Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Let's Save our Children from the Tender Trap of Consumerism

Our senses are held captive: sight, sound, smell, touch. It's difficult to know real from psychological hunger. Good and fancy clothing. Durable and throw away gadget. Urgent from necessary. Pretty from beautiful. Love from care. 

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Living with Nature - School on Blog [avrotor.blogspot.com]
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday [www.pbs.gov.ph]

Children's party in a fast food playground. 

We went shopping as a family.  Carlo our youngest was keen at many things, the city kinder that he was. "Mahal ba eto, Mama?" (Is this expensive, Mama?). This became his expression, the dawn when a child begins to weigh his own pleasure and the cost of it.
                                                             Restaurant on Boracay Beach 

But how many kids today are destined on a path of roses capitalism has planted alongside profit, and more profit? How can we brace ourselves from the powerful marketing force that sweeps our children to a world of want over and above the world of need? Imagine $12 billion annual cost to ignite this force, and this is in the US alone, albeit the emerging economies around the world. 

High cost of consumerism

Consumer language has evolved lately out of passion to buy, like bilmoko (ibili mo ako - Buy me.), a kid's expression beginning at post-toddler age. Gustokoto ("I like this," in commanding tone. 

                                           Scene not far across push Boracay Beach

And when asked what made a kid buy fancy ball pens bearing cartoon characters, he simply quipped, "Wala lang." (None at all.) 

On the receiving end billions of dollars are generated with kids influencing their parents, school endorsing products and services, media riding on children's show - it's a kid's world.  We are pampering them too far out with our hard-earned money, and extending their dependency, when at their age in older societies, their counterpart would have found independence and accepted responsibility.    

Media is largely to blame - multimedia, from billboard to Internet. Media is littered, polluting the field of information and entertainment. You can't drive through Edsa with clear head.  Billboards block the sky; they roll on with buses on your route. Give your name to the Internet and you'll gain world wide popularity, because you are a potential client or customer. My son Marlo, even if he didn't smoke, received cigarette promo cards beautifully crafted when advertising of cigarette was totally banned. My daughter found herself an automatic member of clubs endorsing children's products, with special discount. There are a variety of  clubs for teenagers, from fashion to magazines, and you just find their invitation in the mailbox or on their e-mail.       

Our senses are held captive: sight, sound, smell, touch.  It's difficult to know real from psychological hunger. Good and fancy clothing. Durable and throw away gadget. Urgent from necessary. Pretty from beautiful.  Love from care. 

Let us save our children from the tender trap of consumerism *
1. Lead by example
Do what you say. Easier said than done. These are adages that should be put to practice. We cannot teach frugality when our kids see us frivolous. Austerity is sacrifice.  It means more savings, less waste, optimized use of resources. Austerity is a virtue. 
2. Encourage critical thinking
"Advertisement is  Genie from Alladin's lamp. He is not real," says a retired corporate manager. I used to tell my kids, "Don't believe in everything you see or hear. And don't be a Guinea pig of new products in the market." Guide your children to  investigate and asses before making decisions. How many times have we been misled by the art of selling. Some end up holding an empty bag - victims of unscrupulous deals.  

3. Supervise with sensitivity 
Sit with your child with the computer as you would watch together a TV program.  Or when he was younger, would sit on your lap while you read for him.  Bedtime stories make our children happy not by the story alone but our presence, our bonding, our goodnight kiss and prayer. Until they are responsible to make correct judgment, parents make the board of censors for healthy information and entertainment.

4. Say No without guilt
Maybe is often our answer to our kids when it comes to less serious matters, or things no one can answer. But on matters of importance we have to be firm with our children, with a yes or no answer.   Don't keep them long as fence sitters otherwise they just jump by themselves into the greener side, so to speak.  When we say No, it's final.  But the gravity of our position should be based on strong sense of values and security.  "No, don't ride a motorcycle. No, don't drive.  You are too young for that." It is the condition that makes our child understand and accept our position.  It removes our guilt and reinforces our being guardians. 

5. Offer Alternatives  
Actually this means discovering our children's talents, and developing them into hobbies. Hobbies prevent habits. "Cooking is a hobby, eating is a habit," I usually differentiate the two in this analogy. "Listening to music and playing a musical instrument, is a hobby.  But listening to music alone may fall short of the definition of hobby.  Hobby is progressive, it is self-challenging, it is shifting the mind to the creative part of the brain. It is learning through curiosity and imagination.  And the most important of all is that, through hobby you are a maker (Homo faber), not a mere consumer.  You make kites instead of buying them.  Your toys are your invention, not one you buy and never understand how it works.  And in your frustration end up destroying it with screwdriver.

But the best alternative is outdoor life. Consumerism thrives best with indoor children. They want to create a world in their walled domain. But the outdoor child goes out to the world, to Nature, and he finds contentment in the countless things nature provides him free - clean water and air,  mountains as high rise, waterfall as fountains, pebbles as marvels, river as swimming pool, moon and stars as neon lights.  And he learns to live a contented life with the least amenities. 

Athenian Syndome

Good Life reminds us of the Athenian Syndrome during the time of Socrates, the father of Philosophy, and the "conscience" of the most powerful city state at the crowing glory of Greece. He found out that the citizens seemed not to know the difference between moral and immoral.  And do we know it today?  And here is a  third element of morality - amorality.  If we find it difficult to understand what morality is all about, can we know what is ethical and what is not? What is good and evil? 

A child devouring a fried chicken may be an amoral act.  We know that in a hungry world, a chicken has the equivalent food value of the grains it ate to attain its size, which could have been food for five hungry children for not only a single meal.  When we buy our children clothes just for fashion or fancy we imagine children who have nothing decent to wear in school. When we waste water, food, electricity, and other valuable things because we simply have so much of them, the other side of the globe could have shared them.   

These are basic to our children's formative years. We have to educate them well, not to be wasteful, to keep the environment clean, and in the future to raise families of their own with  assurance of  their welfare.  We cannot entrust our children to media. We cannot trust one institution to fill in the gap of another. We cannot leave our children in the nursery or kinder school. Religious education cannot guarantee righteousness, the community of healthy integration. 

Malling a new culture 

"Nagmall ka na ba?" has become more of a measure of lifestyle, rather than necessity or leisure. Mall is a growing institution of the middle class, and with the increasing young, and senior citizens. Many mall goers were once traditional customers of Divisoria (bagsakan - wholesale), Quiapo and Baclaran (pilgrimage sites) and countless tiangge and alipapa (flea markets).  
Historically, in here informal economy reigns and why not? You can make bargains (tawad, baratilyo), establish patronage (suki),  join rummage (ukay ukay). Just don't be outsmarted  (naisahan, nalamangan). And if you have a sari-sari (corner store) of your own, outsource here and you are comfortable with 20 to 35 percent ROI (Return of Investment). Or if you are an enterprising employee in your organization, you can be an entrepreneur as well. 

That's why customers still flock these centers where tradition exudes quaintness to shopping, where the peso is more elastic, goods and services virtually unlimited. We still get  from  Divisoria supplies for our home industry at wholesale. Now and them we join the pilgrimage in Quiapo or Baclaran and pick up some items from makeshift stalls. Don't miss, lechon in  La Loma, fish in Navotas, fruits in NLEX interchange in Balintawak. Name it all - these informal economies - tell the mall to take the back seat.    

Puerto Princesa, Palawan 

But as people leave the countryside, towns grow into cities, shopping has indeed evolved  into an institution all over the world, courting everyone to go to the mall regularly, say a weekend.  To the younger generations it means much, much more -  dating, promenading, eating, playing, cooling off summer, rendezvous (tagpuan).  The mall is like a ganglion physiologically. All roads lead to Rome, analogously applies today in our postmodern world,

If this is the Good Life our children are looking up to,  I am afraid they are likely to be the next victims.  Let's save them from the tender trap of consumerism, the handmaid of capitalism.~
 Kuya Center for Street Children in Quezon City, These children, among millions of other deprived children around the world, find new hope to fight poverty and homelessness. KCSC is foundation that rehabilitates and reconnects street children with their families headed by executive-director Bro. Luc Boudreault, SC. (Brothers of the Sacred Heart).

*Reference: Living with Nature Series AVRotor; Marketing to Innocents,by Gabrielle Bauer Reader's Digest July 2005.

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