Whatever ‘sunshine’ stories are splashed across the front pages of newspapers or programmes broadcast or telecast on radio or television, the sad fact is that the greater majority of people, from the Middle Class down, are struggling to make ends meet. More people are depriving themselves of a growing range of things and services because these are now unaffordable.
People are travelling less, patronizing restaurants less, curtailing their cultural life to zero point all because the cost is unthinkable. There are more important priorities such as food, clothing, and shelter; then, the children’s’ schooling, drugs for ailments and so on.
The disaffected play the ‘blame-game’ and lay the entire thing at the feet of the incumbent government and not unfairly because they can see prodigious waste and rampant corruption in every area of so-called ‘public services.’ They are aware that the country lives on foreign loans that they and their children and children’s children will have to pay back—with interest! The scenario is cold comfort for the harassed wage-earner and more so for the unemployed and the growing number of unemployables. This is a veritable witch’s brew in a bubbling cauldron giving out revolting odours.
This isn’t a problem that arrived today. It has been with us for a long, long time and the grandparents of the present generation, too, complained about the high cost-of-living. Yes, indeed, they did when bread was 25 cents for a pound of 16 ounces and a stringhopper was three cents! You see, wages and the cost-of-living are like two bulls yoked to the same cart—they rise in tandem with the COL being always somewhat ahead of the take-home pay-packet. Therefore, we all know about the problem even if we weren’t aware of its antecedents and we point fingers of blame in various directions and at various individuals—more especially the ones we don’t like. However, is there a way out of this gloomy forest of financial woes? Could we really thrive through tough times?
One glimmer of light in this darkness is that we are a resilient people who have survived many vicissitudes throughout our long history. We have absorbed much, adapted and changed our ways in order to survive and have, thereby, survived. We are survivors par excellence and one of the foremost lessons that history has taught us is to reduce our dependency on goods, services, and people to the barest minimum. Many of the things we take for granted aren’t ‘needs’ at all but quite unnecessary ‘wants.’ Another thing is this ‘keeping up with the Pereras’ syndrome based on envy, craving, greed and the pernicious doctrine of ‘one-upmanship’ so dear to the hearts of the ‘wannabes’ and yuppies. The larger social problem concerns each of us as individuals and our personal attitudes—particularly our moral and ethical standards.
1. Morality and ethics should take centre stage in our lives if we really want to emerge from the dark and gloomy forest that we inhabit;
2. We must have the courage of our convictions to ‘blow the whistle’ at waste and corruption and in order to do that we should ensure that our own integrity is unquestionable;
3. The elimination of waste and corruption does not begin with the ‘other.’ It begins with you. This means and implies being conscientious at all times in all places and situations and beyond that, not taking anything that you have not paid for. Stealing and pilfering on any scale, however minute, would be OUT;
4. Punctuality in reporting for work on time, every time, and leaving onl;y when the day’s work is done. This also entails avoiding malingering and working slow in order to do overtime. Overtime should be drastically limited and work after hours should be strictly supervised. Time is of the essence and the waste of time is a social and economic crime that costs every one of us money;
5. Discipline at home and in the workplace is absolutely important if we are to reorder the prevailing social order. Adhering to discipline might be hard but it is worth the difficulties encountered because it benefits everybody in the long run. A virtue that we should practice again is that of being frugal;
6. Commitment to the goals of creating a just society based on equity and fair-play and a society that is strong because of the discipline it practices is important. This commitment includes the work-ethic based on the premise that there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch.’ Everything is always paid for by someone else and in the case of corruption by everyone including yourself;
7. Working hard—and smart by using your innate intelligence. Avoiding hard work is also a social and economic crime. Then, in this day and age, the use of science and technology as tools enables us to work smarter than our grandparents and parents. It helps us to be more productive, effective, efficient, and successful.
When we fully understand that these things are in our own best self-interest and that, collectively, these things benefit society, we’ll begin to see more light and come out of that overwhelming gloom that envelopes us now. When we begin to work like Trojans or Yodhayas, the COL will stabilize and then, it will begin to go down because of the elimination of waste and corruption, because of the cost-cutting savings, because of the new environment of integrity, discipline and commitment and our new goal of working hard—and smart.
We can thrive through tough times—but only if we want to, period.
Indeed, there’ll be the gainsayers who will laugh hollowly and say that changing things to this extent is impossible. These are those ‘fat cats’ and their camp-followers inured to graft and malpractice. Well, the bottom-line is this: If we don’t take things in hand and do a turn-around, we’ll make the words of the psalmist: "Where there is no vision, the people perish," come chillingly true.