Posted tagged ‘urban’

GRANDEUR AND MAGNIFICENCE IN ASIA’S CITIES

January 25, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day to my fellow global citizens!

The year had just kicked off, and we’re already witnessing the contrast in images projected in the mass media between East and West. Just notice the projections regarding urban life in each hemisphere, and you can see the differences in the images.

Asian cities have been projecting themes of cooperation, growth, exquisite city plans, 21st century architectural wonders, and these themes were projected well despite the typical urban problems of decay (congestion, pollution, traffic jams). In contrast, those of Western cities’ projected crimes, street protests, snow storms, floods (e.g. Australia’s), and related pessimistic images.

Coming from the East makes me feel with awe and pride about the transfigurations that our own emerging markets and big cities are going through. Our economies are clearly the drivers of the world economy, our investments and treasuries in the West largely keep their economies alive, and our growth and rising middle class make for our urban accomplishments as well.

Whereas before our cities were citadels of flies, malaria, squalor, and crimes, today our big cities have mutated to model skyscrapers, exquisite urban plans with many mixed land use commercial centers, architectural wonders & cultural innovations, and multi-cultural cooperation. Peoples of the West who are truly appreciative of our feats would normally experience their jaws drop in awe over the marvels that our big cities can show to them.

Among recent depictions, I recall vividly the images of Christmas trees in malls all over Asia even in countries that are Buddhist, Hindu, and Moslem. Asian urbanites are showing the way to how a former sectarian event—the Christmas holidays—can be globalized and celebrated by every nation, race, and culture. Buddhist children in Thailand for instance showed deep fondness for Santa Claus and Christmas, so their respective schools respected their fondness and celebrated Christmas as well.

In Indonesia, Moslem workers were shown preparing the finishing touches for Christmas decors, Christmas trees, food & delicacies for the Christmas event, and related paraphernalia. Many of the exported decors from Indonesia’s Muslims reached the Philippines, with some of the Christmas lights reaching our home in suburban highlands east of Manila. China’s toys, Christmas lights, delicatessen, wines, and holiday paraphernalias made us equally happy as did the Indonesians.

Scenes of Asian cities celebrating the New Year—largely the Western New Year based on the Gregorian calendar—were well projected on television, internet, and print media. Taipei 101, the 2nd highest building worldwide, had its equivalent scenes of pyrotechnic fireworks and revelry of people in its surrounds. Such an event happened in all the big cities of Asia, rest assured.

Beijing with its trade exposition buildings, wondrous streets, magnificent palaces, and other marvels, were among those projected in the media. The world’s largest mall is in this city, and is owned and built by the SM Group of companies of the Philippines (owned by the Sy family).

The cities of Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Calcutta, Shanghai, Shenzen, Mumbai, Manila, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Dubai, Abu Dhabi among others, were also projected with each one having their contributions to the grandeur of 21st century life and the bright beginnings of 2011. Till now the very positive projections of lustrous performance and compass of the future in such cities are still being churned out in the mass media.

Contrast those images to the still prolonged floods in Australia (cities affected too), another round of snow storms in the USA, massacre in Arizona by a sociopathic young man, hundreds of deaths in Mexico (how many dead in Acapulco? Mexico city?…), continuing protests in Europe over austerity measures and rising poverty,…well, negative images dominate those reportorials about Western cities, with some images shocking and unnerving.

Before the year 2010 ended, an American lady (professional) whom I met in a social network, shared to me a videofilm of hers about “3rd World America.” Depicting huge poverty incidence in the USA coupled with urban decay, huge income disparities between rich & poor, and deterioration of the once mighty physical economy there, the short feature film struck a cord. It amplified scenes of 3rd world deteriorations in America at this time, degenerations that we analysts thought would take place in the next decade yet.

The film was hair raising and admittedly effective in portraying its intentions. Knowing the rapid ‘decline of the West’ (ala Spengler) that is going on in the industrialized world, I could only but hope for a reversal of degenerative trends there, trends that are likewise manifested in the negative images about the Western cities.

Maybe it’s time that Western peoples should look up to the themes and images projected by Eastern cities, watch and learn from our nascent innovations and urban marvels, and hope that the experience could help to reverse the deepening pessimism and nihilism going on in Western cities and nations.

[Philippines, 19 January 2011]

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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs anytime!

Social Blogs:

IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com

UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com

Wisdom/Spiritual Blogs:

COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com

BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com

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ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com

ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com

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@FRIENDSTER: http://erleargonza.blog.friendster.com

@SOULCAST: http://www.soulcast.com/efdargon

Website & Mixed Blogs:

MULTIPLY: http://efdargon.multiply.com

WESTERN ECONOMIC SHRINKAGE A REALITY AS ASIA RISES

January 14, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza                                                       

 

Magandang araw sa kapamilyang global! Good day to fellow global citizens!

For three decades already, I have been echoing a prognostication that was already current stock within sociology, about the ‘decline of the west’. Let me return to the same theme, as the rapid decline of the West and the fast rise of Asia is now a reality of the current historical juncture.

Just a couple of days ago, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s or PDI’s opinion pages published an article by the past recent premier of the UK, Gordon Brown (PDI, 7 January 2011). Titled “Reviving the West,” it was a rather straightforward admission of the techno-economic decline that the West had undergone and the rapid ascent of Asia as the global economy’s growth driver.

As Brown succinctly stressed, “Time is running out of the West, because both Europe and the United States have yet to digest the fact that all the individual crises of the last few years—from the sub-prime crisis and the collapse of the Lehman Brothers to Greek austerity and Ireland’s near-bankruptcy—are symptoms of a bigger problem: a world undergoing a far-reaching, irreversible and, indeed, unprecedented restructuring of economic power.”

That was the former premier speaking, a technocrat and economic manager prior to his premier stint, so it does carry weight as much as those of the globe-trotting former US president Bill Clinton. Gordon went on to demonstrate his deep knowledge of the rising middle class consumers of Asia who altogether will make the greatest consumers the world over in the foreseeable future.

Said Gordon:

Of course, we all know of Asia’s rise, and that China exports more than America and soon will manufacture and invest more as well. But we have not fully come to terms with the sweep of history. Western economic dominance—10 percent of the world’s population producing a majority of the world’s exports and investment—is finished, never to return. After two centuries in which Europe and America monopolized global economic activity, the West is now being out-produced, out-manufactured, out-traded, and out-invested by the rest of the world.

That indubitably is an empirical substantiation of the thesis long held by Western social forecasters about the ‘decline of the West’. Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler, and John Naisbitt have churned out voluminous prognosis and forewarnings about the same thesis within a century’s span…and that thesis is now a reality.

In the middle and last portions of Brown’s article, he admonished Americans in particular to re-invent the ‘American dream’. The way to the revival of the West, with the USA showcasing the compass, is to re-structure the economy altogether. Accordingly, the nascence of over a billion middle class Asian consumers is a huge opportunity for America to re-invent itself and revive a strong economy.

Brown also forewarned America’s politicians, notably the Right, about criminalizing external forces, such as China’s currency, as culprits behind the decline of the US economy. Intervention measures such as currency wars are flawed, precisely because they fail to address the internal factors that are truly the causes of the economic decline.

To a great extent, I do agree with the evaluations and interventions of Brown. Fact is, I have already begun to echo the theme that America and Europe ought to reverse the policies of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation that led to de-industrialization, agricultural decay, infrastructure decay, and the rise of a ‘virtual economy’ based on predatory finance (vulture funds, derivatives or hedge funds). As I had been saying all along, the West should go back to the principles of the ‘real economy’ where wealth is produced from agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructures, transportation & communications, and science & technology.

As a matter of fact, I have been among Asian analysts and development practitioners who have urged the Americans to go back to the economics of New Deal propounded by the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Likewise should the tried & tested policies upheld by Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick von List, and John F. Kennedy, policies that impelled the rise of the physical economy and brought bountiful prosperity to Americans (read: created a predominant middle class), be put to the fore in rebuilding America.

Gordon resonates somehow with the ‘physical economy’ framework, even as he heralded the need for a new Marshall Plan for the world. Accordingly, the Plan could help to recast the banking system that was dirtied by its engagements in speculative financing and contributed to creating financial bubbles. The Western peoples should better listen to him, more so the youth who will be tomorrow’s Western leaders.

Let me re-echo the same message I have been saying all along: that prosperity should be a win/win phenomenon. No one here in Asia would ever want the USA and Europe to go back to the era of ‘cave man’ economy of hunting & gathering. I’d be happier many more times if the West should re-invent itself, cease from playing the destructive game of win/lose logic in order to prosper, and move back to reconstruct its physical economy altogether.

Asian spiritual masters, who incidentally also discoursed on economic doctrines (i.e. Baha’ullah, Gandhi, Vivekananda, Sarkar, Sri Aurubindo), left us all the legacy of building prosperity through the way of peace, cooperation, and mutual-help. It’s time for the Western peoples to retool themselves, by throwing away the binary and destructive thought system they inherited from their forebears, and by learning from Asia’s spiritual and intellectual giants.

[Philippines, 09 January 2011]  

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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs anytime!

 

Social Blogs:

IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com

UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com

Wisdom/Spiritual Blogs:

COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com

BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com

Poetry & Art Blogs:

ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com

ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com

 

Mixed Blends Blogs:

@FRIENDSTER: http://erleargonza.blog.friendster.com

@SOULCAST: http://www.soulcast.com/efdargon

Website & Mixed Blogs:

MULTIPLY: http://efdargon.multiply.com

 

 

 

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES (IPs) GREEN THE EARTH, THEY DON’T DESERVE TO PERISH!

June 11, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza y Delago

Magandang hapon! (Good afternoon!)

I remember very well my first anthropology. I was then around 6 or 7 years old, a very innocent tot growing up in Tuguegarao (capital town of Cagayan). Among our yaya (child caregivers) was a young lady from Penablanca town just beside Tuguegarao, where the yaya invited my family for a visit one day.

In the neighbor town of Penablanca did I first encounter the Aetas (Atta in Ibanag language) who were natural inhabitants there, in the mountainous Sierra Madre side of the town. My eyes got transfixed on a little man, dark and kinky haired, and I looked at him wide-eyed without batting an eyelash, full of questions inside my head. Why was he looking so different, so diminutive in body built and height?

For the first time too did I see a White man, who entered my yaya’s house while I was still probing this small man. My gaze then got transferred to the huge man, and I was so wide-eyed then. It was surely bewildering for this innocent Erle Frayne to see the seemingly colossal White figure juxtaposed, upon his entry, to the dwarfish Dark man. What a strange world!

I always laugh with guffaws whenever I recall those days of innocence. I never thought that I’d some day I would take up sociology and anthropology (and later political economy),  was enabled to comprehend the matter of ethnicity and race with greater depth and comprehension, and become a full-fledged social scientist. I also had Eros bonds with White ladies as soon as I reached middle age (one American, one European), and they shared banters with me whenever I narrated my first anthropology.

One thing that impressed me since that time on, when I met my first Aeta ‘subject’, was that the IPs were a bunch of folks who cared for their environment a lot. I remember that the Aeta man brought along lots of herbs, some of which were medicinal. I was also showed their huts when I went down the house to curiously see what things were in that area, and I saw lots of pets, livestock, gardens of families who were both Itawes (mainstream locals) and Aetas. Loves of my life all!  

Having been exposed to diverse ethnicities as a child, I developed that sensitivity and multi-cultural orientation early. And I deeply scorned people who made fun of Aetas or any IP whatsoever. Likewise did I scorn folks who made fun of or disrespected ethnicities that weren’t of their own kind. Inside the classroom we were mixed Ibanags, Ilocanos, Itawes, Chinese, mestizos with European blood, and Tagalogs, and we loved each other’s company. In Penablanca they had IPs among the grade school classes mixing up with the Itawes. How pugnacious it was to hear ethnic profiling bigots!

Those experiences were very, very important as I’d find out later. Coupled with the sensitivity that I learned from my grandfather, who reared us grandchildren to do gardening, take care of pets and livestock, assured me of my ‘green consciousness’ early in life. The same experiences were also contributory to my choice to practice development work, and to go back to Cagayan upon graduation from the premier university in Quezon City (MetroManila) later.

After graduation I plunged right away into field works as part of my community development tasks for the Ministry of Human Settlements. I encountered the Aetas in the process. There was no lack of sympathy and partnering between us development professionals and the IPs then, as we did with the peasants and fisherfolks. IPs, peasants and fishers comprised the most marginalized sectors of Cagayan Valley at that time, and I guess since this time. We did everything we can within the limits of our mandated powers and tasks to get the IPs to the mainstream, including funding livelihood concerns.

Through all of my interactions with the IPs (including the Igorots of Cordillera), I was very conclusive about my observation that they had great respect for Mother Earth. Their practices of subsistence farming, hunting and foraging assured that the ecological balance will always be conserved, thus sustaining resource endowments for the forthcoming generations. They prayed before they would cut a tree, butcher a livestock (notably deer, cattle, swine), and hunting, ensuring a profound bond with the Earth and its endowments.

Having immersed myself in their lives, it surely pains me whenever I see every discriminatory and/or prejudicial act done to mistreat the IPs. Those narratives of native Americans who were rendered as target shooting fodder for White Americans during the Eastward expansion era fills me with rage. The continuing mistreatment of our IPs here, who are treated merely as ‘3rd world’ subordinates by their own city and town fellows, remain among the social issues of my advocacies.

If I were given a choice about which people to perish in the competitive decades ahead, between the urban parasites (who live in subsidies and food stumps from state and private Santa Claus) and IPs (who remain to be ecology balance conservers and self-reliance exemplars amid their simple life), I would prefer to see those urban laggards be swept off the Earth. But I don’t control the future, and who knows the urban laggards can be reformed, reshaped, microchipped for better control and productive behavior.

The Philippines is now 60% urban and barely 40% rural. If 1.5% were added to the urban population every year (which is too conservative an estimate), urban population will hit the 90% mark in 2028, and past the 97% mark in 2040. By that time, the dividing line will be largely the ‘urban-suburban’ divide, as anything ‘rural’ will simply be considered exotic.

I wonder where will that future context leave the IPs. Will they all become post-marginal and absorbed into the mainstream, behaving much like their urban and suburban fellows? Or will they simply silently disappear?  I am no god incidentally, only a mortal who raises questions like anybody else.

[Writ 10 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]