THE love of money has been said to be the root of all evil; however, the lack of it causes so many evil. In a country where a few have much too much and the many who are poor have almost nothing, we have fears of consequences horrible even to contemplate, like a “social volcano” ready to erupt. And somehow, that volcano is now erupting, manifested by violent extremism knowing that when economic dictatorship by the oligarchs is grafted in the so-called representative democracy, the consequence is the toxic growth of right wing extremism and religious fundamentalism as highlighted by current issues plaguing the country.
Well, we are now acutely aware of the profound changes in the world today where only one percent of the populace benefit from the contemporaneous development neo-liberalism paradigm. Don’t you know that the eight wealthiest families in the United States have a combined wealth equivalent to the assets of some 3.6 billion people on earth. Yes, everywhere we see gross inequities, financial and economic crisis, reduction of social justice, rise of climate disturbances and violent extremism in humanity’s mindset so much enamored in self-promotion and self-gratification in a highly materialistic and consumerist society. Yes, the world has become abundant and becoming a global village but also facing climate change crisis that is bringing the earth to its 6th extinction as mother earth is now in severe pain.
Amidst the denigration of spirituality and the veneration of profit motive that has penetrated all institutions, there is now looming a countervailing force that is driven by time-honored and universally-accepted principles of social justice, equity, service, accountability, transparency and spirituality and whose DNA is that of being members-owned (no one shall be left behind), value-based (debunking the mundane, advancing the sublime) and that of sustainability (advancing social inclusion and the integrity of the environment). That countervailing force is harnessing the collective power of the people especially the poor and the marginalized so that those in the margins can be drawn into the mainstream of development processes.
Indeed, neo-liberal capitalism has been likened to AIDS (Auto-Immune Deficiency Syndrome) where the body’s defense mechanism is the one attacking the body’s vital organs. That economic paradigm is only successful in sacrificing mother earth and the people to the altar of greed and profit. Everywhere in the world today, what looms is that collective power called Cooperativism with some one hundred million cooperatives world-wide with more than one billion members.
Don’t you know that these cooperatives world-wide have total direct employment of some ten million staff and personnel, about 20% more than what corporations have employed? In the Philippines alone, the 18,400 cooperatives with some 11 million members have employed directly some 520,000 personnel and have indirectly generated jobs of more than two million. That is so amazing in the country where 6,000 Filipinos are going abroad everyday just to find jobs leaving their families behind.
Even the United Stated Agency for International Development (Usaid) is now implementing the GROW-COOPS (Generating Rural Opportunities by Working with Cooperatives in the Philippines. Indeed, the problem is not the lack of resources but the disempowerment of the people to have access and control over their resources. Who Control? Who Benefits? Who Decides? Only a few elite. Cooperativism is that empowering path where social transformation can be had not through the power of guns but through legal and peaceful means through cooperativism.
Cooperativism is the liberating force to unfetter the poor and the oppressed from the quagmire of poverty. Even the United Nations is now passionately advancing cooperativism through its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calling to STOP poverty, hunger, social injustice, gross inequities and be the one to advance equity, environmental protection, women empowerment and peace. It is just so amazing that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are anchored in the Theme: Transformative Cooperatives for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace.
As undersecretary and chairman of the Cooperative Development Authority in the country, I am so happy to report that the more than 18,000 cooperatives nation-wide with some 11 million members are now front lining the UN-SDGs and each cooperative has a good story to tell which I can describe aptly in the following lines: “The blooming of the flowers may be very beautiful but such will pale in comparison with the blooming of the cooperative nation-wide.” All for the greater Glory of God!