Thursday, September 22, 2005

Why isn’t it tipping? (2)

I received varied and interesting feedback via email on my Sept. 15 column piece ``Why isn’t it tipping?’’ The piece was on Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller and page-turner ``The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference’’ and why the much-awaited or much-dreaded (depending on which side you are) tipping point that would make the Arroyo administration fall was not happening. Gladwell’s book presents events in history, real-life examples and studies that show how the tipping point phenomenon works.

I thought I’d share portions from some letters which show the writers’ take on the tipping point.

From ``Xcathedra’’:

``Social cybernetics is one specialized field of discipline that might give other interesting leads on why there was (and still is) a prevailing `social feedback stasis’ before and following the `oust Arroyo’ initiatives.

``In mathematics (fractals and Chaos Theory) and physics, that `tipping’ point is known as the advent of entropy/chaos. I think you might want to read James Gleick's book (it's old in today's standards, but still grippingly enlightening) titled `Chaos’. There you can have a whiff of an analytical framework for dissecting social change. Personally, I suspect that the stasis has something to do (partly) with the current state of equilibrium of the `system’ (public reaction and feedback). To explain: For every introduction of a (change) variable that would induce disequilibrium (or `chaos’) leading to an adjustment or total change of a system, the adjusted or changed system will always emerge stronger than before (whether in the negative or positive sense).

``Having been exposed to several `EDSA events’ and propaganda of agitation, the usual recipe to induce the tipping point/entropy/chaos will not work. It has to have something more potent, something that can weaken the `inured’ (or stronger) new state of equilibrium of the ordinary people's collective response. The pond has endured too many small stones that another one will just create small ripples. You need a bigger stone or a new object that can induce the pond's waters to roil.

``Whether consciously or unconsciously perhaps, the collective response system of ordinary people has adapted and has been inured by too much reference (classic Philippine politics since Quezon sought a country governed like hell by Filipinos) to the quest for truth and morality (by the politicians, bureaucrats, members of the civil society, church, et al). Truth with the capital T matters. But the collective response system of ordinary people is in a stronger state of equilibrium in the different versions of truth--tired as they are of the long, wasteful string of investigations accusations, and lawsuits (all of which led to more lies) that characterizes how their leaders run the country.

``In the story `The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, the farmers' response system have adapted to the boy's incessant false alarms by incorporating `focused deafness’ and apathy. Along came the real wolf and killed the sheep. The story tells us that the boy was remorseful. Sadly though, both the boy and the farmers were the losers.’’

From Ronald Cagape, IT professional:

```It’, the bid to remove Pres. Arroyo, is not moving because it doesn't have all three elements in place.

``First, there are no people who fit the Law of the Few. Now it can be said that former Pres. Aquino and Susan Roces actually have minimal impact. Whoever is backing them ought to notice that by now. With the passing of Cardinal Sin, the influence of the Catholic Church has diminished. The church is currently being led by committee. I didn't watch the televised grandstanding during the impeachment vote but I could bet the opposition congressmen confirmed to the world that recycling cliches do not make a genuine leader. Sadly, there is no one in the opposition who could proclaim himself a Connector, Maven or Salesman.

``Actually, there are people who fit the Law of the Few but they work for the President. Speaker De Venecia is a potent Connector and Salesman in political circles. So is former President Ramos. I'm sure, the Mavens in the presidential think-tank worked tirelessly to ensure the impeachment vote didn't go the other way. This is the team that has to be overcome if you want to tip the movement to the other side.

``Second, the Stickiness Factor in the movement is not compelling enough. All they have is `Hello, Garci’. It doesn't evoke an image repugnant enough to move people to action. All I remember is a disgruntled former NBI man with personal grudges proclaiming he has the `mother of all tapes’. He could be a Maven, if he could be called Maven, but he did not stand for anything. He was not an embodiment of principle or integrity or honor. He had no credibility. I could argue that he was just a bad joke. Which probably led to ‘Hello Garci’ spawning a bevy of text jokes. I couldn't even remember his name (was it Ong?).

``If (they) want the President removed, they should find something despicable and make it sticky, such as the dancing Tessie Oreta-Aquino in EDSA 2. Now THAT was sticky. Or `Tama na, sobra na’ of the original People Power movement. These sticky factors riled people enough that they vented their anger in the streets. Which leads me to think, maybe the President isn't doing anything vile after all. Is cheating really all that bad? Which leads me to the last point.

``The Context has no Power. In an environment where everyone knows that all politicians cheat anyway, finding out your President cheated is not powerful enough to generate anger. So what if she cheated to be President? Every senator and congressman bidding to remove her also cheated. So why are they casting stones…?

``Besides, if there was widespread cheating, the Namfrel or (the PPCRV) should've caught it during the election. They essentially gave the election a clean bill of health. It was generally accepted as a clean and orderly election…

``I don't see this tipping anytime soon.’’

From Ernie Adaya:

``Why isn't it tipping? The answer is very simple: `Because she's tipping’ and tipping generously for survival. In the Philippines, politicians, the influence peddlers, etc. are always on the lookout for the tipping point, because, like the waiters and waitresses in restaurants, they know that at the tipping point, the `tips’ will start flowing generously.

``Gladwell fails to realize that in the Philippines, there is a fourth rule of the Tipping Point, that is the Power of the `tip’ or the `Tipping’ Factor.’’

From someone named Jori, for bleeding hearts out there:

``ma'am, where can i possibly find the book `The Tipping Point’...the one you're referring to in your column… i found it interesting… nabasa ko rin mga reviews about the book sa net. kaya lang baka di ko kaya ang price (in the red kc ako sa ngayon). i'm only good at second-hand books right now. can i possibly borrow one from you? sorry po... wala kc ako kilala mahiraman. thank you po.’’