Saturday, 1 August 2015

Popiah party!






Every now and then my family will throw a popiah party. My mum is an ace popiah maker and she has passed her knowledge on to many people. This is my sister's house and we had some popiah and the kids played with their various handheld devices. Today i am dragging my sons to town to see the really tall buildings.

The subject of last night's conversation was the General Election. Essentially i think that people here do not know what to do. Despite the success of cramming nearly 6 million people into a very small space without riots breaking out, and running the world's most successful economy, Singaporeans, by and large, are not happy. Mostly because everything is so expensive. Housing is expensive. Transport is expensive or very overcrowded. Food is not really expensive, i have to give you that - if you just want to cook a simple meal or have some simple in a hawker centre. Clothing can be expensive - or very badly made. The cost of living is expensive. Medical fees can be expensive, especially if you have a serious operation. Then there is the small matter of retirement - that is very expensive unless you have a good pension - and this pension could have been spent on shares or on a house and it would be nowhere....then if you want to go for a holiday - well nothing is really left over. Then there is the education system which is chronic. It has stepped so far away from what universal education was meant to do - which is the now apparently ludicrously lofty ideal of the betterment of mankind - to become a sort of factory for exams and starting the rat race early.

Anyway... i am not part of this basic fight for survival here... so i don't get to agonise about any of this. However, my question, as i walked around the Serangoon Housing estate yesterday was - has it been really necessary? This rush to develop? Did we have to accelerate sooooo quickly nought to 200 mph? What would have happaned if we had not? Would it all have fallen apart? What if we took it more slowly? What if we had a more sustainable approach to development and quality of life? Would that have been so bad?

And i detest the way people are misusing the word sustainable. Sustainable does NOT mean sustaining the life which Singapore already has. It means completely rolling it back to living in a one world economy - not this supposedly 2 and a half world economy - which is what Singapore currently has. Sustainable does not mean that i wanted to tell the people doing the haze talk - it does not mean having your maggi mee and eating it.

What if, instead of this crazy insistence of having to have sooooo many people in one tiny space to generate an economy which grew by 15 per cent every year, we just had one, which looked after the most vulnerable first? I said to my sister, Singapore is the perfect example of how trickle down economics does NOT work. We now have this class of superrich people who have made their fortunes through really dodgy dealings in highly dodgy countries and put their money in dodgy bank accounts and we also have a whole strata of very very poor people. If trickle down economics did work, then this strata of super poor people would not exist. They are not living in the slums or favelas, but they do live a hand to mouth existence and they are all Singaporean - unless they are the foreign labourers and domestic help - which are even more dispossessed than the very poor Singaporeans. Can we possibly be content with this situation of extreme wealth and extreme poverty?

The other thing about this breakneck development is that it has been done without any thought or discussion, so now it has evolved into a place where it is nearly impossible to imagine a different kind of place. It is like someone who has built a house without thinking about the consequences and then suddenly they have thought of the consequences and gone - oh right... that was a mistake... but now it is too late. So too late to say right, continuous neo liberal development is detrimental to the planet, to mental health, to the social fabric. Too late to say, um, we should have prioritised the so called 'heartware' instead of the 'headware' and the 'moneyware'. We needed to have really thought about asset enchancement (using your pension to buy housing, and inflating property prices) before we put it into action. To think about erasing entire neighbourhoods and buildings before realising the destruction to our heritage. Oops, too late!!! Why did we not take the time?

Well, that's life... i am going for my run now. Then i am going to bring my sons to the Central Business District. For the craic. For something completely different.

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