Animals are consumers

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Farmers’ Market | Photo by Natalie Maynor via Flickr/Creative Commons

I guess that many government leaders, economists, and businesspeople have grown so sophisticated in the management of their responsibilities that they often forget the most fundamental truths of human existence. I am sure that their challenges make them believe that the complications they face demand higher reason or more intricate ideas. They may be right, and that is why they are up there, and we are where we are.

At the same time, they may be wrong, and maybe they are struggling to solve the perennial problems of society. Allow me to share the definition of perennial, which means “lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.” My experience has taught me that unsolvable problems have straightforward causes, so simple that they are missed. Simple root causes manifest in complicated consequences, misleading experts to look for just as complicated solutions.

Animals are consumers. By design and driven by the instinct to survive, animals consume. When they cannot, they die.

Man has been regarded as an animal as well. Yes, so much more in many ways, but man is part of the animal kingdom. And do we remember why? I do not, at least the formal reason why man is part of the animal kingdom. My view is quite elemental: man is an animal because he is designed and driven to consume like other animals. My conclusion is just as elemental that disregarding this fundamental nature of man as a consumer will lead to perennial problems.

“My view is quite elemental: man is an animal because he is designed and driven to consume like other animals. My conclusion is just as elemental that disregarding this fundamental nature of man as a consumer will lead to perennial problems.”

Once we know the basics, they should remain in our understanding as a firm ground for any further knowledge we absorb along the way. If we forget, or if we dismiss what is fundamental, there will be consequences. To persist in a flawed understanding is to develop a perennial problem.

Religion, politics, economics, or whatever field of human endeavor does not change the fundamentals of man. They may enhance man, develop man towards his or her potential, and bring man far beyond what other animals can ever reach, but they cannot alter man’s fundamental design and drivers – like his need to consume.

Lately, I have found myself deeply engaged in the reality of food and its lack for many, leading them to be hungry. Naturally related to this, I have had a revival of sorts, re-engaging in my active mind an old reality that I was involved in for so long – agriculture. It has caused me much consternation why millions of Filipinos have had to endure hunger incidences for decades. And it has caused me to wonder why our farmers remain the poorest and themselves experiencing hunger as well.

To address perennial hunger and address perennial poverty in the countryside, I know that many geniuses here and abroad have thought of many solutions. Some actually translated to actual programs and projects throughout the last several decades. The world and international development and aid agencies have been involved in the Philippines for a long time, and usually in direct collaboration with counterpart agencies in our government.

I have seen some progress in retrospect, and I have experienced some stagnancy, and I have even witnessed some deterioration. One thing is clear, though, the perennial problems are still here despite the attention, the resources, and the experimentation. While poverty is not something that can be resolved overnight, it should be addressed as the priority of governance. Progress must only be measured at how people are benefited from governance; in a democracy, how progress reaches the majority more than the minority.

“Progress can also be measured by the proportion of consumption and production, where animal consumption is outpaced by human production. A nation’s strength is defined by self-sufficiency, where human productivity provides more than animal needs.”

His productivity, not his dependency, manifests the strength of a human being. The capacity to consume needs no effort – the animal nature of man takes care of that. But growing the capacity to produce goods and services to sustain human needs and wants is the required journey from the animal to the human. Progress can also be measured by the proportion of consumption and production, where animal consumption is outpaced by human production. A nation’s strength is defined by self-sufficiency, where human productivity provides more than animal needs.

The direction of a developing country is its people’s shift from a ratio of heavy consumption and light production to its opposite, heavier production and lighter consumption. Filipinos are a largely consuming people; many do not even have the means to consume their basic needs – equivalent to children. Only a few at the top can be regarded as heavy producers, and they have to produce for everyone, especially those who do not produce.

It is understandable, then, that a consumerist majority becomes dependent on the productive minority. And for as long as the consumerist majority will not develop to become producers, they will have to accept being ruled by the productive few. At the same time, when the productive few cannot generate enough production for the consumption-heavy majority, importations become necessary. Strong producers abroad will be the ones to profit from the consuming Filipino population.

What makes matters worse is that the weaker majority, by their less productive character and behavior, will force the government to prioritize policies favoring them instead of producers – because they have the votes. All the more, then, that consumers will stay consumers, and lower-priced imports will squeeze producers.

“Dependency will turn to mendicancy, and our weakness of production will succumb to foreign substitution. Either we import totally, or foreign producers will take over local manufacturing.”

The culture of dependency will find political support while the culture of production will remain under-developed. In human development, that means our maturity process from heavy consumption and light production will persist – and so will our perennial problems as a consequence. Dependency will turn to mendicancy, and our weakness of production will succumb to foreign substitution. Either we import totally, or foreign producers will take over local manufacturing.

Our leaders in government, business, and the academe must somehow bite the bullet and embark on a mission to grow our production mindset. Meanwhile, we pray for the best as we ride out our weaknesses.

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