Monday, April 11, 2011

WHY DOES MONIQUE WILSON’S BLOG GET ALL THE PUBLICITY?, a.k.a. Don’t dumb down blog readers

The Inquirer actually used a blog entry for its headline story today (April 11, 2011). Monique Wilson, in the blog post/Facebook note that was quoted, basically calls on her fellow artists to raise the standards of whatever medium they’re in.

I think it’s great that Monique is challenging people to come up with quality works. But we have to qualify that artists or media persons are not working on some ‘blank slate’ public. It is not so much that media is turning people into degenerates with poor aesthetic understanding, but that the content presented by media reflects pervading sensibilities.


It’s easy to blame TV networks, who garner high ratings precisely by producing ‘lowest common denominator’ material, but they are merely giving people what they want. You can go anywhere in the world, and TV is crappy in general. The popularity of Willie Revillame has its many parallels elsewhere.


Socioeconomic conditions do influence to some degree one’s aestheticism, if only for the fact that the well-to-do have greater exposure to different forms of art.

Even so, it seems that most rich people are just as devoid of aesthetic breeding as the poor, but are less sincere about it. I much prefer the jeepney driver who listens to Bon Jovi, as opposed to the yuppie who listens to the Black Eyed Peas.


If it isn’t social class that determines aesthetic sensibility, then what?

It could not be denied that certain works of art are appreciated only by an elite group of individuals whose sensitivity towards aesthetic elements is especially pronounced. But this elite group could not be classified under race or social class, just as one could not predict which individual in a group of 10,000 is a genius.

‘Elitism’ has its negative connotations, but I don’t find anything wrong with it. In the vein of Bryan Caplan, anyone hoping to make a difference in the world has to be elitist. Otherwise, one would be conceding that the status quo is fine as it is, when it is not.


We could not expect all artists to suddenly come up with ‘enlightened’ works, just as we could not expect TV viewers to be able to appreciate more aesthetically refined TV shows simply by tuning in. So the burden of change is not simply with the creators, as Monique implies, but with society as a whole. The good news is, society could not help but change over time.

It is through the few exceptions to the status quo, whether as producers or consumers, that all intellectual and aesthetic progress in society occurs. Sustainable change surely happens, but slowly.


Neither I nor Monique Wilson nor anyone else can predict how things are going to go for society in general, but we can at least be encouraged that with increased development and application of the internet, diversity of art works will expand. Even if shoddy works continue to persist, as they undoubtedly will, people will at least also have access to alternative channels.

Soon enough, it will not be so much the decisions of network executives that will determine what the masses are fed, when anyone’s channel is only a URL away. In fact, the concept of ‘mass appeal’ will not hold as much meaning, when numerous niche markets correspond to the variety of individuals’ tastes.

Small-time production companies may not have as much marketing muscle as the big guys, but the cost of producing and broadcasting online is cheaper, and the potential of ‘going viral’ is much higher.

TV is still the most important medium in the majority of households, but things will be very different within a decade from now.


Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy was also quoted in the Inquirer story, as she gave her two cents on the Willie Jan-Jan matter. She didn’t propose any legislation or anything, but the fact that a legislator spoke up is quite disturbing.

How could the minority of bureaucrats assist in the process of aesthetic refinement, when they themselves know no better? For them to think that they would know whom to subsidize, or what to promote, is the height of conceit, and legislation in this regard would only produce crony artists.

If one were so convinced that the government should provide assistance, why don’t we extend the government’s role in all other affairs? In news writing, for instance? After all, how pathetic is it when a blog entry on Facebook becomes a headline story (or maybe it has a more ominous significance for print media)? And maybe we should have taxpayers’ funds released to help improve blogs such as this colorful rag! After all, we don’t know to what extent I have ‘dumbed down’ my readers!

But no. There are no shortcuts to improving the lot when it comes to the arts, or in anything for that matter. Leave the government out of it.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I am convinced that lousy education is caused not by scant educational opportunities or resources. Rather, it is people’s lack of willingness to be educated, that makes for the prevalence of ignorance even in the ‘upper crust’ of society, wherein compassion is misdirected in advocacies of adverse long-term consequences.

Exacerbating the problem is the state’s interference in defining ‘formal’ education ― all these useless and expensive curricula that could be transformed into something more relevant to careers and daily living, at less than the cost of a month’s groceries.

Recently, in this blog, I have been trying to keep things as simple and concise as possible, so as to minimize the need to open a new tab to read the remainder of an article. Unfortunately, many people’s attention spans and reading skills are so poor that even a 300-word article is too taxing to comprehend.

This article is meant as a guide for the politically active, and quite ironically, it’s going to be moderately long. But if you the reader take the time just this once, you will be forever thankful for it.


Ignorance usually manifests in an intolerance for actual debate or dissenting opinion. If one finds strength in numbers, this is assuring enough; never mind that might does not make for right, and makes for folly when not guided accordingly.

Nothing is wrong with not being an economist. And nothing is wrong with being ignorant about economics. But if you are going to be making noises about things with economic implications ― of which most social issues are included ― make sure you don’t look stupid: read some economics yourself.

‘Common sense’ is not enough to grasp the implications of certain policies. It is only when you are accustomed to consider the non-immediate ramifications of any interference in human affairs, that your ‘common sense’ will be a sound one.


My real interest in economics began in 2006, when reading about The Great Depression. Why did it happen? What are the myths behind it? Could such an understanding be applicable elsewhere? These questions, and many more, were answered in time. I have learned more things about the business cycle than I had imagined could be learned, to a degree of enthusiasm that I could not have foretold.

Who would have thought that money made an interesting subject in itself, even not in the context of making money? Indeed, I am more than anything spiritually richer as a result of my studies in economics.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Part 1 is here.

Now let us continue...

Soon after, Nicodemus was being charged for tax evasion. But as far as he knew, he had paid his taxes properly. As much as he hated doing so, he did not want to get on the wrong side of the law. But according to the agency, he had neglected to declare an additional P200,000 in income over the past year. He got a lawyer, and, by the time the charges were dropped for lack of merit, he had paid his laywer about P75,000, even more than he had allegedly evaded in taxes.

All of the proceedings had set him back a great deal, and it seemed he would have to raise prices to keep things in operation. This would potentially scare off customers, but he saw no other way. Surprisingly, the number of customers stayed about the same, a month later.

“We couldn’t let them do that to you, Mang Nicodemus,” a young teenage girl said. Others expressed the same sentiment. He didn’t even know he was the talk of the town, much less sympathized with. Soon enough, he was able to bring his prices down again, and began earning once more.

But his woes were not yet over. Senator C___ and Congressman Z___ were busy making appeals to get Congress to pass a new a law against ‘anti-competitive’ practices. Its scope would cover Nicodemus’ enterprise. Despite Congress’ general snail pace with legislation, the Business Connivance Act (BCA) was passed in six months, and enacted into law a month later.

Soon enough, Nicodemus was banned from selling at his low price, from buying his soy stock from his suki, and from selling his five varieties of taho (“You have to choose one,” said a Trade official). Furthermore, he had to let go of his two assistants, and eventually, Make Taho! on the hill. He was back to his two pails, and after careful thought, left with just his Choc-Nut taho. Even then, with the Choc-Nut taho remaining a favorite, the Trade official had to go back to Nicodemus and reprimand him, after which Choc-Nut was removed from the taho syrup.

It was later a common sigh of the town’s residents. “I miss that taho house up the hill. Too bad it’s now illegal.”

Most union vendors rejoiced that they could go back to the way things were. However, there were a couple of vendors who, although having been forced to look for work elsewhere due to Nicodemus’ past success, looked back and felt sorry for him. One remarked: “He had his heart in the right place. And even if we pretend he didn’t care about his customers, he gave them what they wanted. He was good at giving them that.”

It can be surmised that not just innovative taho vendors but other brilliant merchants, rich and poor, suffered the same fate as Nicodemus. It was a sad time for many customers, but a time of rejoicing for the less capable businessmen and employees, not to mention the politicians who got their vote for the next election.

A week or so after Nicodemus’ return to street-vending, he saw Mang Humphrey, who had removed his langka-nata de coco formula from his syrup, as a precaution.

Friday, April 1, 2011


The recent takeover of Digitel-Sun by Pangilinan-led PLDT has renewed calls (such as this one by Solita ‘Winnie Monsod) for a comprehensive antitrust law for the Philippines. The following serves as a cautionary tale.



Mang Nicodemus, 30 years of age, loved to get up at dawn and smell the fresh morning air before all the cars were out on the road. What’s more, he loved the aroma of newly boiled fresh soy bean curd. It was perfect for him to sell taho in the early morning. Almost.

He had begun his trade less than a year ago. A high school graduate, he had once labored in his family’s small farm land in the North, deriving a small but regular income. After some time, when he was about 25, he decided to go to the metro in search of success. At first, it was frighteningly foreign to him, and he actually thought of heading back home, in shame, to his family. Soon enough, however, he got used to the city life, and decided to stay. Besides, he thought, he had not met the girl of his dreams yet.

He did the odd job here and there, but it was not until he met Mang Humphrey that he knew what he wanted to do. Mang Humphrey sold taho. But not just any taho. The syrup was mixed with langka and crushed nata de coco, making for a unique delicacy never done before. Nicodemus admired Humphrey’s innovativeness, and after finding out the taho-making process, set out to the streets. However, Humphrey had to warn Nicodemus.

Most taho vendors were part of a taho vendor union, which, although providing more stability to the vendors, prevented them from doing their own thing or bucking the order of the day as decreed by the union leader, a certain Mang Latoya, who incidentally was furious with Humphrey’s changes to the taho syrup ingredients.

“If you’re going to succeed in this business, Nicodemus, you will have to be prepared to do battle, and stand up for what you believe in. Don’t take droppings from anybody,” Humphrey said.

“I will give it my best. Thank you, Mang Humphrey. You’ve really helped me get started.”

“If I wanted to help you, I would have sent you to the union long ago. That would have been the easy way. But I sense potential in you. If you’re prepared to do so, go out there, and knock them dead!”

At first, it was difficult. Not only did Mang Nicodemus have a hard time giving the proper change (especially when a P100 or P500 bill was used), but his neck and upper back ached from carrying his two pails all day long.

To make things worse, the union taho vendors were constantly infiltrating his spots, as though deliberately trying to discourage him from continuing his business. This is why, apart from the fresh morning air, Nicodemus liked being out early.

“What are you doing here? They don’t need you here, they’re buying from me!” he would be told. And he would either have to make do with smaller earnings by selling in the same block as another vendor, or go find another place, which would later be overrun by yet another union vendor.

He knew that Mang Humphrey was doing well with his syrup concoction, but Nicodemus didn’t want to simply imitate that idea. He wanted to do something of his own, to make him stand out, to perhaps even make the annoying competition irrelevant.

At night, he pondered over his situation. What could I do? he asked himself.

One morning, after many months of low earnings and brushes with the union vendors, all of which made him consider quitting his otherwise much-beloved trade, he had an idea. It was so simple, he didn’t know why it hadn’t occurred to him.