CSR Learner's Corner Archives

Patriotism Marrying Art and Science

Guess who’s back! After forcing myself to take a month-long sick “leave” (as I really got sick for three weeks), and working on other matters, the weekly editorials are here again to serve as this amateur serial reformist’s insights into how we can use a CSR 3.0-based education to achieve social change. 🙂

I read BBC News everyday on an app on my tablet, and it’s interesting how it has categories focused on business, health, science and environment, technology, sports, and my favorite – entertainment and arts. It also has features and analyses related to either world news, something interesting, or the aforementioned categories. Last week, I came across this article, and it certainly provoked a lot of thinking.

The article describes how a study performed by the Queen Mary University, London, commissioned by the British-based Authors’ Licensing & Collection Society (ALCS) revealed that a typical professional writer now earns just £11,000.00 a year, down from 2005’s £12,330.00. This is equivalent to just Php821,000.00, or Php68,000.00 a month. Furthermore, the number of full-time writers has dropped to 11.5% from 40% in 2005, leading ALCS’s chief executive, Owen Atkinson, to believe that the times are “concerning”.

Now, one would think, “Php70,000.00 a month? Wow, I’d sign up immediately!” But remember, this is the United Kingdom, a developed country where the standard of living is much, much higher than in our beloved Philippines; and its capital city is the world’s most expensive city as a tourist destination according to TripAdvisor last month (by cost of living according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in March, London is just 15th [16th in 2013], with Manchester the only other UK city on the list at #49). When one takes that into consideration, thinking of day-to-day sustainability et al, then it does become somewhat concerning.

And when one takes into consideration that the UK and US are global stalwarts of the publishing arts, and they are among the world’s richest and most progressive countries, what more in the Philippines, where the arts are not as significant and the booming industries are in business process outsourcing (BPO) and tourism? Doing a quick Google search on Pinoy writer wages came up with a very interesting find – there was barely any information for this, and many of the sites were dated 2008-2010.

The biggest names in the Philippines are (corrupt) government officials and mostly Chinese-Filipino businessmen who established national (and in some cases international) empires and still earn billions a year. Our artists – in every sense of the word – while prominent across the nation, do not make international headlines very much, unless one thinks of Lea Salonga, Charice, or Regine Velasquez. They have released chart-topping hits that are such only here and in some Southeast Asian countries (Christian Bautista is famous in Malaysia), but not quite making even a dent on, say, the Billboard charts, which are viewed globally as the de facto authority on pop music popularity.

But when you go to other countries, the biggest names are celebrities who contribute to the global pop culture scene regularly (even changing it), whether in a controversial or humble way. Such is their influence that they are looked up to more than business magnates or government officials. Even in our bookstores and CD stores, this is reflected somewhat. Sections for original Filipino creations are tiny compared to foreign (read: American or British) ones, and more often than not, promotional posters advertise “New York Times [Bestsellers]” or “Global #1 Hits”, sometimes leading one to think, “Eh? Aren’t I in the Philippines?”

It is, sadly, a product of colonial mentality, where we like to think that foreign (read: American) is good. We have not been so appreciative of our own national culture as we could be, a very rich and diverse one that stretches back to the first millennium AD or even further back. Spain arrived and did both harm and good to us as a country for three centuries, and so did the US and even Japan. But the point is that we have forgotten to say thank you to the one thing that defines us as a country – our heritage. Which, since time immemorial, is manifested in the arts and culture.

No wonder very few people consider the arts a calling, and live it out full-time. Under-appreciated arts lead to greater challenges in sustainability, thereby delegating the arts to the side. Always a sideline, almost never primary. I reflected on this briefly during last year’s 3rd Philippine Conference on Research in CSR as a last-minute panelist for Dr. Raul Sunico of the CCP, who had talked about CSR and the arts. As I reflect once more now, I find it sad that I, too, had felt dejected by the lack of enthusiasm for being a full-time patron of the arts here in the country, and how many people wishing to follow their dreams take what has become a “career first step” – work for a large company to supposedly gain experience and financial sustainability (sometimes eventually feeling enslaved, trapped, or that they hadn’t learned anything at all). It’s a vicious cycle that, unfortunately but in reality, is almost impossible to break free from without a mass exodus of national consciousness.

It’s interesting how, during my school days, we had Music and Art classes once a week apiece only in elementary, although Language (which is essentially English and writing) and Reading (which is essentially English-language literature, some English, and the theory thereof) were done everyday. By high school, music and art were no longer there (only as clubs or electives), and Reading and Language had been combined into English. Furthermore, in music, we learned very few Filipino creations, focusing more on mass songs (to give credit, many of which were Filipino-composed), the recorder, etc. I learned more Filipino songs on the radio than in class. In art, we did take up the Filipino painters, but not as in-depth, and focused more on making our own creations, which would fall under home economics more than actual art. That was it.

If we are serious about revisiting the educational system to be a human value-centered one, and serious about promoting our national identity, we need to look at the highest level to determine the overall direction to take the youth to. From there, we need to teach them not just the science, but also the art, of citizenship, sustainability, and social responsibility, addressing the challenge of social change not just from a scientific, economic, developmental point of view, but also from an artistic, cultural, inspiring perspective. It is impossible to teach something without imparting at the same time a strong appreciation for such, as teachers may end up being less effective and efficient.

These go hand-in-hand, the arts and the sciences, as the sciences teach us a framework of life, while the arts teach us life itself. It can never be either one or the other; both must co-exist and help each other grow in a beautiful, cooperative, collaborative synergy channeled towards true, authentic, effective, efficient, and sustainable nation-building. And that would lead to no need for worry over “concerning times”.

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