A Simple Life is not necessarily a Virtuous Life

I’ve just had another profound epiphany for myself, in my musings on the problems of the Philippines. It is the realization that a simple life is not necessarily a virtuous life. A person with a simple life is not necessarily a good person; he can be a bad one too.

TheSimpleLife2 The “simple life” is a popular concept associated with virtue in our culture. We have people like Noynoy Aquino who claim to have a simple life. There are people whether prominent or not who say, “simple lang ang buhay ko (my life is just simple).” Lifestyle checks are becoming a part of the national pastime of gossip and unwarranted media coverage. And the impression of people is that a simple life is a good one; that they’re doing nothing wrong this way. 

How do you define a simple life? Perhaps it is a life where the person is doing so little, one that is so routine that the life is boring? According to Wikipedia, a simple life is “a lifestyle characterized by consuming only that which is required to sustain life.” In other words, a person focusing only on the basic needs, like as feeding oneself, working and sleeping.

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Some people believe that a simple life is also based on avoiding luxuries or luxurious items; for example, not buying a Gucci bag or Giordano clothes, and just going for what you can find cheaply in Farmer’s Plaza or Divisoria. Or going for a simple Honda Bravo or Suzuki Smash than getting a Harley-Davidson or even a Suzuki Ninja motorcycle.  Or going for a cheap subcompact car instead of a flashy BMW. Or, don’t even get a car or motorcycle; mag-commute ka nalang. Actually, this is more of practicality rather than simplicity.

But I argue that even a person who has a simple life can have a reprehensible life. For example, a pickpocket plies his trade to buy food for everyday living. He does not buy a cellphone or anything else; all that he pickpockets goes to food. It’s not the pickpocket’s fault that he is poor, but it’s his fault that he chose the wrong way to make a living. Yet in analysis, he just steals, eats and sleeps. Isn’t his life a simple life?

Or even just the ordinary trabahador. A construction worker, after he goes home, gets drunk with his friends and neighbors, and sings loud on the videoke. He stumbles into a neighbor’s house, whose husband is abroad, and he seduces the wife. Before you know it, he was children from so many different women. He’s still a construction worker and knows no other pastime than liquor, videoke and women. That’s a simple life, isn’t it?

Thus, a simple life does not really equate with moral uprightness. Also, if a simple life is so good, why is it that so many people, even among squatters, dream of a Mercedes as a car, or Gucci bags to bring around? It seems they don’t really want a simple life; it’s more like they want to get out of it.

Some complexities are necessary in life. For example, the neighborhood wants to build a gate for the street and maintain a guard for security. One of the residents refuses to take part in the project saying, “ang gastos naman yan, ang damin aasikasuhin, gusto lang simple ang buhay ko (that’s too expensive, so much to worry about, I just want a simple life).” Taking part in a project, like a medical mission or orphanage, can be argued as not part of a simple life. The contributor does not take care of his own basic needs only, but others’ needs as well. Thus, it is not that simple a life.

Another assertion thus, very revolutionary in nature: a simple life can also mean a lazy life.

In addition, there are people who have more complex lives, but are not doing anything wrong. We see celebrities and other well-off people going sky-diving or water-skiing, and some people shake their heads at this, saying that a simple life is better. But later on we see these celebrities giving to charities and participating in medical missions. People like me have hobbies like art and scale modeling. Hobbies are there to stimulate thinking and promote expanded understanding of life. These kind of people don’t go on drinking binges at sari-sari stores or gossip about showbiz personalities. If the gossipers idolize these showbiz personalities who go to charities and medical missions, why don’t they do the same?

Some “housed” people may define simple living as watching Wowowee, then sleeping in the afternoon, then cooking only when necessary, and gossiping as a pastime. If someone among them has a hobby like cross-stitching, reading books or painting, or even being part of an NGO or social work group, the ordinary idiots would say, “pang-mayaman yan!” with the implication that the person is doing something wrong. In this case, “simple living” becomes a way to keep people from developing themselves.

I’m not saying a simple life is necessarily wrong either. I believe the phrase “simple life,” or even describing oneself as “simple lang,”  has become a misused cliché, and has been taken out of context in Filipino society. It has certainly been taken out of context in this election and political scene as well, used to convince people that one is not into any wrongdoing, although he is actually into it full steam.

Thus, my argument is that we should not gun for simple living. We should gun for ethical and responsible living – no matter how simple nor complex. People should learn to differentiate the simple or complex from good or bad. There’s a tendency in our anti-intellectual society to see simple as good and complex as bad. This has to stop.

Thus, lifestyle checks should not focus on whether a person’s life is simple or not, but what he is exactly doing, whether is life is simple or complex. That’s where televised lifestyle checks fail; they don’t dig deep enough, or show enough. Simple or complex doesn’t matter; right or wrong does. Let’s check our own lifestyles and see where we are doing right or wrong.

I wonder, on the next elections, will we be focusing on the lifestyles of the president and elected officials instead of their performance and results? That would be really shallow, and it would do nothing to improve our country’s state.

14 Replies to “A Simple Life is not necessarily a Virtuous Life”

  1. INB4 some point-missing simpleton will bitch like “Ayaw mo pala ng simpleng buhay? Eh di bumili ka ng Iphone at ng iba pang mamahalin na bagay. Di ba sabi nyo hindi maganda ang konsyumerismo mga ipokrito?”

  2. Lifestyle check isn’t really about the simplicity or complexity of the person’s life, It’s basically a financial status check isn’t it? Personally, I don’t care if an official has a simple or complex life, but if he owns 10 cars, 10 mansions and has billion pesos net value, I’d want to know how he got it.

  3. The lifestyle check is a misnomer. It’s a financial background check and isn’t necessarily indicative of a person’s lifestyle. In any case, it’s rarely used unless they’re adding fire to roast someone. It’s never started a pro-active investigation or anything. It’s just for show.

    More on topic though, ever notice that those who say they prefer the “simple” life are the first to jump onto some get rich quick scheme or if they get money they immediately spend it on luxury goods and lavish parties?
    It’s really just a catch-all excuse.

    “Why didn’t you go for the promotion?” “Simple lang gusto ko kase (I’m actually afraid of the added responsiblity.)”

    “Why didn’t you bother finishing your degree?” “Okay na ako sa simple life. (It’s too much work.)”

    And so on.

  4. What it really boils down to is lack of ambition with a mix of fear of the unknown. The people are so complacent they’re not willing to step outside their comfort zones for whatever contrived reason these losers can come up with. It really reflects with the kinds of clowns they put in office.

    1. Comfort zones? OMG, the poverty in the 3rd, Filiippines especially, world is enough to make a jail cell in the West look comfortable.if your statement is accurate, I can not really know if it is, it is a pathetic statement about the people.

  5. Paris Hilton is an heir to the multi-million dollar Hilton fortune. Nicole Richie is the adapted daughter of Lionel Richie, the rich composer/singer.

    These ladies don’t know about people living and surviving on a minimum wage income. So, they did this movie , “Simple Life”, to expose them to the truth about the inequalities, in our world.

    Pnoy Aquino has a BMW; a retinue of servants; and “sipsips” who do his works for him. He is part owner of the Hacienda Luisita. Pnoy Aquino calls this:”Simple Life”…

    Filipinos who live around the Garbage Dumpsters…whose livelihood is to rummage in the garbage dumps, for scraps to sell. No scrap found, no meal for the day…This they call it also: “Simple Life”.

    My goat, when I was young; I take it to the pasture…it grazes grass all day. The evening, I take it in the shed, to rest and sleep…I bet this is also: “Simple Life”…

    I don’t believe that life is simple…unless you are desensithized and in denial. Life is complicated…we are Human Beings. We are here on Earth to Learn and to Improve ourselves…it is how we deal with life; the stresses; the challenges; the day-to-day lessons…that we grow and advance in our humanity…I don’t believe in passivity; and justify is as a :”Simple Life”…

  6. Simple life as we filipinos define it is not part of our evolutionary process. The darwinian theory of survival of the fittest suggests those simpletons are not part of it.

  7. As FallenAngel implied in his own article, how do you define “simple?” That’s still part of the issue, because the problem is that many people still use it to try and set themselves apart from others… and to try and set themselves above others.

  8. Simple in my opinion would sum up in four words. ‘Live humble, think high’.

    When people dream of big houses, flash cars they are just insecure people because they see others have it so they must use any means of having it too.

    1. This would connote to the Hindu way thinking of having few desires and leading a spiritual life. So thus, the ‘live simply’ would mean one has his basic material necessities which is often minimal and the ‘think highly’ would come from their spiritual and intellectual pursuits of their own journeys.

      Its all to do with how content and happy their mindset are. You seek more, you get disappointed more. You seek less you get disappointed less.

  9. Actually simple life requires a lot of thinking, energy, and forethoughts planning, where the end result is a happily contentment in life. Graphic artists and minimalist artists would go through the same process of forethoughts resulting in dynamic concepts.

  10. Noynoy is not simple. He just don’t have much choice, but he likes a Porsche. He is not simple, but simple-minded—not in a good way.

  11. The only sustainable resource we have is our resilience as a community, we are an impoverished country, result of what disaster upon disaster we we brought upon ourselves, from the basic simple garbage and traffic problem we have, corruption in our government, its enough reason to bow our heads in total resignation, maybe its not about simplicity and complexity of our situation, its the choices we make, happiness cant be bought, you can’t give what you don’t have, if the only thing we give is garbage, then we have to live with it. The only strength we have now as a community and society is us, we should inspire others thru spirit of volunterism, genuine concern for others, conscious desire to change and uplift our society as a whole.

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