Wednesday, December 3, 2014

50 Shades of #Philippines Poverty


Christian understanding of the poor has more to do with the "poor in spirit", at least that is my understanding. It is the state of the mind more than anything else. There is an ocean of difference between the two. So, a bus driver, who is conscientious about driving well, courteous to the pasengers, demands the right salary so his family does not starve, is poor and poor in spirit - his only talent is driving, but gives his best to it as his contribution to society. But, a cashier in SM, who cheats, thinks all day about living in Ayala Alabang or Dasma and driving a Merc one day, is poor, but not poor in spirit.

Remember Jesus was not dirt poor. His father, Joseph, was a carpenter; so he must be an equivalent of an SME entrepreneur today, more of the middle class. Why would the Roman soldiers in Calvary not spoil His outer garment; it must be of good quality. Even the Zebedee brothers, James and John, seem to own a fishing company, and Peter seems to be the same, at least that is what archeologists and bible scholars are beginning to conclude. They were more upper middle class. How could Peter enter the inner courtyard of the high priest during Jesus' trial if he looked squalid? They were definitely poor in spirit, though.

To explain further, take Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and the Ayalas as an example. We call them the filthy rich or the 1% on the top. Bill, who must have been influenced by his wife, Melinda, a Catholic, are now giving a lot through their foundation. Warren has joined them and has already willed that upon his death, all his personal wealth, not the company's, go to charity; he does not believe in leaving this to his children, who, he say, should work for their own independence. The Ayalas, I know through the grapevine, own only one car each per family; mind you, not one car per member of the family. Sure, they are Audis and BMWs, but see, people will think they are eccentric if they drove Toyotas or Kias. They are also very frugal in their personal spending. The most luxurious thing they have are the cameras of Jaime for his hobby in photography, and the two off-road BMW motorcycles of Jaza and Fernando, when they go for a breather in the mountains. (Compare that with Hans Sy, son of Henry, who has 12 cars just for himself; and I am not making any critical judgement of him, but just driving a point. Plus, Henry Sy Sr. gives a lot to charity, and not just for tax deductions.) Would you consider Bill, Warren, and the Ayalas poor in spirit? I think they are.

But you say these guys are still accumulating wealth. Sure they are. It is their job and responsibility as investor, chairman of the board, CEO. But it is just a job. They protect the companies. If something happened, how are they going to react. At that level, it is not just competition, it is a war in the marketplace, and they need money as their guns and bullets. The bigger the company, the bigger back-up or emergency fund is needed as there are so many unforseeable factors the bigger you go. How will they answer to employees, stockholders, banks and finance companies, if they renege on such responsibilities.

So, there are (1) poor and poor in spirit, (2) poor, but not poor in spirit, (3) wealthy and not poor in spirit, and (4) wealthy, but poor in spirit.

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