Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Pessimistic, or realist?
I don't watch TV anymore, nor do I bother reading the newspaper. As Aurini points out: "the media is bought and paid for". It's even more obvious here in Singapore, where under the law, if your media outlet (of any sort) grows large enough, the government is allowed to confiscate and nationalise it without recompense if need be. Think about that for just a moment, and wonder why one would even bother with the mass media these days.
The other day, I was having a small debate with my dad over the impending economic collapse of the western world. I pointed out all the stats: that Obamacare is cutting out not just workers, but hours worked per worker, that Social Security is taking massive losses and is a gigantic ponzi scheme destined to fail with a shrinking workforce, that the latest fiscal cliff deal does nothing at all to address the main problem of runaway spending, that gas and food prices are spiralling, that more and more US citizens are receiving some sort of handout, that citizens are fleeing from states like California by the truckload, and this can't last forever...
...And my dad said, "the US can't collapse".
I asked him why. He replied, "it just can't," and either didn't have anything left to say, or refused to say it. Either way it was clear that I'd short-circuited his mind, and that was the end of the conversation. Now, I'd like to think that my parents are pretty smart people for what they've managed to get by in their sixty-odd years of life, but like all of us, they have their blind spots. I know I myself like to live in my head a lot - it's frankly better than the outside world - but I try to compartmentalise and tell myself "okay, this is reality, and this is fluffy pink cloud land where I live when I'm alone in my box writing a novel or engaged in other creative pursuits, and never the 'twain shall meet." I'm sure I still have my blind spots and need people to point them out to me (that's the whole idea; you can't see your own blind spots by definition).
So I go to bed, and next morning he says, "you're too pessimistic, the newspapers say the economy is doing just fine."
"Oh, like the unemployment figures which were fudged?"
And then we get into an argument over how one shouldn't blindly accept official figures, what the figures are being put out for, and understand how they're arrived at before checking to see if they match up. Now would have been a good time for him to throw my arguments back in my face and challenge the stats I'd trotted out the previous night (and I feel I'd have been comfortable in meeting that challenge), but he didn't.
But considering the way Singapore and Malaysia have worked for the past half-century, as well as the time when my parents were growing up, I don't blame them. If I ever have children, maybe forty years down the road I'll be sitting at the dinner table with my son and having the exact same argument, only this time it'll be my own blind spots laid bare.
To my dad, I'm a pessimist. To myself, I'm merely being realistic and preparing as best as I can for what's to come.