Politics: Acquisition of Authority and Power

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

Abraham Lincoln

One definition given for politics is “social relations involving authority or power”. Call me a cynic but in the Philippine context I would have to say that politics is social relations involving the acquisition of authority or power. Lord Acton warned that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Per Bylund refined this further by stating that while power does really corrupt, it is equally true that corrupt people seek power. “Only people not able to grow tall from their own efforts and achievements seek to subdue their fellow man; only people not being able to find comfort in their own mind seek to silence others; those who are unable to produce their own wealth aim to confiscate the wealth of others”.

About 15 years ago, my dad had a very interesting conversation with a young scion of a political family who at the time was the chief campaign officer of his congressman brother (now a senator). When asked what he would do, he confided that he too would run for public office… because that was the only thing he knew how to do. How horrifyingly honest. He is now a vice-governor with an unsavoury reputation who is quietly amassing an impressive real estate portfolio.

I once dated a man with political ambitions of his own. We used to have long conversations about happiness and the lengths we are willing to go to attain it. Not yet even 30 and he was a trapo posing as an idealist with a leftist frame of mind. He saw nothing wrong with forming untenable and undesirable alliances in order to attain a position of power which would enable him to implement the social programs he wanted. He was unable (or unwilling) to contemplate the possibility that once in power, he would have to dig himself deeper in the mud in order to stay there. Hmmm… sounds familiar? Needless to say, nothing came out of that relationship. As for Glorietta, she has lost all the goodwill she used to enjoy because of her blatant desperation to remain at the top. Each cabinet reshuffle gets worse and worse as more snakes are coming out in the open.

Darwin, Patrick and I formed SUFIA thinking that there would be enough local governments who would have the good sense to see the potential in securing lower cost financing for revenue-generating projects. It was a win-win situation (at least in our eyes). The funds would be held in escrow and released to the contractor after pre-determined milestones were reached. The LGU would have a self-sustaining project e.g. public market, bus terminal, housing project, convention halls, education centres etc. The lenders would have a healthy guaranteed return. We had one side of the equation down pat, having established our competence and credibility with the heads of the financing institutions. Unfortunately, we ran into a stumbling block with the local governments. We were young turks with a whole lot of brain power who did not believe in applying the grease (not at our level anyway). The added accountability plus the timetable was also something that we had not taken into consideration. Sitting officials had very short-term goals (needing quick hits to gain visibility) AND were unwilling to compromise their IRA. We still believe in the model’s viability but have placed Sufia on hiatus until we get a worthwhile project/propopent.

We are a country whose political maturity is in its infancy. As political toddlers, we are easily drawn to people who promise the biggest toys. Ask not what you can do for my municipality but what you can do for me and mine…mine…mine. Combine low EQ and low purchasing power and you have a powder keg waiting to be lit. Lord Acton’s lecture to his students could just as aptly apply to those seeking to enter politics: “I exhort you never to debase the moral currency or to lower the standard of rectitude, but to try others by the final maxim that governs your own lives, and to suffer no man and no cause to escape the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict on wrong.” Do not live in the here and now but rather, strive in an upright manner towards a goal while history will view favourably when you are long gone. You cannot take your money with you in the afterlife but your heirs will suffer from your bad reputation. Even worse, they may develop to be just like you….

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Paypal in the Philippines

This is welcome news which is very much overdue.

For those like me who drool over items being sold on eBay which can only be purchased via PayPal, the long wait is over. We can now buy stuff and use PayPal as a payment option – all you need is a valid credit card. The only downside is that unfortunately, users from the Philippines may only use the service to send payment. We still can’t use it to RECEIVE payment. Oh well, at least one leg is addressed.

Liveplasma

I’ve recently bookmarked an excellent music recommendation site: LivePlasma. Unlike some engines which are way off target, LivePlasma has been pretty smart in intuiting what I might like. Recommendations on related artists are displayed in a very cool animated solar system graphic. The site also has a fairly comprehensive database of mainstream movies which be explored by movie title, director’s name, or actor’s name. Liveplasma is still a work in progress but the results so far are very promising.