Challenging ‘homo economicus’

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Saturday, May 17, 2014


OSWALDO de Rivero, a former Peruvian diplomat, warned about the emergence and dominance of the homo economicus, a member of our species "whose sole motivation is money, the ability to consume more material goods, who is aggressively competitive, a kind of predator loose in the Darwinian jungle of social and economic deregulation."

Although many would protest those tendencies, our school system, the work environment, mass media-- our entire culture--seem to promote one aspect, if not the entirety, of the behavior of the economic person/man. Look at the images of success that we celebrate and the behaviors that we are willing to endorse or tolerate--individuals who are able to acquire goods and service no matter if this is through means that have great cost to others and the environment.

And many days I get a sense that they are rapidly multiplying and becoming the norm. One need only be reminded of Janet Napoles and all those that she conspired with-- many of whom were sworn to protect Filipino interest, as named in the so-called Napolist--to bilk the public and drain government coffers.

I met Allan a.k.a. Toto one Sunday morning when I visited my mother. He offered to clean her grave and apply gold lettering on her tombstone and we got to talking while he worked.

The conversation touched on topics that reminded me of traits I'd like to think many mothers encourage--my own Mama included--and which I and countless others struggle to honor and practice on a daily basis:

--Knowing what is just and fair. Ang gusto sa uban two hundred ang singil, pero one hundred lang Ma'am. Mahal ra kaayo ang two hundred. Naglisod baya sad ang mga gaduaw diri sa sementeryo.

--A solid work ethic. Construction worker ko Ma'am. Pero kun Domingo, dinhi ko sa sementeryo para makadugang sa pampalit og bugas ug tambal sa akong anak.

--A commitment to quality. Dili maayo nang butangan og gasolina and pintura; madaot dayon.

--A sense of accountability. Naka-eskwela ba 'ya sad 'ta. Kabalo man 'ta unsa ang tama og mali. Magabaan unya 'ta sa patay.

--Respect for self and pride in the fruits of one's labors. Ipalit baya nato og bugas ang atong kita ug kaunon nato.

--Connected to whatever it is that renews one's person. Dala na lang sad ampo Ma'am. Importante nang mag-ampo 'ta.

--A notion of limits and contentment. Igo na nang tulo ka anak Ma'am. Nagpa-ligate na ko.Wala ta'y mahimo kung puro babae gyud ang ihatag.

He worked diligently under the hot sun partly shielded by the umbrella I shared with him. It did not feel like he was selling me a sob story.

Mama would have appreciated how he painstakingly wiped away stray leaves and gravel and waited for the paint to dry. My last view was of him hunched over the candles to protect them against the strong breeze and keep them burning.

I walked away reinforced by and happy with the knowledge that homo economicus will not go unchallenged and that the Napolist need not be the norm. (From Sun.Star Davao)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 18, 2014.

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