The curse of sectorism: A preponderance of psychopaths

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PHILIP CAMARA

SECTORISM is the belief that society and a state (country) can be more “progressive” if organizing the country’s labor, land and capital were primarily left to formal enterprises and corporations where the chief executive officer (CEO), the boss, acts as the dictator of executive action that emanate from policy from a small band of people known as the corporation’s directors.

The government in turn, is there to ensure that the “the public good” is served by these multitude sectoral entities taking a myriad of initiatives all meant to improve their respective “bottom line,” the sectoral profit. All of the different sectoral contributions to value-added in a given year define the gross domestic product (GDP) or economic flows for the period.

By using GDP as a proxy for development, there is a seamless “policy to action” machinery that sucks up savings, allocates skilled and unskilled workers, and allocates productive land towards the direction of economic expansion and under the control of the respective heads of both the powerful corporations that dominate particular sectors and the strong executive branch of the Philippine government as the regulator of the field.

How to succeed in business

The first thing to note is that CEOs, whether from private or government institutions, require certain traits that allow them to “succeed” in leadership that brings their particular corporation into a dominant and winning position relative to other players in the same sector.

We all know that to succeed in a competitive environment an entity needs to become ruthless and willing to swing to the lowest denominator to come out a winner while being calculatedly charming. Take any sector in the Philippines like banking, power generation, retail, property development, agri-business, utilities, infrastructure and you will find that more than 60 percent of sectoral revenue is generated by just the top 5 (many times less than 5) corporations even if the sector is composed of thousands of corporations. Likely, the corporate culture in these companies engender and reward psychopathic traits.

Standard behavior of psychopaths

Professionals jockeying for the top slot, to be the big boss in a corporation (private or public), need as well to demonstrate some of the standard behavior tactics of psychopaths: charming, forceful and Machiavellian.

Catherine Clifford, in her November 2016 essay on “Why psychopaths are so good at getting ahead” quoted Kevin Dutton, author of “The Wisdom of Psychopaths,” published in the Scientific American, as saying that psychopathy can be defined by three categories, including fearless dominance, self-centered impulsivity, and cold-heartedness. She says “it is, in particular, psychopaths’ callousness, lack of empathy, and charm that helps them advance in the working world”.

Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman of research in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and professor at the Icahn School of Medicine in NYC says “we promote them, we elect them, and sometimes, a lot of people feel comfortable when people like that are in charge of our lives”.

In ultra-Sectorism, where power over land, labor and capital of a country are turned over to large corporations, run by dictatorial CEOs, many of whom are there because of their degree of psychopathy, for generating economic activity (and egged on by a government that counts that activity as a proxy for its performance) it will be of no surprise that communities and their local ecosystems’ welfare can and do fall by the wayside, often brutalized.

Thus, CEOs of mining companies see nothing wrong with ripping up natural assets that are the basis for subsistence and small-scale livelihoods of whole villages and especially of the original inhabitants of this land, the indigenous people. CEOs of power generation and distribution companies see no problem with manipulating the supply and spot prices of power to take more money from the poor for their products, one of the most expensive in Asia. CEOs of softdrink companies see nothing wrong with cases of diabetes spreading among the vulnerable population of young children and will resist the sugary beverage tax proposal that would have lowered consumption and raised more money for the social consequences of a diabetic citizenry, and so on and so forth.

Ruthless competition vs faithful cooperation

Thus, Sectorism must be countered with Areaism (the belief that the interest of the local community is paramount in development projects) if the brokenness or splintering of the country’s true wealth (people and land) is to be addressed. But Areaism in a unitary government structure such as ours is at a great, if not overwhelming disadvantage and worse, because of the patronage politics that it engenders, assures, many times, that local government units are also headed by psychopathic political dynasties who lord it over their constituents with the aim of expanding their own political power.

If Sectorism is based on ruthless competition, Areaism in turn is based on faithful cooperation. Thus, psychophatic tendencies are not an advantage when it comes to genuine area institutions. We have seen for example the likes of the late Mayor (and later Secretary) Jesse Robredo, who would be the first to respond to crises in Naga City in whatever way he could while wearing only his rubber slippers. He formed many peoples’ councils that created networks of cooperating individuals, some volunteers, some official heads of relevant organizations, but guided by the blessings cooperation can bring in making Naga City a better place for its citizens and not just the corporations doing business there.

The sooner we do away with our present unitary structure built upon Sectorism and move towards empowered and genuinely autonomous regions through federalism, the better our chances for creating a Philippines that truly benefits its 20 million households. By weakening ultra-Sectorism we lessen the impact psychopaths are currently having in handing us a Philippines that symbolizes hopelessness for too many households.

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