We moan and groan in Singapore about how life is hard, about how things are expensive, jobs are hard to find, and how the gahmen could do more for its people.
This is a particular pet topic of Turtle's. The way he talks sometimes, about how wonderful the welfare system is in Sweden, and how uncaring our government is, and how it could do more, give more, pay more to its citizens, make you secretly wonder whether he's turned commie on you, and make you want to place bets with Jules on how long it takes before the ISD carries him away. (^^!)
And then I read about people like the Wongs, in today's Straits Times.
The Wongs are a pair of jobless siblings, 47, and 48, who have been living in the void deck of their block for about a week now. They've done that because they received a notice from HDB stating that HDB intended to acquire the flat, because they hadn't paid the instalments on it for the past 5 years. (^^!) The Wongs took it as an eviction notice, and moved all their belongings to the void deck. They even cordoned off an area of the deck, claiming their territory with raffia string.
On first glance, [or rather, after reading the first paragraph] you may feel a stab of sympathy for the Wongs. It's like another example of Big Brother shoving poor needy Little Brother and Sister out the door, because they didn't have the money to pay for their flat, and living them out in the cold, lonely snow [ok, no snow in Singapore] confiscating their home, and making himself richer, and them poorer. [cue to evil laughter here]
And then I read the rest of the article.
The letter from HDB was NOT an eviction notice. HDB did NOT confiscate the flat from the duo, since the brother was still in possession of the keys to the flat. It was a notice to "inform them of the board's intention to acquire the flat" and the Wongs could still approach HDB to work out a payment plan for themselves, which would allow them to keep the flat. The Wongs apparently read the notice to mean that they had been evicted, and the sister even indignantly said,
"How can they tell us to move out, and now tell us that we have to move all our things back?"
Not only that, but help had been repeatedly offered to the siblings over 6 years, and always solidly refused. Food had been left at their door, which went untouched. [they preferred to pick up discarded vegetables at the markets for food]
They had another 2-room HDB flat, fully paid up and left behind by their deceased sister. Thus, they could sell the flat they were living in back to HDB, which would deduct their arrears, and move them to their sister's flat. This would still leave them about $160,ooo to live on, and a roof still over their head.
They could rent a HDB flat for about $26 a month. $13 a month for a roof over your head seems a pretty fair deal.
They refused all options. According to the sister, "Our mother told us before she died never to trust anyone and sign anything. If not, we will surely be cheated. We don't want to pay. We want to go to a welfare home. What's welfare if we have to pay for it?"
Now my response becomes: WAH RAO EH. People help you. You don't want. Then what you want?
There's a lot about the story of the siblings that intrigues me. For one, they're not exactly very old. They're 47 and 48, and while they might have trouble finding a job, it won't be impossible for them, even as a cleaner or a dishwasher or something. Even with a cleaner's job, they'd still have enough to live on, and pay for the rental of the HDB flat of $13 each a month. [considering that now they're subsisting on discarded vegetables, I'd say their food needs aren't that expensive. (^^!)]
I'm not sure what education they have had, but considering they're asking for dishwashing jobs in the article, and from their replies, I'd say they weren't university graduates. (^^!) So fine, you won't be able to get some highflying corporate job earning you thousands a month. Is it so bad to rely on a <$1000 salary as a cleaner or a Macdonald's waitress or something?
And importantly, have they been looking for jobs at all?
And they haven't always been poor apparently. From the article, you learn that their father owned a chain of hardware shops, but apparently had gotten cheated of everything. That's when the family became very suspicious and untrusting of people too.
According to a neighbour, the siblings never seemed to work, hardly left the flat, and relied on their mother to pick up discarded vegetables for food, and sell drink cans for money.
My question now becomes: What have these 2 siblings done to help themselves?
They are suspicious that HDB will cheat them of their flat. They refuse to touch their sister's flat, because the sister never helped to feed their mother. [although it looks more like the mother had to feed them, rather than the other way around] They don't want to go to a welfare home unless it's free. (0_0)
It's starting to look more like a matter of pride and abject laziness lor. The more I read, the more I'm like, "Eh, please lah.." You're in that kind of bottom-of-the-hole situation and then you refuse to do these things to help your situation, out of some weird sense of pride. People's help and generosity can only go so far you know.
This is like that 22 year old guy who used to beg at Orchard Underpass for money. He wasn't sick, he wasn't disabled, he wasn't stupid or retarded, [as far as I could see, anyway] so what was he doing there begging? He was just unwilling to get some job and content to sit there and wait for people to give him money.
And then Turtle comes in and raves about the gahmen and how they never help the people enough. (0_0) Sorry to say this, but for some people, I don't really know whether they deserve the help or not. Because from what I see, they aren't doing enough to help themselves.
If you had lost everything you had due to some external circumstances, say tsunami, or economic crisis, I'm inclined to give you my pity. It's not entirely your fault this happened to you, and I can see why you might need that leg up.
But the extra leg up is just that, an extra leg up. It's not something to support you forever, like a chair. It's meant to give you that one boost so that you can start climbing out of this shithole on your own.
Even the more affluent people are guilty of this. My father complains from time to time that "the gahmen should..." Yea, yea, all familiar phrases by now. (^^!) And even in the forum pages, you see people who write that "the authorities should..." "The government should..." blah blah blah.
And after a while, it's enough to make you gasp in exasperation and make you wonder why no one ever says something like "We should come together, and do something about this." "We should write a petition" "We should organize some rallys"
Then yea, there's the usual complaints as well. "I'm too busy at my job" "I have to look after my kids" "How to watch my ch8 serials??" [Ok, so maybe that last one was a bit off]
Or the best one yet. "The gahmen will never listen to us" Well, is that an excuse for not even trying? Or an excuse to give up?
Because if you're off put by the idea that someone will object to what you're saying, and you're not willing to face the adversity that your ideas may bring, are you sure you are at all passionate about your ideals? Maybe to you, you'd rather live with the problem rather than face the can of worms that it could potentially bring up.
I'm not sure whether that makes you a total coward, or a person who fully doesn't believe in what they're saying.
Crap. We're a nation of people who're just waiting for the next handout.