Learning for Social Transformation (Part Three)

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

July 14, 2013

I am sharing the third and last part of my U.P. Centennial Lecture in 1908, entitled “Reinventing U.P. as the National University, where I suggested that UP should lead more vigorously in the nation’s “learning for social transformation” in collaboration with other colleges and universities and schools in the country, as well as with other sectors of our society.

“Social transformation” refers to a very real and purposeful endeavor and experience known to many among us and to all progressive nations. For us, Filipinos, I would describe it as the multifaceted struggle of changing and developing our Filipino nation from a weak, divided, slow-learning, and ineffective nation into a strong, united, faster-learning, and effective nation. A nation that is reflective, critical, creative, innovative, and regenerating, so that we, Filipinos, are much more able to solve our problems, satisfy our material, moral and spiritual needs, and make progress in fulfilling our constitutional vision of the “Good Society.”

We could also say that social transformation is transforming our “weak nation” into a “strong nation” and our “soft State” into an “effective State,” in which our various institutions are able to perform their functions well for the greater good of all Filipinos because “the rule of law” and not the arbitrary “rule of men” prevails.

While social transformation involves some continuity, it involves a great deal more change in our individual and collective values, beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, commitments, and behavior, and in the nature of the social, economic and political institutions through which we satisfy our needs and give meaning to our lives. A rapidly changing world compels us to change in order to survive and progress as a nation.

“Social transformation” is also finding workable answers to the general question: How can we unite and learn faster and more effectively in order to solve our myriad and worsening problems, achieve our goals, and realize our evolving vision of the “Good Society” in a precarious and unpredictable world. 

We are left behind as a slow-learning nation. Our national development and modernization in our interdependent world depend on the capacity of the Filipino nation—our leaders, citizens and institutions—to learn and change faster and more effectively. For we are being left behind by our more progressive neighbors in Asia, not to mention the many other nations that gained their political independence since the end of World War II.

The reason why Japan, South Korea, Taiwan,  Singapore,  Malaysia,  Thailand,   and China are forging well ahead of the Philippines is because, by and large, their people and leaders have been learning faster and more effectively than we in nation-building, economic, social and cultural development, science and technology, and governance.

Arguably, given most of our people’s preference for political democracy and our rejection of authoritarian rule and violations of human rights, we may feel superior politically to most of those countries except Japan and South Korea. But this may be our illusion and defense mechanism as we feel left behind by them. After all, our record in protecting human rights and dealing with unexplained political killings and forced disappearances leaves much to be desired in our kind of democracy.

Singapore, Malaysia, and China unlike the Philippines emphasize national unity and harmony, economic and social development, a rising standard of living for their people, and a global competitiveness that will ensure their continuing progress. They reject Western-style democracy and our kind of chaotic and corrupt governance with our emphasis on civil liberties and political freedom; and so they restrain political competition and a free media.

Learning better and faster how to develop for the greater good of all our people. In comparison with our neighboring societies, we, Filipinos, have to learn better and faster in the following processes of nation-building, development, modernization, and good governance, among others:

(1) How, basically, to learn better and faster as individuals and as a people by learning how to listen well (we are so often such poor, distracted learners and audiences); how to read a great deal more than we do and watch television shows and cinema less; how to reflect on ideas, opinions and actions; and how to communicate with and understand one another as citizens and leaders? Or simply how to be on time and value time because lost time is a resource we cannot recover. Walang bisa at kinabukasan ang “bukas na” at “bahala na.”

(2) How to trust one another more and unite our people in their rich ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity into a strong and stable Global Filipino Nation conscious of our history and cultural heritage, committed to and willing to sacrifice for the nation and the common good, and also aware of our larger role in global peace, international cooperation and human development?

(3) How, under the pressures of globalization and centralization, to consciously evolve Filipino as our national language by enriching it with concepts and words adapted from our various regional languages and some foreign languages as well (such as English, Spanish, and Bahasa); and at the same time effectively promote the speaking and writing of our other indigenous languages. The promotion of Filipino as our evolving national language does not mean imposing Tagalog at the expense of the many regional languages which should be used in grade school and as official language outside our Tagalog communities. 

(4) How to learn and popularize the nation’s vision and goals in the Constitution so as to make our leaders and citizens know and actually own them, and strive together as a national community to realize them for the common good and the national interest? I refer to building “a just and humane society,” a genuine democracy, and “the rule of law.” 

(5) How to define our various economic, social, cultural, moral, and political problems in relation to our national vision and goals—with special attention to strengthening the rule of law; stopping killing and maiming for any reason or justification; developing science and technology; promoting agriculture and industrialization, reducing poverty and social inequality; promoting social justice, full employment, quality and affordable education, adequate and accessible health care, and social security for all; and ending and preventing rebellion and violent protests?

(6) How to develop the courses of action (policies and programs, decisions, rules, and procedures) for dealing effectively with the problems we have defined; engaging and responding to different interests, needs and opinions and dissent? 

(7) How to mobilize the needed material and other resources and capabilities of our social, religious, economic and political institutions in order to enhance their effectiveness, legitimacy and viability?

(8) How actually to implement and enforce the government’s policies, rules and programs responsibly, efficiently, effectively, with the people’s participation, and with transparency and accountability to the people?  How, in other words, to achieve Good Governance.

(9) How to curb corruption, waste, violence and rapid population growth; and how to protect and enhance our national resources and environment?

(10) How to develop the mass media as free, responsible and accountable institutions, given their tremendous power and influence as “the Fourth Estate” or branch of democratic governance, and as institutions of public information, entertainment, and learning for our Global Filipino Nation?

(11) How to assess the soundness of the policies and programs chosen and the effectiveness of their implementation in solving specific problems, producing the desired impact and outcomes, informing all concerned about the experience, and adopting needed changes and improvements?

(12) How to strengthen the moral and ethical norms, the religious beliefs, the social conscience, and nationalism of more and more citizens and leaders and put them into practice in their private and public lives?

(13) How to develop, nurture and mobilize good citizens and leaders for continuing social transformation and Good Governance of a dispersed Global Filipino Nation.?

(14) How to reinvent and strengthen our various institutions—from the family to our community and religious organizations, our schools, colleges and universities and other civil society institutions, our labor unions, our business corporations and other organizations in the private sector, the media, the political parties, and all branches and levels of our government—in order to build a strong and progressive nation and an inclusive and egalitarian democracy?

(15) How, progressively to transform our oligarchic democracy into a more inclusive and egalitarian democracy with broader, empowered middle classes, and a narrowing class of the poor and destitute, the powerless, excluded and oppressed?

Obviously, there are many more issues and problems of social transformation we can think of as challenges in our endless endeavor to build and transform our people and nation-state. 

Comments are welcome at pepevabueva@gmail.com

Also see my blog: https://joseabueva.wordpress.com

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