Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When the dream ends

Lately I have been reading personal accounts of people who have lost their jobs due to the current economic crisis in the US. I read this story and thought, That could be me.

One day you have a job and a house and a car and food to eat; the next day you don't. I thought about the state of our economy and what might happen if things crash over here. How prepared are we? I just bought an apartment.

It seems preposterous, doesn't it? I sit in my zippy car, drive past yet another mall in the making, take a seat in a crowded restaurant where people at the next table are texting on their iPhones or fiddling with their iPads, and I wonder, how long will all this last? What if it all vanishes tomorrow? What if we lose it all? No such thing as unemployment benefits here. How will everyone survive?

"In just two years I've gone from being financially stable with a secure retirement to being one step away from being homeless with no hope of ever being able to retire," another lady writes. I think about the government messing around with our retirement funds, using those funds to provide housing loans to people who can't get loans from banks. I have sympathy for such people but the point is that if the government wants to help them, why are they using/risking OUR retirement funds?! Not that these funds will be sufficient for anyone to retire on in 20 years' time, what with the rate of inflation and rising cost of living. But at least they will be something. If the economy tanks, what will happen to EPF?

The middle-class in this country have it good at the moment. Yes, they do. I'm one of them and I know it. Mr TDH told me I'm lucky to be able to afford an apartment of my own at my age, and I agree: I am blessed. But sometimes I think my peers take it all for granted. Wanting more and more and ever more, feeling like we are entitled to stuff, like it's our right. We deserve it, because we work hard, because we're educated, because we're young and energetic and creative. We deserve the recognition, we deserve the pay, we deserve... oh, so many things. Especially the lifestyle. No, we don't. Every day I am amazed that I have a car to drive! Do you know how many people have no choice but to rely on the dismal public transportation system?! If we lose our lifestyle, will we lose ourselves?

I have been trying to imagine it. If I am laid off from my job, if I have to give up my apartment, and my car, and move back in with my parents... if I have to take up a blue-collar job, or a menial job, something that is "beneath" me, that pays much less than I am used to think I'm worth... will I survive? Yes, I will. Will it be embarrassing? Yes, it will. Will I ever get back what I've lost? Maybe I won't. But it is a world so far removed from what I have right now that it's difficult to picture. We all imagine that things will continue the way they are, forever.

When I look at the world and then look at Malaysia, and look at our government and their mismanagement, I wonder how long more we can sustain things as they are. I wonder what will happen when the bubble bursts. We are not prepared, no, we aren't. Not at all. For some, it might even come as a great surprise. A rude one. But maybe that will finally break all the "Malay-Chinese-Indian-Other" nonsense that is going on in this country, when our backs are thrown to the wall and we are forced to fight for survival and face what is really important. Perhaps it might not be so bad after all. Perhaps it might save Malaysia.

1 comment:

Caedmon said...

Some big issues you're dealing with there, Irene!

This isn't unrelated to my thoughts lately about the size of my closet. There's nothing wrong with owning stuff, but it's a huge problem when our stuff owns us. When I am attached to my stuff, the possibility of losing it becomes a nightmare. Only with giving up the attachment (which is something different from detachment: the idea that we can't have anything) can I truly rest in God. In God's rest, losing "everything" isn't nearly as scary, because I know there is really only "one thing" and that one thing cannot ever be taken away (see end of Romans 8).