Our Problem with Authority

Roughly five years ago, I started working for a research institute called “Electrotechnical Laboratory,” or “ETL.” ETL was founded sometime during the end of the 19th century in Tokyo (I have to verify my information regarding this one), but towards the end of the year 2000 we were informed that ETL, along with the other research institutes in the area, would be merged into one national institute, AIST (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology). We got a souvenir glass paperweight in commemoration of the “100th anniversary” of ETL since its founding. The next fiscal year ETL was history. And no, I didn’t see anyone doing demonstrations outside the building protesting this change of name, nor did I see anyone raising a ruckus about the impending change in administration.

Since then everything changed so fast I could not keep my business card up to date with the reorganizational changes – at one time, our group was part of the “Energy Electronics Institute.” I got a “saggyou fuku” or working jacket with the initials “EEI” embroidered on it. A few months later the energy-related institutes were merged into “Energy Technology Research Institute.” Wadduh? I don’t see any announcements or any open fora for people to discuss these organizational changes. It seems to me that these changes were handed down from the top. I don’t suppose that there is absolutely no kind of protest coming from the constituents, but I do admire their seemingly docile submission to all of these. It seems to me that a very significant factor in the Japanese progress is their ability to propel themselves forward through changes with the least amount of hassles. The head makes all the decisions, the rest of the body obey. No questions asked.

I can’t help but compare how it would be in the Philippines. People would take to the streets to express their anger and protests. Clearly it is ingrained in our culture, our mentality. We don’t take these things sitting down. But freedom of expression has its dangers: we end up just discussing and arguing in cycles and in the end accomplish zero progress. Is it really worth it? What AIST had accomplished in 5 years would probably take 5 decades in a Philippine setting. For progress to happen, people must learn how to subject themselves to the authority imposed by those on the top. And yet another problem that must be addressed is when the authorities themselves are questionable in the first place. It’s ironic that a country which claims to be the only Christian nation in Asia is among the toplisters for graft and corruption in the government. The cancer that Jose Rizal described still pervades our country, more than a hundred years after his sacrifice.

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