By Renato Tibon
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
“CHANGE is coming.” Quite inured to the ways of politicians promising reforms, mouthing motherhood platforms and tired sloganeering gimmicks every election campaign period, people typically brush off speeches that call for change as just that, promises, hardly believable. Then came Mayor Duterte, a cussing and cursing presidential wannabe, a local strongman that journalists and rights group accused of orchestrating extra-judicial violence and drug war in his turf, Davao City, now largely rid of street thugs, criminals and rival insurgents, where peace and orderliness are becoming a paradigm for national transformation and everybody, idealists, generalists, leftists, rightists, the apathetic intellectuals and taciturn grassroots noticed and cheered. He dared where angels fear to tread.
Was he a fool? With a citizenry almost grown accustomed to crimes and killings perpetrated by drug-crazed individuals and gangs, the Davao paradigm is a breath of fresh air that everyone now covets the relative peace and order the city enjoys, notwithstanding the extraordinary circumstances which catapulted the former mayor to power. Riding on the crest of popular sentiment desirous of real change, Duterte elevated federalism to national prominence, a subject heretofore only staunch federalists understand. The shift in mindset was palpable: Duterte won the presidency, fair and square, an overwhelming plurality over his better funded rivals who were left dumbstruck and still reeling at what hit them.
Everywhere there are examples and patterns of change, we see paradigms being challenged, shifting to new models and adapting to a particular space and distinctive time. We see them in new technologies such as fax machines and postal services being replaced by scans and e-mails using the internet highway through the conveniences of mobile cellphones, tablets and laptops. Sometimes provoking ridicule, people are now taking a second look at cryptocurrency, a digital medium of exchange platform seeking to revolutionize the traditional way we look at our monetary system and financial transactions. Paradigm shift happens at “a time when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something changes completely.”
American politics used to assume that candidates for public office needed competence, experience, wisdom and ideas yet President Donald Trump, a risk-taker, eccentric and sometimes described as autocratic, proved them wrong. Whether his unconventional style of leadership can sustain him through his term and re-election bid with threat of impeachment over his head or not will be a great challenge to the American electorate, now greatly divided even within their respective party ranks. Arguably a cut of the same cloth, our own President uses almost a similar non-conformist approach, talking off the cuff and instinctively, regardless of the message’s authenticity and relevance. But they have changed people’s perception of things albeit there are issues apropos to the times which decision-makers such as the aforementioned leaders need to address.
The paradigm shift we can all agree on are in the areas that would engage long-term challenges such as the looming energy crisis, changing climate patterns, social inequities, dwindling resources and ominously, terrorism and war. But we need not see far to know there are shifting paradigms which are changing the way we think, argue and view things. Marikina, the country’s Shoe Capital used to be a backward municipality, attracting job-seekers and settlers to shoe plants which contributed to the deterioration of its rivers. Today, a progressive city with multiple awards and citations, thanks to its political leaders, Marikina river has evolved from the “poster image of a neglected and unhealthy river into Metro Manila’s eco-tourism showcase – teeming with life and economic activities.”
When President Duterte ordered the temporary closure and massive clean-up of Boracay due to beach erosion, pollution and improper waste management and illegal structures, oppositions were up in arms warning of the immediate adverse effect on the island’s residents who are dependent on tourism for their livelihood and the encroachment of Chinese interests such as casinos and the like. Today, Boracay, the world-famous hot spot, with powdery white shores and pristine beaches has resumed operations and with the improved environmental conditions, has regained its standings among the best tourist destinations in the world attracting close to five million foreign tourist arrivals in September of this year alone.
And who does not know of Metro Manila’s current Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, a neophyte on the job who managed to clear large districts used to be inhabited by peddlers and sidewalk vendors deemed “untouchables,” occupying four-lane roads and converting them into commercial areas to ply their trade even during the one-term stint of the former Mayor, the ex-President of the country, Erap Estrada? He has introduced reforms which were not new and yet remained unimplemented due to the stubborn resistance of vendors who turned public streets into “street malls”. A positive ripple effect was felt around the country as cities and municipalities began implementing their own ordinances spurred by the President’s order to DILG and the LGUs, to clean-up the side streets of obstructions and illegally-parked vehicles or risk suspension. It could be described as Duterte or Moreno effect but the moves were a welcome development and truly appreciated by people who looked at long-term prospects of fuel-savings due to less traffic, faster commuting time with streets free of obstructions and better worker productivity.
Of late, the President has negotiated several trade and business agreements with Russia as a follow through from his successful meetings with Chinese leaders. These are shifting paradigms, radical in the minds of those who are used to colonial thinking and yet are welcome developments to those who advance the cause of Social Market Economy, a mixed economy concept that welcomes the advocacies of both Socialism to protect society’s interests and Capitalism to protect individual’s rights. The world has since shrunk due to better communication facilities and advancement of modern technology and the willingness of most world leaders to come to talk rather than go to war is seen to unite people rather than promote mutual destruction.
All it takes is political will and the vision to change the “prevailing view of things,” the mindset that things cannot be done or undone because that’s the way they are meant to be. “Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world… If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm.”
(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute with focus on political technocracy. He holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines.)