How values work for or against a people
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-05-21

When the Marcos heirs were claiming a big chunk of Taipan Lucio Tan’s business empire, your Chair Wrecker read a news story where former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos was quoted as having called Tan the former ‘magbobote’ — which means used bottle collector.

In the 1950s, Chinese used bottle collectors were a common sight on Metro streets. In the 1950s, there were many Chinese who were no better off than lower middle class Filipinos. In the 1950s, the Chinese were coming here in droves, legally or otherwise, in search of a better life.

The Communists, led by Mao Zedong, took over China in 1949 and the Philippines seemed like heaven compared to the purgatory Mao created.

China’s experience in purgatory was to last until the 1970s, when Mao passed away and an enlightened leadership under Deng Hsiao Ping reformed Chinese values — from dogmatic Communist to practical Capitalist — and spurred a phenomenal Chinese economic miracle.

The Chinese who fled here provide us with a good case in point of how social values work for a people. We often hear comments that the Chinese are natural entrepreneurs because they easily succeed in business. That is of course not accurate. Nobody is born a successful businessman, musical composer, nuclear scientist or whatever.

Just like Malcolm Caldwell put it, talent is the ability to practice — the tenacity and the passion to achieve excellence. If ever the Chinese are good businessmen compared to Filipinos, you can trace that to values in Chinese culture that enable them to succeed.

Compare the Filipino mindset of pwede na yan (that will suffice) with the Japanese and German passion for attaining excellence. The image of Filipino products and those of the Japanese and the Germans are molded by their respective losing and winning attitudes.

Because pwede na yan is pervasive, many Filipinos think that it’s an acceptable work ethic. We will give a customer what he basically wanted to buy but will not bother to exert extra effort that will impress our customer and ensure his loyalty.

Take the case of the first mobile phone in the Philippines — Mobiline, an analogue system. Being the only one available, there was no effort to provide a better service which the digital system offered. Enter Globe (and later on Smart) and Mobiline was wiped out. The truth is — in a globalized ultra competitive world, hindi pwede ang pwede na yan (that will suffice will not suffice).

Where the Filipinos are focused on keeping up with the Joneses, the Chinese focused on keeping up with the Taipans. The wealth disparity shows the products of their different values. Where the Filipinos are inclined to adopt a lifestyle that demonstrates their income capacity, the Chinese will practice austerity in order to build a capital base for his posterity.

Where the middle class Filipino parents will strive to provide their children a quality education, the best that their means could afford, the Chinese magbobote will strive to leave his grandchildren a viable business venture that they can develop into a business empire.

Where the Filipino will die for his family, the Japanese will die for his country. Where the macho Filipino will fight and sometimes die if his personal honor is tainted, the Iranian will fight and die when the slightest negative remark is made about Iran or Islam.

Where the Filipino is soft on the corrupt when it’s a relative or a close friend — often to the point of being in denial — the Brit is ruthless in punishing the corrupt and practices zero tolerance for corruption. Among the Ateneo (supposed breeders of ‘Men for others’, the high flying Blue Eagles) alumni abroad, it will disgust you to see in their e-group how they can overlook plunderers amongst their ranks and organize a get together to fete these Blue Vultures when they visit their US city.

One of the reasons why we cannot discourage plunderers (other than failure to prosecute and jail them) is because there is no social consequence when they steal. When did plunderers here ever suffer from social ostracism as an exposed plunderer will experience in the UK?

Values reform must not be mistaken for a moral crusade although it is ideal that the values of a society are solidly founded on moral principles. It could happen that two different sets of social values are both moral. However, we will find that one is productive while the other is counter productive.

Take the case of the parent who strives to provide his children a good education and the other parent who strives to provide his posterity a good viable business enterprise.

Both values are good per se and are founded on moral principles. However, you can see that the enterprise-oriented set of values will result in a more progressive society, a more vibrant economy.

The role of leadership cannot be overemphasized if a society is to undertake values reform. A society will embrace values reform only if:

1. The leader is credible in selling the need to undertake values reform. Can we believe Joseph Estrada or Gloria Macapagal Arroyo preaching values reform?

2. The leader knows and understands what values needs reforming.

3. The leader is able to convince the people that they must undertake values reform as a prerequisite to progress.

Can we find such a leader and are we capable of values reform?

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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