How to stop showbiztocracy and promote real democracy
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-03-04
An agitated mobile phone texter sent me this: "Stop watching Pinoy movies in cinemas and buy only pirated Pinoy movie DVDs. If you kill the movie industry, then no more movie stars can enter politics!"

But can we really stop showbiz-tocracy? Yes we can. But first we must eradicate the reasons why people, mostly the masses and the poorest of the poor, elect showbiz personalities in the first place.

Philippine experience in local community development is beginning to validate the wisdom of great minds like Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and John Locke who were among the earliest proponents of a concept known as "ownership society."

Citizens tend to become responsible and caring stewards of property when they are allowed to own it. This makes them act more responsibly, respect the law and treat each other with dignity and respect.

Whether rich or poor, owning property motivates people to strive harder so they could create more wealth for themselves and for others. And this is why it is said that property ownership is the very foundation of social order. A man so poor, so insecure and owning nothing can only bring more problems to society.

In the US, the National Guard is authorized to shoot looters on sight during major disasters. This harsh picture may not jibe with that of a United States that preaches democracy, due process and human rights but it underscores the importance of property as the foundation of social order.

US social order is founded on respect for personal property, making looting a very serious offense. Robbery draws a few years in prison but looting during disasters is an assault on the very fabric that welds American society. Gawad Kalinga and Bukas Palad development models
Gawad Kalinga (GK) and the Focolare Movement’s Bukas Palad (BP) have unlocked the secret of what could make a poor man abandon his loser mentality and adopt a forward looking and constructive mindset. When I was still COPA (Council on Philippine Affairs) Chairman and member, GK and BP received our COPA Awards in 2002 for their contributions to nation building.

Values are formed by the home environment, education, social interaction and opportunities. The main features of the GK and BP development programs focus on value formation and dignity restoration but these are made possible only after the beneficiary has been given a decent home, albeit a very basic and simple one.

By providing a decent home, GK and BP breaks a poor man’s sense of entrapment to the endless cycle of poverty and hopelessness. Gone is the cop-out of a man who woke up every new day to surroundings of filth, leaky roofs and patched-over walls. For that man, having a decent home for his family is his first big step to moving forward.

Helen Clark, prime minister of New Zealand, one of the best-managed countries in the world in terms of caring for its citizens, believes in creating a secure nation made up of confident and secure families. "An ownership society in which every family has a stake and sees a future, makes our country strong," Clark said in one of her speeches.

The GK and BP experience is rich with wonderful stories of poor people born afresh to a new world of trust, hope and confidence. For the first time, the poorest of the poor feels a sense of involvement to make his community become a suitable place for raising his children.

From being a nuisance, people who once were squatters and community toughies now feel part of the bigger community and they subsequently strive to improve their new social environment. I met one former community terror turned community leader when GK’s Tony Meloto brought me to their Amparo (Caloocan City) GK site five years ago. Transformed voters
Among the many evidences of transformation of minds and values in GK and BP communities are the way they now regard celebrities. No longer feeling inferior or insecure, they see the truth about themselves.

GK coordinates a lot with Vice President Noli de Castro in his capacity as Housing Czar. We are all aware of how poor communities would shriek in excitement whenever a celebrity like Noli de Castro turns up in their neighborhood.

It was GK Communications Chief Maria Montelibano who narrated to me this wonderful experience when a GK community requested and was granted a meeting with VP Noli de Castro. When VP Noli arrived in the GK community for their meeting, there were no shrieking fans mobbing him. After the usual courtesies to their guest, it was all business henceforth.

Needless to say, the community got what they asked for. They got it not because they were voters and the Vice President was ensuring their support. They got what they wanted because they now knew how to communicate and promote their issues to an official of the land. They succeeded because they have become an empowered community which knew what it wants and how to negotiate for it.

It is in developed communities of Gawad Kalinga and Bukas Palad where democracy becomes functional. It is in communities like these where people develop a sense of nationhood. No longer feeling isolated by poverty from the rest of society, they begin to appreciate higher values. Having a stake to protect, they develop patriotism — they have something worth dying for.

Come Election Day, rest assured that these people will vote intelligently.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

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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