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a curve skewed to the left

As I was running in my condo basement carpark as usual today, it struck me just how well-off people in my estate are. All the cars are sparkling and shiny; most have relatively new liscence plates. FDWs can be seen furiously scrubbing the sides of the cars, precariously perched on stools, soapy water splashing everywhere (much to my annoyance). The cleaners and security guards move around in buggies or rubbish carts, or on bicycles. Or they just walk.

People in my estate are so lazy, that even for a trip to the convenience store at the clubhouse can warrant the use of their cars. Or they just ask their FDW to go there. Whenever I'm in the gym using the situp bench, I look out of the window in front of the bench into the courtyard of the block opposite. Without fail, the FDW is always there, collecting the clothes, and if the FDW of the adjoining unit is also there, they'll chat. It somehow disturbed me so much that I had to pull down the blinds over the window so I could no longer see them.

In our estate, residents are allowed to have up to 4 cars per household. Toyotas and Hondas are common, but it is not unusual to see BMWs, Mercedes, and Lexuses, to the extent I can even memorize the exact location of each car. There are lots of those luxury cars, so many that it actually becomes commonplace. Then there are the really high-end ones, the Porsches, Lotuses, Audis, Jaguars, Alfa Romeos. There are a handful of those. Even a Lamborghini. (I am a car geek. I love cars. Looking at them, that is.)

Even though I am comfortably middle-class, or even upper middle-class, I've never felt that way. Money is important, but it's not the most important. I was brought up by my mum to be extremely frugal, and every purchase I make, aside from the necessities like food and stationery, is always made with great thought. Like a typical Singaporean aunty, I have this habit of calculating mentally the value-for-weight of a product. I almost never purchase on impulse, and on the very rare occasions I do, the damage is never a lot. Most of my belongings, from laptop and MP3 player, to textbooks, are second-hand, or they're things that my brother no longer wants, so I adopt them. Unlike my more girly female friends, I never spend on aesthethic products/services - manicures, nail polish, even haircuts. I think I cut my hair once a year or something. Probably the most expensive thing I do splurge on is running shoes - about SGD$150 a pair, and I have to get new ones every 1-2 years because I run so much.

I don't condemn spending on what you like. It's your money, you do what you like with it. However, as you go around buying new clothes or going to expensive restaurants, remember that there are many people worse off than you, not just in the world, but even in Singapore itself. Many of these people are hidden from sight, and we don't see them because there's a social gap between "us", and "them". It's a gap that cannot be eliminated, at least not in the short run. Our Gini coefficient is about 0.47 to 0.49, which is rather high. As my sociology professor likes to tell us all the time, the left tail of the normal curve of income is getting fatter, and the curve is getting increasingly skewed - it's not a bell curve anymore.

Is Singapore progressing too fast for its own good? Possibly. Education levels are increasing exponentially, yet at the same time, the population is fast greying and the dependency ratio is fast increasing. Not cool. The PAP is doing a great job with the economy and all, but even so, inequalities are increasing - and they will continue to do so, until the new nighly-educated batch of youngsters take over the population, and majority of the population would be university-educated.

That's a terrifying thought, in the sense that it really puts a lot of pressure on children in the academic race. If everyone has to be above average, the curve will become so distorted that it'll have a really long and fat left tail, while the mean is shifted further and further right. It also increases the risk of psychological disorders like depression and anxiety disorders, which are often triggered by stress. Are we becoming a nation of paranoid, depressed, crazy over-achievers who are tops in worldwide educational rankings, but suck at being humans? What is becoming of Singapore's future? As the locals become increasingly educated, low-income, labor-instensive jobs like cleaners and hawkers will inevitably be passed on to foreigners, but with the increasing phenomenon of xenophobia, would foreigners still want to come here?

Maybe Karl Marx was right. Society will get divided into two great classes - the burgeoisie, and the proletariat. Scary, isn't it? I take comfort in the fact that by the time that really rolls around, I'll probably be long dead.

Pardon me, I am rambling. All Marx's fault for disillusioning me.

Comments

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undelicately
Sep. 27th, 2012 02:12 am (UTC)
it's mostly true that Singapore is progressing too fast for its own good, but there'll always be the unfortunate few who slip through the cracks and into a downward spiral of blue-collar poverty. and all too often, we tend to lose sight of what we should really be striving for - happiness that is not contingent on the material and physical - focusing only on what's tangible. D:
tetra_pakk
Sep. 27th, 2012 04:23 am (UTC)
So sad right! Unfortunately these are the very people who are hidden from the public eye.

And you're right about happiness. As Sheryl Crow's lyrics in Soak Up the Sun goes, "it's not having what you want, but wanting what you've got". Blaming the media and huge corporations is too simplistic. Blaming human greed/desire (like Marx and co.) is not really it either.

Aiyoh. The complexity of human life. D: I guess progress creates a need for need - nowadays you can't get a bowl of noodles for $0.20 as you could back in the 40's.
( 2 cynics left behind — leave a cynic. )

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tetra_pakk
Seeminabazzkalamogofa, but you may call me Smint.

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