Friday, February 18, 2011

Have the advocates of Filipino reproductive health lost the plot?

Of late, there is the issue of (1) "the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill" and (2) President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino's backflip on his earlier promise to prioritise it. Without having to get off my armchair and just from browsing the little niche of the Net that I inhabit, it seems the "advocates of the RH Bill" have been up at arms over the above two challenges -- getting the Bill passed in Congress and overcoming the hurdle of Noynoy's backflip on his promise.

What is wrong with this picture?

It often helps when one is merely a bemused outside observer. Because for me, the issue remains quite simple.

It is about:

(1) Poverty.

(2) Poverty as a habitual entering into commitments one is inherently unable to honour; and,

(3) Having children as a commitment to provide for their needs, raise them to be productive citizens, and to be there to provide guidance.

The issue -- of which the RH Bill is but a mere component -- is therefore quite broad and certainly a lot bigger than the solution to which, at the moment, a large proportion of the resources of the advocacy is being focused on. It is about poverty and the impact of the enormous number of Filipinos -- and the enormous rate of the increase of this already enormous number -- have on our prospects of overcoming our chronic impoverishment.

Politics is one route to take in the pursuit of a solution to this mess. But there are also other routes.

So back to my original question:

What is wrong with the picture painted in the first paragraph of this blog?

First of all, the advocacy is now known as the "RH Bill Advocacy" -- a sign that the movement may be losing the plot. The RH Bill is, as I mentioned earlier, but one component. Perhaps if the members of this advocacy want to remain focused on the whole point of it (and therefore maintain an open mind to the set of solutions available out there) -- then perhaps they should consider referring to themselves by a term more closely associated to said point -- like, say, the "anti-overpopulation advocacy".

Second, we've always known that Noynoy is a dud of a president. So why then do we continue to make him the epicentre of our hopes and dreams? That's kind of like putting all of our eggs in one basket as the tired old cliché goes, isn't it?

And, third, the landscape of the whole advocacy is framed by politics. Again as I mentioned earlier, politics is only one means to an end. History offers a wealth of case studies of deep and widespread change that happened without politics at the forefront to spearhead it. This very platform -- "social media" -- upon which we now execute most of these "advocacies" itself is an example of a non-political change agent that effected vast and profound change in our way of life and the way we interact with one another. As a matter fact, it is politics that is clumsily trying to catch up with those of us who have become adept in the use of "social media".

The picture is wrong because it has become such a small one. Time to step back and regard the bigger picture, folks! The advocacy needs to be de-politicised so that a clearer line of sight to the point can be maintained.

So let's ask ourselves -- what is the real point? Is it to see the RH Bill passed? Or is it to control the enormous rate of increase of Filipinos' already enormous numbers? The nature of the words used, alone, already tells how much of the point of all this we remain cognisant of.

11 comments:

  1. To depoliticize anything is impossible. Just as getting the Catholic Church to shut up is impossible. The advocates need only focus on the facts, that Philippine forests and oceans are stripped bare, the country is the number one importer of rice in the world and the number one exporter of its sons and daughters to overseas jobs.

    One can always twist arguments, like, that lots of people give the Philippines a competitive edge because people work so cheap so exports and the service industry (call centers) will thrive.

    But, basically, the country is devolving into a barren stink pot, so better stop the relentless birthing.

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  2. The clock is ticking, indeed. As I keep asserting, we're a humanitarian disaster waiting to happen. On the average, every new Filipino baby is a liability rather than an asset -- an increment on the denominator in a ratio with resources as its numerator.

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  3. Hi benign0,

    Actually, what is known as the "RH Bill Advocacy" (now known as the "Responsible Parenthood Bill Advocacy") is one specific movement that has brought together different groups having different advocacies.

    1. Pro-Environment Advocates
    2. Womens' Rights Advocates
    3. Anti-overpopulation Advocates
    4. Anti-AIDS Activists
    5. Anti-Poverty Activists
    6. Pro-Individual Rights Activists
    7. Pro-Family Rights Activists
    8. Anti-"Dole-out" Activists
    9. Non-Catholic religious groups (many Protestants) with active ministries to urban & rural poor
    10. Freethinkers & others

    Essentially, the full name of what used to be known as the RH Bill has a long name called "An act to promote Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, Population Development, and other matters" reflects three main issues:

    a: High-level macro level - Population Management or Population Development

    b: Family level - "Family Planning" or "Responsible Parenthood"

    c: Individual level - Reproductive Health.

    Each of the different "general advocacy groups" zero in on one or more aspects of the bill.

    The feminists/womens' rights groups, those focused on health/ ob-gyn concerns, pro-individual rights groups, freethinkers, and anti-AIDS activists, have a very "Reproductive Health" focus in their advocacy.

    The non-Catholic religious groups and the family groups have a very family-oriented "Responsible Parenthood" focus to their advocacy.

    The pro-environment groups, the anti-overpopulation groups, the anti-doleout activists, etc, have a very macro-level "population management" perspective in their advocacy.

    (And it may seem ironic, but many of those anti-doleout folks actually agree with subsidized or free contraception funding by the government because for them, the benefits of preventing unwanted births reduce government expenditures for public education and other social services like free/subsidized government health spending so that spending just a little for contraception translates into bigger savings on the macro level. And it is easy to see how that works: for example, less unwanted pregnancies can mean less health complications among the poor women who are not in the right health condition to be pregnant, give birth, and raise children, thereby lessening gov't health spending. There are obviously many more examples on how gov't spending for social services gets reduced or at least controlled because of state-funded contraception.)

    Therefore, it really IS NOT just about "anti-overpopulation" or "anti-poverty", but several different concerns that just happened to bring several groups having similar aims (though different points of origin) together.

    It is for this reason that reducing it to just one general advocacy won't work, because there are really so many "general advocacies" which all just happen to converge at one specific advocacy for getting the Bill passed. What all those groups have in common is their support for the Bill.

    Their reasons for supporting the bill are NOT entirely the same. Therefore, they never really lost the plot to begin with. In fact, these advocates all essentially sought to translate their different advocacies into something tangible and supported by law through their joint and cooperative advocacy of the Bill.

    That, after all, is how things are supposed to work in a "democracy" - actual or even nominal.

    Hope this clears it. :)

    Cheers,

    Orion

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  4. Ultimately it is all about anti-poverty. I never said poverty and over-population are peers in the hierarchy of issues. Poverty is at the top of the pyramid because it describes human deprivation. Overpopulation is a contributing factor to said deprivation; i.e., in the scheme of things:

    (1) Poverty.

    (2) Poverty as a habitual entering into commitments one is inherently unable to honour; and,

    (3) Having children as a commitment to provide for their needs, raise them to be productive citizens, and to be there to provide guidance.

    All roads lead to poverty as the issue.

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  5. Poverty is certainly one of the important issues, a big problem indeed. But let's not stick to that only. I see other issues, such as environmental responsibility, as valid issues. For example, if we have too little agriculture, we may not be able to feed a certain size of population. Or, the more people there are, the more smoke they'll make. If our view is narrowed only towards poverty, we may not see the peripheral issues that are just as important.

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  6. A degraded environment will keep people impoverished and impoverish those who are not so yet. So you see, all roads lead back to poverty (whether lifting people out of it or securing those who are out of it from the risk of reverting back to it).

    Indeed, human development is the story of how the human species overcame (or continues to strive to overcome) poverty in its various guises (economic, social, and cultural).

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  7. The accumulation of poverty is the opposite of the accumulation of wealth. Most competitive nations, like China, gave up on the socialist model because it did not generate wealth. Over-birthing is like socialism, locking the nation into a relentless downward spiral of common need.

    Also, Orion's perspective here is quite good.

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  8. Developments in recent years is making the limit on growth a lot more palpable since it is becoming quite evident that our approach to measuring economic value and the costs of acquiring said "value" (i.e. our monetary system) is woefully incomplete.

    So the concept of "generating wealth" (which increasingly seems to be a euphemism to mask a flawed assumption that economic growth is limitless) may no longer be a long-term option. The more pragmatic approach seems to be more around sustaining living standards for those who are already wealthy and hitting the brakes on escalating commitments for those we are still poor.

    The concept of perpetually pursuing "growth" is an abomination created by an extremist free market system and, specifically, publicly-traded equity instruments driven by investors (or more appropriately, equity traders) pusuing short-term "capital" gains.

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  9. Fascinating perspective. I agree that most things done in the extreme are not healthy, as in acumulating wealth for the sake of proving oneself better than one's neighbor, or, as in Dubai, throwing up elegant towers almost as worship of one's commercial might, which derives mainly from having oil underfoot, a function of luck, not skill.

    And, as any monk would profess, there is much to be gained by quiet and setting aside all the trappings of commercial or personal gain.

    Perhaps the goal ought to be enlightened balance.

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  10. Indeed. It's like when one considers the resource water. It's a virtually "free" resource. But just because it is doesn't mean we should waste it. Our monetary system is good at counting the costs and benefits of piping massive volumes of water to people's homes -- to the point that many households take the idea of water coming out of a tap with a quick twist of the wrist for granted (which is why we perceive it as "free"). But what the monetary system does not count is the environmental cost of this "efficiency" which may tip the ecosystem into a state that results in a once abundant resource simply vanishing in the blink of an eye (relative to geological timescales).

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  11. kinoko ahcc - Grateful for contribute to such information I’ll pass it on to my friends.

    ReplyDelete

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