Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chicken rice without the chicken

This coming Monday will be my fourth reservist. And there would be six more to go after that.

As usual, they will tell us not to blog about it. But of course, why would I? I'm only very worried about getting any injury. That's all.

There are other fears too, not only the with National Service.

I ordered chicken rice at $2.50 (the minimum price) today and when I went home and opened the packet, it was full of rice and a few pieces of chicken. It finally hit me that times are bad.

I am not shy of the fact that I lead a rather sheltered life, that I also see myself as a frog in the well. I'm probably the stereotypical Singaporean guy, not the most world-savvy and I still get culture shocks once in a while.

Reading about something in the news is nothing compared to experiencing that something in reality. My parents talk about inflation, and newspapers talk about food and all that. The media is playing it really well, so as not to cause panics and hatred for the government. "Cheap" food are featured, providing publicity for the few lucky hawker stores.

The sociological imagination creates a link between individual private problems to the larger social structure. In this case, this is, to a large extent, economic. This incident got me thinking about the notion of "bad times". I guess I never really understood what are "bad times" till now; now that I am working and earning something, and have the opportunity to be genuinely shocked at the amount of chicken in my chicken rice. (I have sandwiches for lunch everyday at work by the way, because I need to save for housing renovations).

The rectangular styrofoam box was filled with rice, and in the middle was 6-7 thinly sliced pieces of chicken meat. Maybe I did not look hungry enough to the stall owner.

Times are indeed bad and the first people who suffer are those who do not have the luxury to choose meals that go beyond $2-$3. I have observed foreign workers going to the economy rice stalls and paying under $2 for rice with 2 vegetables. I don't think I will ever want to be in that position, and I am sure there are Singaporeans out there who could/need to eat more, but are only able to buy less.

The poorer will definitely be threatened by the lack of nutrition, which brings along with it other health issues. While I believe Singapore is a place where no one starves, we should do better to make sure people are sufficiently nourished and are able to afford to get the relevant nutrition. Everyone deserves to have a minimal standard in the quality of life here.

I think my quest for materials (which isn't really ambitious) is driven by the fear of living a less than standard quality of life, rather than the enticement of living a luxurious life of riches. I want to have enough money to be debt-free, where I owe no one (but family) a living; that the government and capitalistic corporations will not be able to guilt-trap me and tell me what I should be doing with my life.

To me, happiness is not about money (although sadness and anxiety have their correlation with the lack of it), but about the freedom to express oneself. The attainment of a debt-free existence would pave the way for any other pursuits.

But unfortunately, most of us live a lifetime of debt, so the want to express is lesser prioritised, shelved or suppressed. The path to economic survival is conformity. One way to conform is to eat the rice, eat the few pieces of chicken and shut the hell up.

Have a good week ahead. I'll be back in a week because of my compulsory obligation to the organisation that prides itself in unquestionable conformity.


PanzerGrenadier said...

Be safe during NS.

beracahvalley said...

Hello chance upon your blog and enjoy reading it.

Mike Takena said...

You said
"Everyone deserves to have a minimal standard in the quality of life here."

But there is no minimum wage policy in SG. So, not everyone deserves a min standard of living. Only those who WORK deserves that and they will have to make do with competition from willing foreign labor and the gov's workfare(READ: "welfare") scheme. To some policy makers, giving you the incentives to work is considered welfare.

RedCrabby said...

Ur post gave a big picture of Singapore for me. Take care during NS :)

shinyin_jocelyn said...

Inflation happens not just in singapore.. nowadays, everything is expensive.. true that happiness is not about money,.. but then again, without money, life is full of restriction.. having to think twice, many trice or even more before doing something.... siGH.. nice bLog, btw.. was just surfing by.. ^^

Sam Ho said...

hi guys, back from reservist. only a few bruises on my legs and a minute but rather irritating thorn in my finger (the one that points).

thanks, and i'm safe. although another guy got heat stroke (should be lack of hydration) during one fitness test.

another guy had bad skin irritation at his groin area.

talked to one hawker who said how disruptive the in-camp training was to his life and business. one wife, one kid. one stall, one helper whom he hopes will not pocket any money in his absence. he told me that he takes the bus-train-bus to get to work, and cannot afford to take cab or own a bike/car. it was just a snippet of his life, and i don't think i'll ever be able confront such challenges myself. quite amazing.