A Damaged Culture, revisited

Twenty years ago this month, this piece by James Fallows appeared in the Atlantic Monthly — and created a firestorm of controversy in a certain country in the Pacific.

IN THE UNITED STATES THE COMING OF THE AQUINO government seemed to make the Philippines into a success story. The evil Marcos was out, the saintly Cory was in, the worldwide march of democracy went on. All that was left was to argue about why we stuck with our tawdry pet dictator for so long, and to support Corazon Aquino as she danced around coup attempts and worked her way out of the problems the Marcoses had caused.

This view of the New Philippines is comforting. But after six weeks in the country I don’t think it’s very realistic. Americans would like to believe that the only colony we ever had–a country that modeled its institutions on ours and still cares deeply about its relations with the United States–is progressing under our wing. It’s not, for reasons that go far beyond what the Marcoses did or stole. The countries that surround the Philippines have become the world’s most famous showcases for the impact of culture on economic development. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore–all are short on natural resources, but all (as their officials never stop telling you) have clawed their way up through hard study and hard work. Unfortunately for its people, the Philippines illustrates the contrary: that culture can make a naturally rich country poor. There may be more miserable places to live in East Asia– Vietnam, Cambodia–but there are few others where the culture itself, rather than a communist political system, is the main barrier to development. The culture in question is Filipino, but it has been heavily shaped by nearly a hundred years of the “Fil-Am relationship.’ The result is apparently the only non-communist society in East Asia in which the average living standard is going down.

Twenty years on, the question is inescapable: Has anything actually changed?



Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

7 responses to “A Damaged Culture, revisited

  1. World’s 10 Worst Dictators (Parade Magazine’s Annual List:2006)

    A “dictator” is a head of state who exercises arbitrary authority over the lives of his citizens and who cannot be removed from power through legal means. The worst commit terrible human-rights abuses. This present list draws in part on reports by global human-rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International.

    1) Omar al-Bashir, Sudan. Age 62. In power since 1989. Last year’s rank: 1

    2) Kim Jong-il, North Korea. Age 63. In power since 1994. Last year’s rank: 2

    3) Than Shwe, Burma (Myanmar). Age 72. In power since 1992. Last year’s rank: 3

    4) Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe. Age 81. In power since 1980. Last year’s rank: 9

    5) Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan. Age 67. In power since 1990. Last year’s rank: 15

    6) Hu Jintao, China. Age 63. In power since 2002. Last year’s rank: 4

    7) King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia. Age 82. In power since 1995. Last year’s rank: 5

    8) Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan. Age 65. In power since 1990. Last year’s rank: 8

    9) Seyed Ali Khamane’i, Iran. Age 66. In power since 1989. Last year’s rank: 18

    10) Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea. Age 63. In power since 1979. Last year’s rank: 10

    Let’s not lose sight of those heads of state who terrorize and abuse the rights of their own people.

  2. General Jovito Palparan:4th Filipino Nominee For the Nobel Peace Prize 2008


    Broadly speaking, there are three ways to get the Nobel Peace Prize

    1. Be a famous humanitarian. This is the obvious approach. It is also the hardest. The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Albert Schweitzer, who built hospitals in Africa; to Norman Borlaug, who developed high-yield strains of wheat; to Muhammed Yunus, who devised a new method of giving loans to low-income entrepreneurs

    2. Start an international organization. Or, if you can swing it, be an international organization. Over the years, the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, the UN’s International Labor Organization, and the Red Cross. Gore himself will share his prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    3. Kill a lot of people, then stop. In 1973, the Nobel Peace Prize was shared by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. Kissinger’s CV included the “secret” bombing of Cambodia and the “Christmas” bombing of North Vietnam; just a month before his prize was announced, he was complicit in the coup that installed a brutal dictatorship in Chile. So why did he win? Because he and Tho had reached a truce to end the Vietnam War.

    It is in the context, that former General Jovito Palparan Jr. is respectfully proposed as another nominee for the Nobel Peace prize for 2008 from the Philippines(in addition to President Gloria Arroyo, former President Joseph Estrada and Secretary Ronaldo Puno).

    Here is a brief profile of the 4th Nobel Peace Prize nominee from the Philippines:


    The International Peasant Solidarity Mission found that there are “clear indications of military involvement” in the cases of human rights violations in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog. The group’s report noted that the military seems to have become more brazen (in committing the human rights violations) under the command of MGen. Jovito Palparan, Jr.
    In his brief stint as 8th Infantry Division commander, Gen. Palparan was credited for reducing the insurgency problem in Samar by 80 percent. Palparan however said he could have terminated insurgency in the province had he been given a two-month extension to implement his “clearing operation”.
    President Arroyo promoted Palparan twice: from colonel to brigadier general (2003); and from brigadier general to major general after serving as commander of the Philippine contingent in Iraq (2004). His promotion to major general came within months of his previous promotion.
    In her 2006 State of the Nation Address, President Arroyo acknowledged Palparan for his offensives against rebel terrorists. In the same breath she also said that she condemns political killings.

    Masters in National Security Administration, National Defense College of the Philippines (1999)
    Masters in Management, Philippine Christian University
    Joint Services and Staff Course, Canberra, Australia
    Command and General Staff Course, Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila (with honors)
    Infantry Officers Advanced Course, US Infantry School, Columbus, Georgia, USA
    Field Officers Tactics III, Land Warfare Center, Canungra, Australia (excellent rating)
    Distinguished Service Stars
    Gold Cross Medal
    Gawad sa Kaunlaran Medal
    Bronze Cross Medals
    Wounded Personnel
    Military Merit Medals
    Campaign Medals

  3. hi john. i transferred to a new blogsite at sikwati.wordpress.com


    One of the crimes of dictatorships is defacing works of art.

    In Afghanistan, the Taliban began each day with prayer and then one morning blasted ancient Buddhist statues along the silk route with artillery and painted over all the human figures in the artwork that was still in their national museum.

    But things of this nature are now happening right here!

    What does it say about the Philippines?


    One of the crimes of dictatorships is defacing works of art.

    In Afghanistan, the Taliban began each day with prayer and then one morning blasted ancient Buddhist statues along the silk route with artillery and painted over all the human figures in the artwork that was still in their national museum.

    But things of this nature are now happening right here!

    What does it say about the Philippines?

  6. ROY MABASA & company
    National Press Club(?)

    The Defacing of The Press Freedom Mural in NPC

    “The Law Concerning Art Preservation and Artists’ Rights” in America states that no person, with the exception of the artist, has a right to deface or alter a work of fine art.

    ”Droit morale,” a legal concept meaning ”moral rights” is the cornerstone of the law. In this case, ‘droit morale’ is the concept that art work is more than a commercial product.

    An artist’s reputation and career is dependent upon the works of art he or she creates. Each work of art has the artist’s signature on it, literally and figuratively.

    The droit morale essentially says the owner of a work of art does not have the right to alter, deface or destroy the work of art.

    The work of art is something that belongs to society as a whole.

  7. ramrod

    Hello Equalizer,

    Is this the new site? I couldn’t get in the last one.

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