Sunday, October 16, 2005

Beyond Myself...

I wonder how much of life today has changed for the average person when compared with a person say 50 years ago. As Chinese, it is somewhat in our tradition that it is an obligation and also responsibility to take care of our parents when we're all grown up, and when they're old. This, and of course among many other 'unwritten codes'. But just like anywhere else in the world, the western culture has picked up it course and found its way even to Malaysia, where I am currently residing today.

In the states, if I was 27 years old and told people that I still lived my parents, most Americans would sorta look at me funny. But in Malaysia, to some extent, it is still common for an adult to live with his or her parents till he or her get married and move out. Of course, this trend is slowly changing. For example, an unmarried couple living together is not only frowned upon, but disallowed once upon time, but today, it is not only the norm, but encouraged by society so as to see whether the couple is compatible or not.

However, I'm not even planning to go into discussing ethics, because without a foundation, anything can be right when there's enough justification to go along with it, and so is when we call something wrong. And it's obvious today that anything can be right or wrong, so as long as we can prove it.

What I have on my heart, and what i wish to share thru this blog today is, how many of us live lives that are beyond ourselves? I mean, like when we make decisions in our lives, who are the people that we factor in? Do we only view from points which benefits ourselves, or do we put into account others?

Here's an example. Let's say you live in a village. And in this village, community is the way how things work. People tend to share and get involved with each other lives. So, lets say, you're a farmer, and you grow corn. And that's how it's been for generations. Your father grew corn, your grandfather grew corn, your great-grandfather... you get the point. And you have neighbours that grew other produce, like rice, fruits, chickens, cows, cats, err.. wait.. no cats.. i meant goats, sheeps and so on. And every once a week, you will gather in the middle of the village where an exchange would take place. You'd take your corn and exchange it for some rice and chickens. At the end of the day, everybody wins, and everybody's happy.

But one day, you decided to leave the corn farm to your brother, and set out to some distant land to get an education. And you of course, thru modern technology learn a great deal about how to grow many different things on the same land. Heck, by using hydroponic, you don't even need soil to grow vegetables anymore. After some years, you return back to your village, and decided to give this technology a go on the farm. Thru some tweaking and tuning, you perfected it and now you have fruits and vegetables of all sorts, growing them at a pace that's much faster than anyone else. And because most of these plants don't need much taking care of as they're all properly nourished, you found spare time to rare chickens, cows and so on.

Here's the 'dilemma' now. Suddenly, during the weekly exchange, your family stops coming. Why? Because you have all that you need. You don't need your neighbour's rice or chickens anymore. You're self-sufficient. And thru your technology, you've managed to produce more than you need to consume. Of course, it would only make sense for us then to open up a market to sell it, for thru these sale, you can use the profits to further improve your farm and so on.
What has happened to the village economics? Suddenly, the barter system would just disintegrate, and people no longer produce to exchange, but rather, to sell to one another.

Now I know that some of you still struggle to see what's wrong with this picture. The truth, there's nothing wrong. To some extent, it seems good that the economics of that village has 'modernized'. But I'm not trying to preach economics here. What I'm trying to point out was, when the decision to modernized the farm, and the consequences of it, may it be good, or bad, was the welfare of the village taken into account? Or when you decided to do it, you only cared about how you would benefit?

How many of us these days, still make decisions by taking into account on how others will be affected? Most of our attitudes these days is "everyone for their own". When we look at a road sweeper by the street, we are quick to dismiss him as uneducated, and probably he was once a lazy student in school. But maybe, he's story was slightly different. Maybe, he quit school at 8 to take care of his sick mother, while trying to protect her and himself from his drunken father. At 9, his mom died and his father found himself dead not too long after getting hit by a car when he was drunk walking. So, finding himself all alone, he survives by kind neighbours who gives him hand outs at first, but soon gets tired of his neediness. He goes from one place to another, trying to make sense of this life. He survives childhood, only to find himself an adult in a cruel world, and life, still ain't any easier. Without any education, he can barely read or write. Finally, he ends up as road sweeper, enough to earn him a day's meal, and probably, the booze which his father drank once. If he gets married, that's probably how his kid will end up. And at this stage, it would probably be better if he didn't.

Stories like this, are not uncommon. We hear it so many times that we don't even get moved by it anymore. And yet, this is the truth. The road sweeper, is still human. Anyone could have been him. You, me, anybody. And here we are on the other side of the fence, thanking God that we're not him. And I wonder, how many of us, even gives a care about him. Even if we've the ability to give him a chance to change, how many of us would take time to do it? This is because we are now in an era where everybody lives for their own. And what more if giving him a chance to change would mean a sacrifice on our part? I doubt we would even consider it...

How about it? Would you live a life that's beyond yourself? Or are you still so consumed with your own self and needs?

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