When ideas suck the life out of us-A A +A
Monday, March 18, 2013
IDEAS can truly suck the life out of us. Imagine the great European Enlightenment thinkers and artists beginning with Jean Jacques Rousseau seeding all kinds of revolutionary thoughts and causes that continues to consume the blood and lives of those who embrace the ideas of these intellectuals in their own pursuits.
The ideas of these great intellectuals expound their great love for humanity. But in the lives of these intellectuals and the pursuit of their ideals by others, the result has been demonstrated in reverse and flawed, according to a thought provoking and engaging book entitled: “Intellectuals” written by Paul Johnson, a conservative historian. Ideas can be sublime. Among these intellectuals and given the gullibility of human beings, sublime ideas extenuated are cold and devilish in practice and pursuit.
I have no fight really with the formulation and pursuit of ideas. It does not matter to me whether Karl Marx, Percy B. Shelly, Henrik Johan Ibsen, pacifist Bertrand Russell, and others are actually flawed human beings. We all are. I just wish that in the reality and realm of our existence, these people and their ideas are perfect as they appear and appeal to our thinking and sensibilities. But then again, that is too much and an impossible expectation.
I simply recall the book to mind, as I reckon from this chair, how the pursuit of sublime ideas have the same impact in the pursuit of development. These suck the life out of us overtime. The love and care – quality existence that these ideas aim to bring cannot be found and sustainably experienced by the commons and majority of citizens, long after these were launched.
There was a time in the life of this Republic when its citizens ate rice, root crops and other cereals for their energy needs. With the growth of populations and occurrences of droughts and pest, shortages in food were felt. Food rationing was instituted and early on, the Rice and Corn Administration (RCA) followed by the National Grains Authority (NGA), and now National Food Authority (NFA) were created for the purpose of ensuring the availability of food and making it affordable and accessible to the citizens. In due time, this agency focused its resources on rice alone – neglecting the distribution of other food staples like corn, cassava, camote, among others, even in areas where these foods are part of the basic food diet of the local folks.
It is not the fault of the NFA entirely but the championing of the idea that “only in rice” will the nation and regimes survive. Ultimately, rice became a highly politicized crop and development funds were focused in the production of the commodity in key production areas. What followed was that development funds overflowed in these rice production areas and almost every Filipino became dependent on rice. Sustained overtime, the idea brought about negative consequences that suck. Where the development funds went, so was progress. That would have been good but many of our rice production areas soon teemed with population, became urbanized and the precious rice lands became housing areas. In the Cordillera, think about what happened to the plains of Tabuk, one of the best areas in the country where the best rice were once grown. You don’t think of Tabuk now in terms of rice production alone. Tabuk is now a highly urbanized City and may lose its role as the rice granary of the Cordillera in the not so distant future.
Another consequence of the focus on rice is how we became overly dependent on the commodity for our energy requirements and in effect, neglected other crops and the great potential of the uplands and rainfed areas to feed the country. According to Secretary Proceso Alcala, agriculture in the country is still predominantly rainfed if not upland covering more than nine million hectares and producing about 63 percent of the total gross value output of agriculture. Saying that “urgent attention is needed here to transform this situation into a sustainably productive environment,” he draws our attention to the fact that the uplands can yet be developed to produce a variety of food like camote, cassava, saba, fruits and vegetables across its multiple-production ecosystems.
In a speech meant to be delivered in Tabuk City during the regional food security and sustainability convention on March 20, Alcala said that the DA is now pursuing several innovative approaches to make upland agriculture contribute to our food self-sufficiency thrusts. “On top of our climate-change adaptive infrastructure investment on agriculture to include irrigation, postharvest facilities, and farm-to-market roads, production increases in our agriculture are targeted through programs such as “Palayamanan,” research on and dissemination of flood-prone and drought tolerant crops, and multi-agency approach to production credit, loan quarantines, and crop insurance.”
He added that across ecosystems, to include both the lowland and upland areas, the DA has been “front-loading investments in public goods for expenditures on irrigation and concreting of farm-to-market roads and other rural infrastructure.” This “has been increased and spread throughout the regime’s term to gradually boost production and ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of food for the nation,” he explained.
In his words, Secretary Alcala said the food security and sustainability program now being implemented is not just another bureaucratic plan that was invented in the table. The ideas of development set in motion for the program’s operation has been distilled with his personal and direct involvement in consultations with our farmers and all partners at all levels.
Indeed, the on-going food sufficiency and sustainability program is not a bureaucratic but a popular and scientifically-backed formulation. The information and education campaign for its proper implementation across the archipelago is on-going. Will its implementation be just another development idea in the mold of its predecessors, something that enhances and feeds the kind of human gullibility that characterizes our times now? That remains to be seen. Meantime, I hope Secretary Alcala and his subordinates will stay longer to deepen the roots of this program that recognizes the important roles of the nation’s food production ecosystems and farmers in feeding the people, not sucking the life out of them.
Flawed as we are, one way or another, let us help the effort the best way we can and be accountable to our actions.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 19, 2013.