Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Silver Lining

My entries have been at their lowest levels since I began 3 years ago. Perhaps I am just following the careening contraction of the world economy, some $30 trillion now. With this amount of money, nobody is unscathed. We are all embroiled in this together.

As usual, we strain to see the silver lining. Our country, lagging far behind in productivity, is faring in relatively better shape than our Tiger neighbors. Translation: we never had much to lose after all. Pathetic, but makes absolute sense.

While governments round the world scramble for emergency maneuvers, we hope remittances from overseas don’t dip too much. We aspire only to remain on survival mode and our professional, political leaders are mainly concerned in keeping the masses subdued.

This should be our chance. This can become our opportunity to gain parity with the so-called First World. What do I mean? The $30 trillion is a reflection of the extraordinary overproduction of junk, non-essential material goods that have provided comfort and diversion to billions of hard working and essentially alienated people all over the world. Think hundreds of millions of vehicles, flat screen televisions, electronic gizmos, excess clothing, overpriced homes, mindless entertainment, bottled water, yes, bottled water is emblematic of the problems confronting us today.

In the US, it isn’t at all exceptional for anyone, including children to own closets full of clothing. Cars and trucks in very good condition are regularly replaced every 2-3 years; most families, it seems, possess the latest technological devices. And in a country where fresh, safe water is in abundance, $7 billion was spent for bottled water last year. It is easy to understand why Mexico consumed about $3 billion worth of bottled water because the availability of potable water is not as widespread compared to the US; it does underscore the tremendous amount of “disposable income” Americans perceived they had before this crisis struck.

Unlike the Philippines, America has excelled in adding value to goods (industrial, agricultural, natural resources) and services (especially military services). Value results in growth and development. This disaster is a direct consequence of negligent financial players who extracted immense profits from “maximizing” value via complex transactions that was, quite simply not there. We sat around a fire, intently listening to a pipe dream, and the hit we took was a giant financial one.

I however have no doubt the US will weather this storm and come out even stronger. This early, savings have increased and fuel consumption has significantly diminished. Not at all surprising corrective measures arising from the most productive nation on earth (in marked contrast to stagnant economies subsisting on remittances exclusively earned from services rendered to citizens of more prosperous countries).

Economic planners dread deflation but this may not necessarily be such a bad turn. The developed world can certainly do with much less. This would be a good time to fast and reflect, find meaning and redirect our lives towards less ephemeral goals. Noble pursuits all but impossible for people already fasting and desperately seeking ways to survive. This is a chance for the Philippines to pour all of its resources towards keeping the youth healthy and nourished, providing high quality education to dispel ignorance, teach values that promote mutual respect and mold responsible, globally-competitive stewards.

Human development should not be measured by the conveniences and distractions foisted by a consumerist society. We need to transform ourselves into enlightened individuals contributing considerably towards the common good.

We should strive to become productive if only to become more introspective as to what’s truly important out there.


Neil Brodsky said...

My friend, did you put a nasogastric tube in? If you are not my friend, what do the words _____ mean to you?

Sincerely, Neil

md bautista said...

Neil M Brodsky, thanks for dropping by. Give me your email address so we can reconnect. It's been 13 years since our GI days.