Sunday, April 5, 2009

Promethean empowerment in an economic downturn

Two very interesting patterns of behaviour has emerged as the economic downturn takes root throughout the world.

One is the conscious move by individuals to augment their existing incomes by joining direct-selling or multi-level marketing schemes. This is a defensive move by individuals. It is a decision which announces that we do not want to be the proverbial sitting duck if and, when, the pay cuts or retrenchments hit. It is a decision that we want to control our own destiny. We do not want to leave it to the bosses to decide our fate...if we can help it.

The second pattern is the awareness that we need to maintain a level of health to avoid expensive medical treatments. Even going to the doctor for a common cold may set us back anywhere from RM25 to RM80 depending on the GP that we visit. Thus, there is a significant demand for vitamins and supplements. Many people are observing the other proverb that prevention is better than cure. The New York Times has reported on this phenomenon here.

Since many multi-level marketing schemes sell health products, the first and second patterns do merge.

Promethean summons
I'm interested in the idea that when faced with a threat, our instincts are to try and assume as much control as we can over our own fate rather than to consign it to a third party who may not have our best interest at heart.

In Greek Mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, or the son of a Titan, and brother to Atlas and Epimetheus (afterthought). He was a champion of human-kind known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day. His myth has been treated by a number of ancient sources, in which Prometheus is credited with--or blamed for, but credited nonetheless--playing a pivotal role in the early history of humankind.

The metaphor is, of course, about us taking control over our own fate.

Relevant considerations
Translated into the currents of politics and economics that swirl around Malaysia these days, this is something that political leaders need to understand.

The principle is that what the leaders say and, do, must be consistent with the broad aspirations of the constituents. What these broad aspirations and worries are and, how they are to be met, is the core business of politics. Disconnect from the desire to find out and, understand, these broad aspirations and worries are and, the political leaders shall pay the price for being arrogant.

Perhaps this is what a good political leader must always do; to reduce the Promethean instincts of constituents by giving them the best assurance that their future is in good hands and, that the level of trust must be high.

pix from here.

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