Saturday, November 03, 2007

Revolt of the skilled and the middle class?

Louise’s call woke me up from my afternoon sleep yesterday.

“Hey brother, I’m here at the Fort, having an eyeball with Multiply friends including Sally. I’m leaving for Singapore,” she told me. “This will be my third stint as ‘OFW,’ ha ha!

She’s going to work, she said, as architectural designer and estimator for a Singaporean firm, apparently with a very good pay.

Knowing Louise, I know it’s not really about the money. Or maybe it is, but it’s probably less of that and more about the new experience, professional advancement, and perspectives that she would gain from working in a new environment.

I’m happy when I hear friends with great skills leaving for some overseas stints. Those gigs surely make them happier, richer, better persons, more skilled, and innovative. And when they decide to return home someday after making a pile, they would surely contribute a lot to society. That’s what travel and global experience does to a person.

I am not comfortable with views that say skilled people need to remain within the borders to “help in nation-building.” Sometimes, such a collectivist view is a deception as it tends to subordinate the Individual to the State or some commercial interests bent on maintaining dominance in an inequitable social order. I’m talking about the Philippines, specifically.

Overseas employment could be a form of protest. It’s a protest against the local institutions and structures that couldn’t seem to appreciate talent. It’s a protest against the wickedness of local politics. It’s a heroic struggle by people who don’t want their choices limited by short-sighted policies.

But it’s a constructive kind of protest because instead of mounting a revolution or lining the bastards and shooting them against the wall, they channel their energies elsewhere, thus helping in the transformation of societies where their talents are appreciated while sending money back home for kin to build better homes, and pay for education. Why do you think countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Singapore are moving heaven and earth to attract talent from all over the globe?

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