Just What Do You mean by Essential?

Junk food shelf of a 7-11 store just a few days into the Covid-19 isolation program

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced humanity to practice isolation as an attempt to avoid infection. Government officials have advised the public to not go out except for essential business. And as a result, as webmaster Benign0 and Ilda have written, the pandemic gives us reason to pause and look at the lifestyles we’re living. Their articles focus on the idea of what is essential and unessential. Isn’t that a big part of a responsible life, just keep what is essential and remove what is unessential?


What comes to mind when we think of essentials? It starts with the basic needs for survival, and these are food, water and air. Based on this, food businesses are essential. Fancy restaurants though are an embellishment (compared to carinderias and groceries), so food really is about the plant and livestock farms where food is grown, then delivered to our urban centers through markets and groceries for consumption. Water is provided by private companies, so after the recent brouhaha over water services, we all hope water will continue to flow from our faucets. It makes me wonder though if having an artesian well in the backyard like in the old days would help.

As for air, we’ve seen how greatly reduced fossil fuel-powered activity has led to cleaner air. Motorized vehicles though continue to be the main delivery vehicles, since animal-drawn vehicles and other modes of transport cannot transport as much supplies with the same speed (also, animal-drawn vehicles leave poop, much more unpleasant to smell than smoke, but you can make it into compost). It also shows how dependent we’ve become on fossil fuels.

Construction is also an essential business, since we need shelter. I’ve also thought of paper-pushing, or desk jobs, which at first seems non-essential, since the people at desks aren’t really working in the field. But there are offices managing farms and food and water deliveries, and the money for these, so paper-pushing for essential products is essential. Even information and communications technology has become essential for coordinating the handling of essential goods, and even between families and friends for support throughout this crisis.

Let’s not forget one modern essential, the medical field. How we deal with the Covid-19 virus depends heavily on the efforts of these people, so we should respect their efforts today.


What are the non-essentials then? Anything unrelated to our basic needs, things that are mainly novelties, things that are just for emotional and physical uplifting. Before you say I’m heartless, let me say I do believe there are mental and emotional essentials. But what exactly constitutes these kinds of essentials, what is really emotionally and physically uplifting, has been muddled.

The humanities was not really meant to be part of business. It’s more of a hobby. Reading, music and other such pursuits were not businesses in the “essential” days. The arts were developed in times when there was relative prosperity, when they had already ironed out the essentials. Examples are Greek times, Roman times, and the Renaissance. In the latter, you could even find artists who are hired and supported by royalty. After World War 2, came another major period of prosperity where we have comic book artists, movie stars, novelists and even chefs, who get paid handsomely to show up on TV and sometimes not to cook.

This is probably what marks the 20th century onwards. Things that used to be just hobbies and are not “essential,” relating to our physical health, could be me made into businesses. Anything related to entertainment, such as fiction-writing, television shows, music performances, and such, could be made money of. It drove some people on a wild goose chase for jobs that they thought were easy and fun. But they are not easy and fun, fame is not assured, and aren’t that essential to begin with.

One could argue that when going down to bare essentials, even some forms of education may cease to become essential, since most schools just make children do exercises that adults think up. Many things learned in school are not applicable in all of real life. All that are really essential in life, such as growing food and livestock, are more learned outside. Vocational rather than academic skills are still more relevant.

Advertising is other non-essential industry. If people need things, they’d buy it anyway. Advertising is done to try and convince people to buy things they don’t need. Note the products that don’t get advertised, such as sugar, rice and vegetables. Advertising as developed by Edward Bernays, according to the documentary Century of the Self, came about to try and move an oversupply of goods, among other reasons.

There are also many things that people think they need, but don’t really need. For example, validation. As I wrote before, many young people believe that they need to have themselves validated by others, with praises, adulation and such. Ego pleasing is unessential, and we can live fulfilling lives without it.

Director Erik Matti committed the undignified act of complaining about how better his “competition” is, instead of stepping up to the plate. The classic Pinoy Crab there. What he probably couldn’t say is that he could not go against the executives who want the stupid formulaic stories to be repeated, else his pay gets cut. He could grow a pair and ditch the executives who wouldn’t let good stories be made.

Travel is another non-essential. Yes, while some economies depend on it, let’s face it: it really is non-essential. Only travel supplying goods, such as delivery of manufacturing and food supplies, is the real essential. Travel just to see sights and tourist attractions are a “living in a bubble” type of activity. There are people who travel who get document and information from other countries, and tell us about other cultures. But not everybody needs to travel. Travel has become one of those bloated industries that tries to cash in on the unessential. I believe that things like, “a person who doesn’t travel is missing half his life/closed-minded/add in your fake value” are the product of business shilling in order to get people to travel.

Speaking of shilling… bloggers or “social media influencers” such as Elle Darby, who ranted when her desired free stay at a hotel was denied, got the final nail in their coffin from Covid-19 (not literally, though). They thought they could maintain an easy “job” of giving reviews in exchange for being able to freeload. Covid-19 shut down their apparent non-essentialness.

The beauty and vanity industry, also related to the entertainment industry, is unessential. It only caters to egos. And it reveals a self-contradiction in life. They do that try to beautify themselves to feel better about themselves and try to beat others in being beautiful… but if they lose, they feel depressed, so aren’t they better off not doing it in the first place? That’s the self-contradiction in vanity: one is trying to overcome or prevent depression by participating in the rat race that itself is a cause of depression… quite messed up there.

Back to basic needs, there might even be food products that are to be non-essential. I’d go with liquor for one. While some couldn’t seem to go without even a little liquor, I believe humans can actually go without it. There are many other ways to brighten one’s spirits. Or if some insist, there should be external limits to its consumption. Even staples such as sugar and rice, fellow bloggers Paul Farol and Ilda have recommended at least reducing, for health benefits.

Rise of the Non-essentials

It was the 1950s-onwards that gave us more of the culture of the non-essential. For example, it was in this decade that “women are for the home” was pushed. Before World War 2, women had been regular employees in many industries. The fifties’ pushing of stay-at-home moms was not only an image thought opposite to Soviet communist ideology (it really wasn’t, since later on, in the 70s and 80s, women found their way back to the workforce), but was more of a method to make women more susceptible to advertising. They would stay at home, watch TV and seek to buy what was advertised. They watched Disney movies with princesses and desired to be princesses (Or in our country, Filipinas desired becoming hacienderas). They did not work, they gossiped with fellow housewives, and had become more idle than women used to be. Yes, that was the generation of the baby boomers, so maligned today.

Soon it became more than moms, as the children who had not experienced frugal lifestyles and war brutalities got spoiled by prosperity as well. One could say it was a snowball that started with the Beat Generation and hippies, the original wokes, then the next generation, and next, until we got to today’s wokes. The latter are the likes of Elle Darby and other social media “influencers” who want to make money on “non-essentials.” But compared to them, what visual artists and good musicians and such do are more essential.

Then some of these “non-essential workers” decided to hitch on the human rights movement and other stuff that came alongside the hippies. I am for human rights, but some of the “non-essentials” thought they could bank on portraying themselves as “good guys,” but aren’t really doing anything helpful. They troll “evil” people to try and look busy, so they aren’t pressured to find real jobs. The problem though, is that they mix up human rights with entitlements, another factor giving rise to the bloggers and validation seekers mentioned above. And of course, among them are the real trolls who muck about the Internet accusing people with honest opinions of being… trolls.

After Covid, what then?

Covid-19 has presented a springboard to rethink our lifestyles. Webmaster Benign0 described how the social media “influencers” were mostly shot down by the pandemic. Unless they owned farms, purified water services or other such things, they were probably crying in their rooms wondering how they could make a buck. Unless they try to bust a leg finding some real work, they’re probably waiting for the hand-outs and other goodies just like the urban poor and other poor around the country. This cannot be maintained for long and people will need to find ways to support themselves. Entitlement has to go out the window.

When Covid-19 ends (if it does at all), we may need to put greater focus on separating the essentials from non-essentials in life. It needs a close harder look at reality, and a mentality that accepts disasters such as Covid-19 can happen again. It reminds us of our mortality and humbles us, while giving us pause to think.

It is my belief that needs such as food, water and air are easier to decide on. But handling the mental and emotional aspects is a much grayer area. This is because determining what mental and emotional needs are essential has been much fuzzier. There will be people who will claim validation and vanity are needs, after I’ve said they are not. Well, in the end, Covid-19 doesn’t care about vanity. I would say the most vain are the most susceptible to the virus, since they tend to be avid travelers and meeters of people. In this event, the introverts, frugal and less vain have greater chances of survival. Perhaps this will be the trend in the antiseptic society that is to come.

19 Replies to “Just What Do You mean by Essential?”

  1. @ChinoF this article is dumb and out of touch. Let me boil it down for you. People need to EAT.

    Glad to know though that benign0 the FOOL is safe and sound in Australia enjoying all the comforts of a FREE and democratic society. Meanwhile the ordinary filipino family of 5 is FORCED to lockdown in their homes and expected to survive on a tin of sardines and a bag of rice.

    Let them eat cake right benign0?! I guess food just magically pops out of the ground if you are “resourceful enough”.


    It was April 13 when the barangay officials finally came – two weeks into the first month of the government’s emergency subsidy program (ESP). Members of a Caloocan community messaged each other from across houses as officials told them that since there are more than 1,600 families in the barangay, and only 583 social amelioration cards (SACs) provided, 4 families would have to share one subsidy from the DSWD
    Lorna* and other members of the community knew that this wasn’t right. They all pointed to a video of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, where Cayetano made it clear – one family is to one card.


    I guess the money just magically dissapeared. *Poof* itsssss gone!! (to the pockets of whoever crony/ official). Never let government handle a large amount of money as it will always dissapear.

    For the record, this EXACT same thing happened during Pnoy’s time. Mis-management of funds. Pinoys havent learned their lesson. So stop accusing me of being yellow. Government is BAD period. No to martial law.

    1. Assuming that someone is safe and sound in another country that also has isolation limits is quite jumping the gun.

      Government is bad, but you imply in “people should eat” that government should give you food or money… quite the contradiction there.

      Saying money disappeared just because relief goods are not given yet is jumping the gun too. That was said that during PNoy era too. But during COvid-19, are relief goods really to be expected, or should people be more resourceful?

    2. For the record, this EXACT same thing happened during Pnoy’s time. Mis-management of funds. Pinoys havent learned their lesson. So stop accusing me of being yellow. Government is BAD period. No to martial law.

      Lies. You are always Yellow. In fact, you always go “BIG government is good” since you think that government should give you food or money or any ‘free stuff’ because ‘people should eat.’ Screw that. Big government is bad.

      No to self-entitled dipshits like Dilaw Mortis.

  2. What are the essentials and non essentials in your life ? It is a good question ….it depends on your ideology; your wealth; your level of position in life, and in your society, tribe or country.

    If you are one of the Squatters, living in a dismal condition , in Metro Manila or one of the urban areas, in the country : you need a home; a good source of income; to buy basic necessities , for yourself , and your family.
    To live around any garbage dumps; and rely on collecting recycled materials for a living; you are living below the “basic essential needs”…you cannot even dream of any “non essentials”….

    If you are wealthy, like any of the greedy oligarchs; or any of our crooked and corrupt politicians…your essentials are : money; power; wealth; good time ; and prestige…

    If you are a progressive leftist advocate…your essentials are: “human rights”; leftist ideology; socialism; communism; protection of the environment; women liberation movement ; abortion; same sex marriage; lesbians; homosexuals; gays; in between; transgenders; living together without marriage; and all kinds of progressive leftist agendas.

    If you are a conservative agenda advocate; then your essentials are : return to the traditions; religious liberty; traditional marriages; against homosexuals of all kinds; conservative rightist agendas; etc…

    Our civilization and our ways of living have progressed to such level as; the Information Technology is now one of our basic essentials. If we go back to our “bare human essentials” human mode: all you need are : a home, food , clothing; water; and a loving wife and family to be with… “cavemen essentials”…

    So, our essentials in life; depend on your : mindset; way of thinking; the way you are brought out ; culture; environment; religious belief; ideology; and hierarchy of your life/needs…no more no less…If you can live with it …that is your “bare essential !

  3. @ Darth Mortis the YellowTard:

    Your hate on BenignO is too much, and your envy on him living in Australia is some sort of insanity…Living in Australia or in the Philippines, requires you to earn for a daily living…It is not free, or some sort of “welfare state” in Australia…you have to work your “butt out”, in order not to get fired…

    We are tired of your stupid rants, on anyone who write a blog article…if you don’t want the blog article… Why don’t you write one also ?

    Rest assured, we the blogsite commenters, will give your a fair shake of your own sense.

    You are too narcissistic, and you have too much importance of yourself, to brand yourself as “wise”; that it is now bordering to some sort of “insanity”…

    Why not have a good look inside yourself ?

    1. There is always a problem of credibility for “Darth Mouth the YellowTurd” (yes, that is not misspelled with regards to his comment name) when he/she/it uses “Rappler” (God, that fake news site is still up and running like this coronavirus) as a source of reference and information. Hahaha.

      Oh dear, Darth Mouth, get your info from more credible sites please.

  4. If we can see the complex in the simple (and vice versa) to be able to adapt to situations then that would be easy to sort out.

  5. you are fee to live naked in the jungle and feel superior to the rest of us while we laugh at you.

    benigno please spare us from these stupid worthless articles.

      1. what about giving darth and other opposing views a once a week article just for some variety and more clicks 🙂 we can all use some perpective from other side

        1. We already have a lot of opposing views even from our core bloggers. And of course, about living in the jungle, that’s a good representative of the strawmanism some “opposing views” usually have.

    1. Or more like you’re laughing at yourselves because you guys are ill-disciplined and ill-minded that made you stupid and worthless.

  6. I really do not understand why you want to return to essential living so obsessively. There are people who have an income (much) higher than their essential needs. So what should/must they do with that? Transfer it to a savings account for a rainy day? Is that essential?
    People who have an income higher than their essential needs, like to spend it on traveling (domestically and internationally) and spend it on “non-essentials”.
    And this will not change. It is just waiting for the go-head from all foreign governments that flying internationally is approved and that foreigners are allowed to enter the country again.

    1. I doubt people having higher income than their essential needs will last forever. Perhaps in few cases, but it’s possible that things will change in a drastic fashion, in a way that cutting down non-essentials will be more beneficial in the long run. For example, going back to shaking hands without washing will likely not be done or will be discouraged. We might see a lot of changes in culture that may kill businesses related to non-essentials. If life resumes the way it was before Covid, I think that is more like a hundred years into the future.

      I also let go of the notion that having more non-essentials = great life and prosperity and sticking to non-essentials = non-prosperity, terrible world. While it’s great to have extra income and greater prosperity, having so many businesses based on non-essentials is like having a bubble that’s easy to burst. Once that bubble bursts, tightening the belt becomes a necessity than an option. And I think it’s not going to degrade into a terrible and violent world, but just a world where non-essentials don’t complicate things. As I said in the article, I think so many wokes and impracticalities come from normalization of non-essentials, so cutting down of non-essentials will cut down wokes.

      In all, I think nature brings us back to essentials, and our insistence on non-essentials represents our cognitive dissonance and desire to stay in our bubbles and hope it won’t burst.

      1. Chino,
        I dont know whether you are married but if you are: do you wear a wedding ring? Is that essential? I dont think so. It isnt even important what I think it is, but is not essential. What does it (having and wearing a wedding ring) add to being – legally – married? Not one bit. What is the essential part of being legally (or even only religiously) married? Again, not one bit.

        So my question is: where does essential begin and where does it end?

        1. It is a good question what exactly is essential, although in my article I said, mainly physical needs to stay alive and some other needs to help you not lose your mind as you go about meeting the first needs. It’s in the latter that still the line is more blurred, but more or less, essential and non-essential can still be distinguished.

          Indeed, I am not married.

  7. this is the evolution of essentials / non-essentials on ones physical needs relative to economic progress.
    im thrifty with regard to spening my money to non-essentials. my friends wanted me to buy a car or some expensive sh!t. so i tell them if I see it’s not needed then i dont buy stuff. sooner or later you will spend it to more important ones like food. and now its pandemic i aint got any problem buying foods now. LOL!

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