Saturday, 22 March 2014

Thoughts: Being Poor is Not a Crime

Of recent, the news about how a Miss Singapore Universe finalist made fun of an uncle’s clothes in the MRT had been popping up on my Facebook newsfeed. Surely, such news would attract critical remarks by netizens towards the beauty queen wannabe. Poking fun at those who are less fortunate is definitely not something our society approves of but what provoked my thoughts are the progress of our society towards materialism and the segregation of class based on economic status.

For decades and century, social classes existed even amongst the finest Western civilisation. Of course in those times it was not just about wealth. Skin colour, gender and race played a role in defining where one belongs. Separation of classes seems to be something in the past, but the truth is it still exist. For a simple fact: for if there is no evil, how could one tell good apart. For if there is no poverty, how can one tell what wealth is. With the progression towards equality, race, skin colour and religion discrimination is buried away and wealth subsequently becomes the new ruler for segregation.

Today, in a society that cries for equality for all, we nevertheless fail to escape the trap of segregation. In growing economies, the gap between the rich and the poor inevitably comes to light. While the rich are capable of reinvesting their assets and growing their wealth, the poor are trapped by the inflation. The faster the economy grew, the more evident the gap becomes.

Everyone in the society is embedded in the chase for a better life, a bigger house, a luxury car and the list goes on. It is only normal for one to strive for more in life. That is the inborn greed in every single one of us. Amidst the rat race, have our society grew apart from each other? In the pursuit of material wealth, the spirit of community is slowly extinguished as each individual starts looking at everything with ‘What is in it for me?’. Selfishness slowly dominates over some especially those in large cities. For instance, how many of us know our neighbours like how our parents or grandparents knew theirs back in the days? How many of us even greet our neighbours? How many of us even keep a look out for each other in the neighbourhood?

While climbing the corporate ladder and growing our bank account, our society often forget the simplest things in life. From a tender age, children had lost their touch with simple things in life. Take a look around and you’ll see pre school kids playing with an iPad, iPhone or a tablet or smartphone. Playtime is no longer about the imaginative games of ‘masak masak’ (playing with plastic pots and pans pretending to be making food for others) or simple things like ‘batu seremban’ or ‘kalitoi’ (a simple game of hopping around boxes). Today, it is about the top games on the App store. With a smartphone or tablet, a child is no longer dependant on friends or classmates to have fun which then becomes the seed for growing individualism. What happens then to those less fortunate children that couldn’t afford the latest device? Ultimately they become the outcast because they are not in trend with the latest updates merely because it is not within their economic ability. Over time, this minute trait would manifest into a society that judges one from their economic status.

Perhaps it is time for our society to reflect on the values which we all once held onto. Despite the idea that all man are equal, everyone is born with different abilities, different traits and different background. Discrimination and segregation inevitably occur. But, it is within ourselves to draw the gap within our society closer. We should remember that there are those who are less fortunate; and instead of excluding them, insulting them and belittling them, an effort to understand their difficulties should be made and lend a helping hand when necessary. Let us not be so embroiled in the rat race for wealth and lose touch with our humanity.


On a personal note, I had a humble beginning, one which I am proud of. Growing up in council housing, life is mediocre with little luxuries. For instance, I never had a smartphone until studying abroad. Neither did I have the luxury of air conditioning, luxury bags or clothing for the first 18 or 19 years of my life. Despite all that, I found joy in the simplest things in life. As a kid, my happy times were playing ‘kalitoi’ and ‘Iceman’ with my schoolmates. As a teenager, my happiness derived from camping and building gadgets from ‘bakau’ trunks. Of course, like anyone else, I had wished for more in life but, ultimately life was comfortable and happy despite its simplicity.

Most fortunately, I've been blessed with invaluable kinship and friendship. Through years, I’ve witness a society which is close knitted and full of human touch (人情味) which is now losing its place in our growing society. Today, my life has been blessed with more luxuries. Honestly, I’ve never escaped from chasing after material wealth (I believe very few could) but I hold on to the belief that the discrimination of one based on economic status is nevertheless despicable.

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