Thursday, February 24, 2011

‘PEOPLE POWER’ AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MILITARY

Former president Fidel Ramos may be talking out of an inflated sense of importance, but he surely has a point in stressing the necessity of the ‘military factor’ in ‘people power’ revolts. Ramos, who was military chief of staff at the time, is considered one of the ‘heroes’ of the EDSA Revolution in 1986 that toppled Marcos’ regime.

In Ramos’ statement, he was primarily claiming that the difference between peaceful and bloody revolutions has to do with whether the military powers side with the people’s clamor, or stick by its dictator. But the more important fact to be taken from this is that ‘people power,’ as noble sounding as it is, amounts to little in shifting the balance of political power, without the instruments of coercion to back it. This is something I have stated before, in this old blog entry (wow, three years ago na pala) and in my essay collection.


PUBLIC OPINION STILL THE DEALBREAKER

I’m not denying that ultimately, public opinion is what determines the tenability of a ruler; it is the ‘first cause’ on which the military may take advantage. But such public opinion also works itself into the ranks of the military, by which the old, or new, regime is sanctioned. Ramos’ defection in 1986 resulted in something agreeable, if not meaningful, in that he appeared to reflect the ‘people’s will,’ by which change was effected.

As it is, Marcos’ successor, Cory Aquino, had a tough time maintaining her presidency because of persistent coup threats, indicating a lack of solid backing by all of the most significant factions within the military. Had a coup succeeded 20 years ago, it is doubtful that such a rule would have been long-lived, given the absence of backing of public opinion.

The only way the military factor becomes irrelevant to a ‘people power’ movement is when its members, for whatever reasons, noble or crudely opportunistic, abandon ship and rally alongside ‘the people.’ It was very much against the sensibilities of many soldiers, and even Marcos, to open fire on nuns and the huge throngs of people that gathered just two kilometers away from where I am typing this. It is the substantial weakening of the dictatorship’s coercive capabilities, and not a mere show of peace in the streets (which I should stress is only one of many manifestations of public opinion), that makes for victory of the opposition.

Bear in mind that public opinion does not make for good and beneficial. Just because a majority are in agreement about doing something does not make it a wise course of action. In our discussion, I am merely talking about the ability of political entities to thrive in a particular intellectual environment. And we could not automatically say that something like the EDSA Revolution was representative of some Filipino collective, because the concept is nonsense. There is no unit that thinks and acts collectively. There are only individuals, each with their corresponding levels of influence on the political order.


PEOPLE POWER IS ABOUT DESTRUCTION, NOT CREATION

Alas, the sad fact is that revolutions have more to do with ‘out with the old’, rather than ensuring that the ‘in with the new’ will be anything different from the dictatorship, apart from faces and names. Principles of the new governing body do not necessarily improve, and we see this in the present Egyptian junta after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak.

And while Cory Aquino’s administration no longer brandished military might in so obvious a manner as her predecessor, similar ‘human rights’ abuses continued (think of Lino Brocka’s Orapranobis), and general ‘pro-poor’ policy made for inefficiency and looting, to the detriment of economic conditions in the Philippines.


CONCLUSION: GOVERNMENT CONTINUES GROWING

As oppressive as these ousted dictators may be, ‘people power’ as we know it has not only been an occasion for opportunists within the military to gain politically (Ramos did succeed Cory Aquino as president), but has led to no beneath-the-surface changes. Government is still constantly growing and interfering in our lives. The Philippine national budget has increased by 50% in just five years’ time, and I doubt the present administration headed by Cory Aquino’s son will put a stop to this trend.

The fundamental changes necessary to a real change in political affairs will have to do more with some kind of intellectual enlightenment, and not just people being emotionally affronted, the latter nonetheless remaining essential for attitudinal changes to occur. This, however, may require a trial-and-error process in the political landscape that may wipe out the human race before things could get better.

However, as I see it, hope lies in the upcoming depression, in which people will grasp for peaceful (non-government) solutions out of necessity, similar to (but not quite) how Marcos’ ouster was fueled by righteous rage (on which certain military elements latched). Helping in this new revolution would be the largely deregulated internet, where you get to read stuff like this blog.

Monday, February 21, 2011

FAITH IN FREEDOM, AND THE MEANS OF CONVERSION ― A SHORT EXPLORATION

There are three things of which I am most grateful in life, and one of these is my liberation from the notion that violence has any place in the social order; self-defense is justified only in that it affirms this rejection of violence in human affairs.

For some reason or reasons, intelligence level surely not being primary among these, I have managed to see through statism and find in it only social regression. It seems that such an orientation has little to do with the crafting of strong arguments, as much as it has to do with psychology and the apt use of different parts of the brain according to specific situations.


FOLLOWING AND WILLING ― TWO SEPARATE MENTAL PHENOMENA

When I am guided by the directions of a passenger while driving, it is much more difficult for me to use my discretion in changing lanes or turning at intersections. So if the passenger is incompetent as a direction giver, my driving suffers, and it would have been better had I been of the mind to look at road signs for directions, or to use my memory, instead.

And when I am copying another’s writings, even for things I know about, it would be much more difficult for me to use my knowledge to correct any mistakes of the one I’m copying. If I am aware beforehand that such notes are wrong, I would rather stick to using my knowledge so as to write accurate facts.

It seems that I use different parts of the brain when following, and when actively choosing. For this intent and purpose, we could say that one has a ‘following’ personality distinct from their ‘willing’ personality.

I think this explains the difficulty of people’s acceptance of the idea of free markets. Most are predisposed to follow, to trust in the judgment of ‘the government,’ or the vague ‘they,’ whomever ‘they’ are. If one is not of the mindset to make their own decisions and be self-responsible, or to see individuals as capable of making such decisions, it is that much harder to shift one’s manner of action and one’s attitude regarding official and unofficial institutions, in favor of freedom.

Granted, the ‘following’ personality has its practical purpose in the absence of complete knowledge of this world (we rely on the knowledge of people of various specialties in acquiring information, whether this is about the capital of Peru or if a stock is a good buy), it becomes a hindrance to self-growth and thus society’s well-being when one’s volition is surrendered to the state, which is no more enlightened, even less so, than the individual members of a community. Hayek’s ‘spontaneous order’ rightly places economic decisions with the individual, and this is an arrangement found to be beneficial and thus followed by free society.

A lot of the efforts made towards political reform will have to focus not so much on intellectual arguments, but on understanding people’s manner of thinking so as to effectively sway them towards libertarianism.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

SHOULD THE PHILIPPINES INTERFERE IN CHINA’S PLANNED EXECUTION?

Pleading with the Chinese government to stay the execution of several Filipino ‘drug mules’ is a potentially tough discussion for one like me who rejects any government involvement in human affairs whatsoever.

After all, it is desired that our countrymen would be set free or at least not killed in the immediate future; how else can this be done other than a discussion between government officials of the two pertinent countries? It is unlikely that the Chinese government would even bother reopening the case, much less so if ‘mere’ private individuals make the pleading.

“And so government is needed after all. Pwned!” my heckler tells me.

Not really. If indeed the best option available is for a government official to fly to China and ask for some commutation, then all of this could be funded privately. After all, it is presumed that the official’s constituents are in favor of the overseas workers being saved from Chinese execution, by which funding could be ensured.

So although representing himself (let’s say it’s Noynoy! Noynoy! Noynoy!) to the Chinese as the Philippine president, he is actually acting in a private capacity, if everything is funded privately. What’s more, the time NNN takes to plead for the workers’ lives, is time off from fucking up our country as a public official.

Of course, we’re nowhere near such a scenario, as is evident in high tax rates. But the point is that even for situations as these where other governments would only bother with government officials, even a largely ‘anarchistic’ society could manage.

Additional points to ponder:
- I would be more creative than sending that unappealing Binay over. What about shooting a video message with Taylor Swift, who should be in the Philippines in a couple of days? If there is any way to sway Chinese officials, who are scumbags just like any public officials anywhere in the world, it would be by threatening the taking away of votes of the Chinese youth, who are presumably fans of this guitar-wielding lass.
- Overseas work entails some risks ― as those now on death row in China face ― that should be recognized beforehand and not used as an excuse for ‘OFW assistance’ from the government. The reason why foreign work is even an option is because of poor conditions locally; to extract taxes for the sake of aiding overseas workers would make the local situation correspondingly worse, and overseas work even more appealing in relation to domestic work. Goes to show how government policy tends to be ironic, as it brings about the exact problem meant to be addressed.
- Drug use and shipping should be legalized completely anyway. I wrote about it here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BROADBAND SUCKS, AND THE INANE SOLUTION FOR IT

I was rather bewildered by Conrado Banal III’s article actually praising the political pressure being exerted on internet service providers into setting download limitations to subscribers.

I’ve admired, or at least, winced, with each of Banal’s ‘punny’ titles over the past 15 years or so (how does he keep them coming?). Alas, my image of him is now tarnished.

By setting restrictions in downloads, the National Telecommunications Commission is thereby impeding future progress. In applying new technologies, entrepreneurs necessarily discard present limitations and conceptions of how internet service should be. However, such advancements may never come to pass, or never be instituted, where restrictions exist.

Now it wouldn’t be harmful to set a download limit that is beyond the existing capabilities of ISPs. But that’s like saying, a price ceiling of P100 is not harmful for a good that costs P50. It wouldn’t make a difference if the NTC limits each subscriber’s downloads to 746 jigazillion terabytes ― but why bother imposing such a thing?


ARBITRARY STATE ACTION

Furthermore, what will be the standards by which a download limit can be set? The only manner this wouldn’t be arbitrary is if the ISPs, without nagging from the NTC, impose their limits. But then, this would of course be a bane to the particular ISP’s competitiveness, if other ISPs are able to promise, and deliver, better services without the same limitations.

And the fact that the NTC will have to constantly update the download limit in accordance with Moore’s Law ―which has its implications on the size and quality of the downloads ― goes to show how ridiculous it is in the first place to impose a download limit.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ANGELO REYES’ SUICIDE - HONORABLE?

It’s been a week since government man Angelo Reyes took his life, and it’s still hard to believe that this key political figure in Philippine history over the past decade, went out in such a manner. From reading his ‘explanatory note’ prior to the suicide, I am inclined to believe that he did not accept bribes, and his main fault is in accepting all the ‘gift giving’ going on around him, as a fact of life that he alone could not change.

In my time in the media, no one ever offered me P50 million, but whatever cash was offered to me, I sought to dispose in a manner that would not be constituted as ‘personal gain.’ Either I’d leave it with my office for the money to be donated to some foundation or charity, or I’d drop it off at the public hospital next to my then-workplace. Gift certificates were different. Twice, I actually used them, figuring that there was no other way to dispose of them. Of course, in hindsight, it would have been more satisfying to my self-righteousness to have simply thrown them away without purchasing anything. Live and learn, I guess.

In Angie’s case, disposing of P50 million would be a much harder task, in a way that would not have raised eyebrows or displeased the higher-ups providing such ‘benevolence.’ It would have been a quandary for him, also because he still desired to serve in whatever capacity the Arroyo administration would offer.

But attempting to sympathize with Reyes is different from condoning what he did. Yes, he lived by a sense of duty and honor, but the recent happenings go to show how such ‘honor and duty’ can be detrimental to society.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

REVIEW OF VARIOUS BUFFALO WINGS IN METRO MANILA










With all the hullabaloo about the ‘big bad blogger’ in recent weeks, I thought to try out an ‘impartial, objective’ unsolicited food review of my own. And what better item to review than buffalo wings? No other dish has caused so much societal conflict, for which I must serve as arbiter.

Before I make my comments on the various buffalo wings offered in Metro Manila, I ought to mention my basic standards. I don’t like wings too spicy. And I don’t know anything about ingredients and spices and means of cooking, so my descriptions will only range from ‘sarap’ to ‘okey lang.’

Okay, now we’re ready to proceed.


Huge serving at the lowest price. Whereas other eateries would say ‘six pieces’ but actually serve three wingtips and three upper limbs, A Veneto counts by the whole wing. So that already means getting double the serving.
The buffalo wings are not the traditional type. A Veneto relies on some kind of barbecue sauce for flavor primarily, while not marinating the actual chicken as much as I would hope. Still, really sulit.


Not buffalo wings, but ought to be mentioned too. Really crispy stuff, and flavorful. The hot & spicy flavor is too spicy for me, but the soy garlic is just right. Lasang Oishi.


A bit too spicy for me. But I eat it when it’s served anyway. Plus, Brooklyn Pizza offers a promo where you get a free order of buffalo wings when you buy a whole pizza.