BLUEPRINT FOR OUR FUTURE
Part One of this essay is made up of excerpts from the books “Beyond Terror” and “Fighting for the Future” by Ralph Peters that I have attempted to apply to the Philippine context on my own initiative. The ideas contained in those two books seek to inspire change. I have no delusions that this essay will have an immediate influence on our way of life or how our country and its government bureaucracy operate. No single article, not even a dozen can drastically change the way our country, its citizenry and the bureaucracy function. Reforming a bureaucracy requires broad-based, non-stop grinding in order to shape it into a more efficient organization. I hope that others will understand and also contribute and together, we can work for a cumulative, positive impact. No individual has a monopoly on all the essential questions, much less all the useful answers to them. Each individual on the long road to change must be content to make his or her contribution on the collective effort to build a strong, globally competitive Republic.
REJECTION OF THE WESTERN MODEL
We are entering a second phase of the rejection of the West. The first phase of the rejection began in the wake of the First World War. Colonial subjects who had received Western educations founded national liberation movements that aimed to remove the Western presence from their homelands while retaining Western-style institutions and values, either democratic or socialist grafted to the indigenous culture. This phase culminated in the post-Second World War collapse of empires. From Africa through Asia, newly free states, while distancing themselves rhetorically from Western examples, sought to become European with a native face. Even as many of these states drifted into authoritarian or even totalitarian rule, they retained the formal structures and economic ambitions of the West—while clinging to their European-drawn borders. The most pernicious legacy of colonialism was the example—and physical dimensions—of the nation state, which no emerging country could transcend.
Today, what appears to our eyes as a tumult of religious fundamentalism, nationalism, tribalism, and dissolution of social order in many countries around the world is, in fact, an understandable, though not preventable, response to the failure of Western governmental and social systems to flourish in the soil of other cultures. It signals an impending revision of borders on a massive scale and a process of redefining statehood while breaking the bonds of “legitimate” governmental structures. Hybrid forms of traditional modes of social organization are emerging, slowly and painfully, and relationships between those governing and those governed increasingly reject the Western model. Having failed miserably in competition on Western terms, otherwise disparate populations in Africa, Asia, and the European borderlands are attempting to develop or reconstruct their own terms of political, social and economic organization. This is not a conscious or rational process, but an instinctive fight for survival. For all of the pan-Asian, pan-African or pan-Arab rhetoric about third paths and alternative models of development, residents of the third world tacitly view the West as the standard by which they need to measure themselves. They struggled to become like those whom they reviled, and failed. Now, inarticulately enraged by the evidence of that failure, these broken states are attempting to do no less than to detach themselves from the developed world. The sole concession they are willing to make is to accept those Western material items to which they are addicted to and with which they cannot supply themselves, such as armaments and videodisc players. Otherwise, these states, from Algeria to Zaire, from Iran to Serbia, are plunging willfully backward into the embrace of the old familiar, be it the penitentiary of religion, an opiate vision of a lost golden age, or simply the primal fury of the have-not. The question we must ask is: “Will the Philippines end up joining the ranks of these broken states?”
The clans, tribes, belief groups, and peoples who are in the process of attempting to reject the West are not fully cognizant of what they are doing. For radical Islamic fundamentalists, the West is a clearer target than it is for the African rebel at a roadblock or the Filipino slum dweller attacking the gates of Malacanang Palace. Yet neither of the three can identify or recognize the full range of stimuli and impulses behind their rage and violent behavior.
How and why has this volatile situation come about? What can we do about it?
First of all, we must think objectively, without bias and slash through the inherited beliefs that one never thinks to examine and to defy the “wise men” who must bear the responsibility for society’s current failures. If we are to achieve any useful understanding of the underlying reasons behind the “senseless violence” and the logic of what so often appears to us to be illogically destructive behavior, we must strive to cleanse ourselves of the received prejudices current in modern society. We must seek an “extraterrestrial” view—one that looks at the current problems as an entity from an intellectual remove. This is, of course, not wholly possible. Many paradigms, from the universal efficiency of democracy to the inherent morality of the human animal, are proving to be wrong, so much so that we need to seek as neutral a vantage point as we can achieve.
We must ask hard questions about our past, our culture, inherited beliefs and prejudices. “Why has the Philippines failed to take off economically or mature politically?” Despite some progress, the situation remains totally unsatisfactory. For the Philippines, the first phase of rejection began in earnest during the 1898 Revolution against Spain. This phase culminated when the country won its sovereignty from the United States in 1946. The EDSA 1 Revolution in 1986 was a victory of democracy over authoritarianism. The EDSA 2 as well as the so-called EDSA 3 Revolutions in 2001 should be viewed as the modern day Filipinos’ response to the failure of the Western governmental and social models to work in this country and constitutes a second phase of rejection.
Is the Philippines really a nation-state, or is it actually an archipelago of indigenous tribes that was lumped together when Spain “sold” its interests in this country to the United States for twenty million dollars? Who are we really? Are we Filipinos or are we Aetas, Batanguenos, Bicolanos, Bulakenos, Cavitenos, Cebuanos, Davaoenos, Ilocanos, Ifugaos, Pampanguenos, etc. with little or no collective interest and civic responsibility beyond our provincial boundaries?
KEY CULTURAL DEFICIENCIES
When Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines in 1521, he found flourishing communities of Malays who lived mainly by fishing, farming, and trading. The natives, the Spaniards complained, were lazy. Land was commonly held and harvests were shared. No one had to work very hard because no one was racing to amass wealth. Nature was bountiful and basic subsistence did not require much work.
The Spaniards colonized the Philippines and used it as a way station for trade with the East. Soon there arose a Filipino elite whose interests were best served by allying themselves with the colonizers. These local elite inherited the mentality of our early Spanish conquerors whose aristocratic lifestyle was supported by the easy wealth provided by vast tracts of agricultural land and tenant labor. The conquistadors themselves arrived here in a corrupt state. The Spanish mentality of the 1500s had been strongly shaped by the Moors. From their Moorish overlords and adversaries, the Spanish nobility and warrior class developed a series of prejudices against manual labor and commercial enterprise. To the Spanish gentleman or would-be gentleman, the only acceptable tool was the sword. Other Europeans had a touch of this, but grew out of it, while the Spanish worldview atrophied. For the North European, life centers around labor, the ideal result of which is the achievement that allows labor to continue on a higher plane. To the Spanish elite (and the Filipinos who inherited this vision as well) their vision of the ideal life is that of a rich, landed aristocrat (haciendero) whose life is physically luxurious—one who need not work again. The ideal result of labor is the attainment of leisure. This is a very different worldview from that of a telephone lineman for example, who wins the lottery only to report back to work Monday morning.
The Spanish ruling class also brought a codex of loyalty owed only to God, the ruler, and the self (also a Moorish socio-political framework), thus putting a low premium on any collective or civic responsibility. These Spanish legacies that Filipinos inherited combined with pre-existing Malay traits are factors that continue to hamper the country’s development up to this day.
Liberal critics will argue that the “failed” cultures of Africa and Asia were victims of colonialism. Yet no African and no Islamic countries were colonized for so long or so harshly by Europe as was Korea by Japan. Singapore and Hong Kong exist because they were colonies. And Iran, although its shahs were sometimes made or unmade by foreign powers, was never a colony. Colonialism was responsible for many ills, but it ultimately falls short as an explanation for chronic underdevelopment. China was as sullied by foreign interlopers as was Egypt, and Japan suffered a military defeat in living memory that inflicted more human and material damage in real terms than did any colonial regime since the Spanish conquest of southerly America. In contrast, the more enlightened colonial regimes left functioning infrastructures and educated elites to manage them.
The Philippines won its independence from the United States in 1946, but it did not actually win real “independence” from America. The Philippines may have rid itself of American rule but not of American ideas. Filipinos embraced democracy, the American form of government and our economy relied on capitalism. By all intents and purposes, the Philippines should have succeeded in its efforts at self-development. The population retained a store of revolutionary energy. The Americans left an austere infrastructure and an educated elite (some of the infrastructure was destroyed during World War II). The country is rich in natural resources that could provide funds for development. Parity ties with America provided investments and jobs in the metropolis that served as opportunities for young Filipinos, as well as a wide variety of tutelary relations.
After a short, initial flurry of economic development, the Philippines began to decline. As in other countries, corruption spread and deformed the state. The government became addicted to deficit spending and made the classic mistake of linear extrapolation of future revenues. Since tax revenues were rising in the 1970s, they must continue to rise. Ambitious development schemes were paid for with supposedly cheap petrodollar loans that were in turn, calculated for repayment against anticipated future income. But the economy did not grow consistently as planned. Investment funds went into classically wrong projects and into individual businessmen’s and corrupt politicians’ pockets. Filipinos discovered that peaceful development was far more difficult than insurrection against a galvanizing oppressor.
While individual state failures might be blamed upon a lack of oil resources or transportation infrastructure, on collapsed ore prices and overpopulation, the unifying denominator in the inability to compete with the West governmentally, militarily, economically, and socially is culture. The noncompetitiveness of some cultures, such as the Arab-Persian Islamic or sub-Saharan African cultures, is highlighted by the success of other cultures in taking charge of their own destinies—despite a near-total lack of resources, the ravages of war, and a slow start out of the gate. The economic powerhouses of East Asia—Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, upstart South Korea, and, perhaps, gigantic China with its gigantic problems—have each come from behind with sufficient force to make the traditional West, of which they are becoming an effective part, very nervous.
In all of the failed or threatened countries around the world, there are two salient cultural deficiencies. There is little or no sense of responsibility for individual or collective actions, and there is no tradition of political compromise.
If you want a clear contrast between Western and Filipino culture, for instance, consider what happens when something goes terribly wrong. Contemporary Westerners blame themselves collectively and bawl over their deficiencies—we’re slackers on the job or we’ve allowed our school systems to play intellectual hooky, we’ve done a bad job of raising our kids or our culture is a domain of Dead White Males. When things go wrong in Manila, Filipinos, from the top down, shrug their shoulders and point the blame at foreigners, the previous administrations, the political opposition, the will of God or simply his neighbor.
The West has evolved into a mea culpa culture, and Westerners have likely allowed their penchant for self-flagellation to reach an unhealthy extreme. But it is this willingness to find fault with themselves which, when kept within the bounds of social sanity, spurs us to accomplishment. “Its time to roll up our sleeves…We’ll do better next time.” In cultures where all cause is external, “Inshallah” or as in the Philippine context, “Ang Diyos ang bahala”, the individual and his collective “believe” that there is nothing they can do, since any human effort to improve or fix things will be a waste of time. Everything that happens is by the will of God. It is a very comforting but at the same time, utterly debilitating way to view the world.
Even if this is the stuff of nineteenth century primers, it nonetheless bears out in historical and living examples. Cultures that do not have a mature sense of responsibility cannot compete with those that do. The East Asian states such as Japan and South Korea that are so powerfully competitive with the historical West each stand on a culture that fixes responsibility. In the Philippines on the other hand, there are two enduring questions posed by men since the nineteenth century: “What needs to be done?” and “Who is responsible?” The first is answered with a fatalistic shrug of the shoulders, and the answer to the second question is never “I am” or “We are”.
Political compromise is essential to both democracy and nontotalitarian socialism. The Western countries that developed and perfected democracy each have developed traditions which encourage compromise in the political, economic, and social spheres. In the European Border States where democracy remains problematic, and in the failed cultures of the world, compromise is regarded as weakness, except where specific survival-essential compromises have been codified by tradition. Life is seen as a zero-sum game, and the leader who compromises implies that he is too weak to do anything else. Compromise is seen as a capitulation of manhood, as the gesture of a fool. This cripples democracy in Russia and attempts at dialog with the Islamic opposition in Egypt; it prevents tribal harmony in South Africa and promotes intolerance in Iran. Odd, somehow, to think that the jewels of Western culture may be so mundane: a sense of responsibility and the ability to compromise.
Entire books have been and will be written about the failure of post-colonial states to compete politically and economically. Depending on the bias of the author or professorial collective, past and current developmental disasters are blamed upon CIA plots or the malevolence of multinational corporations, on the International Monetary Fund, incorrect investment decisions, or the proxy wars of the Cold War. Rather harder to find in print is the possibility that some cultures simply may not be able to compete with other cultures.
Our population has reached 80 million and is steadily increasing which leads to greater urbanization as the countryside and traditional structures cannot support the additional offspring and the cities appear to offer better economic opportunity and a more attractive lifestyle. But our economy cannot create jobs as quickly as we are creating job seekers. Our cities will continue to see an increase in the unemployed and underemployed masses. This will result in an even further breakdown in traditional structures and values. In the end, the eventual outlet for a lifetime of frustration and unemployment is rage and violence.
It is a truism that throughout much of the 20th century the income gap between top and bottom narrowed, whether we speak of individuals, countries, or in some cases, even continents. It used to be true that individuals or countries could "make it" on sheer muscle power and the will to apply it. You could work harder than your neighbor and win in the marketplace. There was a rough justice in it, and it offered near-ecumenical hope. Unfortunately, that model is dead. Today, there is a growing excess of muscle power in an age of labor-saving machines and methods. Labor unions have moved from center stage to near-irrelevance. The trend will not reverse. Developing countries will not be able to depend on physical production industries to create employment opportunities, because there will always be another country willing to work cheaper. The value of manual and mass labor is plunging in a world of surplus population. Its effect on the non-Western world will be to condemn states, peoples, and even continents to enduring poverty.
In this world of multiple and simultaneous revolutions--in technology, information, social organization, biology, economics, and convenience--the rules of international competition have changed. There is a global marketplace and, increasingly, a global economy. The invisible hand of the market has become an informal but uncompromising lawgiver. Globalization demands conformity to the practices of the global leaders. If you do not conform--or innovate--you lose. If you try to quit the game, you lose even more profoundly. The rules of international competition, whether in the economic, cultural, or conventional military fields, grow ever more homogeneous.
Social division is the obvious result of the polarization of wealth. Although most of the world's population has always been condemned to poverty, a combination of religious assurance, ignorance of how well others lived, and hope of a better future more often than not curbed man's natural rage at wealth discrepancies. Now the slum dwellers are on to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, while hopes of prosperity even for future generations dwindle. At the same time, expectations have increased dramatically. In this age of television, videos, and satellite dishes, the young, embittered Latin American, Middle Eastern, African and Asian male gets his skewed view of how wealthy Westerners live from the hit series Sex and the City and Friends, or from satellite links beaming down Baywatch, or from reruns of Dynasty and Dallas. These are sources we may at first dismiss as laughable and unworthy of serious consideration as factors influencing world affairs. But their effect is destructive beyond the power of words to describe. A typical Filipino who graduates from school expects to find a good job that would allow his family security and reasonably increasing prosperity. For many such unemployed or underemployed Filipinos, their world is collapsing, even as the media teases them with images of an ever-richer, brighter, fun world from which they are excluded. These discarded citizens sense that the government is helpless to uplift them from their plight. Many will seek their own version of the Promised Land by migrating and working abroad, as five million other Filipinos have done before them. Of those that remain, the majority will accept their lot in life and seek solace with God and religion. Most will remain law-abiding, hard-working citizens. Some of them however, will not.
THE EVOLVING NATURE OF CITIES
Cities have become centers of gravity. They have become the ultimate creators of wealth. They concentrate people, power, communications and control, knowledge and capability, rendering all else peripheral. While many cities are growing richer, more powerful and more efficient, others—especially in third world countries—are becoming poorer (on a per capita basis), weaker in their ability to self-regulate and unable to deliver even the most basic services that allow human beings to co-exist in great densities. Metro Manila has a population of approximately ten million—more specific figures are unavailable as local governments lose more and more control of their backyards. There are mayors and various city administrations, each with their own chain of command and other formal institutions and agencies. But real power is diffused beyond the formal government agencies into smaller communities or colonies, ethnic networks, religious organizations and crime syndicates whose leaders usurp much of the authority and some of the functions of the “legitimate” government. In a poorly functioning city like Metro Manila, there are worrisome trends. The ballooning population threatens to overwhelm state organizations and the infrastructure. As traditional rural societies grow overpopulated and impoverished, the lure of the city disproportionately draws young males—society’s most volatile population segment—seeking opportunity, adventure and reinvigorated identity.
OUR HOMES, THEIR CITIES
We see them everyday, but we are blind to the implications of demographic trends. To cite as an example, the railway tracks running parallel to the South Luzon expressway have long, parallel rows of multi-level squatter shanties, stretching much farther than the eye can see. These squatter colonies are the postmodern equivalent of jungles—citadels of the dispossessed and irreconcilable. Metro Manila has become an archipelago of wealth enclaves, islands of upper and middle-income residential communities that are increasingly surrounded by a sea of squatter colonies. Slum dwellers greatly outnumber legitimate Metro Manila homeowners. They represent a hybrid form of social organization and we are witnessing the birth of new tribes.
BARBARIANS AT THE GATES
The young generations growing up in the slums and squatter colonies know nothing about acceptable norms of behavior. They have no interest in government or society beyond what they can beg, solicit or steal from it. They reject values, forms of government, laws, modes of social interaction and are only interested in the means to acquire material goods. Violence will be their only collective outlet, the only validation of their existence. For some of them, violence will become a cause in itself. Theirs will be the violence of the failure, by the failure and for the failure. For these barbarians, violence is the ultimate expression of existence, a scream of “I AM!” that is more powerful than any religious expression. It is anarchic to a degree that many of us have never imagined. Anyone who wants a preview of what these barbarians are capable of need only recall the mob that attacked the gates of Malacanang and the other events that transpired during EDSA 3. The typical barbarian we will encounter is a male who comes from the underclass, who has no stake in peace, a loser with little or no education, no legal earning power and no future. With gun or knife in hand, today’s barbarian will kill those who may have slighted him, seize the women who avoid him, and plunder that which he could never otherwise possess. As society’s preparatory structures such as schools, churches, communities and families increasingly become inadequate, young males who might otherwise have led productive lives will be drawn to crime.
Young people today know what they want and what they believe they deserve, but they are impatient with the legitimate means of acquiring it. The problem is simply that they disassociate the concept of “having” from that of “earning”. Every major religion warns its adherents of the danger of vanity, insisting that only humility can lead to enlightenment. The younger generation no longer bothers with these fundamental insights. Everyone, everywhere wants more, usually in the most vulgar material sense, because the display of possessions seems to verify the worth of self—“I have, therefore I am.” Young teenagers willingly risk jail if not their lives just to acquire illicit drugs, an expensive cellular phone or even just the latest model of athletic shoes.
WHY DEMOCRACY DOES NOT WORK
Democracy will fail in countries where it does not coincide with preexisting cultural dispositions and economic circumstances. Democracy cannot function in a country where most of the population is in a daily struggle for survival. The votes of the poor and unemployed just become another commodity for sale. Democracy also cannot work if voters think of themselves as Ilocanos, Pampanguenos, Batanguenos, Cavitenos, Bicolanos, Cebuanos, etc. instead of Filipinos and vote for their “kababayan” accordingly. Democracy works in the United States because they have the material resources to break apart domestic and immigrant “tribes” using an accreted system of rewards. Democracy is a luxury whose maintenance requires the ready availability to the general population of surplus, or enhancement, resources: otherwise, the electorate votes not wisely, but hungrily. The less developed the economy, the greater the tendency to block vote along clan, tribal, ethnic, or religious lines. After the election, the majority group uses democratic legitimization to oppress the minority group or groups who lost, depriving them of the state’s services and resources. Once in power, majority-backed or power-base leaders will declare that their democratic mandate means that the people have spoken—once and for all; alternatively, the victorious candidate adjusts state structures and allocates state funds to insure his continued success at the polls.
Electorates lose interest in elections very quickly when the results fail to bring swift, positive change, and economic crises can polarize the population until democracy becomes dysfunctional. Democracy has been oversold as a wonder drug for ailing societies and cultures. Present day Russia is exemplary. Voter participation diminishes, and those who do vote use democracy to emplace nondemocratic figures. In the end, democracy is not a utopian state of being, but simply a tool that can be terribly misused. Given the proper conditions, democracy remains by far the most attractive form of government. Under the wrong circumstances, democracy can be the wrong system at the wrong place at the wrong time—and with utterly wrong results. In the right cultural and economic environment, democracy is an inexhaustible treasure; in an unprepared environment, it is Pandora’s box.
Democracy, partial democracy, and aspirant democracy each exist with numerous variations and, where they are viable and beneficial to the population as a whole, deserve support. However, when Westerners insist that democracy is always the only answer, they risk harming those whom they seek to help. Democracy along ethnic lines brings you civil war-torn Yugoslavia. Democracy amid religious confrontations brings you Nigeria. Democracy in a collapsing economy brings you Algeria. Democracy under all three conditions brings you the clot of states that spilled from the former Soviet Union.
We expect impoverished Filipinos to perform and behave at the same level of political maturity as the British or United States systems, and when the poor, the uneducated and the hungry vote for the likes of Joseph Ejercito Estrada we are shocked and dismayed.
THE INCOMPETENCE OF THE STATE
The state's civility as well as its authority rely on its ability to expand wealth, on a perceived community of interests that allows public compromise or acquiescence, and on individual and collective senses of responsibility. In many of the "states" that presently hold seats in the United Nations, per capita wealth is declining, there is no community of interests, nor is there an individual sense of responsibility for the common good. Even in Western states, the vital sense of generalized responsibility is deteriorating as interest groups promote factionalization and citizen expectations grow excessive and wantonly selfish. Today, thanks largely to the Media, worldwide citizen expectations of government have surpassed the abilities of government to deliver (the gray area between possibilities and needs/wants is the age-old breeding ground of organized crime and political radicalism).
Our lawmakers and politicians increasingly believe they know what is best for the people even though most of them have never worked on a farm or worked for wages nor have they served their country in uniform.
Virtually every government agency is a profit center, with the boss and nearly every employee obsessed with how to use his or her position and area of responsibility for personal profit or gain. Rare is the government employee who has not slipped on the slime trail of corruption at one time or another. Most of our families, schools and universities no longer inculcate the young with moral and financial integrity nor do we have modern day heroes who can set the standard for others to study and emulate. Do we still have men and women in government who know when to make a stand, and who would rather resign from their positions of power and privilege before they acquiesce to corruption and looting of the public coffers? Something must be done. Our government bureaucracy is full of corrupt, greedy and mediocre employees who are responsible for spending 800 billion pesos a year. If no one rises to lead by example, our country’s next significant expenditure may be in lives.
The rise of the anti-state in various forms has been and will be the result of the failure of governments to cater to basic needs and to satisfy expanding desires. The anti-state can take many forms, from media conglomerates that determine what the world should know, through much-maligned, peace-preferring multinational corporations, to webs of criminality expanding across oceans, enterprise disciplines, and cultures. In the world of the anti-state, international criminals often cooperate more effectively and creatively than do states. Criminal enterprise mirrors legitimate enterprise in its focus on secure profits, but its "integrity" exceeds that of the greatest multinationals because the criminal anti-state has a galvanizing enemy: the state fighting for its life. It is in the adaptive nature of the post-modern anti-state that it can even develop a symbiotic relationship with a formal government it strategically penetrates, as criminal anti-state webs have done in Russia, Nigeria, Mexico, and numerous less-spectacular examples. Anti-states also take the forms of pre-modern structures, such as tribal or religious identifications. The rise of non-state threats is a tremendous problem for governments because governments are legally and behaviorally prepared to fight only other legal-basis states—mirror images of themselves.
Massive criminal insurgencies are a new method of challenging the state through violence. In Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle and in the Andean Ridge, druglord insurgencies have moved from defying laws to denying great tracts of territory to the state. In Russia, a confluence between organized crime and government in lucrative spheres constitutes a quiet criminal coup. In the past, insurgencies were easy to recognize--the rebels marching on the presidential palace. Today, some of the most threatening criminal insurgencies in the non-West are being conducted by officials who are already inside the presidential palace.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
We are constrained by a past century's model of what armies, police and governments can legally do. Our opponents have none of this baggage, whether they are kidnappers, gambling lords, druglords or warlords. They operate in environments of absolute moral freedom, unconstrained by laws and “civilized” customs. The worldwide trend is that criminal syndicates, rebel, separatist and terrorist organizations can increasingly out-spend, out-maneuver, out-shoot, out-negotiate, and out-think third world states and their law enforcement agencies. Criminals could not care less about the way we divide responsibilities among cops, soldiers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges--except when they can exploit those divisions and use the law to their advantage. They defeat us everyday. What we lack are innovative methodologies and adequately contemporary laws. To address the broad range of criminal threats, we don't need new weapons, just new rules of engagement. Inevitably, we will realize that criminals and terrorists in "peacetime" must be regarded in the same way we regard enemies during wartime: the goal is not to arrest and try them in a court of law, but to kill them until the survivors quit. Such a legal change would be a far more potent weapon than any other law we can legislate—and it is a more urgent requirement than we are collectively willing to acknowledge. You cannot, cannot play by textbook rules when your opponent either hasn't read the book or has thrown it away. Until we realize this and change the rules of engagement, we will continue to lose. It is time for society to stop worrying about the criminals and for the criminals to start worrying about society.
MAN IS THE CONSTANT
We must ask the basic question, "Who are our enemies?" on a deeper level. We must study the minds and souls of violent men, seeking to understand them on a level our civilization has avoided for 2,000 years. We can no longer blame atrocities and the will to violence on the devil, or on mistaken ideologies, or even on childhood deprivations. None of the cherished explanations suffice. In this age of technological miracles, our lawmakers, police and military need to study mankind.
Morally, many among us will argue for disarmament. But they are mistaken. The heart of the problem is not the weapon, but the man who builds and wields it. Even if it were possible to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, as well as every last handgun and pocketknife, the killers among us would take up wooden clubs or rocks. The will to violence is within us--it is not merely a function of the availability of tools.
Man, not space, is the last frontier. We must explore him.
Every major religion has a prohibition against killing. There would be no need for such rules were man not a killer by nature. In the Judeo-Christian heritage, there is a commandment believers credit directly to the writing finger of God: "Thou shalt not kill." Think about that. Overall, the Ten Commandments did a remarkable job of cataloging human frailty. As behavioral rules they are as valid for today's techno-civilization as they were for the dreary Orient of 3,000 years ago. Those prohibitions acknowledged the most destructive things that we humans are apt to do, and they warned us not to do them. The warning not to kill was the bluntest commandment.
For the moment, lay aside the concept of the Old Testament as a sacred book and consider it as a documentary of human behavior: It is drenched in violence, and its moral tenets arose in response to a violent world. It begins with the plight of two refugees--Adam and Eve--and moves swiftly to the fratricide of their children. In book after book, we encounter massacre, genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape, plunder, kidnapping, assassination, ineradicable hatreds, and endless warfare. The fall of civilizations is reported with a merciless eye, and cities vanish with a terse comment. It sounds like the 20th century: Humanity is consistent.
Historians, however, are inconsistent. Today, we are moving away from our earlier view of civilization as a process of constant improvement, with Western civilization as man's crowning achievement. Yet, the most vociferous multiculturalists and anti-modernists, still insist that humankind is perfectible. Has Man actually improved? There is no evidence for it. Are we better than Christ, the Buddha, or Mohammed, better than Socrates, Ulug Begh, Maimonides, or Saint Francis? Fashions, conveyances, medicines, communications, and the sophistication of governmental structures have all evolved. Man has not. Man is the constant. Saddam is Pharaoh, and Cain will always be with us.
Religious texts and figures are powerful examples because we know them and they resonate. Is there a more relevant lesson for any man than that of Cain and Abel? Throughout both Testaments, we encounter violent actors and soldiers. They face timeless moral dilemmas. The Bible does not sugarcoat man's nature. Faith is not required--read it as a secular history and you will get a better picture of the enemies we will face in this new century than any work of contemporary scholarship or speculation provides. From child warriors to fanatics who revel in slaughter, man's future is written in man's past.
If we want to understand the warriors of the world and the fury that drives them, we had better open our minds to the power of belief. In Western cultural history, the fiercest military brutalities and the most savage wars were fought over faith, whether the Crusades or defensive wars against Muslims, campaigns of suppression against dissenting Christians, the great religious wars of the 16th and, especially, 17th centuries, or the 20th century's world wars between secular religions.
Now past history is being repeated in other flesh. When Indonesian rioters murder Chinese merchants, or when the Sudanese Muslims who hold power butcher and enslave the Christians in their country's south, their behavior is not inhuman. On the contrary, it is timelessly human.
Of all the notions I have advanced over the years, the only one that has met with consistent rejection is my statement that some men like to kill. I do not believe that all men like to kill. At the extreme, there are those saintly beings who would sacrifice their own lives before taking the life of another. The average man will kill if compelled to, in uniform in a war, or in self-defense, but has no evident taste for it. Men react differently to the experience of killing. Some are traumatized. Others simply move on with their lives. But there is at least a minority of human beings--mostly male--who enjoy killing. That minority may be small, but it does not take many enthusiastic killers to trigger the destruction of a fragile society. Revolutions, pogroms, genocide, and civil wars are not made by majorities, but by minorities with the acquiescence of the majority. The majority may gloat and loot, but it is the killing minority that drives history.
Violence is addictive. Police know this. That's where the phrase "the usual suspects" comes from. In society, the overwhelming majority of violent acts are committed by repeat offenders. Statistics would make us a violent nation; in fact, we are a peaceful people. The numbers are skewed because we have failed to deter recidivists. Spouse- and child-abusers do not do it once, they repeat. Sex offenders are notorious repeat offenders. Most barroom brawls are begun by the same old troublemakers.
We reject the evidence of the human enthusiasm for violence because it troubles us and undercuts the image we have created of perfectible Man. But violence has an undeniable appeal. For the poor and disenfranchised, it is the only response they have left. Perhaps the psychologists are right when they say that much violence is a cry for help. But what both of those arguments really say is that violence, however motivated, is gratifying and empowering.
Religions and civilizations may be seen as attempts to discipline mankind, to trim our worst excesses. Traditionally, religions and civilizations acknowledged mankind's propensity for violence and imposed appropriate strictures. Certainly no religion or civilization has believed it could ignore violent behavior as peripheral. Yet our contemporary approach is to treat violence as an aberration, the product of a terrible misunderstanding. This is the mentality of the born victim, of the wife who believes every weeping apology by her abuser husband, of the social worker who believes in the mass murderer's rehabilitation.
Look at the wreckage of the recent past. Can we pretend that the massacre of half a million Rwandan Tutsis by their neighbors was carried out as a laborious chore? On the contrary, reports from the scene describe murderers intoxicated by their deeds. When we consider the recent bombings perpetrated in Bali, Indonesia, can we believe that the killers committed those atrocities against their inclinations? Will we pretend that the hostages that were killed and beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf were the victims of reluctant hands?
We must ask hard questions about the nature of man. Is all human life sacred, no matter what crimes the individual or his collective has committed? Our government’s effectiveness in the coming decades will depend on the answers. It will be terribly difficult for every citizen, and more so for our soldiers, policemen, prosecutors and judges if we continue to deny the full spectrum of man’s nature.
We live in an age of multiple truths. He who warns of the "clash of civilizations" is incontestably right; simultaneously, we shall see higher levels of constructive trafficking between civilizations than ever before. The future is bright--and it is also very dark. More men and women will enjoy health and prosperity than ever before, yet more will live in poverty or tumult, if only because of the ferocity of demographics. There will be more democracy--that deft liberal form of imperialism--and greater popular refusal of democracy. One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims.
There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive.
Governments are obsessed with the inviolability of borders and the legitimacy of other governments—while the world has entered a period in which borders have already changed dramatically and will continue to change for decades. Many governments that are now members of the United Nations often have little or no control over the behavior of those they pretend to represent.
If there is one certainty about the geopolitical situation it is that international borders are dramatically in flux. We react as if this is an abomination and a historical anomaly. But borders have always changed. The notion that they can now be fixed forever by virtue of our modern wisdom is folly. Even the collapse of the Soviet Union was institutionally unwelcome in some Western bureaucracies where it disrupted the order of business. Yet, consider the border changes the last century has seen: the collapse of empire during and following the Great War; endless mucking about in Asia Minor by the Great Powers and their clients; the creation of dozens of new states in the wake of the Second World War; and then the decades of local damage-control which saw the birth of additional states, such as Bangladesh and the unification of others, such as Germany, Vietnam and now, possibly Korea.
The coming decades will see massive realignments of borders and the emergence of an extra-Western redefinition of the shape, means, and limits of government—including the reemergence of the old and the evolution of new forms of population organization that will not resemble current governments at all.
Many aspects of our political, social and cultural way of life need to change if our country is to become globally competitive. Managed change is a more welcome option compared to explosive change. We have to look ahead with open eyes and understand that the Philippines is not at a state of peaceful equilibrium. On the contrary, our country is actually in the midst of change, an ongoing revolution. The 1898, 1986 and 2001 revolutions are just milestones, important ones, but nevertheless just milestones, as the Philippines continues the process of evolving from its existing Western-style political and social model into its own unique versions of population organization. We must not be complacent nor be content to merely watch from the sidelines. Every citizen must play an active role and help contribute, accelerate and manage the changes that will occur. Failure is not an option, unless we want to join the ranks of broken and failed states that are “plunging willfully backward into the embrace of the old familiar, be it the penitentiary of religion, an opiate vision of a lost golden age, or simply the primal fury of the have-not”.
WANTED IN 2004
Medium-sized republic with a population of 80 million is looking for a Chief Executive Officer to manage a bureaucracy with an annual budget of 800 billion pesos. Prospective candidates must have a strong political, financial, operational, philosophical and psychological background. A track record in restructuring and reengineering oversized organizations will be an advantage. Must have the ability to analyze problems and look beyond the obvious in the search for root causes. An innovative leader, he or she should always be looking for ways to motivate subordinates and to preempt potential problems before they can occur. Must be a student of human nature, in order to understand why subordinates make mistakes—not in order to rebuke them, but to find ways to change the environment that has led to previous failures. Prospective candidates must be eccentric, fastidious about personal appearances, tireless in the search for and pursuit of excellence, and as demanding of himself/herself as he or she is of others. Every candidate must be rated in terms of his or her moral and financial integrity. Actors and actresses need not apply.
GOVERNANCE, PHILIPPINE STYLE
The essential vision for Government has never changed, it has always remained the same: the delivery of government services—quickly, precisely and efficiently. Government employees, assets and resources on the ground, doing whatever it takes to deliver services and resources precisely, where they are needed, as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
How do we break away from the current, traditional (admittedly inefficient in the Philippine context) Western model of governance, and redefine and adapt our very own version with the end view of improving the delivery of essential government services and protecting the Republic and its citizens from a broad range of enemies? The data for measuring the delivery of these products and services can be very precise. How many passport applications were processed today? How many truckloads of rice were delivered to rolling stores today? How many traffic violators were arrested today? How many sidewalk vendors and jaywalkers were apprehended this week? How many kidnappers and drug pushers listed in the order of battle have been neutralized this month? How many tourists arrivals for the year to date? By any serious measure, most people will agree that state agencies are not delivering their products and dispensing services in an efficient and satisfactory manner.
But why? What is preventing or hampering government employees from doing the work that they were hired to do?
The answer is centralization. The top-down management structures so beloved by professional bureaucrats. Centralization robs the individual of ownership of his job, deprives him of responsibility, and destroys his initiative. Centralization has the effect of turning the people in government into communist workers. They pretend to work and we pretend to pay them. Centralization was a fantasy based on the dream of a totally efficient institution, but this concept shatters against the hard rocks of actual, everyday human personality and behavior. People simply don’t operate the way centralization expected and predicted they would.
Every organization is made up of building blocks, and if the organization is running smoothly, these building blocks mesh smoothly together. The way centralization does it is to organize them from the top down, and functionally—that is by function specialty, and by the job done within that function. In government, specialists are gathered together in centralized locations and sent to work on jobs needed. Policemen work together with other policemen and are assigned from headquarters to precincts, substations, etc., prosecutors work with other prosecutors, firemen work with other firemen, engineers work with other engineers, tax collectors with other tax collectors, typists work with other typists, etc.
Under this system all the people who work in an agency or department are alike and interchangeable. The whole mass is rated, and individual success or failure is obscured. The basic rationale for this is “economies of scale”: efficiency, cost savings, and elimination of duplication. But if you really observe the way government agencies operate, there is very little evidence or data that will prove these claims.
These departments and agencies “functional fiefdoms” of policemen, prosecutors, tax collectors and so on, are not oriented towards satisfying the needs of the primary client (the citizenry) and of the various subsidiary clients (entrepreneurs and businesses) and functions (tax and revenue collecting) necessary to keep the economy growing and operating smoothly. Rather, these “fiefdoms” are oriented toward satisfying the administrative and procedural needs (sucking up to the boss, waiting for instructions, writing out reports and filling up forms, requisitioning supplies, etc.) of the organization itself. Also, because of the vertical orientation of these fiefdoms, they do not work easily or comfortably with other fiefdoms—as everyone who has experience dealing with government bureaucracy knows very well.
What changes need to be done?
First, start an education campaign, and use hard data to persuade those who believed in centralized systems that it is a failure. Second, set up trial units as models of decentralization, and then compare the performance between the two. Once the hard data proves the superiority of decentralized systems, we can begin to put these systems in place throughout the bureaucracy. Third, reshape the basic building blocks from vertical to horizontal, and break up the “functional fiefdoms.”
Every department, agency and bureau of the government has its own culture and traditions, its own sources of pride and ways of doing things, but these differences, in addition to the inevitable competition for resources and status, can easily get in the way of cooperation. The government must be able to project all necessary personnel, assets and resources quickly—at any given problem or crisis, which means that parochialism is an inefficient and antiquated luxury. The new mantra should be “jointness”—every government employee must be able to work together as well and as comfortably with others as with members of their own organizations.
We must strive to implement “jointness” by breaking the hold of individual operating entities of government on their resources.
In the area of law enforcement for example, operational control should be taken away from the Philippine National Police (PNP) hierarchy and transferred to every village and barangay. This means that the PNP hierarchy will be responsible only for organizing, training and equipping police forces. Once the policemen have completed training and are operationally ready, they should be assigned to one of the 42,000 barangays nationwide. Law enforcers should be organized and integrated into community-specific barangay and even smaller village teams, in which tanods, security guards, police, prosecutors and a judge all work together as a team. These law enforcement teams will report to the barangay captain who in turn is answerable to the residents. Each community can set their own goals, devise their own schedules and make their own decisions, all of them aimed at the final product—peace and order, low crime rates, criminals in jail where they belong. Contractual security agencies whose security guards guarantee their tenure only by maintaining a high level of service and professionalism is the most efficient model for law enforcers to follow. Compensation as well as the right to hire and terminate their services at anytime due to loss of confidence will rest with the community, and this must apply to every security guard, tanod, policeman, prosecutor and judge.
While law enforcement teams would surely help other teams out if needed, and the various specialists with other teams can be available to help, their performance will be judged on the peace and order situation in their own barangay or village. At the same time, they must be given the resources they need, including more training and equipment, to make their team perform well. For example, if a police officer is absent, the team leader can “borrow” a police officer from another team. Both team leaders don’t have to wait for approval from superiors. The transaction is between both teams. (Decentralization at work)
In the Philippines, the village and barangay are the most efficient forms of population organization after the basic family unit. Each barangay or village has its own “barangay captain or village manager” and councilors or directors that should be elected on an annual basis. That barangay or village is now “his” or “hers” and they will now be responsible for it. It is up to them to make decisions—including mistakes—rather than wait for orders from higher-ups. Just as in the corporate world, the annual election will validate or reject the officials’ mandate to manage and govern. The residents in turn, must pay taxes, assessed dues and maintain their “good standing” in order to exercise their right to vote. This is genuine democracy. If the village and barangay can enforce law and order more effectively compared to an overburdened, inefficient and corrupt city bureaucracy, why not allow the barangay or village to police its own borders?
Decentralization will lead to real ownership and empowerment, real teamwork, clear-cut accountability (poor performance will now be easy to track), and a system in which people will be able to operate as humans and not as functions in some machine. Problems will be solved by the people closest to them, to be cut off at the source. The problem solvers are free to both do it right and also to make mistakes. Mistakes will be made—the key is to try to prevent them from recurring, and the best way is to make sure they are self-correcting.
More practically, we must attack the root causes of the government’s inefficiency: Close down sick, nonperforming units so there will be enough trained people to make the better units healthy. Kick the local government officials out of their air-conditioned offices, where they are now located under the centralized style of management, and place them out in the field, where they can truly be in charge.
We must ruthlessly root out and destroy procedures and processes designed to maintain control for its own sake. We must dictate goals and standards, then build visible and understandable scorecards that rate what really matters such as truckloads of rice delivered, violators apprehended and criminals caught and in jail. As we slowly moved to decentralized leadership, we should raise the goals and standards ever higher, and each day the men and women who work in government will prove they can exceed our highest expectations.
We also have to make sure these changes are built on a foundation of absolute truth. Lying, shading of the truth, and making excuses are completely unacceptable. To make the point clear throughout the bureaucracy, we have to make a number of highly visible “public executions”. Everyone will get the message that there is a new way of doing business that depends on telling the truth, that bad news was acceptable if you had done your best and still failed, and that lying or shading of the truth to look good is far worse than failing.
All of this will restore pride. But even that isn’t enough. We must also insist on raising standards of appearance. Bawl out any government official whose office is not clean and painted. If he has to, he should buy his own tools and paint. It isn’t just for looks either. They must pay attention to subordinates, move among them and listen to them, learn from all the ranks as they figure out how to do their jobs more efficiently and quickly. We have to pay attention to families too, (family support centers and child care facilities, for instance), so that people can concentrate on their work. Most of all we have to pay attention to discipline. Discipline is fundamental to the good order needed to succeed, and fundamental to pride. Hard tests must be given in all the multitude of areas that are required to carry out the government’s missions. There should be no excuses: If you fail, and it is because you need training, then you will get it. If you needed resources, they must be found. If you are overextended, you will be given time to grow. But if you lack the necessary desire, leadership, or integrity to be in the new government, then these people must be given the opportunity to succeed in civilian life.
LIES AND BETRAYALS
Our law enforcement and justice system is in terrible shape. It doesn’t take very long for every rookie policeman, lawyer, prosecutor and judge to realize that we are not fighting the war against crime nor dispensing justice in the most efficient manner. The justice system is based on the principle that it is better to let nine guilty criminals go free than to convict one innocent individual. With that principle as the basis, so many restrictions are placed on law enforcers that very little law enforcement is actually achievable. If arrested criminals are allowed to post bail, why bother arresting them in the first place? Inadmissibility and insufficiency of evidence in court is an enduring problem for our law enforcers.
In time policemen will come to realize that it isn’t just an efficiency problem; it is actually a stupidity problem. And then they will eventually realize that it is more than that, the existing system is full of lies and betrayals… Policemen, just like most people, are realists. They want to get the job done, and to do it well. It won’t take them long to see that under existing conditions, even their best efforts would not get the job done well… If a policeman who is laying his life on the line is told to do a half-baked job, to perform less credibly, even though he might die doing it, then you will have a problem maintaining discipline and loyalty up the chain of command. The rules of engagement make policemen perform tasks that are not credible…and so over time, the laws are no longer be enforced because policemen simply look the other way. Add to this, political patronage, low pay and corruption and the result is that discipline along with pride will fall along the wayside. The good ones will leave and of those that remain, the weak ones will become “hoodlums in uniform”.
What our policemen have to do is learn how to become a police force all over again. We have to liberate our law enforcers from antiquated rules of engagement and create an environment where individual initiative counts. Each law enforcement team must have pride of “ownership” of their own barangay or village. Add the awareness that we are in a just crusade against crime, and there will be no stopping our law enforcers. They will have pride, productivity, purpose, and a sense of professional dedication.
Decentralization is the key. Each man and woman will know what is expected and each in turn will place their lives on the line, not only to do their job, but also to exceed our highest expectations. This proposed decentralized system will not be popular with the PNP hierarchy but the cops on the street will love it.
We have to find the best policemen, give them the best equipment and send them to fight criminals and the other enemies of the state with the instructions: “Don’t come back until you’ve won.” Believe me, they will figure out a way to win. If we extend this policy up and down the ranks of the Philippine National Police—they will have a solid chance of winning the war against crime. Fighting criminals requires a two-track approach—an active campaign to separate the criminals from the populace both physically and psychologically, coupled with irresistible violence directed against members of criminal gangs and syndicates. The war against crime is a zero-sum game. You cannot bargain or compromise with criminals. You cannot “teach them a lesson”. We either win or we lose. And it takes guts to play. Until we are ready to play by their “rules”, the criminals will simply laugh at us and keep on winning.
ALTERNATIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
No matter how you allocate it, the government’s 800 billion peso (USD15 billion) annual budget cannot provide enough resources to uplift the 80 million citizens of this country. The traditional “shotgun” approach, which is portioning out the budget among the different regions nationwide, will never be sufficient to allow the country to attain meaningful, sustainable growth. As we already mentioned earlier, political leaders almost always allocate state funds and resources to insure their continued success at the polls. To say that politicians are not the most efficient investment decision-makers is an understatement. Huge investments for business capital and infrastructure are necessary if the Philippines wants to catch up and compete with the rest of the world. How and where do we source these funds and how do we maximize it?
The old paradigm that the cities are guilty of hogging resources that should have instead been invested on the countryside is no longer true. Countries are increasingly relying on the world’s more successful model cities such as Manhattan, Munich, Vancouver, Seoul and Shanghai. Cities have become the new centers of gravity. They have become the ultimate creators of wealth. They concentrate people, power, communications and control, knowledge and capability, rendering all else peripheral.
Compare the above-mentioned boom cities with deteriorating, reservoir cities such as Bombay, Calcutta, Cairo, Johannesburg, Karachi and Manila, where humanity’s surplus and discards are accumulating. Many of these reservoir cities are characterized by anarchy, magnified by apathy. The danger is that the apathy of the masses can transform very quickly into violence.
The world investment community increasingly judges a country by the success of its cities and their immediate environs instead of concerning themselves with the entire countryside. In other words, who cares about the rest of Egypt if Cairo itself is calm? We don’t have to deal with Indonesia—we deal with Jakarta. India is well on its way to becoming a confederation of city-states. Hong Kong and Singapore continue to set the benchmark for successful city-states. They should be seriously studied and emulated by countries looking to develop their economies. Boom cities will increasingly pay for, support and subsidize nation states. Consider what the most backward communist country, North Korea, is proposing in order to attract investment.
North Korea is attempting to revive its ailing economy by attracting foreign investment and improving ties with Japan and South Korea, among other countries. It desperately needs international help to recover from decades of economic mismanagement. North Korea's government officially set up the Sinuiju administrative region last September and pledged to keep its legal system unchanged for 50 years and allow its administration to issue passports and appoint the chief prosecutor. “The state will allow the region to be turned into an international financial, trade, commercial, industrial, up-to-date science, amusement and tourist center.” North Korea will run the area along capitalist lines, with a legal system possibly based on European law, and would include elections to a legislature and administrators and judges hired from foreign countries.
The Philippines should do likewise. Establish new city-states with their own autonomous administrative, legal, financial and legislative systems patterned after Singapore and Hong Kong. The former US military bases in Subic and Clark can serve as the foundation for a new city-state that can attract our share of foreign investments and serve as the center of economic activity for Central Luzon. Cebu City can assume that role for the Visayas and so can Davao City for Mindanao.
A new century requires new, innovative solutions to the problems confronting us. Who will show us what Filipinos are capable of achieving? Who will help create an environment where failure will not be a factor? Who will give us back the pride we have lost and given away in the turmoil created by Western political and social models that have failed to work in our own unique environment?
We must go back to the same two enduring questions asked since the nineteenth century: “What needs to be done?” and “Who will accept responsibility for what needs to be done?” To the first question, this essay offers just a few of the many questions and answers needed. Every individual who dares to call himself or herself a Filipino must contribute and provide their own inputs as well. The answer of all Filipinos to the second question must be “We will!”