Wasteful living

AT RANDOM - Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ -
In a recent conference in Manila, a brave and perceptive man said that Filipinos cannot afford to emulate the "wasteful" lifestyle of the Americans. People in the United States (he said) consume 22 times more than those in Third World countries. If we Filipinos were to imitate their lifestyle, the whole planet earth could not suffice to feed us and supply our needs.

Perhaps a little exaggerated, but in general very true. One parish priest in New Jersey said to me, "We waste more food in this State than you could possibly produce in your country." In fact, the amount of food wasted in the US is unbelievable. But that is because they produce so much. Their agriculture is extremely efficient.

I lived once in a house in the US where a new administrator was appointed. The day he came, he went to the kitchen and ordered all the food stored up destroyed. Including several dozens of eggs which were in perfectly good condition. (I salvaged some of them for my own breakfast.) "I always start from scratch," he said.

In many public school libraries in the US books two years old are taken out to be burned in the incinerator (or given away) to make room in the shelves for new books. Clothes are not worn more than one year. When a woman learned that I was using a 15-year-old topcoat made of the finest imported Cashmere wool, she refused to believe it. "No one uses a coat more than one or two years," she said.

In the US a dent in the car hood is not repaired. The entire hood is replaced.

That is because in the US everything is abundant. They have an economy of abundance. We have, on the other hand, an economy of scarcity. That is why anything made of metal – hubcaps, manhole covers, nails, electric wires – are stolen and sold. Trousers hung up on the line after washing are stolen. Shoes taken off and put on the floor are snatched away.

That is the danger of entrusting our economic planning to those whose training has imbued them with principles applicable to an economy of abundance. We need planning that takes into account the actual realities of this country.

This is a place for "thinking small." Small workshops manufacturing goods out of scrap metal. Small paper mills manufacturing paper out of pulp from sawdust or recycled newspapers. Electric companies generating electricity by harnessing local waterfalls.

This is a place not for large luxurious airplanes but small aircraft that connect the cities.

Above all, this is a place for producing food even in small farms. Nobody becomes a millionaire that way, but everybody will have plenty to eat.

Which brings up the matter of the colossal deficit in the government budget. To lessen the gap, the administration has imposed heavier taxation the EVAT, making the taxpayers pay more for the government’s wasteful spending. Does it not occur to our policy makers to tighten their belt? to economize? Is it really necessary for our legislators to receive millions of the taxpayers’ money? Is it really necessary for the President to spend so much on foreign travel and entertainment?

The Americans can afford to be lavish in their lifestyle because they have so much. We must learn to be frugal because we have so little.

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