Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

We live in a micro nation. We are fond of micro objects, micro concepts, micro activities. National Artist Nick Joaquin once criticized our “heritage of smallness.” He was wrong. What we have is a heritage of micro-ness.

In the past, the government encouraged the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Today, the government is providing assistance to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). It is not enough that we have a small-dominated economy. We have to be smaller than small and so we used a more appropriate category: micro. What is the difference between small and micro businesses? Micro firms have an asset size of less than P3 million. Meanwhile, small firms are worth P3 million to P15 million. Micro companies have less than 10 employees while small companies employ 10-99 workers.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, there are almost 800,000 registered business enterprises in the Philippines. More than 90 percent of these establishments are micro enterprises. This means there are more than 700,000 businesses in the country which contribute micro taxes and micro investments to the economy. It means 700,000 micro entrepreneurs with micro business plans and micro innovation proposals.

The President vows to make the Philippines a First World society in 2020. It is impossible to achieve this lofty goal if we are to remain stuck with a micro-dominated economy. What this country needs are large enterprises: Filipino-owned large enterprises with mega number of employees, mega assets, mega investments, and mega business plans. Imagine if the 700,000 micro enterprises are transformed into large or even medium enterprises. It would jumpstart the economy. Leapfrogging to prosperity, as envisioned by some scholars, can become a reality.

But these are micro times. To display micro-ness is ideal and idealized. We praise and practice micro culture and micro mentality everyday. Micro is in. Micro is cool. We don’t read novels anymore; we read tula-text translations in the LRT. We don’t write in longhand and shorthand anymore; we text. We don’t blog anymore; we microblog via twitter and plurk. We don’t keep a real diary to record our daily activities; we change our facebook statuses. We become farmers by playing Farmville.

We are enamored with the micro. We feel empowered by being microsexual and ubermicro. We are satisfied with the familiar and predictable micro aspects of our lives. We shun the large and mega because we are afraid of them. They are too big for us. We think we only deserve the micro. We believe only micro solutions will work for us. Besides, micro proposals are concrete, visible, doable. The results are instant. While large and mega ideas are vague, unrealizable, unattainable. The results are not immediate. Adopting a large framework demands sacrifice, patience, dedication. Large activities require cooperation with other individuals, strangers, and communities.

This is most evident in politics. Micro political attitude is dominant today. Large or big or mega politics is rejected. Small politics is encouraged; micro politics is practiced. In the past, activists want to change the world. Today there are activists who assert that to mitigate the impact of climate change, the people must change their lightbulbs. From change the world to change the lightbulbs. Large politics to small politics. During my college years, small politics was hailed as the new activism. Students were told to contemplate the beautiful in life; to cultivate inner peace; and to close the faucet in order to conserve water.

People Power is large politics; community activism is medium politics; volunteering in relief centers is small politics; attaching green or yellow twibbons on our Twitter profiles is micro politics. Revolution is large politics; participating in elections is medium politics; buying green bags is small politics; signing online petitions is micro politics.

The emergence of modern tools of communication has allowed individuals to practice and worship micro politics. Large politics was abandoned as more and more individuals prefer to express activism by texting or surfing the internet.

Virtual or micro activism is not wrong just as having micro enterprises is not bad for the economy. But if more than 90 percent of businesses in the country are micro-owned, how can this economy provide a higher quality of living for Filipinos? If all of us will practice small and micro politics, would we expect a fundamental change in society? At best, we can have micro and small reforms in governance. I dread the day when people would prefer micro and small changes in their lives. We should dream big, we should act big.

The country has mega problems; the solution should be mega politics, not medium reforms like building houses for the poor. Total, holistic, comprehensive political analysis; not micro thinking which usually puts the blame on individuals and incidents and not on institutions, processes, and complex political-economic systems.

There are mega evils in society that require mega actions. Large politics versus large political problems. Politicians are not afraid of small and micro politics. They themselves are advocating small politics: Obey the law, respect authorities, change yourself first before others, study now and be an activist later in your senior citizen years.

Large politics is criticized because it is excessively radical, violent, and uncontrollable. But politics is essentially and inevitably violent since it involves a struggle between competing power factions. Besides, large politics is always against a certain strong force which does not easily and peacefully surrender its influence.

The most active opponents of large politics are political forces which only desire superficial changes in society. They prefer micro politics since it does not threaten their hegemony. It’s time to criticize the naïve and conservative character of micro and small politics. It’s time to blame this kind of politics for reinforcing a dangerous kind of “artificial individualism” in society and for deceiving the public that only micro political actions are required to reengineer an unjust social order.

The concept and practice of what constitute mainstream large politics are defined by traditional politicians, political dynasties, corporate media bosses, church leaders, local and foreign big businesses, landlords, and warlords. We should challenge this. Why should we allow them to dictate what kind of large politics is suitable for the country? Why shouldn’t we use our version of large politics to build a stronger and vibrant nation; a new society where freedom, democracy, and progress reign; where the class interest of the majority prevails over the interest of the minority?

Related articles:

Displacement: Poor versus poor
Nick Joaquin’s Manila, my Manila

7 Responses to “Politics: Micro, Small, Medium, Large”

  1. i will use this in my communication classes, mong. best regards.


  2. like. *thumbs up*

    ^ micro politics.


  3. Hi Mong!

    Mali na i-assume na ang 700 000 micro business ay nangangahulugan na ganito rin ang bilang ng micro-entrepreneurs. Marami sa mga ito ay mga negosyo na itinayo rin ng malalaking negosyante para mag-outsource at makatipid.


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