I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.


Seriously. People should really think abut renaming the Blog Action Day, if only to avoid the lousy acronym. 


Over at FV, benign0 has made something of a slogan of “It’s simple, really.” And sometimes, reading his posts, I have to wonder whether he means ‘simple’ as in ‘not complicated,’ or ‘simple’ as in ‘retarded.’

In the case of benign0’s poverty post, I daresay it’s the second one. Poverty is never a simple issue andhis textual equation (as he calls it) is a canard. He writes:

Poverty in the Philippines is a simple issue to me as it comes down to this simple textual equation:

We locked ourselves into commitments beyond any inherent ability in us to honour them.

It’s a self-evident formula that is applicable across four inescapable parameters around which our utter failure to prosper as a society can be quantified in black-and-white in a balanced scorecard:

) Population
) Consumption

( Production
( Capital

The first two, population and consumption, are relevant to the first part of the sentence, and the latter two are relevant to the second part. We laughed our way through the first two, and muddled along the latter two.

Result: POVERTY on a grand national scale.

One gets the feeling that benign0 spends the better part of everyday sitting around trying to reduce everything into pseudo-koans like that. That simplistic (in the sense of uncomplicated) reasoning is pretty attractive because it seems to put the whole problem comfortably into a nutshell. But hell. Any reasoning that fits in a nutshell belongs there. 

First off, benign0’s pseudo-koan totally ignores the fact that there are many factors that bring about poverty – especially on a ‘grand national scale’ – apart from the four he mentioned. Sure we’re over-populated, and yeah, the vast majority of Filipinos live beyond their means, but these two factors alone do not sum up the reasons why there is widespread poverty, that is to say – contrary to benign0’s sweeping generalization – Filipinos are not the only ones to blame for the widespread poverty we have now.  In fact, I would go further to say that with all these handicaps, even if the entire nation woke up one morning fitting benign0’s conception of what the perfect Filipino should be, we still wouldn’t be able to get out this quagmire within his lifetime.

Lest anyone forget, we Filipinos were doing relatively ok until the dictatorship ravaged us and left us saddled with a ginormous debt. Granted debt servicing should never have been made automatic, but the mere fact that the lion’s share of the budget goes to paying off those Marcos-era debts simply means that there’s just too little money to go around to adequately address poverty. Can you imagine just how awash in cash we would be if, for one year, we didn’t service our debts?

Can this be part of what benign0 meant when he wrote that we had ‘locked ourselves into committments …” Probably. But the thing is, even if we didn’t have autmatic debt servicing, we would still have pay our debts back. And since we started out with so much debt, it was inevitable that we would have to borrow more and more money, which really only aggravated our situation. And then too factors like the Asian financial crisis, Bush the first’s war in Iraq,  and Dubya’s war among other things have conspired to make it difficult for our country to rise above our woes.

But in his haste to pin everything on what he perceives to be the dysfunctional Filipino – hasn’t bening0 ignored all these things?

Secondly, benign0 insists that we ‘muddled along (production) and (capital). And just so we’re clear: benign0’s use of the word ‘muddled’ very clearly implies that mediocrity is what he actually means. 

Normally, I would not disagree. Most Filipinos are so besotted with small-time success that we often lose sight of the need to basically aim high. Worse, we are under the thumb of a Church that has so relentlessly pushed the message of nobility in poverty that we have entire generations lacking the motivation – the ambition – to rise beyond a certain level of comfort. And anyone who acts otherwise is often stigmatized as being too big for his britches or something similarly moronic. As a result, mediocrity is almost our default state. 

However, my disagreement with benign0 has to do with his assumption that these mediocre ones determine the fate of the nation. They do not. The prosperity of a nation ultimately lies in the hands of the ruling middle class. The people who, precisely because they are not mediocre, have managed to put up businesses that employ other people; and to end up in leadership positions where they are able to influence the growth and development of the nation. The problem with these people is, therefore, not so much mediocrity as corruption.

Our leaders, in general, are fairly competent. It’s just that they are so damned crooked. And their competence is channeled, not for the nation’s good, but for the purpose of making themselves rich. Their depradations are yet another factor that benign0 has chosen to ignore in favor of simplicity. 

I am familar with the argument that says corruption, if predictable, is not a hindrance to business. In fact, I subscribe to that belief. However, I would that for corruption to be an insignificant factor, it should not just be predicatable, it should also not be over-the-top. As one rather cynical businessman once told me, the government should strive for a 70-30 mix. 70 percent of their effort should go to serving the country; 30 percent should go to serving their own interests.

In more practical terms, it’s ok to take money from a supplier, for as long as the goods or services being supplied are not worthless. Our problem is that corrupt government usually doesn’t care how shitty the product or the service is as long as it gets its cut. That isn’t mediocrity. That’s blinding greed. And i don’t see that anywhere in benign0’s pseudo-koan.

And lastly, I take issue with benign0’s use of the word ‘inherent.’ It implies that Filipinos have some sort of limitation in terms of what we can achieve. This is bullshit. Our problem is not some glass ceiling. Our problem is that our leaders have not provided us with a ladder tall and sturdy enough to enable us to reach – and shatter – that glass ceiling. 

Poverty isn’t simple. Calling it simple … now that’s simple. And I don’t mean uncomplicated.


Filed under: church and state, Filipino, musings, politics, society, ,

12 Responses

  1. omgdidisaythat says:

    I don’t know this benign0 guy you keep talking about, but he sounds like an economist, my advice, stay away, they are very dangerous, one minute showing you some numbers , the next organising you and the rest of humanity accroding to some economic model.

    now thats done, can i get a smoke?

  2. “it’s simple, really” answered by “you’re simple, really”?


  3. rom says:

    jester: makes sense, don’t it? 😀

  4. rom says:

    omg:welcome to the smoking room! here …*hands a cuban to omg* … have a smoke on me. 😀

  5. […] Comments rom on B.A.D.Czar on Do we forgive?rom on B.A.D.the jester-in-exile on B.A.D.omgdidisaythat on B.A.D.the […]

  6. omgdidisaythat says:

    Thank you rom, very kind of you! Cuban, an excellent choice.

  7. ACS says:

    I totally agree. But even assuming that Benigno’s simple fromulation has any validity, I just have to say that it’s simplicity belies something that’s not so simple at all.

    Let’s take his “people are just living beyond their means” argument. We must admit that Filipinos love to do this…but the question remains: why are their means so limited?

  8. rom says:

    omg: only the very best for my friends, luv! 😀

  9. omgdidisaythat says:

    I like you smoke image at the top of the page , very nice. btw, who’s the girl?

  10. rom says:

    omg:thass lily allen. 🙂

  11. omgdidisaythat says:

    She is looking very very cool there. Thank you.

  12. […] the Philippines, I’ll call it the coming perfect circus instead. Let me explain in my usual koanic simplicity (btw, what is a “koan” […]

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