Hidden-nomics (4): Cleopatra

So many legends and anecdotes have enveloped the historical person that is Queen Cleopatra, and I think that what fascinates most of us are the ones that refer to her great beauty and charm– qualities that were able to get the better of not one but TWO mighty conquerors, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

Just how beautiful was this woman? Her adversaries have referred to the leader as a genuine femme fatale who used seduction as a means of getting her way. This derogatory title, coupled with the Hollywood movies that cast beautiful women to portray her, made it very easy to make people believe that she was indeed goddess-like in appearance.

However, recent evidence shows that she was not as physically attractive as people thought. Images of the late queen imprinted on coins or reliefs show a woman with a prominent nose and a protruding chin. While one could argue that beauty standards might have changed overtime and Cleopatra could have been truly considered beauteous back then, is physical appearance enough to seduce two of the smartest, most strategizing and cunning men of her time?

Some of the more “practical-minded” readers would say to themselves that sexual prowess could’ve been the key. But bear in mind that she was with Julius Ceasar for four years and with Mark Antony for a decade… sexual satisfaction alone wouldn’t have sustained such long-lasting relationships. (Ask around, if you must!)

So, for the sake of fun, imagine for a minute or two that the ancient ruler was more plain-looking than what we have been told… What then could she possibly have possessed to catch the interest of these two powerful men? to make great warriors bend their knees before her?

Could it be the same thing that made her the leader that we know she was?  the thing that made her gain so many enemies who tried to destroy her reputation by calling her of a sl*t?

She must have been a vessel filled with something truly valuable, but at the same time intangible! While that would be what historians and aficionados call “charm”, we economists label as “human capital”. In Cleopatra’s case, a magnificent and high-yielding one.

The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report defines it as:

the skills and capacities that reside in people and that are put to productive use.  This resource must be invested in and leveraged efficiently in order for it to generate returns.

First of all, when it comes to the initial investment, think about it: as a princess, her health was in the hands of the best doctors, she was well-fed, fiercely protected from the smallest mosquito to other lurking dangers (be it natural or man-made), she was exquisitely clothed and guarded from cold or heat, she was sheltered in palaces and this humble servant would dare bet that she was loved and spoiled by the people who surrounded her. Thus, the physical wellbeing she gained from these attentions have made her strong, less sickly, and have allowed her brain to develop well enough to absorb the many lessons she was taught.

As one would expect, her formation and training was certainly top-level as she was well-educated in maths and sciences. She was also well-versed in politics, spoke several languages and had access to the works of the greatest thinkers, so most probably she was also well-read. All of these experiences in turn must have worked their way into her mind, encouraging her creativity.

Accordingly, when it comes to the returns on these investments,  BBC History mentions that “she was a highly intelligent woman and an astute politician, who brought prosperity and peace to a country that was bankrupt and split by civil war.” These are impressive returns for a thriving society!

Lastly, as human capital is also comprised of personality attributes, it must be mentioned that many Egyptologists agree on her having been a witty woman with a good sense of humor. Add to that the strong personality of anybody belonging to her social and economic class and you have the perfect ingredients for a woman who could easily disarm you after 2 minutes of meeting her. I rest my case.

Cleopatra might have or might not have looked like Angelina Jolie, but as looks are subjective (aside from the fact that they fade), we could be sure that she offered more than just a pretty face.

As for being a man-eating, seducing and devious tramp? nothing but venomous words from someone envious. Perhaps a man.

 

 

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Regaining momentum

The time I spent apart from the blog has been dedicated to research and meditation: research so that the future topics I’d share would be substantial and useful, and meditation, so that I could fulfill my purpose without treading on anybody’s sensitivity.

What I found out during my brief hiatus gave me many a mixed feelings. For instance, I still couldn’t sleep with the thought of the sterilized indigenous women in Peru during the ’90s. Yet at the same time, I am inspired by the forceful solidarity shown by the country’s women groups and the strength of the victims despite being abandoned by their husbands and being impoverished in the process.

I was also saddened upon realizing how many lives of Jewish people cost the preservation of Paris and its monuments during the II World War. But I am currently amazed at how the Jewish community seems to have overcome the betrayal and chose to live peacefully with the rest of the city’s inhabitants.

I am so disappointed at Aung San Suu Kyi for her non-reaction to the Rohingya persecution in Burma, but I am hopeful that the refugees could soon build a new life in a new place where they will be respected and accepted regardless of their religion and beliefs. What’s more, I have faith that the effect on the following generations may be the emergence of more open-minded people, tolerant and willing to embrace diversity.

I am frustrated at the  Philippine Government where the current president Rodrigo Duterte is proving only to be a different Chief of State (not PNoy Aquino, not Erap Estrada, not Gloria Arroyo, and so forth), but is not really intent on constructing a different society. His actions divide the country instead of uniting it, he is a classic populist who has to resort to creating an enemy so he could stay relevant, and his supporters seem like blind, rabid dogs who are unable to objectively evaluate his actions. But all these have given me the chance to prove once again how resilient the Filipinos are. It just makes me wonder at what point a genuine revolution would take place, not to repeat historical patterns of dirty politics, but to really bring about change that would benefit the people.

I am flabbergasted by the Catalonian situation and quite worried about the future of Spain, the country that has hosted me for almost half my lifetime and who has given me what I have now. I’m sorry but I’m still on the process of thinking what good this is doing or bringing to me, personally. It still hasn’t occurred to me as of the moment. People are currently stressed, the uncertainty is depressing a lot of them, and logic seemed to have disappeared from the minds of the separatists. It’s heart breaking… it’s like seeing one of your siblings disowning your family and not wanting anything to do with you anymore.

Other news have had the opposite effect: making me happy at first, and then at least pensive after some time. Like the time I read that the Philippines will send a candidate to the Reina Hispanoamericana beauty contest. I was happy to think that finally, my country’s common history with other former Spanish colonies is being recognized. I’ve always believed that Philippine schools should at least incorporate 4 hours in the Philippine History curriculum talking about the many parallelisms between us and the Latin American countries. But then I asked myself: beauty pageant? Really?

Feminism and gender equality are on the rise, much more than in the past thanks to social media awareness along the entertainment industry’s efforts to boost such awareness.  And this thought made me so happy I slept really well for weeks. That was until I started to keenly observe how some feminists keep on imposing their beliefs on their fellow women. I thought that the basis of this movement was empathy? This made me feel disillusioned (and  made me decide to not be a feminist but be a humanist instead).

I’m glad that Trump is so dumb, he can’t actually help but show his true, stinking colors reacting the way he did about the plea for help coming from San Juan’s (Puerto Rico) mayor. I’m glad that people (especially his voters) are having a chance to see it for themselves. But I am mad at how many vulnerable people (babies and children, old men and women, the sick and handicapped, etc) are suffering more than they should because of this person’s uselessness. And I also realized that most of his supporters would just be blind apologetics anyway…

At this moment I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t even classify my feelings towards the oppressed Venezuelans, our Muslim brothers who thirst for peace as much as we do, the victims of the Mexican earthquake, the online bashing received by the infanta Leonor because of her taste in books (or something to that effect), people doubting about Karl Marx’s relevance to modern economics, the absurd fragility of the coming generation, why nobody (read: developed country, most probably European) is taking responsibility of how f*cked up Africa is, how come the worst judges of women are her fellow women, the beautiful but complex rainbow that is gender, how people claiming to be Communists could live in a capitalist society (how do communists live in Madrid, Spain, for example?), and finally and building on that, how come so many people defend neoliberalism yet they can’t find any artist to sing about what they fight for (this one I read in Facebook)…

These are just few of the topics that keep me up at night. What about you, dear reader? Would you like to share what you’ve been up to lately, and what tickles your mind these days?

– The end –

Despite a huge technical setback (a broken computer), I do hope to regain momentum and be back in the blogging sphere. Thank you for understanding. I missed this, too. 

Summer sadness

Tell me how

– Karessa Ramos

Tell me how to forgive,

to overcome and forget.

Tell me how to keep calm,

tell me how to unsee,

unhear.

Tell me how to unfeel.

 

Tell me,

what paradise will accept you?

Where will you go?

After hurting the innocent,

and the most innocent of all?

 

Tell me how to heal.

Tell me how to stop

the rage,

the thirst for revenge.

Tell me how to reconcile

love for mankind

with your desire

to see people die?

 

Tell me how to forgive,

tell me how to unsee

tell me how to heal

tell me how to stop

the spread of hate.

I don’t know how.

Tell me how.

Summer mood 5: joy

Cloudcatchers

– Karessa Ramos

We lie on the sand,

on the grass, on the ground

while watching clouds

as they glide,

as they drift all around.

Everything turns

suddenly astounding.

 

We walk fast

we walk slow

we walk barefoot

feeling the wind blow.

I catch your smile

and your dimpled chin.

Nothing is ever as sublime.

 

Who cares

about forever?

Summer moods 3 and 4: nostalgic and very nostalgic

Nostalgic

I know this place

I’ve been here before.

So beautiful

like milk froth

and comfortable

like soft rain.

And easy

like child’s play.

 

I was here before.

This place, familiar.

But this is somewhere

I can’t belong.

I don’t belong.

And so I won’t be here long.

In this easy place

with the beautiful rain.

***

Very nostalgic

Is it the light?

Am I the moth

Dazed with the fire?

Is it the sound?

Are you the siren’s song?

Am I spellbound?

 

Perhaps it’s not as easy.

Is it ever simple?

What part of this is reality?

Which one is but a memory?

Smokes and mirrors

haze my view.

How to tell the rest from the you?

If it’s just the lights,

if it’s only the sound,

I’ll get over this in Vegas.

– Karessa Ramos

Summer moods 1 and 2: gratefulness and empathy

Gratefulness

It’s not hard to be

grateful when you clearly see

others’ misery.

***

Empathy

The truth about you

here and now, is that we are

similar, we two.

 

We have feelings, we

build walls and defend. Not much

different, are we?

 

Sympathetic when

the other cries. But glad it’s

not us, torn inside.

 

When the other wins

we celebrate, we cheer, yet

we wish it was  us.

– Karessa Ramos

 

Conversation 2: Questions Regarding the Union of European Nations (Part 2)

Disclaimer: the contents featured in the following conversations do not necessarily reflect the author’s opinion.

Two winters ago, overheard in a café somewhere in the north…

Daughter in law (D): I can’t believe those beggars (shakes head). How can they can stomach using their own children to beg for money even during cold, winter months? The parents should be reprimanded, and the children be taken to foster care. And if they don’t want it, then they should go look for jobs.

Mother in law (M): I know. Most of them are Romanians or Bulgarians. Worse is, they form groups of 3 or 4 and pick pockets! I don’t want them here.

D: You know that’s not a politically-correct thing to say, right?

M: I don’t care. They shouldn’t be here. Mind you, I’m talking about the beggars and the pick pockets. Those who are working should stay. But the rest should be deported. They don’t contribute to anything here.

D: Still…

M: No, you listen to me. My friends and I always see a beggar at the entrance of a supermarket back home. She’s there everyday from morning until past midday. So one day, one of my friends offered her to work as a domestic aid. Guess what she answered?

D: Obviously she said she didn’t want to.

M: Exactly! the nerve! I felt really indignant. I wasn’t able to help myself so I told her, “Oh, so you must really be more comfortable begging, rather than exerting extra effort and getting a job, huh?”. She stared at me and I had to keep on walking. I was so mad.

D: I wonder why they don’t want to work. I mean, even if we conclude that it’s more comfortable to just stretch out your arms for people to drop coins in your hands… a job is still more stable, not to say secure choice for the person and his or her family.

M: Me? I wonder why they don’t just beg in their own countries. Romania and Bulgaria are already part of the European Union. They are already receiving funds to develop their economies and to subsidize low-income people. Why would they choose to come here when they could easily stay at their homes and receive government aid? Much like the people in this country, who refuse to be under-employed because their lives are more comfortable in their houses while they receive unemployment allowance…

D: Well, if you put it that way… if they chose to come here despite of what you just pointed out, then the easy answer would be that, the funds don’t reach to where they should. That is to say, those who manage the funds must be pocketing it for themselves.

M: Isn’t a clean, transparent governance part of the requisites to be an EU member?

D: Yes, but the markets promised by those countries are far more important for the Union. You know? so certain countries are more or less assured of having people buy their goods.

M: … (makes a face)

D: So, are we ordering more coffee or what?

*-*

It was the beginning of summer 2016 and four friends were riding the InterRail en route to Brussels…

Friend 1 (1): What just happened yesterday?

Friend 2 (2): Oh f*ck, the Brits voted Brexit, that’s what happened! silly fools…

Friend 3 (3): Tell that to them. I’m sure they feel even superior, if possible.

Friend 4 (4): Oooookay, no need to insult or cause any offense to anyone…!

2: As much as I respect you, I must say, your people are crazy, guillible, a**holes! Ha-ha! I’m sorry, I’ve never been this entertained since last year’s Eurovision…

4: Well, in the defense of my people, I should say, “We know what we’re doing”. But really, I don’t think we do. So yeah, you must be on to something there! Haha!

1: That’s like a big, fat slap on EU’s face, don’t you think? That’s like a really, really bad break up… no, no! It’s the promise of a very ugly divorce…

3: So much for a “union”…

(Everybody snickers)

3: I’m very curious as to how Brussels would manage this situation. I mean, how will the EU stand as a strong competition for other economic blocks when its nations appear divided?

2: You’re in a shrink’s mood today, aren’t you? Could you take a break? We’re on holidays!

4: No, no, wait… she’s right. If you look at it, the EU needs more than all the super glue it could collect to present a united, well, presentation.

1: To project, dude! to project… we’re on holidays from school, not from using our brains…!

4: Yeah, whatever…

2: Hey, the shrink might be right. Just this morning I heard from the radio about how different Northern Europe is to Southern Europe. And not just character-wise, mind you.

1: Now that you mention it, well yes, it makes sense. And wasn’t that the argument of those who were anti-single currency advocates? that basically the difference in the standards of living, reflected in prices, could do more harm than good for those entering in the single currency zone?

3: Actually I wanted to point out the difference between the left-wing Europeans and the right-wing ones. You know, those who want to steer the Union towards a Superstate versus those who aim for Federalism… It’s not enough that all politicians and decision-makers want a better Europe for the Europeans. They have to map out how to achieve that.

2: Yes, we know. The spenders versus the austere ones.

3: Well, you have to spend SOMETHING to guarantee a minimum, decent quality of life for the citizens!

1: Or you could save up for the rainy days…

3: BUT WE ARE IN THE RAINY DAYS!

4: Yeah, well, you can aaaall relax, as there’s no point in arguing. The left-wingers would soon be outnumbered anyway, if not banished from Brussels…

3. So basically you’re saying that we’ll be better off scratching our balls?

4. Or scratching it for each other, if you’re so bent over helping your fellowman.

2: Heeey! I’m the tactless brute of the group! Don’t take that away from me!

*-*

Early autumn last year, an uncle and nephew take a walk in a park…

Nephew (N): I’m really excited! Soon I’ll be living in a different country, with an interesting job… even if the pay’s not the best, at least I get to have this experience.

Uncle (U): Good for you. I hope you meet a nice girl and settle down.

N: I’m not going there to find a bride! But I heard the women are pretty over there…

U: Yes they are. So don’t get married, just hook up with as much girls as possible. He he!

N: (Blushes) Anyway, I feel kind of sad, though.

U: Well, homesickness is normal. But I guess your mother would visit you every month so no need to be sad about missing her! (snorts)

N: No, I feel sad because all through my student life, I was a scholar. All my school expenses were paid for by the government. And now, the thought of “serving” another country makes me feel bad for ours. I really wanted to give back.

U: Hm…

N: Anyway, one thing is to feel bad because of that. Another is to feel awful when I realized that only capital and goods can truly freely move around EU. Movement of labor is still very much restricted.

U: I’m listening.

N: This system is giving young people like me very few choices. Either stay in your country and be bored out of your wits as you’ll be unemployed. Or, go find a job somewhere else in the EU, where you’ll have a theoretical “advantage” above applicants from countries outside of it.

U: There’s the choice of working outside the EU.

N: Yes, but the point is to be closer to home.

U: Okay. Go on. Why do you say the movemet of labor is restricted?

N: For starters, I met recruiters who prioritize candidates from local universities. WHY? Anybody could be just as good as their locally-produced graduates.

U: What else?

N: I heard that I won’t be receiving my social security card for sure at least 6 months. So whatever health expenses I would have during the waiting period, I’d have to shoulder myself. Why? I mean, I can understand if it’s a month, if they want to wait for my tax. But 6 months? I’m an EU citizen!

U: Hmp!

N: I mean, sure, they’d reimburse me for the expenses but it wouldn’t be automatic, I’ll have to wait for some weeks. I really don’t understand. All this would simply discourage foreigners to work in their country. Meh… but, wouldn’t it be more enriching if labor markets were more open?

U: Enriching for some, not all. Especially not for the politicians.

N: Are you changing the subject again because you want to talk about politics and complain about that long-haired guy?

U: Listen. Whenever there’s an initiative or a feasible idea which is good for the general population but is not being implemented, that is because the politicians wouldn’t get anything from it. Think. What would garner more votes? a promise to open up the labor market and toughen the competition for all job applicants? or perhaps a promise to protect and prioritize national workers against “invaders”, threatening to “flood” the labor market with their offer of “cheaper” salaries?

N: Hm…

U: Believe me, if you were a citizen of your future new home, you’d be offered a permanent contract. But you’re not, I mean, you can’t influence elections over there. You mean nothing to the political class.

N: Oh well! I guess the good news is that I could be returning home soon, huh?

U: Not if you find a girl to marry, you won’t! (winks)

-The end-

Click here to read Part 1 and here to read Conversation 1.