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Change is fine

Rhona Canoy

SO… We’ve pretty much established that people are yearning for change. After all, regardless of what the opinions are today, it is the platform that got President Rodrigo Duterte elected into office. Maybe we should examine the whys and wherefores of this change we seek and why it seems to be very hard to find.

To the point of being irritating, I don’t hesitate to ask people what they think. One of my recent conversations centeted around waiting. Waiting for change. Kind of a passive attitude, I said. But it turns out the waiting is for the leadership to change their ways. “Why should I change when the people in government leadership all stay the same?” I suppose in a way it makes some sort of weird sense if one goes by “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” But for practical purposes, how long must we wait? And are we waiting to change? Or for someone to do it for us?

If we are to take lead-by-example literally, then the wait should not be that long. If we are all diligent and committed. After all, leadership exists in all levels and all aspects in life. At home, at work, in school, in church, in clubs, in sports, even at play. But the fact that our elected leadership leaves much to be desired in the improve-yourselves department means that this deficiency trickles down to the lowest levels of society for the most part.

This expectation of visible positive change in our leadership cannot be undervalued. For the millions who do not have the option of moving to another country, change is their only hope. So here’s a thought — if we change first, wouldn’t it then be easier to demand change and even effect the change we so desperately seek? Psychology tells us that that behavioral change can be achieved with reinforcement, either positive or negative. Let’s examine the possibilities.

Positive reinforcement roughly means rewarding someone whenever the desired behavior is shown. The problem with this is that most Filipinos will only accept monetary or material rewards. So it will cost the government or somebody gazillions of pesos to change our country for the better. The question being: Will the change be permanent when the funds run out?

Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, hinges on the premise that something awful or painful happens as a result of identified bad behaviors. Let me say right off the bat there’s no way in hell that’s gonna work. In Australia, the fine for driving without a seatbelt is over $1,100. So everyone wears their seatbelt, even undisciplined Filipinos. Hit them where it hurts seems to work. Except in the Philippines.

When Cagayan de Oro City passed the anti-jaywalking ordinance, everybody protested at the “exorbitant” fine of P1,500. When various fines for traffic violations were announced, everyone was up in arms. Why? Because the fines were so high. What does this tell us? Evidently we’re OK with breaking the law as long as the fines are manageable. We obviously would rather object to the fine rather than make an effort to be law-abiding.

This is an entrenched mindset that is always going to get in the way of any positive change we want to happen. Ferdinand Marcos astutely observed that “we Filipinos are ungovernable” hence martial law. And at this point in time, I’m inclined to agree with him.

Friends, Filipinos, countrymen… change? Fine by me.

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About Rhona Canoy

Rhona Canoy
Rhona Canoy is the president and head administrator of International School CDO. Bon vivant, raconteur, epicure, mental voyeur, occasional Yoda. You may address her as "The Intelligent Loquacious Wildly Eccentric Sometimes Inebriated Honest But Sarcastic Essential B*tch."

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