As we approach the end of the fiscal year under the administration of a man who, during his campaign, trumpeted his envisioned role as President as one of being a “fiscalizer,” the time to take stock of what has been achieved or, at least, what groundwork had been lain over the last 12 months is at hand. On the 25th July 2011, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will be delivering his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a joint session of Congress.
By some accounts, not much promise in terms of substance can be expected of this speech. That no longer comes across as much of a shock to most Filipinos considering Aquino’s track record so far and the litany of gaffes and broken promises he had so far left in his wake. What is more disturbing is the prospect of how our popularly-elected “representatives” in both chambers of Congress will respond to such a speech. Will they exhibit the courage to call out inanities in Aquino’s view of the world or will they, like millions of their constituents, simply continue to pretend that nothing is fundamentally wrong with the Second Aquino Administration?
It comes down to how well-equipped Filipinos’ intellectual faculties are to meet the responsibilities that a democratic society demands (which is to apply a critical mind to the issues rather than focus on personalities). It also becomes a question of how culturally inclined we are to act on and respond to what critical thinking applied reveals to us. Do we balk at acting on hard truths? Or are we up to the challenge of stepping out of our culturally-ingrained comfort zones?
Perhaps we should ask ourselves:
- aspire to overstep the boundaries of these “structures” and “social forces” that imprison our minds so that we can;
- imagine a Philippines so fundamentally different as to re-shape the landscape of challenges that face us in a way that helps us focus on stuff that are truly important; and,
- undertake efforts underpinned by more insightful notions of what the real issues are?
The alternative to the above, the aspects of which I list down below, describes the long observed default character of the Filipino, evident in the renowned way we continue to lie under the proverbial guava tree waiting for …
- the solutions that gods reveal;
- the livelihood that Governments create,
- the capital that foreigners provide; and,
- the passions that “heroes” inspire.
[NB: The above items were first listed by the author in the article "Great nations achieve great things" published on FilipinoVoices.com, 14 Aug 2009.]
So in terms of what it means to be a modern society, compare then an approach of regarding the future that is…
(a) based on aspirations, imagination, and insight;
…with an approach that is…
(b) based on revelation, providence, and inspiration taken from heroism.
Which of the two, (a) or (b), represents the more modern approach?
But then note how the latter (b) remains the more prevalent compared to (a) in the messages that inundate Filipinos today through content delivered by their Media, through the “teachings” of their religious leaders, through the advocacies of their “intellectuals”, through the initiatives of their politicians, and through the narratives in their traditions and folklore. Filipinos today pray for their fortunes to be revealed by God, demand that their government create employment for them, look to foreign-originated capital to jumpstart their economy, and celebrate their “heroes” with quaint melodramatic gusto at every opportunity.
Generations of Filipinos have been acculturated to think and be motivated to act along the lines of revelation, creation, providence, and misguided inspiration; rather than on the basis of aspirations, imagination, and insight.
This is the Filipino cultural genome mapped a hundred percent!
Come back then to the challenge at hand. Perhaps we are all aware that one out of a six-year term has passed and that a simple stocktake of how much has been tangibly achieved is likely to leave most of us scratching our heads. It is quite evident that the Filipino’s situation hasn’t changed much. We pretty much have only ourselves to rely on over the next several years as far as improving our lot in life. That reality should be made the primary context to frame whatever the President will be reporting to Congress on the 25th of July this year. Our “representatives” in Congress should realise this — that ultimately the future we face as a nation, much more than the “state” it is in, is in the hands of the Filipino people and not in a messiah “elected” to sit on a throne in some palace by the river.