Tuesday, November 29, 2016

169. Power to the People

Plato warned about tyranny. It is the inherent weakness of the democratic system that the people can be manipulated. He was right about that. But people can also be enlightened. When people realize they have been taken for fools, that their emotions have been pricked to advance an agenda far from the common good, and that they have been misled by rhetoric devoid of logic and full of fallacies  -- people learn and realize that they do not need a philospher king or enlightened tyrant, because they can be philosopher kings in their own right -- that Plato missed. And the first manifestation that they have been enlightened is when they go out on the streets -- bomb scare, rain and all -- to express their grievances against the powers that be, to remind them that the power comes from the people, and if power is abused, the people will take it back. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

168. Gen. Bato and the ideal police organization

I caught a clip of Gen. "Bato" dela Rosa weeping on national TV the other day after the testimony of Kerwin Espinosa who testified that Espinosa's been bribing high ranking policemen to maintain Espinosa's drug business all these years. If the allegations of corruption are true, I'm sure Espinosa is not the first, the last, or the only drug dealer paying off policemen for protection. And Gen. Bato would continue to weep at this ghastly thought that the police institution is corrupt. I think the mistake is in believing that the police organization, or any government institution tasked to enforce the law with the power of the gun, is ever going to be close to its theoretical model of being the protector of the people. Gen. Bato notes that the police are also human beings subject to temptations  and full of  needs and desires that may not coincide with their sworn duties. Thus, the institution, as in any human organization, is wired to be corrupt and bound to be corrupt. This brings us to the oft-quoted question, who will police the police? Assuming there is such police (sort of a super-police), will it not be as corrupt? Oh, there are more things to cry about, Gen. Bato. Yet, the problem of the Philippine police is not unique. Many nations suffer the malady of corruption in their police institutions; each corrupt in its own way, betraying the ancient precepts  of the warrior class, and  some more corrupt than others. And this is so not for any spectacular reason but simply because they are human beings. And if we begin to view the world of politics from the premise that every person who wields power is a human being, predisposed to corruption and bound to be corrupted, then we should be thinking twice on whether someone should wield power on the rest of us at all. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

167. MVP channels Mephisto

Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) is looking for a new president who will replace him in PLDT, known as the crown jewel of Philippine business. What is telling, however, is how MVP described his criteria. 

“He has to be ready to die for the job, give up his family. Those are my strictures. Work over family. Period. If I could see that in that person, you’re it. You know, there is always a price you pay for the life you choose," says MVP. 

I mentioned in a comment on a friend's Facebook page that this is a Faustian Wager. And the vacancy is perfect for the forty-something's known as Gen X who would have the experience and energy fit for the job. The compensation package is tops. If it's any indication, MVP has been donating buildings in his name to his alma mater and has bankrolled college basketball teams. He once brought the NBA all stars to play with the locals, even fetched Kobe Bryant on a jet for the games. In other words, it's the money dream. But the fun ends there; work over family is his number one criteria. There is no balance. I have no doubt many will be ditching their families for the MVP life, and at one point in my life I had the same mind set. But this Faustian Wager always ends in regret. The  legend goes that Faustus bargained with the devil Mephistopheles --  service from the devil on earth in exchange for service to the devil in the after life. Faustus is initially satisfied with his chosen life, but ultimately finds the emptiness of the powers of the world. Soon as the clock marks the passing  time, Faustus sinks deep into despair. The devil appears to take his prize and,  amid thunder and lightning, carries Faustus off to eternal damnation. I'm sure the PLDT job vacancy is not a Faustian Wager; somebody has to make the Philippine internet work. But when its outgoing president couches the job summary in those terms, you can be sure, he fell into it, which is probably why he's done a terrible job. 

Friday, November 04, 2016

166. Notes on Celeste Lecaroz's Portraits: #5 One Artwork a Day

During the heyday of the Beatles, each Beatle - or so the legend says - wrote one song a day. These songs, a lot of which could be crap, became the source of the 275 original songs that the Beatles recorded and released. It's basic math. They improved the probability of getting a good song done by populating the pool from which it would be drawn. When Celeste started considering the shift from adult coloring to full artist, I told her about this trivia from the Beatles. I challenged her to be the Beatle of art, "Do it. One artwork a day. Start now." What followed was an adventure of sorts. She geared up for it -- colored pencils, colored pens, water color, pastel, acrylic paint, oil paint, and coffee stains.


"Wait a minute," I told her as she painted the beautiful face of the young Susan Roces using coffee stains, "Why are using my coffee?" She told me a little story about how she overheard a comment from detractors (everyone has them) that the reason why she colors well is because she has expensive materials. "To prove them wrong, I'm using the most accessible and cheapest material any artist can get." And the resulting figure is this wonderful monochromatic image of the once and future first lady of the Philippines. "Fine, I said. That's still counted as one artwork." So. Celeste does it everyday. Paint, eat, draw, sleep, color, eat, sketch, sleep -- it's the rhythm of one artwork a day.  Sometimes, she does them in advance. And she is "getting so much better all the time." Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.