The signs of stupidity

by Dean de la Paz, as originally posted at The signs of stupidity

If anyone were to make a generalization that a good number of Filipinos were incredibly stupid and afflicted with one of the lowest mental calibers on the planet, such encompassing and judgmental declaration would immediately be labeled as an affront and insulting going from an unfair racial slur to a disparaging slight on our national honor and pride. Admittedly, not everyone falls under the broad-based offense. The numbers however change dramatically when such universe is delineated into the general Filipino public on one side and government factotum on the other where the latter are largely represented by either appointed and elected officials currently hogging both the limelight and banner headlines.

It does not help that we constantly elect these intellectual lightweights who reflect our seriously detrimental and pathetic propensity to either constantly vest with powers and authority those just like us, or worse, while starstruck and in awe, those who we believe represent our hidden and subconscious ideal.
Never mind if they were crooks, slightly brain-damaged, womanizers, buffoons, or, as our dumb luck would have it, all four. In varying degrees, ironically, because of our political immaturity, we seem to have populated the topline epidermal government service with dregs who scrape the bottom of the principle pyramid. Admittedly, reflecting our desire to be led by such is reflective of our own seriously flawed electoral standards and, by the looks of it, those standards might indeed be so low that we typically end up with bottom-dwelling scum who we inadvertently foist on pedestals and empower to rob us blind. This may be at the core of our electoral miseducation.

Simply glance at the list of elected officials we’ve charged with plundering the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or those insidiously manipulating taxpayer’s money through the notorious presidential Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

On the first, did we not think of them as among our most brilliant solons? Did we not think that they were the most popular as well? On the latter, did we not think that those who manipulated our hard-earned taxes and eventually albeit criminally parceled these out through the DAP as political patronage were the most trustworthy and most competent? Either they belong to our most popular politicians, the political dynasties they perpetuate, or they represent our ideal government executive.

We deserve the officials we elect. Or those we allow to be appointed. It does not take a lot to prove such suppositions. Simply list down top-of-mind government officials, whether local or nationally elected, from barangay chairmen to senators of the republic, to those appointed to lofty cabinet positions or are simply charged and armed with an arsenal of tin badges, handcuffs, truncheons, clubs and rusted 38 caliber pistols.

We need not go too far, nor dive too deep and analyze the folly that we constantly self-inflict on ourselves if only to substantiate that we may have placed in both high places and lofty positions of responsibility and authority the dumb and dumber. The evidence does not lie. Literally the signs and signages of stupidity are all around us as indeed, like it or not, we may be incredibly injudicious even in our simplest.

Let us list some of the signs and signages, we come across on a daily basis and see how our brain often works.

Some years back, the controversial development authority under the Office of the President tasked to coordinate the different political entities in the metropolis attempted to construct a bus terminal on a slim island on the northbound lane right in the middle of the Guadalupe Bridge.

The bus terminal on the bridge was constructed and substantially completed. Steel pylons and sheds were built and atop the structure a rather large sign read that the terminal was for provincial buses ferrying out-of-town commuters. Fortunately, the terminal on the bridge had never gone operational and was quickly torn down perhaps as soon as its ludicrousness had become apparent. Unfortunately, it was after assets had been deployed and precious tax payers money and funds had been spent and wasted.

North of the bridge on the east-to-westbound lanes of Ortigas Avenue a few feet from where the avenue intersects EDSA, another useless sign at the edge of a break along the Ortigas’ center island says that public utility (PU) vehicles are prohibited from using an ill-placed U-Turn slot.

While the sign is strategically located and contains the adequate amount of words and verbiage appropriate even for morons, the sign itself is often not readily visible. Blocking it is an unending stream of U-turning PU jeepneys that openly violate, obstruct and brazenly block both east and westbound lanes, bald-facedly disregarding law even as inutile traffic enforcers linger like derelicts a few meters away.

Nearby there is an even larger sign that says “No Jaywalking”. The official sign is affixed on an island thickly populated by commuters waiting for a ride on buses that pile and crowd lane after lane. What makes the sign so stupid, and in a sense laughable, is that these commuters get to the island from where to catch buses by dangerously jaywalking and darting across speeding and rampaging buses.

Farther north in the immediate vicinity of the Quezon City Hall there are more signs of stupidity. A stone’s throw from the seat of government, there is an extraneous sign strategically placed alongside a traffic light. Somebody in city hall decided that it was necessary to spend good money to say that a red light meant “stop”, yellow meant “caution” and green meant “go”. Directed towards motorists, the underlying assumption by those who authorized that taxpayer’s money be wasted on such a sign is that persons authorized to operate vehicles are colorblind, cannot differentiate among red, yellow and green, and worse, do not know what these color-coded lights mean.

Traffic signs are divided into ten basic shapes and through their forms convey visual messages apart from their verbiage and colors just so morons can apply multiple brain cells in following these. Circular and diamond-shaped signs are for road warnings. Octagonal signs mean “Stop!”. Rectangular signs are regulatory and inverse triangles mean “Yield”. Ironically, these are part of the tests given for driver’s license applicants which enforcers should likewise know but do not.

Like the “Bawal Tumawid”, “No Loading and Unloading” and “Do Not Deal with Fixers” signs plus a hundred others that Filipinos brazenly ignore, these signs, rules and regulations are effectively as useless as many provisions in such statutes as Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Corruption Law, the Revised Penal Code, or even the Philippine constitution.

If Filipinos are incapable of following the simplest most visible traffic signs, imagine what an elected or appointed criminal empowered by both politics and our votes can do to the more convoluted statutes often hidden among volumes of law books. The controversies surrounding the PDAF and the even more notorious DAP are clear-cut examples.

More than signs of stupidity, these are brazen billboards that declare a national incapacity for discipline and governance both of which require morals and principles as primordial foundations. As unfortunate as it is that we are incapable of discipline and governance, we elect into office individuals who mirror us.

Dean dela Paz is an investment banker. He is a consultant in the fields of finance and banking and has packaged some of the most prolific public offerings in the Exchanges. He is a member of the Executive Committee and sits in the Board of one of the oldest financial institutions in the country. He is likewise an energy consultant having served on the Boards of several foreign-owned independent power producers and as CEO of a local energy provider.

He is currently the Program Director for Finance in a UK-based educational institution where he also teaches Finance, Business Policy and Strategic Management. A business columnist for the last fifteen years, he first wrote for BusinessWorld under the late-Raul Locsin and then as a regular columnist for the Business Mirror and GMANews TV. He also co-authored a book and policy paper on energy toolkits for a Washington- based non-government organization. He likewise co-authored and edited a book on management.

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