“The real wealth of nations consists of the contributions of people and our natural environment.”
Thus wrote Riane Eisler in her pathfinding work, the Real Wealth of Nations, Creating a Caring Economics (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007). This was one of my references when I wrote a dissertation on Spirit-Led Organizations in 2008.
I recalled this when I came across thoughtful statements made by two esteemed friends in connection with the proposal in Congress on creating the Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF).
Former Central Bank deputy governor Diwa Guinigundo, a fellow college editor in the pre-martial law days, wrote: “While the return on sovereign wealth funds may be anywhere north of seven to eight percent, for instance, investing the principal on education and skills training, health and services are equal, if not superior, investment outlets of public money, now rather than later.”
Former economic planning secretary Romulo Neri, a long-time colleague in the faculty of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), pointed out: “The best form of sovereign wealth is a nation of healthy and intelligent Filipinos. Whatever money we have is best put to our children’s nutrition and education. Both are in a very poor state.”
Traditional economists have propagated Adam Smith’s classical concepts on The Wealth of Nations – which Riane Eisler has opposed and contradicted as she offers an alternative world-view that she conceptualized in an earlier work, The Chalice and the Blade (Harper One, 1996). This is my review of her work, as published in my book DIWA: Spirit-Led Organizations in the Philippines: Charting Pathways to Excellence (People Management Association of the Philippines, 2017).
Under the guise of rationality, a dominator economic system has spawned cut-throat competition, excessive greed and profit-seeking, as well as corruption in private corporations and government organizations (Eisler, 2007). With unbridled greed rearing its ugly head, fundamental concerns about the purpose and mission of business and public enterprise — as well as the meaning of work and the dignity of the worker — have been pushed out into the periphery.
Hence, “the original partnership direction of Western culture veered off into a bloody 5,000-year dominator detour” that brought forth a new orthodoxy, the Blade or Dominator paradigm. This is characterized by beliefs such as the superiority of masculine over feminine, the dominance of violence and aggression, and the imperative of survival through cutthroat competition.
The original orthodoxy was symbolized by Jesus Christ’s chalice. Since our modern world reckons time in terms of Anno Domini (A.D., or the Year of Christ), the birth of Jesus Christ as a human being is the starting point of modern human history. The chalice represents a paradigm of Partnership:
“We must not be violent but instead turn the other cheek; we must do unto others what we would have them do unto us; we must love our neighbors and even our enemies. Instead of the ‘masculine’ virtues of toughness, aggressiveness, and dominance, what we must value above all else are mutual responsibility, compassion, gentleness, and love.” (Eisler, 1996)
Considering that, as Eisler has pointed out, “our mounting global problems are in large part the logical consequences of a dominator model of social organization at our level of technological development,” she believes that “there is another course which, as co-creators of our own evolution is still ours to choose. The alternative is a partnership economic system that recognizes the primacy of giving, nurturance, sharing and caring. It affirms that “the real wealth of nations” is created by mothers who give birth to and raise children, volunteers and activists who work for social and economic equity, and advocate the protection of the environment for sustainable development.
For this to be achieved, three other sectors need to be recognized: the household economy, the unpaid community economy, and the natural economy.
The household economy is the “real heart of economic productivity, as it supports and makes possible economic activity in all the other sectors.” The unpaid community economy includes “volunteers working for charitable and social justice groups in what is today often called civil society, as well as some aspects of the barter and community currency economy” (Eisler, 2007). The natural economy is as basic as the household economy. It “produces the resources out of which the market economy maintains itself.”
A family-oriented culture also extends the concept of family well beyond the core or nuclear family. Support and encouragement from the extended family network provides a virtual social safety net that cushions the impact of adverse economic conditions on poor Filipino families. Recognition of the household economy will also validate the reality of the pivotal role that Filipino mothers play in shaping the character of their children.
Hence, Eisler’s alternative view resonates deeply among enlightened elements in Philippine society. Her view that the most essential human work is the work of caring and caregiving leads to an understanding of “caring economics.” Today, such concept is also gaining traction as the ethos of sustainability is being embraced by enlightened companies and organizations.
Hopefully our government policymakers and legislators will adopt a broad-gauged outlook that truly takes into account the greatest good for the greatest number of Filipinos. In this way, they would not fall prey to the allure of misguided policies that would lead our people back to the proverbial road to perdition.