The Lexus and the Olive Tree

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A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy

Theodore Roosevelt

Another day of legal hearings on the true condition of ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are on the table today.  The bickerings between personalities go on, citing constitutional rights, human rights, rights to confidentiality of medical records, and whatever rights come to the mind of the orators.  While this is ongoing, other issues remain.  The Maguindanao massacre continues to progress at snail’s pace.  A new province in the Bicol region is being created, apparently with the goal of resolving some political territorial issues.  The problem of insurgency in isolated sections of Mindanao (which I think is a beautiful place and is relatively peaceful in most areas) persists, and there is no end in sight.  All these are placing a dent on our democratic institutions.  Is something wrong with our people?  Or is the constitution on which our democracy is based flawed in the first place?

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman coined the statement called “MIDS”, or Microchip Immune Deficiency.  This microchip, in political terms, may represent a country’s system of government as defined by its constitution. He says that this is a disease that can afflict any bloated, overweight, sclerotic political system in the post cold war era.  Friedman states that government needs to put in place processes for the democratization of technology, finance, information, decision making and power. They need to improve productivity, wages, quality of life, knowledge use, and competitiveness in order to survive the onset of globalization. If a country fails in doing this, they will not be able to compete, and its roots could be traced to a populace that is dictated upon due to lack of education.

I believe in progress.  But for progress to happen, there must be an educated public.  Sadly, our teaching institutions are deteriorating.  No Philippine University was able to make it in the list of the top 300 universities in the world.  We are losing our MDs and PhDs to other countries.  Our research output leaves much to be desired.  Students tend to cease educating themselves after getting diplomas and focus on economic upgrades instead, which is more “showy” and “cool” than intellectual upgrades.  I have a feeling that too much materialism and capitalism is creeping in, without the necessary moral and educational foundation to support and sustain economic progress.

Let us put an end to systems based on personalities political clout.  Instead, let us educate ourselves on the technologies and ideologies needed to sustain a government that is both accountable and effective.  The Philippine populace is too hardworking and talented, and I believe that it would only be a matter of time before we realize our dream of being at par with the world’s best in terms of economy, education, sports, and natural resources.  But this could only happen if we put emphasis on improving our educational systems and putting the right teaching infrastructure in place.

After all, if democracy is a numbers game, we must make sure that everyone is equipped with the neurons to make a wise choice.


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