Carvajal: Wellspring of progress

There has never been any doubt about our ability as a people to innovate. The problem is more like our essentially colonial culture puts a premium on traditional ways as practiced by school, government, business and religious bosses. It discourages a critical attitude towards traditional systems or ways of coping with our reality. In short, Filipino culture frowns on creativity and innovation.At home, for instance, Mom and Dad are always right and contradicting them, even if they are egregiously wrong, is a big no-no. In our culture disagreeing with parents is tantamount to disrespecting them.In church, the mostly Catholic faithful must either follow the priest’s interpretation of doctrinal and moral precepts or fry in hell. No ifs and no buts either.In both home and church, biological and spiritual wards are simply not encouraged to have convictions and consciences of their own because all they need to do is follow Mom and Dad and Fr. So and so, no matter what.In school, canned answers to traditional questions are doled out to students who are not encouraged to think critically for themselves and search for their own answers to contemporary questions. Come exam time, students only need to open the cans and pour back the answers to their teachers to get a passing grade.The diploma thus becomes a mere passport to a white-collar job and not what it should be, the distinguishing mark of a self-thinking, self-realizing person. Masters and doctorate degrees are acquired not as a way towards a deeper understanding of scientific and social realities but as a stepping stone to a higher position and/or pay grade.It is no wonder then that we meekly allow elected government officials to decide on our fate for us. No wonder that we never dare to criticize our elitist democracy and non-inclusive economy, that we never think of solving our national problem of mass poverty by innovative reforms in our political and economic systems.By the time this column finds print, we would have voted in a new President on the wings of whose promises we hope to fly to a more prosperous place. It is a false hope as no single personality can solve our national problems. Only innovative and relevant structural reforms can.But relevant structural reforms can only come from a counterculture that releases the creative and innovative juices of our people. Our homes, schools, and churches must learn to give Filipinos the freedom to innovate.A nation’s progress does not spring automatically from its wealth in natural resources. Progress wells up from its people’s ability and freedom to innovate in the use of those resources for building an inclusively prosperous society.Innovation is the wellspring of progress. Without innovation (in science, politics, economics and culture) society stagnates in the fetid waters of its old and regressive way of life.