My column for today is An unnecessary breakdown in distribution. I have been trying to keep up with The Rice Problem (GMANews.tv has a microsite going, too, The Price of Rice). See in particular, Long lines for rice not the first time in RP history.
But (as an unpublished entry for this blog, postponed and repeatedly revised indicates) it’s tough going. Maybe mañana! For now, what puzzles me is that the government, according to some people who formerly served in it, engaged in mapping the poor areas of the country, with food and patronage in mind. Why then, has government been stumbling around since the Rice Problem began?
Right now, as the Inquirer editorial for today, Immediate need puts it, the political pressure’s increasing for wages to be raised, in response to the Rice Problem.
At the sidelines of the conference I attended, people were quite curious about the Philippines and quite surprised to hear such a big percentage of the population was abroad.
“Why?” they would ask.
“Poverty and the absence of social mobilty,” was my short answer, which would then lead to a longer answer (if there was time).
On to something that occured in my absence.
I read with interest in Ambeth Ocampo’s column, that Rizal translated Déclaration des Droits de l’homme et du Citoyen de 1789 (Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen) into Tagalog. This is of course one of the great historical documents of Western (and World) civilization and brings me to a question asked by in frustration in reaction to my recent column, Resistance isn’t futile.
This is, to my mind, actually the formation of a Reform Constituency, which I’ve discussed at some lengths in my March 4, 2008 entry Dodging concrete demands, (see, in addition, Minimum and maximum from February 20, 2008) to wit:
I believe, in light of the above, the urgent need is for:
1. The middle forces to consolidate and pursue a consensus;
2. And having forged that consensus to consider that while some are more focused on the President, and others on longer-lasting and more wide-spread reforms, the two are not incompatible if their goal is a Reform Constituency that can challenge the Right and the Left not just now, or 2010, but beyond.
(And reference to John Nery’s column, as to the role protest, etc. plays in building this constituency; as well as links to the constituencies other people have identified; see also Randy David’s What Among Ed’s victory means -and it did not mean a grassroots revolt; the danger is it might represent the Last Hurrah of the old elite and middle class of Pampanga).
I mentioned the need for a Reform Constituency in my column, The civic imperative: a reflection (which appeared during Holy Week, oh well) on March 19, 2008:
The challenge proposed in the pastoral letter of Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales is whether citizens can cultivate the kind of civic spirit that keeps up the fight day in and day out, and turns a temporary victory in the streets into a triumph of the public good.
In other words, the cultivation of a Reform Constituency, which helps officials by keeping them on their toes, protects gains achieved for the public good, and offers up prospects of preserving what has been built, but extending and enlarging those gains, as well…
The clarion call of our times, then, unites faith with reason. To rebuild a civic culture. To have a common ground in shared values based on a shared belief in how the system ought to work. Our particular political objectives are secondary to this. It is our generation’s mission.
And as I discussed in a reply to a comment also on March 19, 2008:
those who want the president to go, but do not accomplish it before 2010 -but along the way, make it impossible for her to perpetuate herself in office beyond that, then that is an achievement that makes the vigilance from 2005-2010 worth it. if it results in lakas-kampi being trounced at the polls, better yet, come 2010, or if it results in the beginning of the end for them, politically, and the rise of a reform constituency that may not win in 201 but begins to flex its muscles and does even better by 2016, then that’s great, too.
If this requires refighting old battles and re-stating old issues again and again, even if it drives some people up the wall, because some things have to restated until properly internalized, then so be it. One big difference in perspective: in his April 18th, 2008 5:42 pm comment, cocoy speaks of “aging 20th century playbooks,” and if your perspective believes a mere 100 years is, indeed, enough to make ideas obsolete, then of course the frustration will be intense. But a few centuries here or there don’t invalidate ideas, to my mind, just as generations passing serves to underscore certain basics about human behavior -including the behavior of those with power and those challenging power and the way it’s wielded.
But it may be that the battles that need to be fought today -and they need to be fought, sometimes along tried and tested lines but also, recognizing that people change and what worked yesterday won’t work today, I’ve also pointed out often enough why this is happening- make some people think that the Reform Constituency isn’t coming together.
It is, and there are tangible signs.
The most tangible of which is Anti-graft bloc, law schools to catch big fish (this effort goes beyond catching big fishes; it’s also establishing the good will and sense of a common cause that will bear fruit in other projects, too; I’m involved in a sub-project that aims to produce charts and diagrams that will help make sense of evidence as its gathered, and also, help illustrate to school kids and citizens how government institutions and procedures ought to work, and show cases where they haven’t worked, or have been subverted by officials).
The Jester-in-Exile has more about it (well, the launching activity, at least) in The Right to Know - Shall We Exercise It, or Shall Our Blindness be Voluntary? and with videos, too, in Filipino Voices — Speak Up. Be Heard. (Else, remain silent and be damned yourselves thereby.)
Responses to my column include The Marocharim Experiment writing of “hinanakit,” but it’s cocoy who really got people thinking: see The Jester-in-Exile’s Because We Must, and Rom’s (aka smoke) Must we? Which, in turn, led to a riposte by cocoy in Because We Can Change the Dynamics of the Game. cocoy expands his views on a New Political Party in Empower Tomorrow (essential, accompanying reading in this vein is A Comprehensive Proposal for an EDSA Reform (edited) by Writer’s Block). As a side note, perhaps we also differ, deeply, in our attitudes towards parties. By instinct, I oppose the idea of political parties, period, because I believe by their nature parties exist to secure jobs for their members, and you have centuries of human behavior and party histories to prove this. In the Philippines’ case, see my Arab News column, The Same Mistakes Eventually. I am more inclined to Making political parties obsolete and exploring Partyless Democracy as a concept (as some people from India are doing), and tying it all together as much as possible, see Politics is a continuum:
1. Politics is a continuum.
2. Politics is about both issues and personalities.
3. When an government is subjected to a referendum the totality of its actions are what’s being judged.
The differences in opinion, I’d suggest, boils down to whether cocoy’s belief that old methods must simply be scrapped, or whether the reason they exist points to their efficacy and efficaciousness; and whether the priority can be binding the nation’s wounds, on the basis of letting bygones be bygones because a larger, more abstract, problem needs to be attended to. The abstract problem, after all, has a pretty big consensus behind it: that it exists, and that what exists is a political system out of whack because society’s out of whack. Can you nudge it back into shape? There’s the rub. Of course the most extreme view, and a large part of the problem, are those expounded by New Philippine Revolution: that elections are a sham, that no change has taken place; the justification for revolution by insisting there’s no such thing as evolution.
Or we can simply Blame it on the heat.
In other matters,Conrado de Quiros calls attention to Chess prodigy Wesley So, and how we do well in only three sports: boxing, billiards -and boxing. So three cheers for Wesley! Note how Chess is a popular pastime among many Filipinos, even if public attention isn’t paid to that fact. I admire Chess players, particularly since I’m extremely lousy at it.
Why the Pope wears red shoes was quite unsatisfactory. An infinitely better read is Vintage Vestments: The Philosophical Threads Woven Into Papal Garments or From the House of Benedict, Tradition as Chic in The New York Times (2006) and the full summary of the source, The House of Benedict: The Full Summaries (see older entries still, like Camauro Here Often?) from the must-read blog on everything Vatican-related, Whispers in the Loggia.