Sunday, March 28, 2010

Economics @ Home © Volume 2 Issue 7


What can I say about physical blindness? I am no particular expert when it comes to biology. But then again, who said that we have to be an expert on something before we can talk about it.

What I hope to talk about today is the blindness that is caused by ignorance, intentional or otherwise. Let us first start with a simple example. More often than not, in Malaysia, we see a sign that says "Jangan membuang sampah. Denda RM500" (Please do not litter. RM500 fine). Then below the sign, we see a whole pile of rubbish. Now, that is the kind of idiocy that we have to deal with in Malaysia. But of course, issues on such inconsiderate behavior have already been beaten to death by many a writer and hence, I will not venture into something as unproductive as beating a dead horse. 

Today, I would like to share a story with you, and perhaps exhibit some of the self-righteousness that I am ever so proud of. 

While Timmy and Lily have been dating for close to five years, they have spent most of their time apart. It was one of those modern long distance relationships. They kept in touch regularly through chat programs. With both of them apart, they are most certain to have their own group of friends. Without the intention to spoil the story, I will go ahead and say that Timmy will only play a small role in this story. The story pretty much revolves around Lily and her little group of friends. Without her beloved boyfriend at her side, Lily has grown accustomed to hanging out with another couple, Jessica and Isaac who have been dating for about a year. They appear to be like any other couple who recently fell in love. Jessica and Isaac publicly show their affections towards each other. They feed each other ice-cream, rub each others' nose with their own in restaurants, etc. For those of you who are already nauseous, don't worry, there will be more to come. Just kidding. For those of you who are jealous, oh please, get a life. 

Now, the three of them (Lily, Jessica and Isaac) frequently spend Saturday evenings together, so naturally, Lily would become close to the both of them. In fact, they are so comfortable with each other that Jessica has no issues with Lily and Isaac going out alone together. Friendships between two people of opposing genders are always beautiful things until one falls for the other. Then all hell breaks loose. In the Economics @ Home Volume 2 Issue 5 (Wanting What We Can't Have), I talked about how men (and women) always want what they can't have. It was no different with Isaac. There was no doubt that Jessica was a great girlfriend to him, but Lily just seemed like a more exciting catch because first of all, she was not his girlfriend, and more importantly, she belonged to someone else (remember Timmy?). 

One fine day, while having coffee together, Isaac  leaned over and kissed Lily on the lips. Being the faithful person that she was, Lily resisted and pulled away. Lily never saw it coming (or did she?). Isaac, having realized his "mistake", pulled away, but never apologized. One only wonders what led him to do what he did. Could it be the "signs" that Lily was throwing at him? Of course, there was no way Lily was going to admit she was flirting with him. Perhaps she is telling the truth. In fact, women pride themselves in reading guys and knowing when they have feelings for a particular girl. Could Lily not have realized that Isaac was becoming more attracted to her? Maybe she knew, but she thought he would never act on it because he was dating Jessica. Or maybe she thought that nothing would ever happen between the both of them because of the nauseous things that Isaac does for Jessica. In short, could Lily have succumbed to unintentional blindness? 

Regardless, that was not the end of the matter. If you thought that I wrote such a long story just to ask a simple question like that, then I assure you that you will be disappointed. 

To continue the story, Lily decided she would forget the matter and let Isaac deal with it with Jessica. How Lily and Timmy dealt with the issue is irrelevant in this case because it was supposedly not Lily's fault and Timmy is a very understanding person. Nonetheless, Isaac has chosen not to say a word to Jessica about kissing Lily to keep his relationship with Jessica intact. While Timmy believes that Lily should let Jessica know about this, especially since Lily considers Jessica a good friend, Lily strongly believes otherwise. She believes that what Jessica does not know cannot hurt her. Lily believes that if her boyfriend were to have an affair with someone else, she would rather not know about it. What she does not know cannot hurt her. Now, is Lily guilty of being intentionally blind? 

Since Isaac has decided not to expose himself with regards to his wrongdoings, and with Lily's cooperation, Isaac has got away scot free and everything in his relationship is apparently hunky dory. While I am an advocate of Lily exposing Isaac's disgusting behavior, I shall pose this question to my readers. Put yourself in Jessica's shoes. Would you prefer to know about Isaac's indiscretions? Or are you one of Lily's acolytes who believe that whatever misfortunes that we are not aware of cannot hurt us. One simply cannot help but imagine the ostrich that digs its head underground in the face of danger. 

How this story plays out eventually, I am not clear. However, all of you know where my stand is. Now, it is your turn to pick a side. Would you prefer to be blind?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Economics @ Home © Volume 2 Issue 6

Where We Belong

The title seems to suggest that every person has a predetermined place in this world. It is as if everything has been determined by fate. No, we will never talk about fate. At least not within the foreseeable future. What I would like to suggest is that, whatever path that we choose to take in life, we will eventually get to where we belong. Well, that doesn't really explain much, does it? What I intend to say is that whatever we do in life, we will get whatever we deserve eventually.

Now, what does that even mean? It is sort of like karma, except I believe karma is a long term concept (really long term, as in, the Keynesian concept of long term). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Keynesian concept of long term, basically, what Keynes said was, "In the long run, we are all dead". Karma is a system that goes beyond our current lifetime. What I would like to discuss today deals with just our current lifetime, obviously because I have no prior experience with the after life, and most definitely no recollection of the before life.

I also realize that there is really no point in typing a long article, unless I have a really interesting story to share. So, in this case, I will strive to just make my point as clear and concise as possible and leave you to think about the rest. We hear about things like, "Do unto others as you would others do unto you" and all kinds of mumbo jumbo that have a similar tone. I personally believe that life isn't fair. There is no equal reaction to every action. In fact, Newton's  Third Law states that to every action, there is an equal AND OPPOSITE reaction. Sounds like a good deed will be repaid with a bad one if you ask me. So clearly Newton's Law does not apply in the metaphysical.

Nonetheless, what I propose is a system not unlike karma. We accumulate deeds, good or bad, throughout our lifetime, and at the summit of our lives, we are given everything that we truly deserve in that lifetime. Let us consider a few examples. Be warned that these examples can appear radical, and maybe cynical, but hopefully engaging.

First, let us consider a typical middle class white collar worker. He works hard as a child, a teen, and continues to work hard throughout his career and provides sufficiently for his family. He owns a middle class home, loves his wife, and has three beautiful children. Nothing spectacular. His lives a happy life, or at least it appears to be. What I am trying to point out is, he worked hard his whole life, did everything a good man is supposed to do, without venturing into anything extraordinary, and is thus rewarded with a perfectly contented family that cares for him as much as he cares for them. But along the way, I am certain that he would have faced many trials and tribulations just simply because life isn't easy like that. But at the end of the day, as he retires and contemplates his life, he realizes that he may not have accomplished much with regards to saving the world, but his life was meaningful, because he will always be remembered by the people who love him the most. He got exactly what he deserved. He gave his all for the people he loved the most, and in return, he got everything that they could give for him.

Let us now jump to the opposite end of the spectrum. What about a poverty stricken child in Africa? He was born with HIV, raised eating whatever root his mother could harvest that morning, and when he is lucky, he would get to eat some of the leftovers of the aid that whatever rich country provided for the Africans. He most probably did not deserve to be born in such conditions. One could even claim that he is lucky that his life will be a short one. That child would die 3 months after his tenth birthday. From the get-go, he was never given the opportunity to achieve much. For however short the moments that he was living, he was probably more of a burden than anything to his mother. Yet, his mother kept him alive for as long as she could. He would never have done much in his life, but for the 10 years that he was in this world, he returned the gift of his life by providing the kind of happiness that only a mother can understand after giving birth to a child. He deserved a short life, for, if he were to live much longer, only goodness knows how much longer he would have to suffer. Nonetheless, with that said, I sincerely hope that one day, there would be no poverty left in this world. I only wish that some day, children in Africa can live well up to their eighties having contributed meaningfully in making this world a better place.

As for us, we are but a quarter of the way through our lives (probably). What lies ahead for us? Our paths were not determined the day we were born. At least I hope not. Every single day we wake up is a day for us to garner every ounce of what we hope to deserve at the pinnacle of our existence. We can choose to dwell on the vicissitudes of life (Wow, I just wet my pants for using a word like vicissitudes in a sentence), and get stuck with trying to outdo one another in our lives. We can choose to complain and bitch about how life is so unfair to us, and how we deserve so much more. Some people just give up and stop trying. Some people go to the extent of exacting vengeance to those who have offended them. Not in the way that they do it in "Die Hard" movies, but in the subtle way that we are all capable of in the evil part of our minds. But eventually, be warned that this will all catch up to us.

I am not God, or anything close to that. But I have faith, that life balances itself. It may seem that around every corner, life is just waiting to pounce on our fragile existence, testing us with its vicious storms, consuming us with its appetite for disasters. But as we overcome these challenges, or move on from our failures, and sticking it out until we get to the top, I certainly hope that at the end of the dark tunnel, we will all get to the place where we truly belong. In the mean time, think about what you hope to deserve, and perhaps find that path that will lead you towards that place where you belong.