, how can something that is profiting only a few be so correct?
    i’m aware because of so much politics crafted laws becomes just another toothless law like many that we have and it’s all because of political considerations & protecting interest.we can’t even come up w/ an anti terrorist law. why? now we also need a crowd managment law.so how many lightyears do we have to wait.
    politics has influenced our motives to be selfserving insted of doing things for the nation.
    do we really have to use politics in everything even when it does not bring us concret results?
    we are just more divide, more judgmental, partisan, critical, so many false prophets poping-up.
    where does this all bring us?
    what do we have to show?

  11. renmin

    Speaking of spell-checking…conundrum 😉

  12. mlq3

    ay hala thanks renmin!

  13. Carl

    By and large, there’s little to disagree with what Prof. David says, although I wish he could have been more specific, especially on how to carry out the basic tasks he enumerates.

    I’m also a bit skeptical when he says that “Filipinos want a whole new set of leaders…They want a new nation
    equipped for survival in a globalized world they are just starting to discover”. I personally agree with that, but can I say that all Filipinos yearn for that, too? The more educated ones, including most OFW’s, would probably think along those lines, but I am frequently in touch with people in the provinces and I know that they will continue to vote for the same leaders that are presently in place. I do not agree with this feudal, paternalistic kind of relationship, but it would be foolish to simply dismiss it.

    I do think that OFW’s will play an important role in Philippine politics in the future. I do believe that they will bring in a new consciousness. However, I do not think it will impact right now. I think it will have its impact in a few years.

    I would also like to know how to “end the scourge of absolute poverty once and for all, no matter what it takes”. To me this can only be achieved by continously growing the economy. It would mean creating wealth and building up sectors and industries, not quick fixes or Robin Hood-type gimmicks that simply confiscate or penalize those who have.

    No one can argue against educating “everyone of our people, especially the young, in order to equip them for living in a highly competitive world” but I’d like to know more about how this can be done. I don’t think anyone in this country is against education, but how do we organize and secure the logistics to get it done?

    I also don’t think anyone is against efforts “to rebuild the physical infrastructure of our country, and to protect its environment from long-term damage”, but the logistics have to be there. And secondly, what infrastructures do we prioritize? Farm to market roads? Post-harvest facilities? Ports? Rail services? What regions will be given priorities?

    I do hope to see more specific proposals and programs.

  14. Marcus Aurelius

    Politics is indeed bound tightly with all human endeavours.

    There are office politics, there are politics that go in charitable orgniazations, there are politics in government…

    Quite often we hear people say “its important we need to keep the politics out of it” (e.g. national defense, war on terror etc) but so long as two or more people disagree on something there will always be politics.

  15. carding

    =) 😛

  16. carding

    wowowie. oooopsss flooding na yata 😛

  17. johnxxv

    Just a thought…

    The system of government is a tool to realize the ideals of a group of people. It promotes economic ends within the larger context of promoting its ideals. The tragedy of our nation is that we dont have a system to speak of and the ideals that we want to pursue collectively. Right now, the present elite is allowed to arbitrarily define the ends of the nation such there is no coherence of the Philippine nation as a concept.

    Western democracy’s ideal is freedom, if its concept is simplified to its bones. Communism’s ideal is equality.

    For me, the ideal worth pursuing is living and loving. Freedom and equality are subordinate to life and love.

    I have given up on the present elite (political, economic, or cultural) in pursuit of any ideal outside power as an ideal. Resignation is liberating. It liberates me from waiting for anyone to pursue an ideal. It empowers me to pursue the ideal that I believe in.

  18. a de brux

    MLQ3,

    I’m terribly sorry but I do not share the overall enthusiasm over Randy David’s lecture by the bloggers here.

    Yes, Mr David’s lecture was brilliant! It was a magnificent piece of political analysis that contained sound recommendations but he stopped short when it came to the crunch… Why? I don’t understand. He had a great opportunity because he was in a formidable forum; he could have have made a decision to make a clean break yet he didnt. Why not?

    He said that the people are asking: “Who will replace her?” That was unfortunate! It sounded so symptomatic of a middle force that cannot decide, a sort of apology of some kind. It was an anti-climax to what should have been a brilliant piece of thinking. In other words, it was as if the lecture had been a dud, i.e., “Hey guys, that’s how it is so, there’s nothing we can do about it…”

    When Randy David said that we should focus on re-building the nation, etc. I beg to disagree: One cannot focus on re-building our country without demolishig the worm-infested foundations and he should have said it.

    Come on, these are difficult times, so difficult decisions have to be made and difficult measures must be adopted. If people from the middle force or class, the intelligentsia, the educated or schooled class, cannot make an absolute commitment, they might as well keep quiet.

    Randy David’s speech in spite of its brilliant syntax, the near perfect formulation (and I’m sure the aplomb with which he delivered it to an awed audience) lacked the meaty substance we would have expected from a thinker of his caliber.

    To me, you can’t re-build a country, improve the lot of your people, overturn an obstacle on mere rhetoric. You need to commit, you must state what that commitment is and most of all, you must act on it!

    “But there is no alternative!” or “Who will replace her?” is just not acceptable.

    He should have said: “Gloria Macapagal must go!”

  19. Jon Mariano

    To me, saying “Gloria is history” is already a call for her to go. Saying it as clearly and as directly as Anna wants is just another way of saying it. Asking “who will replace her”, is a call to the listeners to decide for themselves who shall replace Gloria.

  20. a de brux

    I wish you were right Jon.

  21. Gorilla

    It is good to see such a lively discussion. For my part I wish to point out that as with most things change starts from within. As someone else said here… at the heart of it all is good values. Start by cleaning house locally and moving up and out from there. Hold the local politician accountable and then move up from there.

  1. The Public Thing » The National Situation

    […] An interesting speech I want to share here concerning my homeland– the Philippines. […]

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    […] An interesting speech I want to share here concerning my homeland– the Philippines. […]

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