Why bochup is wrong

20120913-234253.jpg

Driving home today W and I got into a sort of fight/debate on Consumerism and social classes.

Well, not just about the concept of Consumerism in general (there was a lot of that too) but it all started because I said I don’t get how some tai-tais (@highbrow socialite types) can spend their whole life living in their own little bubble where they only care about the next bag they buy, the next gala they would attend and where next they should holiday.

Now, I’m all for living well if you have the means to, but I find it hard to comprehend when someone lives life utterly oblivious to how the rest of the world is faring. I recall a conversation with a (very) wealthy acquaintance from a developing (Southeast Asian) country a while back on the plight of poverty in her country. And her response: “You mean there’s that kind of poverty here? You must be kidding right? Things can’t be that bad.”

That’s like saying, since I live in a house/HDB in Singapore, there can’t possibly be people who find it hard on a day to day to make ends meet. I mean, really, right? *rolls eyes*

Or another that told me: I wanted to go charity work so I went to help out at an old folks’s home. But it was too smelly, to the point that I threw up. So, I decided giving money was easier. After all, it’s the same.

That’s like saying, I’ll just attend a gala that raises money for (fill in the blank charity) and that’s good enough. Cos, you know, at least at the gala, no one stinks or smells bad. Yeah, the real world works like that.

Or the ladies who quip: I bought this (branded) bag for only two thousand dollars ok. It’s for rough use anyway.

Yes, lady, cos two thousand dollars is chum change to the average joe.

I will be the first to admit that I live well, and yes, I like that I am able to go to any grocery store and buy whatever I feel like buying without really having to worry about the price on an item. It is not a habit to have to go to the cheapest source of, say, salmon. I simply shop where convenient. And while I don’t make dining fancy a habit, I do enjoy a nice meal at the next Michelin starred restaurant to celebrate my wedding anniversary. But I am acutely aware that it is a privilege and luxury, I am grateful to be able to enjoy. I work hard for my money, I live honestly and I remind myself to always be thankful.

As the conversation unfolded, W- who is generally more amiable that I am about these things, reminded me that people were entitled to lead their lives as they so choose. (I reckon maybe my husband thinks i can be quite a kay-poh.) And to expect people to care beyond themselves was taking a *gasp* self righteous stance and that I should live and let live.

That silenced me for a while (it seemed like a long time, but I think maybe it was more like 3 minutes; but to me that’s like a long time) and I said that I really don’t feel that it is wrong to “judge” someone who will not think about the greater world cos “it’s easier/simpler that way.” Far from self-righteous, how can I even BE ok with someone I know behaving that way.

Edmund Burke famously said: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Silence is so often acquiescence and acceptance. To say, it’s perfectly fine for someone to live SO well and NOT care beyond themselves and their other equally fabulously wealthy and oblivious friends is wrong.

I know of many well heeled families who make it their life’s work to do good. They run foundations, they give scholarships, they personally spend time and effort with those that need. Sure they have their fair share of fancy bags, branded shoes, sports cars, big houses; but they are so very aware that because they have been so blessed, they have to give back.

Just yesterday I sent an old friend from Myanmar (they run the orphanage we visit) to one of their sponsors/friend who lives in a HUGE mansion. It was to confirm scholarships for 350 needy kids. Said wealthy family, also spends specially carved out personal time working on the ground. It is easy to give money, it’s infinitely harder to give of our time and efforts.

I don’t have the formula right (yet), I think. I might never get there and will most likely be a work in progress permanently. There is a lot about life I still have to learn, experience. But I truly and deeply feel that we cannot be content and oblivious just because we are in a good/great place. The world has to matter to us. I’m not saying go support every single cause that comes your way; I’m saying you gotta live life being aware that you are part of a greater humanity, and that humanity is everyone’s fight.

*end rant*

Advertisements

World Day: Suicide Prevention Day (10th Sept)

I only know this cos I am an avid follower of www.postsecret.com : September 10th is the annual day the world observes as World Suicide Prevention Day.

Global figures seem to suggest that almost 3000 people commit suicide daily and for every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives. It is more likely someone will die from suicide than from homicide. For every two people killed by homicide, three people die of suicide*.

In Singapore, over 350 people commit suicide annually; more males than females and aging people are at the greatest risk. In China someone takes his or her own life on average every two minutes. China accounts for nearly a quarter of the global total of suicides with between 250,000 and 300,000 suicides a year*. In America, someone attempts suicide once every minute, and someone completes a suicide once every 17 minutes. Throughout the world, approximately 2,000 people kill themselves each day*.

Over the last decade, the suicide rate among young children has increased dramatically. In 2002, suicide was the sixth leading cause of death of five- to 14-year olds and the third leading cause of death in preteens. Suicidologists are alarmed that children as young as age two are also increasingly attempting suicide.*

(*Evans, Glen, et. al. 2003. The Encyclopedia of Suicide. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc)

I happen to be a talk my friend was giving on the 10th and at the end of the talk, he led everyone in a moment to remember Suicide Prevention Day by writing the word LOVE on our wrists. Some of the students at the talk asked if I had lost anyone to suicide, I have- unfortunately. A young life, gone too soon. An older one that saw no future.

The stories are never quite the same, but its usually rife with despair and, when we look back, there were signs. And we are all always left wondering “what could have been.”

 

 

World Day: International Literacy Day (8th Sept)

We take it for granted, the ability to read and write. In fact, most of us take education for granted. That we and our kids would go to school, learn to read and write; most likely go to university and beyond is something we actively plan for, not (just) because we are so confident in their (and our) ability, but because its a given.

That our kids would read- enjoy books, magazines, read school notes… and write- letters, emails, assignments… hey, even, text messages; are something we take for granted.

Over my many trips to Myanmar, it has always been very evident to me that there are kids that cannot read and write. Some probably never will. And no matter how much we support literacy programs there, there will be many that fall through the cracks. Around the world some 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 60.7 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.

To commemorate International Literacy Day, we took Q to the bookstore to use some of the book vouchers we’ve been saving for one of our “book drought” days.

We have several favorite authors we “collect”. One of our favourite-est is Sandra Boynton who wrote the famous Pookie series. Q’s favorite is Fifteen Animals and he recites it like a little comedy act.

We also love collaborations between Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler  the team behind the famous Gruffalo books. They also wrote Stickman and Room on a Broom. His all time favorite is Monkey Puzzle which he reads and re-reads and re-reads.

Q, who’s is way into Ironman and the Avengers, picked out a new Ironman book, complete with moveable arms at the bookstore and has been lugging the said book everywhere!

Because our nights are usually kinda haphazard, we moved reading time to first thing in the morning. And its been great. Before the day descends upon us, we spend time reading. Evan joins us with his picture and touch-and-feel books too!
So, on International Literacy Day, we remember those that may have never even seen a book or have books readily available to them. We have several friends working on community library projects and over the next few months, maybe I’d run a drive to collect books from all of you guys!

Why world affairs should matter to our kids

My love for politics started back in 1996 when I visited Myanmar and found myself at the cusp of a student riot and political change. To cut the long story short, it made me deeply interested in politics- the art and the science of things, and I ended up double majoring in psychology and political science with special interest in political campaigns, elections and how all of that impacts world politics.

Needless to say, US elections hold particular fascination for me since the impact of the person sitting in the Oval Office holds sway for the world, world politics and world policies. Wun and I took leave in 2008 to watch America elect their first black president (I would have preferred Hillary personally) and when Q was born, our good friend and fellow Politiko Aunty Karyn made Q his very one ABC onesie: A is for Arendt… N is for Nasser…T is for Thatcher… Y is for Yoda.

When our local elections took place (GE2011), we let Q stay up with us to wait for the results, explaining to my not yet 2yo who Lee Hsien Loong was, who the men in blue were and he clapped and cheered along with us at the various speeches and all. Somedays, instead of our usual ABC 123 lessons, we teach him about the great people in the world; a modge-podge of world leaders and other notable characters that have shaped our world.

When Neil Armstrong died, we learnt about the moon, talked about the Mars Explorer, looked at photos, built mock Apollo 11z, re-created walking on the moon (not the moon walk; we walked on sponges) and pretended to be aliens.

Yes, its important our kids learn their ABCs, 123s and all the other classroom stuff… but we also think its darn important they learn about the world.