The recent effort to fan nostalgia for EDSA people power and to revive fears of martial law runs the danger of making people live in the past instead of facing the future.
That said, I believe the nostalgia and fear-mongering are useful and constructive because they could help our people, especially the younger generations, to develop a strong historical sense.
The 30-year period from 1986 -2016 marks not only a distinct part of our nation’s history – our progress or lack of progress since the fall of the Marcos regime to the present Aquino II regime. It coincides with a period of massive, strategic and decisive change in the world.
From the Cold War to globalization
The change is not so much in the explosion of people power revolutions across the world following our EDSA people power revolt, as strongman governments and communist dictatorships were swept away by the tide of democratic change. The change was so dramatic, it led one political scientist to speculate about “the end of history.”
But the change during this period represents more fundamentally a change in international systems. In the late 1980s a new international system called globalization came together and replaced the previous international system, the Cold War system, which had reigned since the end of World War II.
This is the lens from which we can more productively view our 30-year history from 1986 to 2016. It invests deeper meaning in all that has taken place.
The Cold War system was characterized by one overarching feature— and that was the division of the world into two power blocs – the Soviet bloc of Communist and socialist economies, and the Capitalist bloc led by the United States and Europe.
Globalization is the inexorable integration of markets, transport systems and communications systems to a degree never seen before in world history – in a way that enabled corporations, countries, and individuals to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before, and also in a way that enabled the world to reach into corporations, countries and individuals farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before.
If the overarching feature of the Cold War was division, the overarching feature of globalization is integration. The world has become an increasingly interwoven place.
If the most striking symbol of the Cold War was the Berlin Wall, the vivid symbol of globalization is the Internet or the Web. The Internet signifies that we are all connected.
Today, everyone is directly or indirectly affected by globalization, but not everyone — whether corporation, country or individual — benefits from it in the same way or to the same degree.
A nation of consumers, not producers
As a people and as a nation, we emerged from the Cold War into this new world of globalization unpreprared for its changes, challenges and opportunities because of our poor communications infrastructure and inward-looking mindset.
We have been doing catch-up ever since, but up to now we still haven‘t caught up. And now we face the dreadful prospect of falling farther left behind, behind even our Asean neighbors.
And we’re faltering through our own fault because we have spent more time on humbug than on productive effort.
We have focused on becoming a large nation of consumers, instead of developing a large nation of producers.
Restricting our focus for now on ICT development and policy, we find that the implacable reality of national failure is vividly encapsulized by three alarming facts:
1. We have the slowest and most expensive Internet in Asia and in Asean, a shortcoming that is more crushing than we realize.
2. There is no internet access in 80 percent of our public schools, thereby consigning millions of our children to a disadvantage vis-à-vis their counterparts in the world.
Meanwhile, our Asean neighbors have moved to incorporate the Massive Open Online course (MOOC) into their school curriculums. We still have to do the same.
3. We refuse to establish our own Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
Our Asean neighbors have already moved into this phase.
Uneducated, poor and unconnected
It’s as if, during the term of President BS Aquno, we adopted a policy and strategy to keep our people backward, poor, and left behind. While the President and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima keep crowing that “Good governance is good economics,” our ICT policy tells the opposite.
Keeping our people uneducated, poor and unconnected is not a strategy; it is a crime.
We’re not investing in our people and our future.
We’re holding them back from a world of opportunity.
One expatriate friend says this is not just a disgrace. This means our next generation will be behind our neighbors in Asean. The Vietnamese today are already dreaming about having their own Silicon Valley in the near future.
Changes are happening in this new system and new world much faster than we are used to. The competition is tougher and relentless. Before we can enjoy any laurels, in the wink of an eye, progress can pass us by. A competitor can steal your market, another country can come up with a better invention, or other people will harness new technology and inventions more effectively than you can.
This is a time for transformational leaders and managers.
Until we infuse transformational change in national leadership and national culture, unless innovation becomes ingrained in our economy and in our DNA, we will be consigned to envying our neighbors their intrepidity, creativity, enterprise, and dynamism.
Coupling this with the evident primacy of oligarchs and political dynasts in our country, my foreign friend ruefully said that we are becoming “the Mexico of Asia.” That makes me wish we were “the sick man of Asia” instead.