The Ethics of Flaunting Wealth

The concept of flaunting wealth, or display/show of wealth, seems to be yet another topic of contention in the Philippine social environment. It became the subject of debate following the discussion of the Marian Rivera-Dingdong Dantes wedding, and was the subject of other discussions such as my piece on Century Properties scion Robbie Antonio. Many are railing against the idea that flaunting wealth is considered wrong and unethical. No less than newspaper columnists defend it, saying that it is the “right” of people to show their wealth.

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Let’s start with this concept of “right.” When people have the right to something, what makes it a right is not that you can do it, but it is right to do. Being able to do something doesn’t make it a right. It’s just permissible. But just because it’s permissible doesn’t make it right, or to use the Bible’s words on it, beneficial. A right is something that is right and beneficial. Thus, I say “show of wealth” in society is not really beneficial. So why say so? Why is it wrong?

Perhaps, flaunting wealth is related to that American-originated movement, the “worshippers of success” or “magical voluntarism” thing, that supports myths like “The Secret,” that the poor are the cause of their own poverty and that poorness and richness is a symbol of one’s moral state (ergo, if you’re poor, it’s because you’re immoral, and if you’re rich, you’re moral, blah blah). These are not true, because there are people who work hard and sometimes even smart, but they are unable to attain riches. It is not their fault. But “show of wealth” supporters may say it is, and that people who are not wealthy or successful are failures. Some go the extreme to condemn poorer people as the “dregs” or “trash” of society, even if some rich people do worse.

Also, I gave the explanation that showing one’s wealth loudly to others is similar to “spitting on others.” Oh? How is it “spitting on others?” My view is that the “show of wealth” is an expression of disrespect for others. Why disrespect? Why simply, doing things akin to saying “meron ka nito? Wala ka nito!” (Do you have this? No, you don’t!), or even “inggit ka lang!” (You’re just jealous), signifies contempt for that person who doesn’t have it. So if the other person is someone who works hard and is ethical, but is not rich, this is an insult to the dignity of the other person. It exhibits the lack of respect for public space (which includes “lesser” people) that Jorge Mojarro wrote about. This is the very core of the unethicality of flaunting wealth.

Just look at wealth-flaunting as applied to ordinary people. Because of consumerism, we are all hoodwinked to believe we have to show our wealth. “If you have it, flaunt it;” and many advertisements have this message. Thus, Filipinos are desperate to buy the latest gadgets, the latest whitening cream, and get into the latest fads just to have something to show. And they sometimes resort to borrowing money, without assurance that they are able to pay later. Thus, the “show of wealth” attitude can lead to people being mired in debt, and spending beyond their means. Thus the problem with the “show of wealth” attitude in the Philippines is that even less affluent people tend to have it, when they should not.

Also, isn’t the fiesta mentality criticized in the Philippines? The problem with “fiesta” is not just that it can be a type of false happiness similar to “drowning one’s sorrows.” People may hold fiestas because it is a “show of wealth.” Perhaps they want to hide that they are poor, and look rich, even for a while. But that’s basically lying to oneself and not being true. Hence, the saying, “magpakatotoo ka! (Be true to yourself!)”

And there is this other reason some have mentioned; a large and loud “show of wealth” can be a sign of mental problems, such as narcissism. If you have wealth, why not just enjoy it quietly? Why proclaim so loudly and disproportionately that you have wealth? It could be narcissism. Or, as fellow blogger Gogs would call it – KSP (kulang sa pansin or pining for attention), which he aptly calls the root of all evil.

If less affluent people carry out this “show of wealth” attitude, not only would they have a greater risk of becoming poorer, but they also invite criminals to target them. The really rich people fortify themselves against their own countrymen. Certainly not good examples in our society.

Don’t forget what the much-maligned law against obstentatious display of wealth implies. It exists because if public servants have such enormous wealth, it could be because of corruption.

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Thus, the “show of wealth” dynamic does not help solve or ease the class divide, as some claim; it helps increase it. It is a function of one of Filipino culture’s most cherished yet misguided goals: to assert class dominance over the other. It is also a goal that has kept Filipinos under dysfunction for years.

Now, I’m not here to condemn people about their wealth or tell them what to do with it. But just think: what does the way you use your wealth tell about you?

If you have wealth, best be quiet and discreet about it. Find ways to properly use it and invest it, and don’t waste it on stupid endeavors. Philantrophy is good, but better do it sincerely, not just for PR purposes. One other reason to use wealth in a philanthropic manner can be summed in this saying: actions speak louder (about your character) than words (or your wealth).

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About ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

15 Comments on “The Ethics of Flaunting Wealth”

  1. I say, if you have wealth, you are just wasting it by showing it off and falling for the traps of “consumerism.” Instead of using money on consumer goods and fiestas, use your money on things that “increase value.”

    These things that I think “increase value” are basically investments like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, insurance and health plans. Tangible things too such as land, machinery, raw materials.

    The way I see things, there is an abundance of money here in the country. The problem is how it is utilized.

    I think of that money that they spent on the DongYan wedding, I think of the factories, and buildings that could have been built. That money could’ve been used to fund a research program–a new way of building a car or a computer perhaps. These are the sorts of uses for money which creates value and jobs–something that a dole-out just wouldn’t do.

    Another thing that increases value is research and scientific endeavors. Any research activity here in the Philippines will always be poorly funded. Indigenous materials and techniques can never be developed into things whose production can be scaled up–instead we rely on China and the Western world for most the consumer goods that we flaunt.

    Indeed, an ordinary person such as myself has a lot of ideas for new products and processes simply does not have access to the kind of capital that show-offs do, yet for all their money, it just seems a big waste to blow it all on luxuries and parties.

    To be fair, it is consumption that keeps the economy going. But then again it is domestic production that ensures equitable distribution of wealth (without having to resort to doles).

    What I am saying is that rich people have a moral obligation to show the poorer classes the way to utilize resources–they should not be the ones wasting, flaunting and/or giving doles. They should demonstrate the creation of value and production. A better society will arise from their example.

  2. Dick,
    the real rich people will not use their money for the causes mentioned by you.
    They will put it in a foundation – like Bill Gates does – and other means. Such as research for curing diseases (polio etc).
    The national government should solve all the problems mentioned by you through facilitating entrepeneurship. No government is a job factory.

    As to flaunting wealth? We all do that in our own way. We all live within our means, so you can afford a BMW and I can only afford a Trabant.

    1. Hi Robert. I don’t think I get what you’re trying to say. Putting money in a foundation is kinda like what I was suggesting. And when you mentioned that national gov’t should solve problems by facilitating entrepreneurship–no gov’t is a job factory, I don’t think I ever mentioned that gov’t should do that. I think I was echoing benign0’s article here: http://getrealphilippines.com/2014/02/its-time-filipinos-start-recognizing-the-true-builders-of-their-country/

  3. Couldn’t have said it better myself. No need to repeat what you said and this article it well-written. No need to show off though, I just find it annoying and unnecessary when Filipinos does it. Hence, this is why other races are annoyed by Filipinos. Some guy I went to school with said that Filipinos are arrogant -and it’s true.

    1. if you got it flaunt it. people who say money is the root of all evil. DOESN’T FUCKIN HAVE ANY. haters gonna hate bitchies.. lolz

  4. I hate when Filipinos rub it in your face thinking you’ll be jealous of them. This is a sign of narcissism. They think that you envy them and they try to make you envious.

  5. Unfortunately, a lot of the people I know do this (aka relatives and some friends).

    I often ask myself why they do this sort of thing especially when a cousin’s wife posted her latest loot during the time of typhoon Yolanda. So it appeared on my timeline and I posted a discreet update on my own timeline regarding how shitty it is that some people are insensitive by posting irrelevant issues about themselves and their materialistic attitudes. She didn’t reply but I know she got the point and just shut up. LOL

    The most stupid part of wealth-flaunting is that not everyone who flaunts has the money or what we can call “can afford”. Most of the time they make “utang” just to get the item they want to flaunt. Such a stupid move!

  6. I don’t get it either the sense of flaunting wealth..as if it’s a must-do for people that have one. I guess maybe this sense of “f*ck yeah, I’m superior than you because I’ve got more money than you now you kiss my feet.” People have this sadistic side of them that they need to do this to feed their complex.

    I see a lot of flaunting in things like networking just to show proof that they are really earning. Did the big companies ever did that? I don’t remember them doing so. Do ordinary employees do that? Of course not. Not really wise because you can be traced by people who’s got nothing but bad things in their head that only care about stealing from you.

    There’s too much envy, vanity and hell even greed just because of little things like this that can cost you your own life. What’s even ironic here is, if you die..you can’t even take it with you.

    1. offset,

      It goes deeper than just the love of money. Our ego is the root of all the problems in this world. Selfishness is the product of ego, and money is just one of the tools used to feed selfishness, and eventually the ego. It’s a vicious cycle.

      Aeta

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