The damage of liberal elitism to the Philippines

my Trade Tripper column in this 6-7 August 2016 issue of BusinessWorld:

And I’m not talking about the wealthy oligarchy, a completely different topic altogether. No. Am focusing on this country’s so-called “intelligentsia,” of the academe and the professions, particularly of law (which I’m most familiar with), from those exclusive few universities convinced only they are entitled to influence others and make the decisions simply because (so they believe) they’re smarter than all of us.

Which is really annoying considering how utterly without basis their thinking is.

I remember one former Supreme Court justice pointedly (but quite correctly) telling a graduating central Manila law school class (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Be proud of yourselves, don’t be intimidated by the elite universities. Remember, at least your school hasn’t produced corrupt leaders, plunderers, and traitors that plague this country.”

So when I hear the self-congratulatory prattle of academics, lawyers, policy makers from those hallowed halls of learning, the humble bragging about their progressiveness (and they usually do describe themselves as “progressives” or “liberals”) supposedly making a difference to the country, I get baffled: have you seen the Philippines lately?

However, in fairness to the present administration, let’s agree it’s really too early days to tell how Bedans fair in governance. Full disclosure, I’m a Bedan.

In any event, beyond the corruption and mismanagement our intellectual class brought down upon us, the greater danger is the thought homogeny permeating our top schools.

This leads to two distressing consequences, both observable priorly from the United States, which we’re seemingly determined to copy.

The first is hostility to dissenting opinions: anyone with a conservative viewpoint will surely be labeled as “medieval,” “racist,” “bigoted,” or “uninformed.” And these occur in a range of topics: from sexual ethics to immigration to national security.

Thus, if you dare question the concept of “the other” (the latest buzzword favored by progressives), you are “xenophobic.”

If you ask about the merit of allowing transgenders their choice of restrooms, you are “bigoted.”

And God help you if you ever utter the word “God” in an “intellectual” conversation.

All this renders learning inutile.

As Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance”, Nicholas Kristof, May 7, 2016) puts it, “the stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards -- and we all lose.”

Finally, we seem to be aping the US’ obsession (at least from the academic standpoint) with national guilt. In their case, it’s about race and slavery. In ours, the alleged historical baggage the Philippines has vis-à-vis the Bangsamoro concept.

There’s also the academic and social media “thought leaders” fashionable passion to seek out and help (again to use those words) “the other” (usually minority refugees), with nary a nod to national security or economic viability.

But intellectual elite actions also led to the (likely intended) consequence Janet Daley (The Telegraph; “The US elite abandoned the American dream -- Trump is the terrifying result”, March 12, 2016) decried as where “love of country is no longer instilled in the children of every generation as it once was.”

So with the Philippines.

Most of our so-called intelligentsia took post-graduate studies from foreign universities, many from the Ivy League, again usually “progressive,” and it’s interesting how naively oblivious they are about the damage the ideas coming from those schools wrought upon the rest of the world.

For example, the liberal freak-out over “Brexit”: “Over the past decade, elites broke the world, and were unrepentant about their failure. They created the conditions for the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, and made sure that their elite friends at the top would scoop up the post-crisis gains, stranding the vast majority of people. They decided their project of globalization and liberalization mattered more than democracy.” (The American Prospect, David Dayen, “Who’s to Blame for ‘Brexit?’ The Elites,” June 24, 2016)

Another: elites at the IMF fostering “groupthink and intellectual capture” resulted in unmindful cheerleading “for the euro project, ignored warning signs of impending crisis, and collectively failed to grasp an elemental concept of currency theory.” (The Telegraph, “IMF admits disastrous love affair with the euro and apologizes for the immolation of Greece,” July 29, 2016)

This article, make no mistake, is not a call against experts. Rather, it’s a plea for people to be accepting of dissenting ideas and to be more democratic in the sourcing of varying thoughts.

For the Philippines, certainly expanding the bench from where we get our analytical input could only be helpful.

We know that because our continued insistence in narrow intellectual sourcing from an exclusive set of families and schools has definitely not worked for the country.