It Sometimes Takes A Village

Just when the Administration was kicking back and enjoying the wonderment of a 78% trust rating and the thrill of exotic playthings, the EDSA bus bomb reminded us of the frailness of our tranquility.

It was a wake up call, that beneath the shallow quiet of our existence there lie forces that at any moment can shatter our everyday lives.

Despite assurances from the authorities, criminality is on the rise. The ascendance of carnapping  exposes the insecurity of life and property. The police are suspected to be part of the cabal.

Terrorism, once relegated to distant provinces, is now at the doorstep of the capital. The murder of journalists, the canaries in the mine, is unabated.

On the economic horizon, inflation is rearing its ugly head. Gasoline prices and utility rates have stealthily been rising. With the recent Middle East events, more is to come. Record commodity prices worldwide will soon take their toll domestically.

Corruption has not gone away. The word in the piers is that after an interregnum, fixers are back in business with a publicized bounty per shipment. The Carlos Garcia case tells us judicial decisions continue to be available at a price. Public prosecutors squabble in a shameful display of blood letting.

Generals are cleaning the coffers even as our under-equipped soldiers die in the fields of Mindanao.

With environmental degradation, the likelihood for unprecedented natural disasters is almost a certainty.

And yet we are unprepared for crisis, for the Black Swan.

We are told the Government is ready for the next Luneta hostage taking, the next Ondoy. God forbid we be put to the test.

We are comforted with the honesty of the President and the soothing messages from the Palace that all is well in the Middle Kingdom; but the reality of daily life is not so.

What are we to do? As a society who do we run to when disaster strikes, when we are at risk with the very forces that are supposed to protect us, when justice is an auction rather than a right, when we are helpless from economic cartels?

The wealthy will retreat to their guarded enclaves. But what about the less endowed?

In Berkeley, California where my son lives, neighbors gather periodically, exchange phone numbers and expressions of support in preparation for possible calamities.

In Australia households band together under a Child Watch program. Any child in danger can run for protection to any of the accredited homes.

In our country, some barangays have developed their own legal system for registering property and adjudicating claims.

That seems the way to go.

In the absence of an economic, social and security net, we as a community should start to take responsibility for our lives.

Rather than rely on Big Brother to protect us, we should develop a new paradigm that will replicate national governance at the ground level. The Israeli kibbutz is a good model. The barangay is the logical social unit.

In the new order, within each barangay there would be a neighborhood watch for security, an indigenous court for adjudication of claims, shared essential services e.g. for waste management, a local school for education. When economies of scale are needed, neighboring barangays can come together for reciprocity and aggregation of interests.

Elements of this model already exist in the wealthy gated communities. The challenge is how to translate this to the less affluent areas.

In Iloilo there is a budding attempt to build such a structure.  Driven by private  patrons, barangay-specific health, legal, education, social services and economic programs are being established for residents. The latter will be given formal identifications like Makati indigents have for hospitalization and schooling.

The concept is one the Government should adopt for national development. Rather than top-down programs that get stuck in the middle, the Administration should foster bottom-up approaches, building the economy one locality at a time.

Socially the paradigm will return us to the essence of our communities. It will foster care, respect and shared values among neighbors. It will help us rediscover the  humanity so absent in this age of high technology.

When the Government is unable to fulfill its social contract with the people for justice, security and basic services, we may need to redefine our social order to regain control of our lives.

In a world going global, in the Philippines, ironically, going tribal may be the way to do this.

This nation needs to revive not so much the spirit of EDSA as the spirit of Bayanihan.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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2 Responses to It Sometimes Takes A Village

  1. Thoughtrift says:

    “…the Administration should foster bottom-up approaches, building the economy one locality at a time.”

    Exactly.

    How do you eat an elephant?

  2. 1heng says:

    Sensible
    Rather than wait and remain frustrated, we each should start where we can, whatever is within our reach.
    This is not to say we give up on any national efforts. It is just more sensible than twiddling our thumbs and wringing our hands.
    Even the ridiculous picture of my mixed up metaphors looks better than our actual situation all these years doing nothing.

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