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The hike, my opinion

June 5, 2008

The first thing that hit me was, what will this do to my fledgeling business? I conduct most of my business by phone and email. I only drive about 60 kms a day tops and fly around 6 times a year. So why am I worried?

Because I can already feel the tremors of a tsunami – that we’re about to be swept away by price increases of everything from telecommunications to printing paper to office rent. Furious calculations flew thru my head yesterday evening. Things are fuzzy now but I am pretty sure by this time next week, I and everybody I know will be screaming bloody murder.

You’ve heard the alarm bell about global prices for months. You just never thought it’ll hit you. I have friends in the US who have already lost their homes to the mortgage crisis. Job cuts are everywhere and more are surviving on food stamps. Europe isn’t faring much better I hear.

I am a little surprised it took this long to hit Malaysia but it looks like the new global reality is finally catching up. Now I will ask an unpopular but honest question. Did we as consumers have a hand in this?

I think we’re not as inocent as we think. I think we are reaping the collective fruits of decades of over-indulgence when we consumed everything like they came from a bottomless pit, not realizing the pit is getting shallower by the day. I remember the occasional food fight we used to have in school back in Indiana. We’d toss a sandwich and a bowl of macaroni and cheese at each other like it was scrap paper. No one got told off about this thing called wastage. We just got into trouble for messing up the floor. Oh, and getting melted cheese in someone’s hair.

Today, some of these juvenile mac and cheese tossers are waiting in line at soup kitchens. Some don’t know when they’ll get their next meal. Malaysians don’t toss mac and cheese in school but I don’t think we’re totally innocent of wasteful habits either. The point is when times were good, nobody cared. When times are bad, a humble plate of mac and cheese is a banquet. Whether here or there, we feel the same shock and grief at these sudden turn of events.

Its easy to blame oil speculators, food speculators and weakening currencies for this mess. What escapes us is our own fingerprints behind this speculative behavior we so detest: our consumption. Our lifestyle. Our insatiable demand for things. How many cellphones have we owned in the last 2 years? Do we know how much resources it actually takes to manufacture a single cellphone? Do we even care?

My point is, as we vent our frustrations over our freshly shrunken wallets, we should also have the courage to prick our own bubbles. Some choices, like showing up for work on a bike or taking the bus will seriously cramp our styles. So will growing our own things to eat in the garden (gasp, what will the neighbors say!) and packing a lunch bag to work. Or resisting the call to have the latest gadget every time. None of these is easy but if there was a time to be honest with ourselves, now is the time. Because if we don’t do it to ourselves, the markets will.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. LC Teh permalink
    June 5, 2008 9:08 am

    It’s times like these when I’m always thankful to have Married Her

  2. Damien permalink*
    June 6, 2008 9:14 am

    You are lucky LC. I think cost of living will usher in a new generation who will grow up to appreciate scarcity as it was back in the 50’s and 60’s (I think that’s how it was cuz I’m not that old yet). Funny how times repeat itself eh.


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