Are you a logical person? Given the correct premises, will you arrive at the right conclusion? Re-assure yourself and take this simple test.
Question #1: If your kidneys are seriously ill and your heart is in perfect working condition, will you:
(1) Cheer your good heart and disregard the problem with your kidneys.
(2) Immediately address the problem with your kidneys and not concern yourself with your good heart.
Question #2: If you want to convince a customer about a product that you are selling, will you:
(1) Speak to your customer in the language he is not comfortable and familiar with.
(2) Speak to your customer in the language he is most comfortable and familiar with.
Question #3: If you develop a potentially malignant tumor in the brain that is very painful and needs to be surgically removed, will you:
(1) Resort to sleeping pills and pain killers so you don't feel the pain.
(2) Go and have the tumor surgically removed.
Question #4: If you own a company and your general manager is ruining the company with mismanagement and bad practices, will you:
(1) Keep supporting and employing your general manager.
(2) Fire your general manager and get a good replacement.
If you selected number 2 answers to all four questions, then there is no doubt that you have a logical mind and will have no problem drawing the appropriate conclusions from correct premises.
But would you believe that many of our countrymen have a problem of arriving at similar conclusions when confronted by similar premises of a different context? It seems strange, yet it is true.
Given that most people would select the glaringly obvious choice of attending to the problem of chronic kidneys instead of marveling at one's good heart, it does not seem so for most of our countrymen when it comes to applying this analogy to a parallel situation in real life. Confronted with the choice between focusing on being militant against corrupt governance vis-à-vis getting a vicarious lift from 'feel good' albeit isolated Filipino success stories, the Filipino would likely prefer singing hosannas to the latest Filipino hero. In the name of being 'positive' or 'developmental' we hail and sing praises to the healthy heart and forget that an ailing kidney is waging its silent war of destruction on the entire organism.
In the same vein, selling to a customer in a language not familiar to him is bound to be a futile exercise. And yet, we still find proponents of English as the medium of instruction; insisting on forcing the use of English as the teaching language in Philippine schools. Psychology and language experts, and even common sense tell us that people learn best in the language they are most familiar with.
Right thinking nations would prescribe the teaching of English as a second language but never as their medium of instruction. Even our own education secretary admits that over 70 percent of our public school teachers are not capable of teaching in English! So how logical is it to expect Filipinos to learn to be better farmers, technicians, engineers, accountants and so forth if they are taught in a foreign language neither the teacher nor the student is comfortable with?
And isn't ignoring the severity of our national problem much like living with a worsening malignant growth or tumor? Not wanting the inconvenience of a more surgical and sweeping intervention to the woes of the nation, members of the upper and middle classes would rather choose to close their eyes to the widening chasm between the rich and poor.
Overseas jobs and call centers have become the opiate of a people's quest for economic salvation. However, much as these livelihood options do present temporary and limited relief to a few, it is also part of the easy come, easy go phenomenon. Overseas jobs and call centers turn us into hangers-on of other countries' progress. Any change of heart or change of policy by host countries is beyond our control and could turn all our dreams into dust. We need to prosper as a nation on the basis of strong and stable economic foundations that harness the best of our very own agro-industrial capabilities. We need to adopt a more inward looking trade policy that seeks to strengthen our industries that create long-term employment and economic multipliers rather than being too eager to welcome imports. I have yet to see the Philippines adopt the same nationalist trade policy that all the countries of the world are fighting tooth and nail for.
On the other hand, should we even think twice about replacing that inept general manager with one who is up to meeting the challenges of the task? So why do most of us continue to support the present management in place after having seen all the successive instances of failures and mismanagement?
So that explains why we have slipped from being a leader to a laggard in Asia. The problem is not because we are poor. We came from second best economy and we made ourselves poor. The problem is not what we lack in our pockets. It is what we lack in our heads. The poverty is but a reflection of faulty thinking, wrong choices, and the lack of character to do what needs to be done.
There are two components of the problem. The first is what is inputted in the Filipino head. The other is how that head has been trained or conditioned to think. Information and knowledge must first be acquired before a person can be expected to make the right choices and decisions. If the information is already there, it then becomes a question of logical thinking - arriving at the right decision after appreciating the right premises. From where I sit, the poor, given their limited education, have an input problem. Our better educated middle and upper classes however have a problem with thinking properly - they seem to know the facts but can't seem to decide and act properly. The combination is what accounts for our national disaster.
During my brief stint in the Cory Aquino cabinet in 1987 to 1988, I was for a time the Director-General of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA). That stint at the PIA clearly showed me that disparity of information can exist between people just 50 kilometers apart. Information levels among Filipinos in urbanized Luzon tended to be markedly different from those in the Visayas and even more so from those in Mindanao.
It is possible that the advent of text messaging, cable TV, and more efficient information technology may have eased the geographical information gap somewhat but the fact still remains that Filipinos who are educationally and economically disadvantaged, regardless of location, will still be light years away from modern enlightenment. For example, a farmer in a remote barangay in Aklan is puzzled why his idol, the former President Joseph Estrada, had been impeached and can only conclude that the 'rich people' did it because Erap (Estrada's nickname) was for the poor. I know of a domestic helper from the Visayas who told her employer that it was okay for Erap to get funds from SSS because he was, after all, the president. And who has not heard of that oft-repeated argument: "We have tried all the intelligent people to be president of this country and they were all rotten so let us have someone who does not have those degrees."
The great information divide reflects and reinforces the chasm between the haves and the have-nots, particularly in this era of fast-moving developments in communication technology. Both the rural and urban poor are stymied by their own inadequacies to process, much less obtain the right kind and type of information. This also cripples them from turning information into 'knowledge' that can help liberate them from their status. Without the facts and without the right training and education to process facts, the country's poor can only be at the mercy of unscrupulous icons of the masses and their even more shadowy king makers.
In contrast, a Filipino PhD holder visiting China during the post-Mao period was impressed at the average Chinese's grasp of national issues. Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution had apparently worked in equalizing information levels from grassroots to the most prominent members of the Politburo. Is it any wonder that China has become the economic miracle of the late 20th century and is now even tracking forward to yet becoming the world's biggest economy? In contrast, the retrogressive economic and educational policies adopted by Philippine leaders over the years have taken their toll in ways most devastating, turning the country from being Asia's second best economy to the region's basket case.
The single biggest impediment to Filipino national unity - or the attainment of real nationhood for that matter - is the inability to have a national appreciation of the important national issues a people must resolve in order to forge ahead and progress. A people can progress with several languages and Switzerland proved that this is no impediment at all. But no nation can move ahead when it has several minds dealing with the big national issues. All the great nations are able, when the national situation calls for it, to feel with one heart and think with one mind.
The Chinese mind, just as the Filipino mind, makes for the success and failure in China and the Philippines, respectively. The Chinese mind accounts for the Chinese economic miracle. The Filipino mind accounts for the Filipino economic meltdown.