In the news: RP April inflation at 8.3 percent yr/yr; highest since 2005. John Mangun advises, Get out of the PSE now.
Leonor Briones says there’s the danger that rice stockpiled in public schools may be devoured by rats before the rice can be given to schoolchildren. Her column reminded me of something I didn’t quite understand, at the time I’d heard it. Dinky Soliman said she was against using public schools to distribute rice relief to the poor, telling me of stories involving kids being mugged as they staggered home, and cases where families sold the rice instead of feeding it to their kids, but it seemed to me as good a means for distributing relief as any. But Briones explains the problem with the program:
I talked to a number of municipal mayors when I made a presentation on the Millennium Development Goals last Wednesday. I asked them about the picture of happy children and their kilo of rice. My simple question: How was the rice distributed to the children in April when classes closed as early as March?
A mayor from a Visayan town smiled and admitted that there was something wrong with the timing of the delivery of rice. When the rice finally reached the poor municipalities, the children were already gone for summer vacation.
A mayor from Mindanao complained that the DepEd program was not coordinated with the mayors. He agreed that the rice arrived too late for the children. “So where is the rice intended for them?” I asked. “They are stored inside the classrooms while waiting for the children to return in June,” he answered. “The rats!” I exclaimed in alarm, “The rats will eat the children’s rice!”
Someone in the group drawled, “Which specie of rats? The four-legged variety with tails or the two-legged kind without tails”?
Rice intended for children have an inexplicable way of arriving only after the kids have gone for summer vacation. This has been going on for a number of years. It happened this year, as recounted by the mayors. It also happened last year and the year before.
Amando Doronila speaks of a Mekong rice conspiracy .
Someone who used to be involved in the Roco campaign once told me that perhaps the most effective post-Edsa reform, was the imposition of term limits. By restricting politicians to a fixed number of terms, the Constitution made possible the transfer of office from elders to younger leaders, who, by virtue of the fact that they’re younger, have a higher chance of instituting innovations in governance. A Newsbreak article, Most governors still from political clans, but with varied trainings reminded me of this observation:
A good number of governors, however, no longer fit the stereotype of politicians’ children filling in their parents’ shoes even before they could practice in the field they studied in college. Forty-five out of 58 (77.58 percent) had practiced as businessmen, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and professors before their foray into politics…
Twenty-four of 58 governors (41.37 percent) were businessmen or businesswomen before they assumed elective positions. Ten of the 58 governors in the survey (17.24 percent) were working as lawyers, while five (or 8.62 percent) were doctors or health professionals.
A big majority of the governors (70.68 percent) have a bachelor’s degree. Governors with master’s degree accounted for 17.24 percent, while those with doctorate degrees (PhDs and MDs) accounted for 8.62 percent.
More than one-third of them (36.20 percent) studied business-related courses – business administration, management, commerce, economics, and accountancy – while 32.74 percent were able to obtain a law degree.
The dynastic nature of politics hasn’t changed, but as I’ve pointed out time and again, this isn’t surprising considering the dynastic nature of Asian politics in general (e.g. Japan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and an emerging dynastic trend in China) and Philippine society in particular (families of lawyers, doctors, etc.). The organization of society according to clan kinship survives, in its purest form (arguably) in Muslim Mindanao (see the description of the book, Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao).
An interesting point to consider is to what extent resentment against the dominance of political families is widespread, or not: is it resentment against non-performing families in particular localities, or a more comprehensive objection to family-based politics? Is it a question of modernity clashing with traditional society, that is, a purely meritocratic mentality fed up with hierarchical notions of society, or simply a new kind of pseudoaristocratic coalition clashing with the existing powers-that-be (same urge to control, just a desire for a new brand)?
James Fallows, in his blog, points to a contest in which readers were asked to identify “the stupidest policy ever.” The winner?
Hundreds of entries later, the results are clear. An absolute majority of contestants spoke in favor of … mandates and subsidies for ethanol use as the stupidest manifestation of bipartisan public policy in the last 50 years.
Speaking of biofuels, on April 8, VeraFiles published Ethical lapses mark passage of biofuels law, which has led to an angry response by Sec. Gary Teves, and a snippy reply by VeraFiles.
Incidentally, this week’s episode of The Explainer was uploaded by some kind soul to YouTube. You can watch it in five parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. Hat tip to Geeky Rockstar.
In the blogosphere, discussion on blogging and the media continues.
This is a debate between people who slaved away to obtain a degree in a field of specialization, and people who are engaged in the same kind of activity but on a part-time basis and without formal training. Formerly, journalists had to contend with the literati, who sniffed that journalism isn’t literature at all; and you have academic historians peering down their noses at people who write “popular history,” etc. Now bloggers have taken the opposite tack: challenging the experts and calling into question the relevance of their credentials. See Marck Ronald Rimorin’s The Us-Against-Them Mentality in the Blogging vs. MSM Debate, and J’s Thoughts on blogging v. traditional journalism. Cocoy weighs in with Zeitgeist: Why Blogging v. Traditional Journalism is More than That.
I had a discussion with The Jester-in-Exile concerning my view that bloggers are Pamphleteers in electronic guise, while he views the blogosphere as a Speaker’s Corner. We began this discussion a year ago but at the last iBlog resumed it, and I countered that for now, the Pamphleteer model makes more sense because a blogger can blog without allowing comments, and thus, doesn’t have to welcome debate. Which doesn’t mean some sort of conversation isn’t taking place -ever writer conducts a dialogue with the reader. And while people may generally agree freewheeling comments are a bonus, they are not a fundamental requirement. Perhaps, if video blogging replaces written blogs, then the Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner model will be triumphant. Then again, as Robert McHenry pointed out last year in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, the more things change, the more they stay the same:
Try this: for “orator” read instead “politician,” and for “ingenious critics” substitute “newspaper columnists” or, if your prefer, “bloggers.”
Few contemporary public figures would dare address an audience quite so bluntly, warning them, in essence, that they are too easily led by pundits and office-seekers who are only eager to parade their cleverness before their fellow citizens. So just how archaic is this speech?
This particular English-language version is by the great Oxford scholar Benjamin Jowett, translating from the Greek of Thucydides. The speaker is Cleon, an Athenian politician of the “I’m just a plain man, I don’t make fancy speeches, I just tell the truth” variety that we are still quite familiar with.
Another article, also in the Encyclopedia Britannica blog, is When Appearances Rule: The Perils of Periclean Democracy, by Joseph Lane:
However, the bigger context of Plutarch’s Pericles is useful to understanding this development. In the opening of the biography, Plutarch claims that there is a real difference between poets and sculptors who make something “beautiful in appearance” and statesmen who actually “benefit others by their actions.”
Over the course of the narrative, that seemingly firm distinction is stealthily but steadily erased as Plutarch reveals that Pericles’ reputation as one of the greatest statesmen of antiquity is itself little more than a carefully cultivated appearance created by the protagonist’s collaboration with a series of political “artists” who help him craft the facade of great successes. The Acropolis building project (for which Pericles is still celebrated) proves to be little more than a grandiose jobs program. It was designed to secure Pericles the votes that he needed to maintain a constant hold on the highest elective offices. During this reign of more than two decades of political dominance, Pericles “rules” by constantly inflaming and manipulating the population’s aspirations to be “great” and “beautiful” while leading Athens steadily towards bankruptcy and a war she cannot win. Our celebration of him, Plutarch suggests, is little more than evidence that we are easily fooled by the “appearances of beautiful things.”
From Thucydides to Pericles via Plutarch, and by extension their heirs the Propagandists of our own birthing as a nation: the ancient model of the Pamphleteer -who does with the written word what the Orator does with the spoken word- points, in a sense, to the continuing importance of rhetoric. The glitter of words can, indeed, be fool’s gold -but it is, sometimes, the only treasure the past can bequeath the present.
An interesting examination of how the rhetoric hasn’t wilted, but bloomed, thanks to technology, is undertaken by Mary Stuckey in How Technology and Online News Saved Political Rhetoric.
Anyway, just as not every blog welcomes or even accepts comments, one has to ask whether any real consensus exists on blogging as a conversation. People have been having conversations with the written word and with authors even if the writers have predeceased the reader.
And it has to be asked to what extent online publishing has been revolutionary.
The invention of the printing press made possible the widespread, accurate, reproduction of texts. Its manifestation is the neighborhood public library instead of royal and monastic collections, and yes, the challenging of authority, particularly religious authority.
The Internet made possible the instantaneous distribution of information across time zones and borders. It has no manifestation because of its virtual nature.
The permanence, then, of knowledge has been lost; as has the durability of information.
Entire books have vanished because card catalogs were dispensed with but any error in the encoding of data into computer systems means a misclassified book is an inaccessible book -a book that might as well have been destroyed, and will remain a lost book until rules once again allow readers to freely browse library stacks, a rare privilege these days.
The question then, is what is the implication when hieroglpyhs can still be read, cuneiform can still be decoded, but yesterday’s op-ed piece in the Philippine Star is so difficult to track down as to be lost forever; anything from Inq7.net says is basically gone, links do not persist, whatever appeared on line in Today Newspaper has disappeared without a trace -save, perhaps, a dead link in some comment thread.
A broken hard disk can lose as much written knowledge as was lost when fires and plunder destroyed the Great Library at Alexandria over a period of centuries. The person caught up in the Zeitgeist will not care to consult the original texts, though they’re preserved in the libraries, because if not available instanenously and in soft copy, it’s not worth retrieving -meaning, human civilization prior to the 1990s has never been more at risk since the Dark Ages following the collapse of the Roman Empire or the Cultural Revolution in China.