Friday, March 03, 2006

30 sen Vs RM90.00


You don't need a Ph.D in Economics to figure out that an increase as little as 30 sen on the price of gas will hit the poor in a big way. Don't go jump the gun accusing me of trying to appear smart talking about economics when you know very well that I have never been to a university, or have ever seen a breathing professor in real life to know any better that I shouldn't go over to take off his pair of academic glasses to pick up a fight with him just because I believe I can take him down. Some professors are silat exponents, this I know for a fact.

If there's one thing I notice about the poor in this country is they don't like to re-cycle things. They'd rather buy things brand new and run big monthly instalments with furniture giants like Courts Mammoth. Maybe I'm wrong to say this but I've been to enough houses around squatter areas to know better that most of them own huge TVs, DVDs, subsribe to Astro, and own a nice set of living room furniture. I've been to a lot of houses in the ghettos in Chicago, New Orleans and small towns Mid-West America to write this with confidence that most poor folks there don't mind buying second hand sofa, or restore a dining table, or putting on second-hand winter coats. They also repair things a lot more than the folks in squatter areas around this fine city.

Now you may ask how do I know all this? I do a lot of voluntary work during the weekend for an organization to help the poor get by, fixing things for them, or distributing food items that we got from generous donors. Some of these donors are big names in the corporate world but I don't have the permission to mention them because they want to keep a very very low profile.

I've been cursed, even chased a few times for suggesting to some of these poor folks that they should restore some of the furnitures they considered useless eventhough I know for sure that all it took for a dining table to be good as new was a new spine . Instead they'd rather order a brand new dining set from a glossy catalogue and work hard to meet the monthly payment. And they don't know any better about furniture design to see the dining set they've just bought is totally useless when broken because it is built in such a way that it would be very difficult for a craftman to repair. Mass produced furnitures are like that. They are not meant to be repaired. They are meant to be replaced when broken because it's purely economics that you keep the consumers buying new things instead of restore, refurbish and rebuild. I guess that's why they have made tools so expensive these days so that it will discourage men to pick up skills how to repair things. And those tool-makers are smart too. They've come up with cordless screwdrivers that cost as little as RM50.00. But any guy with half a brain knows that you don't need this because all you have to do is calculate the number of times in a month you screw or unscrew something to really need something as superflous a cordless screwdriver with built-in MP3. A manual screwdriver Made in China is about RM3.00. It works just fine except you have to use a bit of muscle power to get it going. Any man with a quarter of a brain knows that a bit of muscle power is good for the bones in the long run. Go figure.

You may find this funny but I find it pathetic. Once I was at this house of a poor family to fix a kitchen cabinet about to crumble itself from too much weight. It took me about 3 hours to get it done, and through-out this time, the man of the house, able as an ox, strong as a professional wrestler, sat through it all watching a soccer game on tv, not wanting to lift a finger to learn anything about basic carpentry. I could tell the missus was embarassed but I have experienced cases like this once too many to form my opinion about the attitude of the poor in this country who is very quick to complain about something like 30sen petrol hike, but never give it a serious thought about paying RM90.00 monthly to Astro.

If you wanna do things I do during the weekend, you need to bring your own set of tools and take my advice, please keep your eyes on the tools because there's somekind of sick people out there who like nothing but to steal tools of a volunteer who is there to help them. It's a sick society, but I've got used to it. That's why I don't bring my Stanley or Snap-On tools with me. I've got another set, Made In China that they can steal all they want.

One time I walked by a squatter house and had a chance to peek into the living room of a family laughing as if that's the only thing they know since birth watching Senario on a humongous plasma TV. I need a tv like that but I don't think I can afford one, unless I go over to Aramco to work and get paid in US dollars. The poor in this country ain't poor. It's their insatiable desire to spend away their money the way a middle-class family do that's making them poorer and poorer. All this is made worse by their attitude towards not wanting to pick up new skills that can earn them money like restoring furnitures.

And those guys are going to hold a street protest after Friday prayer today? All that for 30 sen. Go home, fellas. Pick up a hobby, learn how to fix things.

20 Comments:

Blogger A Babe Of Very Little Brain said...

the seven deadly sins (i am so into the sins these days since i am a true sinner). i detect greed, pride, sloth, envy in many.

12:07 PM  
Blogger NBB said...

squatter house with plasma tv? fuiyoo...

but i know a squater house in kg abdullah hukum around kl with a honda accord at the garage.

12:48 PM  
Blogger lifecuppa said...

you are right about our society who'd rather buy new things rather than repair. Indonesian people recycle things alot. One thing I have found out that many times I want to repair a few gadgets in the house is that the repair bills is sooooo expensive until you wouldnt mind to top up another 100 ringgit and you'll a get a new one - unless you are jack of all trades who could repair everything in the house.

Last year we figured out that we do not watch a few channels on our Astro and decided to cut the that particular package and we ended paying less amount of the bill. I dont think I can cut it ALL off because it has other worth-to-watch channel such as discovery, travel & living, animal planets, national geog; even playhouse disney is a good one for my kids - they learn quite a lot from there.

I agree with you that our society still has the habit like what you described in paragraph 2. We were like that too in our early years of marriage but now, though we dont have superflous couch or sofa, I am proud to announce that there were none in the house is under installment. I sure hope that we dont have to be like we used to be anymore, but if you come to my house you could only see a worn sofa - dah macam belacan, full of my kids graffittis, a very outdated dinner table and very unimpressive cabinet.

I guess I need to encourage my hubby to get serious on his 'bertukang' hobby.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Nurelhuda said...

Say Bergen
WHat is with this pick up new skills thing? Is it great minds think alike or you read the suggestion on my blog?
Hey go easy on the poor ok? They need the TV , it is the only way they have to keep their minds off their problems and to continue with their 'the bold and beautfil dreams' .And of course you know that the poorest people are those who are also poor in spirit?
And what is stealing a few screw drivers compared to milking the country dry..I have just been reading some mind boggling details of why MAS went bust...

1:32 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

Xaviera: You are into sins? Why?

Dr (oops hari ni Juma'at) Ustazah Nurul Bahiyah Baharudin: Them guys got money to burn. It ain't my business to ask where it came from.

OndeOnde: Women are good at handiwork too, you know. Of course it comes natural to men to fix things. But please don't have the idea that we are better at it. There are times I know nuts how to fix something, and it took a woman's common sense to figure out the mechanism.

Dr Nurelhuda: No, ma'am, didn't mean to say the poor shouldn't no tv. What I'm saying is it shouldn't be the size of a billboard. And to pay monthly charges for satellite tv, I believe, is not a practical idea when the money is too tight to mention. We've got free channels, aren't these enough? Problem is, most of them feel left behind by the neighbours when they don't have one. Funny thing, no one feels left behind when it comes to picking up a skill, or going to a surau to follow a class. Oh well, I don't know much about this thing. And it all comes down to, it's their choice and it ain't got nothing to do with me.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Nurelhuda said...

You are right of course. I agree with you, was just teasing

3:19 PM  
Blogger ibuVouge said...

why it happen..
it is our culture to show I'm richer if can buy a new thing rather then repair..

I'm agree with you..why we don't take all the facilities we have to improve our skill.Should train my kids more to skill rather then get straight A's..

3:22 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

I'm impressed. Especially with the voluntary work you've done. Great!

3:23 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

Dr Nurelhuda: I know you were, ma'am.

Ibuvouge: One of the things I admire about the west is their attitude in preserving things, like old buildings. British PM is still at 10 Downing street since I can remember.

It is a challenge to preserve something because it takes patience and skills to do that. And the will power to stick with the maintenance work, or schedule in order to keep something worth preserving up and running.

It's not like that in our culture. We love to throw things and buy new. I am not saying it's wrong to buy new, especially things like toasters which is not worth to repair because it is more economical to buy new when it is broken.

This explains why for example, KLIA, or Putrajaya for that matter is slowly detoriating into a major waste, all because we don't know how to maintain something as grand as that. Well, that's not a surprise, we don't even know how to maintain a neighborhood like Shah Alam.

Liza: Volunteer work can do wonders to keep you feeling good with all the little things you've got. You also learn not to aspire to have big things people generally perceived as capable of bringing you satisfacion. People I deal with make do with so little, and they are so happy.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Queen Of The House said...

Now, if only more (men) think and act like you .... I think less people would be complaining about the 'economy' (I wonder what their understanding of 'economy' is). But then again, where would it put companies like Courts Mammoth (my family refers to it as Courts Mekngot) and the entire hire purchase industry?

5:46 PM  
Blogger LifeBloom said...

I envy those who do a lot of voluntary work. Due to time constraints - I could only help financially - but I think there is actually no substitute for rolling up one's sleeves and digging in, is there? The interaction and the gratitude we get in return is priceless.

5:56 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

QOTH: In Trengganu they call it Court Mammoh (mamah). Pretty appropriate I think.

Lifebloom: It is not entirely gratitude that you get in return, ma'am. Sometimes scolding and ingratitude but I'm in it for gratitude or ingratitude. It's a way for me to hone my skills at repairing, or dealing with old folks. It's good as a reminder that one day, I too will going this way.

6:12 PM  
Blogger anggerik merah said...

Kalau kat UK nie tak pandai DIY memang parah. Labour cost too expensive. It is life teaching for me. Anyway, I had to buy the cordless screwdriver after not being successful of using conventional one to fix my household. Emmmm...not enough muscle!

7:25 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

Anggerik Merah: It is getting more and more expensive too in Malaysia to get minor things done. Unfortunately the quality is another issue.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Sayuti said...

i spectate the demonstration after friday prayer from the meeting room, together with the rest of the staffs.

yep, i agree with your last paragraph.

mr bergen, your voluntary works remind me of my elder brother. in this sense, you are so like him. i'm planning to write something about him, sometime soon.

btw, good observation worth sharing.

8:00 PM  
Blogger aliraja said...

Mr Bergen, your post make a lot of sense. We should learn something(skills) even a few steps to replace light bulb will do. No wonder American people have useful garage in every home. Im not being bias or such but i envy that.Maybe my react on your post got to do with my course (mechanical eng.)but what i learn about repairing cars at local workshop is a best experiences for me.

4:24 AM  
Blogger cloudchaser said...

you're right to a certain extent..
i say be you a man or a woman it doesn't hurt to pick up a new skill. especially if it'll make you more valuable as a person. the increase in oil price however, in my own humble opinion, could really hurt some ppl.

9:08 AM  
Anonymous not worth knowing who said...

Bergen my man...

i live in much more exotic places than you were bragging about and i'm filthy rich. i'm an ex-pat that have been in Malaysia for 5 years and i got many friends in the gutters of KL. even bagged me a wife out of the gutters and had my ceremony right down dirty in the gutters as you might call it. i'll tell you for free, gutter people have kind hearts and many problems...

you know what's lacking in your column here, you're not explaining why the hell simple goods like TV, satelite dish etc are considered a luxury in your country. your pethetic country is living on debt not because the poor want good things in life, but because its so damn expensive that only the rich like me can afford it... its because poeple like me know how to suck up to your big bad leaders to get the job done, which sometimes I feel bad doing... something's wrong with your governemnt Bergen dude. you know how much much my BMW318i costs??? in every country that i have to live in i'll get one of these babies because its a thrill to drive. less than your pathetic proton which if i might add is a necessity not a luxury. i had to cramp into one of those things for 5 years in your country because BMW's are damn expensive...

about the poor dude with the broken kitchen cabinet watching the ball game on tv, get used to it. you did say you're doing it out of your kind heart, why complain? hope he said thank you though. just wondering, how'd you know they were poor??? you snooped through their bank books??

by the way, i know this Islam convert Jap, another one of my rich friends if I may bragg here, calls his wife 'sayang' right here smack in the middle of Japan, where I call mine honey...

tell me where i can get cheap plasma tv's and used goods shop in your country. I need to be back in Malaysia this September and thinking of getting my mother in law a plasma TV with DVD. you cant? why not? not enough research b4 writing up. thats why. tell me this than, where can i rent a good BMW for 2 weeks? i dont want to drive any other cars espcially you know what...

i'd like to change my lifestyle man... naaah... Islam tought me to go up the ladder and bring as much mislead people as i can, not the other way around...

i dont mean bad by my insults and comments, just want you to rethink your column here bergen my man... :)

3:57 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:19 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

Aliraja: The skill to repair a car is invaluable, sir. Trust me.

Cloudchaser: Yes, the price hike will hurt a lot of people but if the crowds at any popular mall is anything to go by, you'd come to the conclusion that the 30 sen increase doesn't mean anything to a lot of people.

Not Worth Knowing Who: No, I don't consider for a minute what you wrote an insult. It's your opinion, your argument, your line of reason and it is as valid as my driver's licence. I know you need no defending, but I will fight to defend your right to say it.

8:52 PM  

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