Mendicant Society

Mendicant Society


Many of us ponder the factors behind the creation of corruption in our youth, our culture, our politicians, even our families. By taking a look at the issue broadly, we might query too how an entire society can lose its balance due to lack of morals, principles, discipline, hope, and other factors. Mendicant Society zeroes in on a number of societies, be it those from the Philippines, the United States, or elsewhere, which in essence have relinquished their powers to third parties and become, quite literally, mendicants–in other words acting as if unable to stand on their own without the good grace and assistance of others.

What are some examples of mendicant societies, how do these societies come to be, and what can be done to help them help themselves? We exemplify the Philippines as a case and point because of its long history of government-sponsored human exportation which adds a great sense of calculated malignancy to this problem: 1) by creating a society at that sustains itself by way of remittances home sent to them by family members working abroad; and 2) by supporting a national government that lends itself to being mendicant to the very people it serves.

In the case of the Philippines, its mass exportation of human labor breaks up families, leaving for instance mother and child at home while the father sends remittances home from abroad. Given the scarcity of employment opportunities in the Philippines, family members left behind often begin to self-identify as hopeless and helpless victims of circumstance. To compound this dilemma, these family members receive remittances: an at-first enticing prospect which gives them (however) very little motivation to seek employment themselves. The figurative door is thrown open as a result to sloth, greed and corruption.

Such corruption is largely reflected in the Filipino national government, an entity that profits enormously at the expense of its own citizens–the overseas foreign workers. It may not be so far-fetched to reason that many Filipinos who stay on the Islands subconsciously, if not consciously, structure within their own minds false expectations for the world, for example that we need not sow anything to reap. By looking closely at the dynamics between parties, Mendicant Society aims to uncover some worldwide truths, not to mention deeper inquiry.

As noted earlier however, the Philippines is of course not to be singled out as the sole proprietor of a mendicant society. In this day and age, perhaps most strikingly in the United States, the widening gap between rich and poor is reaching alarming proportions. If we take the Philippines again as a prime example, there too the huge disparity between upper and lower class is to be denounced, especially because it works to the bone those with very few possessions while stripping the wealthy few of their grasp of reality.

This fate need not play itself out in the Philippines, in America, or elsewhere. Mendicant Society is a much-needed exploration (in the end) of the ego, of how to let go of our possessions in order to save our souls, for every one of us to embrace the value and power of work, and that in the end, now, and always, we receive exactly what we give.


Suze Orman warns OFW families: You can’t count on remittances forever

By: Likha Cuevas-Miel,
February 27, 2012 10:19 PM
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – Families of overseas Filipino workers must anticipate the day when remittances from their loved ones will stop coming, international personal finance advisor Suze Orman said on Monday in Manila.

Orman, who hosts her own show on CNBC and is a favorite resource person at Oprah, said that families who are dependent on remittances must always think that the money will not flow forever; their loved ones can lose their jobs abroad, get sick, or even die.

“Anything can happen at any time and the problem that is going on out there [abroad] when one person from over there stops sending money in here, you’ve not only affected one person there but also four, five or six people over here. Then that starts the very dangerous possibility of things going wrong,” Orman said in a talk hosted by the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

OFW-dependent families have to understand where that money comes from in order for them to get motivated to fix their household finances, she added.

The Philippine economy is kept afloat by consumer spending that is primarily fueled by OFW remittances. Last year, overseas workers sent $20-billion back home, a record in remittances. According to a survey conducted by Citibank in 2007, however, only one of 10 Filipinos save enough to last their families nine weeks.

Orman said OFW dependents must change their expectation that the funds they receive every month are going to always be there.

“And once we understand it is possible that that check would stop [coming], you would think twice before you go out and buy a flat screen TV or you do things other than saving that money,” the financial advisor said.

No money of their own

Orman shared that members of her household staff are Filipinos, so she is familiar with the habits of OFWs, and the culture of sending their entire paycheck back home and leaving nothing for themselves.

“And we always say ‘Can’t you just save a little money of your own? Can you just keep a little something for yourself?’ It goes on for 10, 15, 20 years,” she said.

Then Orman observed that in the last two years, her staff stopped coming home to the Philippines for their annual month-long vacation every May. When she asked, they said they wanted to save the plane fare money and open a bank account.

“They are afraid they don’t have money themselves and what are they going to do? And their parents can’t take care of them, their parents just died or something happened,” she said.

That sudden change in their thinking was brought about by the realization that they are getting older and they are not feeling as sprite as they did 10 or 20 years ago.

The personal finance guru noted that this phenomenon is not exclusive to the Philippines but it resonates to economies that are dependent on remittances such as African countries.

Change culture of mendicancy

Orman said that it is important to evaluate the realities that are besetting OFWs and their families. They should also think about whether or not perpetuating the culture of mendicancy among the able-bodied members of the extended family is really helping them and the economy.

“Are we helping those people by sending money to them so they never have to dig deep themselves and reach their own potential because the money is coming into them like clockwork when they haven’t made any contingency plan in case that money stops because they don’t think it will ever going to stop? It is possible that we’re hurting them rather than helping them/ Because a lot of times they [dependents] are still very young,” she said.

The personal financial advisor related that some members of her household staff have dependents that are young, employable people. One of them told Orman that her 23-year old brother “just does not want to work” despite being in perfect health.

“But it’s another thing for parents. I believe all children should take care of their parents, I don’t care where they are. I take care of my own mother, she’s going to be 97. It’s an honor to have money to take care of my mama. [But] it’s a whole different light if you’re talking about brother, sister, friends, or things like that,” she said.

Pay debts, save

Once the OFWs and their dependents have evaluated their situation, the next step in achieving financial freedom is to pay off all credit card debts.

After wiping out their high-interest credit card debts, the next step is to start saving for the rainy days before trying to learn to invest in complicated instruments like mutual funds or stocks.

“But nothing feels greater than to have a sum of money in a bank account somewhere. And that what they should be striving for,” Orman said.