WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW: I remember back in the mid-1970s when I first read about global enterprises (aka multinational or transnational corporations now) on a pamphlet made of cheap, newsprint paper; it was written by Professor Renato Constantino and was an eye-opener for me. I was at the UP MBA Program at the time and I realized that much of what I(we) learn, especially with regard to Developmental or Political Economy, was bullshit. (But I still finished the Program, hehe)
Many of us so-called educated do not seem to realize so. We go on with our merry ways. We learned to read, write, speak English and use mostly American books, so we automatically think American and also, consciously or unconsciously, come to think that what is good according to American books is good for us Filipinos and the Philippines. Our Americanized minds conditioned us to measure and work on everything according to how Americans do and what American interests are.
Reminds one of the early 1950s, when in a U.S. congressional hearing then GM Chairman Charles Wilson stated his mindset: "What is good for America is good for GM and vice versa." The vice versa was parroted thus: "Whatever is good for GM is good for America." It worked for the Americans and America then. (Interestingly nowadays: with GM losing almost $5 billion, laying off 20% of total workforce or 30,000+ and closing 12 plants, it looks like "Whatever is bad for GM is bad for Americans and America.")
But no matter how much and how long we ape America, our Americanized minds did not and will not work for us, or for our homeland. We have been doing it for the last 60 years, not counting our colonized years. Our colonization, both by the Spaniards and the Americans, has distorted our Filipino Mind, we the so-called educated, let alone the uneducated poor, are messed up. We Filipinos, as seen and described in 1987 by James Fallows has a society with a "damaged culture." We heard that before and got pissed, and we continue to ignore, not remedy.
Thanks to our "best and brightest" in the international financial institutions IMF/WB/ADB, business, NGOs and government, to our native technocrats, we are in deep shit, in an economic quicksand. And amazingly we intend to continue and not change the course. I suppose it profits these native, Americanized technocrats in their fancy offices, with their tunnel vision and fancy economic statistics. They do not see that the impoverishment is greatly due to them; of course in cahoots with the politicians they "advise," or maybe the devious guiding the crooked blind.
Here's a short essay by the late Professor Constantino on our enthusiastic and unquestioning embrace of the WTO ( cultural globalization + economic liberalism = neocolonialism).
Seeing Globalization for what it really is,
In the romantic view of neo-classical economists who swear by the virtues of the 'free market', globalisation is perhaps the best thing that ever happened on this planet. According to their abstract models which are conveniently devoid of real people, the end result of globalisation -efficiently produced goods made widely available at the cheapest price - is worth more than its momentary pain. Eventually, globalisation will even out the playing field with the most efficient 'world-class' producers winning the game,to the ultimate benefit of consumers.
Anyone who has experienced real life knows that this romantic notion exists only in the heads of economists in love with their own flawless projections. The shaky peso, high interest rates, increasing inflation, massive layoffs, and near starvation in some areas of the country have constituted a rude awakening even for those who wanted to give the prophets of boom the benefit of the doubt.
It is back to reality, and it is obvious that there are huge holes in the sails of the ship Philippines 2000 as it navigates the treacherous seas of 'global competitiveness'.The fact is that the odds are stacked against countries like ours in a highly uneven playing field designed to make winners win even more. And because of the mounting losses suffered by the losers which happen to be the usual ones - the former colonies located in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and the Pacific - it is now fairly easy to recognise globalisation for what it really is.
It is the rule of the Bretton Woods Twins and the WTO which regulate and intervene in the affairs of the South. It is the means by which the South will not be allowed to threaten the gains of the North under colonialism and neocolonialism. Rules and regulations for countries of the South need not apply to countries of the North which flout the rules that they want others to follow.
For example, protectionism is a no-no practised by Southern governments. But when the United States arbitrarily imposes restrictions on the entry of specific goods from particular countries, or when European states continue to heavily subsidise their agricultural products in order to dump them in Southern markets, these are perfectly all right.
Transnational corporations (TNCs) based in the North, notorious for their unfair trading practices and other misdemeanors,cannot be reined in by a code of conduct. Efforts to come up with such a code have recently been aborted.
Far from ensuring free trade, globalisation in reality provides a framework for intervention by the strong in the affairs of the weak. The United States as the lone superpower has become the guarantor of 'order'. It has mandated itself to interpret events and policies in the light of its own interests. It has assumed the task of policing the world by projecting its military power. This is the privilege of the hegemony.
As leader and protector of international capital, the United States tries to be a supranational state that can define the relations between the South and the advanced countries of the North. The chief concern is that there be no threat to the dominance of international capital. What is important is the institutionalisation of formal and informal structures that predetermine decision-making of the developing country so that they are consistently favourable to the collective interests of the superpower and its allies.
This is quite obvious in the ways that the East Asian financial crisis is playing itself out. The IMF is playing God, virtually dictating the way the most seriously affected countries will be run. And the chief of state of the lone superpower through a phone call makes it plain to those affected that they have no other choice but to obey.
Neocolonialism - The dominance of strong nations over weak nations, not by direct political control (as in traditional colonialism), but by economic and cultural influence.
“The true Filipino is a decolonized Filipino.” – Renato Constantino
"If the people are not completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own." - George Washington, shortly after the end of the American Revolution
"What luck for rulers that men do not think" - Adolf Hitler
About the writer: Philippine nationalist historian RenatoConstantino was cited as one of the 100 Most Outstanding Filipinos of the last century in art and culture by the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He was a distinguished writer, social critic and lecturer, and secretary of the Philippine mission to the United Nations during 1946-49 and counsellor at the Department of Foreign Affairs from 1945 to 1951. He died on 15 September 1999 at the age of 80.
The above article, which first appeared in the Manila Bulletin (3 May 1998, 'The real score'), is reprinted here as a tribute to Renato Constantino. Third World Network is also accessible