NAIA-BI officials reported that Kalka allegedly refused to answer routine questions from immigration officer Fortunato Manahan who was on duty at the NAIA-BI counter. He asked her purpose in coming to the Philippines and after being politely advised to fill up the disembarkation form, she refused to do so.Probably feeling harassed, she retaliated by saying "You Filipinos are fucking lazy! That is why you are poor."
I have given this some thought, and wonder at its validity. Is there a direct causal relation between laziness and poverty? That is, are we poor because we're lazy? Or are we lazy because we're poor? These are value-laden words, emotive words. They are both pejorative - words that trigger bad, distasteful things in our heads. Poor (distasteful). Lazy (distasteful). So in a single retort of a harassed hollandaise who dared venture in our little corner of the Third World, she labelled us with two distasteful adjectives.
But before we go on with this essai, do we know what we mean when we say "poor" and "lazy"?
Poverty is relative. It means lack of wealth. It only acquires meaning when it is compared with presence of wealth. Wealth is measurable by its physical manifestation - the presence of objects with value. Poverty, lack of wealth, then becomes visible. Because poverty is relative and only makes sense when compared with others' lack or possession of objects, then poverty is social.
Before the birth of capitalism five centuries back, economic historians estimate that roughly everyone in the world had the same level of per capita income. Therefore, everyone was equally poor. Or equally rich. I'm not sure how they measured poverty back then. I'm assuming they could measure it by making estimates of not only to the capacities of various societies in wealth generation (producing valuable objects), but also the quality of life - people's lifespans, birthrates, mortality rates, etc.
Today, while the world has tremendous wealth, this wealth only makes sense because there is also tremendous poverty. In the Philippines, possession of 1 motor vehicle is a sign of wealth. In Australia, it does not mean wealth. In Australia, not having enough money to purchase a car is poverty. In the Philippines, skipping a meal is poverty. If everyone in the Philippines had to skip a meal a day, then there would be no poverty (in the Philippines).
But then we know that in other societies, people live in what is judged to be better living conditions, so again poverty rears its head because there is another basis of comparison. We become envious and strive to approximate those living conditions. We know that we are poor because the Netherlands, from whence Ms. Kalka came, is rich.
Given the definition above, then poverty will never go away. A recent study released by the statistics bureau said poverty rose between the years 2003 and 2006. Then you read something like this:
National growth measured in GNP increased 11 times for the Philippines from 1960 to 2000. Compared to 39 times for Malaysia, 48 times for Thailand and 172 times for Hong Kong . The distribution of this anemic growth has not become more equitable either. The richer half of families took 82% of total income in 1961. This ratio remains the same in 2000.So, in comparison with our neighbours which were poorer some years back, our poverty has worsened, only because they became richer. What is wrong then, that our society cannot generate the same wealth as others?
Certainly, our corrupt public institutions create poverty rather than wealth. Our officials steal public funds meant to be invested in social capital. Most societies value public spending on education, infrastructure and health care among others because they know that the private sector, which operates on principles of profit by assuring private consumption, could not possibly provide private access to roads for example. Education and health care are a society's investments in its own people. So, when our public institutions steal resources which came from us (taxes) and are meant to be spent on us, this creates poverty.
How do bad infrastructure create poverty? Time is gold, they say. Time is money. In capitalist wealth creation, everything is subject to the discipline of time. You need to get to your office at 9:00 am, so you can do X amount of work at X amount of time to generate X amount of "productivity" on behalf of your company. Barring personal impediments, the only thing preventing you from getting to work on time is traffic caused by poor urban planning, congestion (among others). So two hours on the road, on a bus, in a jeepney doing nothing (that generates wealth) has prevented you from reporting to work on time, lessening your "productivity" and your company's profits.
A business' reason for being is to generate profit. If it does not do so, it is not a business. Paramount to business decisions are costs. Labour and inputs (materials needed to create commodities or services) are expected costs.
Traffic (due to bad infrastructure among others) is a cost that could be eliminated. A location that exacts costs such as traffic is not conducive to maximising wealth creation (in this instance through a unit such as a business). A business will try to cut costs by a number of means - trying to find cheaper inputs, relocating to an area where there is less traffic (but relocation in itself is costly), or investing in new technologies (again this is costly). So a business, as a unit of wealth generation, will cut costs in areas of least resistance. This usually means making its people work harder.
I say this with absolutely no ideological malice. That is how the cookie crumbles. This just highlights that poverty and wealth are two sides of the same coin. More than just statistics, they are symptoms of how we as human beings relate to each other.
So, going back to traffic. If we eliminate traffic as a cost - this will improve our productivity as participants in wealth creation.
How does poor health and education spending contribute to poverty? That should be self-explanatory.
Poverty is a symptom. Poverty is a symptom that the ingredients with which we create wealth - raw materials, people, technologies (know-how/ways of doing), public policies - are arranged in such a manner that does not maximise wealth creation.
Poverty is a symptom of waste. Wasted people, wasted abilities, wasted energies, wasted lives, social costs. We are a country of 85 million potential talents. How much of these potentials are wasted?
We go back to the question then, of why we are poor. Are we poor because we're lazy? Or lazy because we're poor?
Laziness is time spent not working. Like poverty/wealth, laziness only acquires meaning when defined against work. If all of us were stop "working" all at once, then we would eliminate laziness.
Our bureaucracy is notoriously lazy. This is probably because there exist public posts that are redundant - they exist because in developing countries, governments are still one of the major sources of employment. Again this behooves us the urgency for the creation of other industries to absorb and harness people's labour and talents.
We have all been to government offices haven't we? We are all witnesses to laziness in the public sector. Going to the LTO (for whatever reason) on East Avenue is a prime example of wasted time and wasted lives. I am not surprised that the hollandaise's contact with our bureaucracy has left a sour taste in her mouth.
Well, what about laziness in the private sector? Are you lazy? Am I lazy? Are you not working? Am I not working? The answer will probably no. We all work, some very hard indeed (depends on how we qualify "hard.") Traditional, non-mechanised farming is back-breaking hard work, no qualifications needed. All that labour...and for what?
I have mentioned before Mang Tom, our newspaper (old)boy back home. That is an example of a man who works very hard indeed. But for what?
I know there exist people who have absolutely no incentive to work - thus they laze. What little income they get they spend on non-wealth generating activities. One might say, they engage in rabid consumption - of alcohol and nicotine, gambling and entertainment (not coincidentally the more robust industries in our country). Some engage in criminal activities because in doing so their "talents" yield greater wealth. There are public criminals and there are private ones. Evidently, public criminality is the best means to accumulate wealth in our society.
But we can't all be public criminals.
Again I ask the question, are we poor because we're "fucking" lazy? Or poor because the ways in which our society generates wealth is inefficient? That is, wasteful (of resources, time, money, talents)?
If we are going to play the capitalist game full on then we might as well do it good. Let's talk serious wealth creation first. Wealth redistribution can come when there is wealth to redistribute.
Where do we start? All examples point to a strong set of public institutions (i.e. State) which are relatively free from non-public interests. Institutions which will strategise to create social arrangements for maximum wealth creation and redistribution on behalf of the public. Social arrangements which will efficiently harness people's labour and safeguard social justice (however we choose to define that).
Damn, this blog post is meandering bordering on senseless. Also circular. I need to start my research on Iran.