Monday, May 5, 2014

Shallow Pools of Water


            I suppose the easier our lives are, the easier it is for us to start turning materialistic and shallow. I was watching BBC for a bit earlier, and they were covering the conflict situation in Rwanda, where refugees were constantly trying to escape. Escape was very difficult, with checkpoints crawling with armed militia.

            This isn’t even a situation happening 50 years ago, it’s happening now. Here, in Singapore, the biggest question I had for the day was whether I should get a 16GB or 32GB iPhone 5s. I think we often forget how lucky our lives are, that we are not in these chaotic situations where the loss of life is a commonplace event. And the easier our lives are, the more complacent we are with our security, we start looking for more things to be dissatisfied about. We covet bigger houses, bigger cards, prettier bags, more expensive shoes. Our phones need to be the latest phones, despite the fact most of us never even use (or maybe know) some of the latest functions and could do with, heavens forbid, not the latest phone.

            The people I can’t stand most in life, are shallow people who judge others on what they wear, especially on brands. Maybe I have a bit of a double standard here – I think it’s okay to judge someone on someone’s style, but not on their brands. I think style expresses individuality. But brands? We’re just hiding behind some fancy names in order to hide our own insecurities.

            No, you may hotly argue. Better brands are better quality. Better leather, better workmanship, better stitching. I agree with you, but let’s call a spade a spade. A lot of the people I know wear the brand name, not because they want better quality, but because they want to be associated with a brand name. That’s why imitation shit exist, folks. All for the brand name.

            It’s very sad when people feel smug over their newly purchased branded stuff, and crow over people who don’t have those things. At the same time, I feel this is the attitude of people who are not truly rich, and who are just sad bags of human skin. Really rich people who don’t need to prove a point buy all their branded stuff but they don’t yell about it. It’s a bit of an old money vs new money kind of behavior, and I find new money behavior extremely disgusting to the max. When all you talk about is your stuff, and not because you derive joy from it, but because you want to rub someone’s nose in it, I think it’s just really sad behavior.

            The point is, we have become more and more materialistic and shallow. Maybe this is a progression that’s natural – I was going to type, that can’t be helped, but I think it can be helped. We human beings are never pleased. We never want to be satisfied, or content. We chase for more!

            Something struck me today, and I’m not sure whether it is true or not but I’d like it to be my truth.

            The highest form of wealth is in the act of charity for others.

            If I judge myself on this scale, I’m very poor as of this moment. I don’t think I go out of my way to help people. I give up my seat on the train when someone older needs it, but that’s about the only act of charity I’ve been doing. I declutter and donate to Salvation Army, but that’s more because I want to get rid of stuff. I did email some volunteer homes in Singapore asking if they needed help, but they didn’t respond to me and in all honesty, I totally forgot I asked them too.

            What do we do, that actually help people?

            No, I’m not planning to do some big life-changing trip to help the poor in Africa or India. Rather, I’d like to make these changes, small changes to begin with, right here in Singapore. I’m going to look for a way to be able to enrich other people’s lives. Probably, not necessarily people I know (because they know me as a cranky old bat and I kind of like this description) but people I don’t know. Things like, being nice to cleaners. Buying a homeless person a meal. That kind of thing.

            I look at the Prada bag I bought 2 years ago, now lying forlornly on the floor of my apartment. It was such a rush of joy when I bought it 2 years ago. Finally, I could join the ‘rich people’ club! Finally, I was ‘cool’! I was ‘exclusive!’. You know what? It’s just a bag, at the end of the day. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t make me better than anyone else, and it certainly doesn’t enrich my life. It probably works to enrich someone’s status…but why is it that what other people think of us are so important?

            An age-old question, I suppose, one that will probably exist for all time. And even when we understand the reasons behind why affirmation and inclusion is so important to us, we probably still won’t be able to deny the lure of it. 

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