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.

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.

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, after the May 10 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.


About ChinoFern

Just another nobody on the Internet who believes even nobodies should have a voice... because the Internet provides that.
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27 Responses to A Simple Life is not necessarily a Virtuous Life

  1. J.B. says:

    I agree simple life is worthless.

    Noynoy is banking on the people’s perception that all politicians are evil and corrupt so being simple is an antidote to it.

    I actually regretted and sad why Gordon or Gibo failed to grasp why the bakya crowd choose the inept.

    • ben says:

      Ummm.. Just a question.. Wat’s Bakya mean? (Sorry, i never studied Tagalog) 🙂

      • ChinoF says:

        I know bakya is what you call those wooden slippers that household helpers used in older days. So the people using them are of the “bakya” level, or less educated, less knowledgeable level.

      • Homer says:

        Allow me to chime-in and make an attempt to dwell on what “bakya” is……(now my mind is blank, hahaha)……ok, let’s try this: It is when your tastes in pop-culture make others cringe, because it’s similar to the tastes of those that chino described above. It’s similar to “baduy” (or jologs), but I’d end-up confusing myself if I attempt to differentiate the two. Anyway, hope that helped.

      • J.B. says:

        bakya are people who troop to campaign rallies but interested only to see singing and dancing and less on platforms.

  2. Pinay Goddess says:

    A simple life is not living a meaningful life. Living a simple life makes most Pinoys become complacent, fence sitters who lack initiative. A simple life does not encourage creativity and innovativeness. That’s why many Pinoys (including the candidates running in the coming election) love to complain and condemn, instead of offering concrete solutions to problems.

    Nothing’s wrong with living a complex life, as long as one becomes accountable for his/her every action.

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  4. Pinay Goddess says:

    Bakya started cheap but at least it has evolved in terms of quality, though a bit pricey. Remember, the Birkman bakya? I think they became fashionable in the 80’s. Buti pa ang bakya, nagi-evolve. How about the Pinoy race?

    • ChinoF says:

      Nothing wrong naman with being bakya. The really bad thing is basing moral ascendancy on it. Bakya=good, sosyal=bad. Yung ang masama.

      Onga, ang bakya nag-evolve, Filipinos, pre-bakya age pa rin.

  5. Jon Abaca says:

    If one wants to see what a simple life really is, one can watch Meet the Natives on National Geographic Channel.

    Tribesmen from Vanuatu get to travel to the United States and England to observe a different culture.

    Oddly enough, they seem happier with their lives because they have a better community spirit. I remember the chief of the group was surprised to see homeless people in England. He said that on Vanuatu, whenever somebody was homeless, the entire community helps the person build a house.

    It’s also interesting to note that the tribesmen were very honest. Whenever they saw something they don’t agree with, they will say any of the following phrases.

    “We don’t think that’s right.”
    “That makes us very sad.”

    In this country, expressing one’s ideas like that leads insults.

  6. ilda says:

    I agree with you ChinoF.

    It’s got something to do with the culture of not wanting to be different from everybody else also. Filipinos don’t want to break from the mould. Kaya bulok tuloy. You can hardly find anyone unique.

    For me, I find that sometimes Filipinos contradict themselves. Those who readily claim to have a simple lifestyle is just being self-righteous. How can you possibly be so aware of your own simple lifestyle? What’s simple to an individual may just be too extravagant for the next guy. That’s why I don’t really like the way Noynoy agrees with everyone saying that he is good and simple. I just don’t buy it. Simple ba yung may driver and entourage everywhere he goes? 🙂

    • ChinoF says:

      Simple daw kasi yung driver and entourage, kaya simple daw din siya. Kung simple kasama mo, simple ka rin daw. Ha ha! The logic! At the end of the day, simpleng korap ang labas. 😛

  7. Ngerario no Sekai says:

    Noynoy and Noynoy Supporters says: Kung walang corrupt, walang Mahirap…

    [Pero… Kung wala na mang ginagawa… Kagaya mo! dude! Sila’y ang hihirap]

    Some filipinoes doesn’t know the meaning of irony and idiocy… Apparently, Noynoy is the epitome of that!

  8. Mike Tan says:

    Why is Da Pinoy so fixated on gunning for the simple life and mediocrity? That’s because they watch too much teleseryes and Pinoy drama crap that portray the simple life bidas as good and the rich kontrabidas as pure evil. Noynoy supposedly “fits” the bida profile. kaya ayun, people are sucked into thinking that he has a pure heart.

  9. GabbyD says:

    interesting. but i have to tell you:

    “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?”

    from the wiki article u linked to:

    “Simple living as a concept is distinguished from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice”

    pickpocket example isnt a good example of simple living…

    • ChinoF says:

      Yet pickpockets may be able to claim they are living in simple ways… but whether simple or not, pickpocketing is still wrong. That’s the point.

      • GabbyD says:

        yes its wrong.

        but ur article is about the definition of “simple life”. simple life doesnt include people forced to live simply. it must be a choice.

      • ChinoF says:

        I agree with what you say about the definition of simple life. But a pickpocket may insist that their life is simple, even when it is not. It’s like Noynoy claiming to have a simple life when he has drivers, servants, goons and guns. That’s the issue. Don’t believe everyone who says, “I have a simple life.” 😉

        But about choice, the pickpocket did have a choice… of course, not on the poverty… but on the pickpocketing. It was the pickpocket’s choice to be a pickpocket. He could have just become a tricycle driver or vendor or something else that isn’t criminal.

      • GabbyD says:

        finally, we’ve arrived at the true bone of contention.

        you think that being poor has nothing to do with being a pickpocket.

        i believe it has everything to do with it.

        note that my position is NOT the same as “most poor are pickpockets”. its the other way: “most pickpockets are poor”

      • ChinoF says:

        I would agree again that most pickpockets are poor.. but if that’s the case, that also means most pickpockets are poor decision-makers. Their being poor may be a factor, but it is not a direct cause of their being pickpockets. Of course, being poor does not justify their pickpocketism. Thus, as Jet below said, they had a choice to be a “useful citizen” or a nuisance… and they chose to be a nuisance.

        And even if they’re a nuisance, they’ll sometimes claim that their life is simple. But they’re wrong of course. They may not have a choice in being rich or poor; but they had a choice in what they could do about it.

      • ilda says:

        Not all pickpockets/magnanakaw are poor. Ever heard of Winona Ryder?

        Therefore, may problema talaga sa utak ang mga pickpockets at magnanakaw hinde lang sa pera. 🙂

      • jethernandez says:

        Sabi nga ng kaibigan kong Ekonomista… “the function of each labor component is to CONTRIBUTE to society”. Ergo, every citizen has a choice to either become a “useful citizen” or a nuisance.

  10. Bryan says:

    i’m just wondering if any of you guys ever read ‘A NEW EARTH’?

    there’s so much hate and ego here…why?

  11. ChinoF says:

    I just remembered one thing that could have been included in this article; if having a simple life is so good, why all the rage for fiestas? Fiestas are among the most intense profligacies of Filipino culture, obviously expensive and yet Filipinos go to great lengths to have something like them, even to the point of debt. Invite and many as you can and feed them all in the wedding, have endless cases of beer in a drinkout with the whole neighborhood. The insistence on a “simple life” and the existence of fiestas remain among the most glaring inconsistencies of Filipino culture.

  12. Chiruu says:

    “A simple life” is an overused and misleading phrase…

    This is a good article you got there Sir!

  13. Jeno says:

    Excruciating and disparaging read (I don’t know why I bothered).
    The analogies of the author are poor and unguided.
    When people say that they live or lead a simple life – they do so and mean that it is plain, straightforward. Humble and unpretentious.
    The article however is simple. In the sense that it is of low intelligence.

    Further reading: http://www.economist.com/node/17959590 Inequality: The Rich and the Rest

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