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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, July 5, 2016
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Sharing wisdom


In this age of social media where almost every one of your so-called friends can share anything they deem interesting or inspiring on their walls, I am still flattered when people I consider as good friends or mentors hand me an old school note, clipping, or book as their way of clicking on the “share” button.

This was my reaction when Visayan DAILY STAR board member Enrique Dy took time to hand me an interesting printout of a few words from Lew Kuan Yew that he felt should be shared with me when I bumped into him one morning as I was shopping for plywood. As we were making chitchat, I got the feeling that this was something he wanted to be shared with a bigger audience and since it was the article was something I generally agreed with, allow me to “share” this “private message” on traditional media instead of social media.

The following is an excerpt from “Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, United States, and the World,” where he talks about the necessary balance between competitiveness and equality.

“To be successful, society must maintain a balance between nurturing excellence and encouraging the average to improve. There must be both cooperation and competition between people in the same society.

“If everybody gets the same rewards, as they do under communism with their iron rice bowl, nobody strives to excel; society will not prosper, and progress will be minimal. That led to the collapse of the communist system. On the other hand, in a highly competitive society where winners get big prizes and losers paltry ones, there will be a great disparity between the top and bottom layers of society, as in America. … At the end of the day, the basic problem of fairness in society will need to be solved. But first, we have to create the wealth. To do that, we must be competitive and have a good dose of the ‘yang'. If we have too much of the “yin” and over-redistribute the incomes of the successful, then we will blunt their drive to excel and succeed, and may lose too many of our able, who will move to other countries where they are not so heavily taxed. On the other hand, if too many at the lower end feel left out, then our society will become divisive and fractious, and cohesiveness will be lost. Communism has failed. The welfare state of Western democracies has also failed.

“There is a continual need to balance between a successful, competitive society, and a cohesive, compassionate one. That requires judgment, to strike a bargain or social contract. Each society must arrive at that optimum point for itself. Between the two ends, the highly competitive and the excessively equal, lies a golden mean. This point will move with time and changing values.

“I can best explain the need for balance between individual competition and group solidarity by using the metaphor of the oriental yin and yang symbol. … The more yang (male) competitiveness in society, the higher the total performance. If winner takes all, competition will be keen, but group solidarity will be weak. The more yin (female) solidarity, with rewards evenly distributed, the greater the group solidarity, but the weaker the total performance because of reduced competition… We have arranged help, but in such a way that only those who have no other choice will seek it. This is the opposite of attitudes in the West, where liberals actively encourage people to demand entitlements with no sense of shame, causing an explosion of welfare costs.”

I believe my good friend gave me this because our society is currently at a crossroads and he probably thinks I am in a better position than him to influence thinking. Those words of Lee Kuan Yew is something we Filipinos and our leaders will have to think about as we either brace for or embrace the change that our new President is bringing.

The socialist/activist leanings of President Duterte will certainly fuel more debates between competitiveness and equality in the days and months to come. Many will be looking to see how the controversial appointments of unabashedly biased personalities such as Mr. Mariano at the Department of Agrarian Reform and Ms. Lopez at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will pan out and how much things will actually change.

As we wait, see, and pray that President Digong is successful in his quest to change the country, let us continue to open our minds and strive to learn more about our world through the lenses of the great leaders who have gone before us. Instead of sharing unverified bullshit on your social media feed, share a golden nugget of verified wisdom that will make your “friends” get a headache from actually thinking instead of making their BP shoot up with stupid and inflammatory comments.

P.S. I will be out on vacation for a few weeks so I cannot guarantee if I can churn out articles during that time. My apologies in advance and see you soon.*

Reactions, comments & excuses: mail@carloleonardia.com
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