Political Will is Not Enough17.04.10
Aired on April 17, 2010
Narration by Ptr. RG Foncardas
POLITICAL WILL IS NOT ENOUGH
Some people say that the problems of this country can be solved with a healthy dose of “political will.” This means a kind of decisive and firm leadership that moves swiftly, no matter how many toes are stepped upon.
Such a desire for an effective and no-nonsense will to do things is understandable. We live in a country where there are many obstacles to getting problems solved. We look at other countries in Asia with a tinge of envy for the way they have managed to introduce massive economic and social changes with a dose of political will.
However, we believe that it is not enough to have political will. Leaders should also have cultural and moral will. Leaders should be sensitive to culture, to what actually works, and at the same time balance this with a strong will to do what is right. To help us understand this argument, we will talk about two kinds of power: hard power and soft power.
What is normally understood as “political will” is really hard power. It is the exercise of power through the coercive means of legal sanctions and institutional systems of reward and punishment. People using hard power give orders and ensure that their orders are carried out by the use of force or other forms of compelling conformity.
Soft power, on the other hand, is the kind of power that relies upon persuasion, backed up by the power to inspire, motivate and network. People exercising soft power assert their will through intellectual and emotional appeal to people’s sense of goodness, justice or kinship.
Much of Philippine culture relies upon the exercise of soft power. The most influential people in a community, for example, may not be the formal leaders. Rather, those who are respected but operate behind the scenes are usually the ones who are able to build consensus and have the final say. Things are not worked out in formal meetings but in more informal gatherings. This cultural dynamic may be frustrating for some, but for those seeking change, this must be taken into account.
Moreover, we need to balance hard power with soft power. Political will requires a great degree of moral discernment. Political will that relies upon purely utilitarian or coercive means of enforcing change will not work in a culture that responds mostly to soft persuasion. What works is a willingness to listen to people, to engage in dialogue, to respect their culture and whatever it is of value to them. Indigenous peoples and squatter communities, for instance, are not people who merely resist change. They are fighting for their basic needs. Development planners should listen carefully and negotiate for change that truly benefits the people who are most affected.
Jesus Christ is the foremost example of soft power. He could have had legions of angels at his command to resist arrest and overcome his enemies. Instead he became flesh and dwelt [ling] among us like an ordinary human being, and by the power of his life, teaching, and sacrificial death turned the world upside down.
Today he continues to build an enduring empire in the hearts and minds of people, without guns, without goons, and without gold. We hope that our leaders — those that we have the power to elect — would bear this in mind as we go to the polls. Political will is not enough. Moral discernment, and the will to respect a people’s culture, are equally important.
(The concepts of “soft” and “hard power” are adapted from Dr. Lorenzo Bautista’s presentation to the sixth ATS Theoforum.)