Mothers Day

Henry Moore OM, CH, Mother and Child with Wave Bottom II, 1976


Giving as an act of freedom

The season of sweet and sugary messages is approaching, presenting the generality of a cultural and social construction of motherhood that is maintained thanks to the strong commercial appeal of the date. In these messages, the ideality of being a mother is evoked to guarantee an ethical commitment with the disbursement of resources to buy a gift. The sweet messages bring a flavor associated with the dose of sugar that is able to seduce more than the sugary messages. There is, therefore, a difference in quality between these commercial messages; however, the net result of both is the same: awakening the consumer obligation.

Perhaps, Burrhus Frederic Skinner identified this role of advertisements as part of operant conditioning. The memory of a mother's joy, for the gift received in the previous year, increases the probability of being given a new gift that year. The criticism of the ungrateful son, who did not present the mother, made by brothers, relatives and friends, diminishes the possibility of resistance to this commercial date in the following year. Therefore, the role of advertisements is to reinforce through the stimulus that leads to a more satisfactory response. Resisting this business date is an ineffective response. This is the basis of Thorndike's law of effect. Result: mothers are presented on that day with products or services offered by their children or their representatives.

It seems that this practical consequence undermines any freedom of insurgency against the commercial ethical mandate regarding Mother's Day. In fact, the naive and idealistic vision of freedom can be shaken by the embarrassment of having sanction (punishment) when making a divergent choice from the main flow that moves the dominant interests. However, this is not the only constraint to freedom.

Someone who wants to give a gift to the mother, going within the flow, may have an insurmountable economic obstacle, even if the “soft” installments dilute the value of the good to be acquired over time, there is an imposition of common sense that you cannot give a gift to a mother with installments divided into more than 12 installments so as not to compromise the present for the following year.

The remembrance, the prayer, the longing for deceased mothers have only the immaterial component that each physical gift also carries. Thus, those who have a deceased mother are no longer placed in any commercial ethical dilemma of the present. Also, those whose mothers completely and decisively avoid any tenuous approximation with the models of mothers in commercials are also excluded from this dilemma.

In Christianity (new testament) we have a didactic story known as “The Widow’s Pound” and the event involving a couple “Ananias and Sapphira” with completely different meanings, although both can say something about the immaterial values ​​associated with any gift or donation.

Giving or not giving gifts on Mother's Day, each child made a choice that their freedom conditioned by circumstances or economic condition allowed in the face of commercial appeals. Freedom, in this situation, and in every other situation in life, is part of the battles we choose to fight or flee. It is clear that there are existential, political, economic, sanitary, environmental, social, cultural conditions that shape or modulate decisions within the small space of freedom that each one has considering the reality of the world in which he lives.

There are a whirlwind of feelings that accompany the possible freedom of each man before, during or after more complex decisions than the acquisition of a gift for mother's day. These involve anguish, helplessness and despair within a given spatiotemporal and sociocultural situation. Freedom is a fact of human life that escapes physiological determinations and distinguishes us from animals. However, it is also a well-worn word of little practical use and misunderstood.

there is an excellent podcast episode which deals with freedom according to Ortega y Gasset, Merleau Ponty, Sartre and Charles Taylor. However, I still believe that the phrase taken from the song “Dom de Iludir” can better explain the decision to occupy or not the swampy terrain of freedom: “Each one knows the pain and delight of being what they are”.

*José Machado Moita Neto is a retired professor at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI) and a researcher at UFDPar.

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