rock the vote

September 24, 2015

i am desperately trying to make sense of Philippine politics.   I’m certainly realistic enough to know that a single blog post won’t bring me full enlightenment but, instead, is an attempt to begin to make some sense of it.

In an archipelago of 7,100 islands, name recall is quite understandable (not that it’s an excuse) given the reach of radio. Political dynasties were partly enabled by it: after all, you’re more likely to vote for someone with a familiar last name rather than one you don’t know. Hopefully, the pervasiveness of cell phones and social media can provide a “dent” towards this as more information about the candidates becomes accessible. Granted, as was noted in the American President, you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

Another reason for the persistence of these political families is the wealth that they hold. They can afford more media buys and we can easily mistake this with free speech – this is a little more obvious in a developing nation. While voters have learned to accept the cash and then just vote for whatever candidate they choose. I suspect (although I don’t have proof) some of them are now resorting to other forms of shenanigans. Being richer doesn’t necessarily make you fit to rule nor does it help you to determine what’s beneficial to the community – winning an economic lottery doesn’t make you “better” than anyone else. After all, as my former advisor taught me: “Local maxima, global minima.” We are all prone to self-interest and What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) thinking.

I can understand why some voters have taken an anti-intellectual stand. Attitude is just, if not more, important than aptitude. “Evil” geniuses exist after all. The majority of the population has been burned by these “bright boys” in the past so it would make perfect sense to elect someone with similar sensibilities. What they sometimes don’t realise is that some candidates merely pretend to come from the same background or have their backs – when in reality it’s their own wellbeing that’s their priority. I don’t think this a solution either – is holding out for Plato’s philosopher-king a pipe dream for the country.

That said, I think there is too much reliance on an individual messiah: perhaps a by-product of religion and Western colonialism. It is much easier to hope that someone else is responsible for making your or your family’s lives better. I can not blame the population from thinking that way – their own life experiences point to that reality. I believe it is the existing social structures that make it so – the Philippine’s has a high power distance culture according to Hofstede’s work. While solutions may not come easy, I think a better understanding of the situation is required for possible remedies. We should be able to tap into the wisdom of the crowds. Granted, statistically speaking, there is no way to increase the size of the upper echelon, it is improving the awareness of those in the “middle” that is more important and may have greater flow-on effects for the nation – it is unlikely that we can directly produce “great” individuals, it is merely providing the conditions for more of them to flourish. It is the dependence on the few to raise us from poverty that is not completely scalable, in my mind.

Electronic Voting Machines can still be hacked – sure just not by anyone. Ballot tampering is now harder and requires a special skill set so it is presumptuous to think it is always a true and accurate reflection of the voice of the people. Sure it is a step in the right direction but it is foolish to assume it is a silver bullet. Has anyone even looked into the value-for-money thing since it’s a developing economy after all? Or is someone simply the beneficiary of a lucrative government contract. There is nothing inherently wrong with turning a profit – it is when it is at the expense of others when questions arise. What about Filipinos overseas?

the lost boy(s)

September 23, 2015

i’ll be the first to admit that for several years I was floundering – hell, there are still a few days when I feel that way. Having an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), you have a basis of comparison. I can not speak for other people but, personally, it was really tough at first. “Re-learning” things is frustrating. Eventually, I adjusted – it took a long time.

Despite what some “experts” and literature say, I believe there is no set time to accept the situation. There is a prescription of stages for some structure but there are no hard-and-fast rules – it varies with each individual and some may go an alternative route. Sure there are steps one can take to accelerate the process but, ultimately, it comes down to the individual. We are all, after all, different. For some the “click” is nearly instantaneous; some, sadly never get there; but for most of us, myself included, we fall somewhere in between – the passage of time helps ease us into our “new” lives.

At first glance, we may seem different but we’re very much the same. People often fear or are uncomfortable with what they don’t understand – that’s only human and a natural reaction. We think 13 is unlucky because cavemen could only count ten fingers and two feet; and what was beyond this was simply unknown – I wonder what those who had a different number of digits thought. While exposure is not the end-all and be-all, it certainly can help in building the requisite empathy.

Why must we hide away the differently-abled in dark shadows? Are we ashamed (we are partly to blame for accepting this)? Or is it too hard? I understand why for heritage buildings the ramps are at the back or it’s difficult to use the toilets – for newer structures, there’s no excuse not to be accessible. You can easily tell if it’s merely for compliance – not a whole lot of thought was put in it. Forget incidental visitors, what about prospective employees? Dignity is more than access but being able to support one’s self? It’s true what they say: you can’t legislate good behavior. That said, sometimes laws are needed to level the playing field.

I’m not big on quotas but as anyone in management can attest what isn’t measured does not count – sometimes we need targets to benchmark effectiveness. Activism can grant you a seat at the table but true advocacy is needed for you to be willingly invited to sit. I’m not saying that one approach is better; you often need a mix and a multi-pronged method – as the saying goes, if you only have a hammer then all problems look like nails.

I do not pretend to know everything or that my experiences are universal (they may be similar to some) but am open and gradually learning that it is important and I’m entitled to say my peace and give my side of the story.


September 19, 2015

i originally enjoyed The Newsroom because of the dialogue and I’m a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s writing. But contemplating on it more, I can see much more value in it.

In a world of sound bites, the 24-hour news cycle, and social media, it is understandable to take things at face value. It is also useful to stop, digest, and see the big picture, as well as, merely absorbing the facts and figures presented to us.

I appreciate that it tackles major events in the past – it is sometimes speculative for dramatic purposes but as long as you are aware of this, it should not be much of an issue. Like everything, you need to consider the source. I enjoy The Daily Show and Real Time; and liked The Colbert Report but I’m conscious these are comedy shows.

I like how the main character identifies as a Republican and gives a different take on how I usually see things. You know what they say about opinions. In a truly civil society we can agree to disagree and afford people with the respect they deserve. That said, I’m sometimes tempted to shout at individuals but this is a futile measure in bringing them around to your way of thinking. Understanding what matters to others can be very insightful.

I think it was a good idea to end the series after a few seasons. I have similar thoughts to Gervais and Merchant. There is a tendency for some shows to grow stale and to milk it purely for purely financial gains. That said, I don’t believe there is a universal formula that can prescribe a set number of years – as long as its purpose has not yet been met, there is some merit to keeping it on the “air”.

It was great that they referenced the book: The Man from La Mancha by Don Quixote. In a world where screens are preferred to pages, it’s good that the written word can still be highlighted. People need to make a deliberate effort to read in this fast-paced world where individuals are time poor. It’s not always practical nor is it realistic to expect people to read so we need other, more clever ways to imbibe this knowledge – we sometimes need to bring the mountain to Mohammed as the expression goes. We need to make it more palatable and accessible to everyone – it’s about making things simpler but not too simple like Einstein said.

This is not just about the television show but serves as a jumping off point.

better man

September 15, 2015

as Jefferson and Biden’s mum articulated: Nobody is better than you but you are not better than anyone else. The former was deeply ingrained in me; the latter part is still a lesson I’m trying to grapple with.

“Better” is best used as an adjective for a given criterion and applied with, as the MOVER’s of La Salle used to espouse, S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) characteristics – may be not the ‘A’ so much, it is for goals after all.

We would empathise with others more if we tried to refrain from judging them immediately. Admittedly, it’s not always easy. That said, there are people you don’t like, don’t get along with or who don’t think like you. Give them time and the benefit of the doubt but you’re only human after all and you’ll eventually choose to avoid them. That’s quite understandable.

It’s blanket thinking and attributing traits to all that’s the real danger. It is being conscious of generalising the out-group, forgive the psychological jargon, and treating them as individuals instead.

a rock and a hard place

September 13, 2015

as a person living with a disability I’m usually caught in the middle (as I suspect others are) of, as Graeme Innes has put it, the soft bigotry of low expectations and the pervasiveness of “normalcy”.  The former often comes in the opportunity depravation, particularly employment, and the latter is often exemplified, not to be crass, but by toilets.

We do certain things because we want to or we have to and our actions are not meant to be “inspiration porn” as the late Stella Young said.  Most people make terribly wrong assumptions because they are legitimately ignorant:  they’re either uneducated or unexposed.  That’s why advocacy plays a key role.  A few, often loud, people are just plain stubborn or hateful – I often have to bite my tongue and remind myself about what Bismarck said about arguing with fools.

a walk to remember

September 8, 2015

i’m not a big fan of the movie but it seemed a very apt title for this post.  It is a reappropriation (at least that’s my excuse).

There are a number of “simple” things I’ve taken for granted.  There are a number of things (each one arguably meriting a post of their own) but I’d like to bring my attention to walking.

I now rely on a four-wheel walker to get around.  While it’s helped me a lot, the irony is I use my hands more (by placing enormous weight on them) and have to unlearn some of the things that’s kept me safe and prevented me from falling.   I’ve always relied on the “strength” in my top-half rather than the bottom part in order to compensate and manage.  I’ve got to develop my core and lower extremities to walk faster and “properly”.

I’ve to remember a lot and think consciously when I walk.  A lot of “practise” is involved in order to try to get my legs to do what my brain’s expecting.  It’s truly astonishing how we can perform this task seemingly “effortlessly” – it truly is a wonder of evolution.  But the “difficulty” has long been underscored by the field of robotics and the challenges of maintaining balance while walking on two hind legs – co-ordination is a non-trivial feat.