By Joe America
Yeah, yeah. Sorry, I can’t help myself. I’ve gone patriotic on the Philippines. I can’t figure out how the nation can get stronger when so many Filipinos insist on diminishing their country and its leadership.
Just as the nation is rising.
“Born to lose“
So I push back. If you are inspired by failure, just skip this blog, eh? I’m writing to those who are proud of the Philippines.
The name of the kaleidoscope was attached to the tube containing colored glass and pebbles by Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster, in 1817. The name kaleidoscope is. . .
. . . derived from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”, εἶδος (eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape” and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine”, hence “observation of beautiful forms.” [Wiki]
It is the most magical device. If you look at it from the outside, it is an ordinary tube of no particular distinction. But when you hold it up to the light, peer into the tube and turn it, dazzling colors and shapes appear, combinations that are totally unexpected and absolutely magnificent for their intricacy and color. Brilliant rainbow snowflakes, each symmetrical and unpredictable, each there for a moment, then . . . twist . . . on to the next one.
It occurred to me that President Aquino is a lot like that.
Most people, busy in their work, read the paper or flip on the telly and see the President speaking, or under attack, and they are only looking at the tube. They see a one-dimensional President. Or sometimes his spokespeople are trying to do the impossible, explain to very unimaginative and woefully simplistic press what a kaleidoscope thinks.
But this is no simple man, and political efforts to define him as such are bare-faced deceits.
Let’s turn the tube, eh, and see the multi-faceted shape our President takes.
The passive, good natured man
This is the guy we elected. We saw him as passive and quiet, a good man, a senator, well behaved, a little hitch in his walk and always smiling. Or grimacing. That is sometimes hard to distinguish, and certainly the people of Hong Kong couldn’t figure it out. All we knew back in 2010 was that he was not a thief and his mother was a wonderful person of sterling principle and proper bearing. We wanted her back, and so we elected her son.
Now the critics looked at this guy and saw that he did not look exactly like Piolo with a drop-dead stare that would drive a woman to babbling, and he did not exactly strut like Pacquiao with a fighting cock under one arm and a bag of gambling chips dangling from the other. So they attacked, very unkindly, when you consider that this is the President of THEIR nation, and they only diminish their nation when they diminish their President. These critics are shallow and tiresome. They read the covers of books and do not have the character or intellect to get to the real story.
But it is true, one of the President’s better disguises is the appearance of non-descript passivity. It allows him access anywhere.
After his election, and before taking office, I’d guess the President studied up on what a president is supposed to do, starting with a very important document, the Constitution. He observed that it renounced war as a solution to conflict, and he took it to heart. Besides, it fit his style.
So he set out to solve the problem of the Bangsamoro, to do what presidents before had tried but failed to do. He brought together the primary leadership of the Mindanao Muslim community, representatives of his government, and a couple of distinguished international mediators. They spent months . . . nay, years . . . hammering out an agreement that danced the delicate line between national and regional power-sharing, and wealth-sharing, and toed the very edge of constitutionality with considerable autonomy granted to the Muslim community.
Now the Philippine Supreme Court could spend a few hours and demolish this entire work, because good faith and good results mean nothing to this strange legal panel. They care nothing about results because they are not accountable for them. They read words narrowly and appear to have no passion for the profound or sublime. Yet it is important to recognize that Mindanao has been substantially peaceful for two years already, and investments there are starting to build. Jobs are starting to appear.
Because the President is a peacemaker.
He provided the steady encouragement, patience, and determined effort needed to build mutual trust.
The President’s stance on China also reflects his peaceful bias. Law based. Consistent. Persistent. Not emotionally charged. His stance angers China’s leaders because it makes them look the fool. They are revealed as thugs and liars.
That’s their problem.
The dangerous president
Some call the President “hard headed”, others “vindictive”. These descriptions generally arise when the President gets outside the passive character others presume is his only demeanor. Without doubt, the President has an aggressive side, a bit of fight and even spite in his determination.
If the Supreme Court does strike down the Bangsamoro Agreement, I’m betting the President will fix it. If it takes a constitutional amendment to get the Court out of the government’s good works, he will fix it.
China also proceeds with its adventurism in Philippine waters at risk that Mr. Aquino will reach the point at which the Chinese threaten Philippine sovereignty in an enduring way, and he will push back. And if China tries to punish the Philippines, China will feel the wrath of a world fed up with her tricks and self-dealing. Mr. Aquino has been peaceful, not inert, and has built a wall of alliance partners that China cannot afford to cross.
For sure, China ought to be very clear about Mr. Aquino’s aggressive side, of his determination provoked.
He has not been traveling the world just to eat escargot and pizza.
Behind the public persona of passive good nature is a determined and passionate man. Dangerous to those who cross him.
The loyal boss
Mr. Aquino will fire someone when he wants to. Not when outraged netizens or a purchased-money press or leftist cranks demand it. This is a feature of the President we can see if we look at his aggressive determination in the kaleidoscope and twist the tube so that the determination is affixed to his staff. He is a loyal boss to his immediate subordinates. What is important to him is the work they are doing, not what those who are not accountable think about it.
What is important is what HE sees. And that is as it should be. Tossing his key managers out left and right for any uninformed complaint is not a way to build commitment and loyalty TO THE WORK. There is a reason the entire cabinet, other than VP Binay, applauded when the President rejected Secretary Abad’s resignation.
The loyal President backed them all.
The well-regarded motivational professional Abraham Maslow, packing his “Hierarchy of Needs”, would have applauded, too. Workers dedicate superior effort to a boss who backs them.
What is diplomacy? It is a refined reading of other people, the holding of a fundamental respect for the point of view of others, and courteous, dignified presentation of self.
The President is a diplomat when he makes his speeches in Filipino. He is sharing his respect for the national language that separates the Philippines from any other land, and binds all Filipinos as one. He is sharing his respect for people who speak their regional dialects, saying, essentially, “Speak your language. It is good.”
Mr. Aquino is graciously welcomed just about anywhere in the world because the world sees what many Filipinos do not, for the historical dust in their eyes or bias of personal agenda, that President Aquino has taken great strides to bring the Philippines into the respectable modern world. Political stability, financial order, peaceful ambitions, good works, major strides to end the culture of corruption. This is not Gloria Arroyo’s Philippines by a long shot.
The President has worked hard to cultivate partnerships throughout Asia, and with the United States, Australia and Europe. He grew up in a family of dignified people and he carries the Philippine mantle graciously himself. If people look through the kaleidoscope, they will be pleased with the proud, forthright and honorable presentment of the Philippines that is done by Mr. Aquino when he meets with overseas leaders.
The billiards player
Top-blogger Raissa Robles knows the inside-outs of Philippine politics better than just about any body in the land. She’s prowled there for the better part of her working life. She once did a blog that characterized one facet of President Aquino’s management style: he is a calculator, a billiards player, a thinker. [“Billiards could explain President Aquino’s style of problem-solving”]
When he makes a comment that he would consider a second term, he tosses the entire Philippine class of opinion-makers on its ear. The press goes bananas, political opponents have apoplexy, friends wonder what in the world has happened and start to guess. With a single toss-away comment, he accomplishes what Pacquiao does with a powerful left hook. Knocks everyone off balance so they actually have to THINK about matters. Not just listen to Binay and his horde of spokespeople.
I’m sure he must laugh at the lines and lines of press coverage and hours of breathless television coverage dedicated to what he said. Most of the reporting is simply speculation. One step shy of fiction.
Make no mistake. The Philippine President is a smart, calculating man.
The family man
How can an unmarried man be a family man, eh?
Put the kaleidoscope to the light and you will see that he has done nothing to undermine or politicize his extended family of powerful people, or his church family of priests and bishops, or the star power of his sisters, or the legacy of his parents. Indeed, he keeps these personal relationships in the background, totally private, respectfully, as he goes about the challenging business of taking care of the rest of us.
That is a pretty special talent. One of great sensitivity, personal determination and kindness.
The corporate man
Leftist lunatics like the Stand-UP thugs who accosted Secretary Abad the other day operate on a shallow plane of slogans and manipulative ideological babble. They refuse to see – or they deny – that the DISCIPLINES that President Aquino has put in place, such as measurement of performance by the numbers, are wholesome and transformational, not dictatorial. Authoritative, competent, confident. They prefer weak? That suits their purpose better?
DAP was also transformational, for the economy. It got money directed from waste to productivity.
These are corporate disciplines that, if continued, will remake the nation’s priorities and achievements.
Well, these sloganeers don’t have to chair Cabinet meetings or do any of the hard work, the hard decision-making of government. Being President not easy like writing a blog, or having a bitch session with friends, or throwing paper in the face of a distinguished guest. It is an enormous job.
Most of the critics have no idea of what they are talking about. Period. They swim in a vast pool of ignorance, forever pushing their private agendas by nit-picking on vulnerable sores. They are fundamentally not kind people, nor patriotic, it seems to me. They for sure are not corporate in vision and style. I question the emotional stability of many, frankly.
Yes, criticism is important. If it is informed, issues bound rather than personality bound, forthright, and comes armed with alternatives.
But the Philippines, a land known for coups and instability, could use a whole lot less of it.
The bitterness and angers exuded by the left and by political opponents, including the manipulations of the press, are divisive and destructive. The worst part about the Philippines is the number of people who insist upon acting the crab, going against the grain of a proud, unified, patriotic Philippines. All you get from them are rationalizations. Excuses. Blames. A small nation. A complaining nation.
The President sticks with running the government, a government that is dedicated, purposeful and stable. A unified nation. A big nation. A forthright nation.
The artistic advocate
President Aquino has become a deeper, richer man while in office. The office made the man, as he made the office.
I enjoy watching and reading his speeches and press briefings. It is clear to me that this is a man with passion and insight. He reads, he consults, he pulls in information from many sources, reflects on it, and puts it into order. His own order. No one else’s.
He is not a narrow man or a shallow man.
By advocate, I mean he works earnestly and tirelessly for the Philippines, for a certain kind of Philippines.
For the Philippines that his mother could not quite get to because the political fires were too intense, the ways of the self-dealers too powerful. The Philippines his father could not make it down the ramp to embrace once again.
Bottom line, Mr. Aquino has been true to the mandate given him by the people when he was elected. He has been loyal to Filipinos.
He has done what they asked.
When those who are shallow and self-serving deny the rich colors and shapes of of the ENTIRE President Aquino, they define themselves, cheap, one-dimensional pieces of cardboard. They do not define him.