29 Jan 2012

How the West was won and where it got us

"Honey, I SWEAR Fannie May is not another woman!"

Dear Leaders of the First World,

I spent the majority of the week just past reading blogs. Strangers' blogs, random blogs, blogs of pretty women. All in a  Sisyphusian effort to find a few like-minded individuals, people who write about stuff I'm interested in, who share the same disdain for lite beer and gainful employment.

Here's what I found: most bloggers are newly-mommied-up women who think no end of their toddlers. They put up myriad pictures of their infants in space suits and document their bowel movements online for no discernible reason other than abject apathy to the problem of overpopulation, and possibly, severely ignored  childhoods. 

The other sizable demographic comprises Jesus-freaks and conservatives. From my limited understanding, they limit all real life socializing to handing out Christian pamphlets at tea parties, and presumably, phoning in to Rush Limbaugh's talk show. All of which is perfectly reasonable behavior for two equally hormonally-oppressed groups of people. 

What gets my goat are the 'artists'. The writers, the poets, the painters, the designers, the photographers, the dancers. Not all of them, obviously. Just the younger ones who are following the dream, doing what they've always wanted to do with perfect calm and clarity of thought. 

A lot of them are university-educated, reasonable, articulate, entertaining, employable white people in their mid-20s, working in retail or in the hospitality industry while astutely typing away at their Macbooks, waiting for their big break. This pisses me off. Because they've only just gone and gentrified the third world. 

I'm Indian. My country is all of  64 years old. I should be the one toiling away at a thankless, demeaning Mcjob in a floundering economy. Instead, I'm stuck in an air-conditioned office all day here in Singapore, organizing international conferences for business leaders and management gurus from all over the world, picking and choosing speakers and subject experts for events I conceive, deliver and make a 400% return on. And all I want is to be a struggling, unpublished writer. 

Do you know how hard it is to struggle with a view of the magnificent Singapore Flyer from my bedroom window? Do you realize how difficult it is to feel hard-done-by and unappreciated when bank managers queue up to offer you platinum credit cards like bananas to some ridiculous monkey deity? Do you comprehend the tragedy of having to leave one's motherland just to be able to under-achieve? 

Thirty years ago, it would have been perfectly reasonable for young middle-class Indian men to live off the rent collected on their parents' multiple real estate investments. Of course, they didn't call it an 'investment' then; they were simply plots of inherited, ancestral  land. And rent at the time was nowhere near the mind-numbing 5-digit figure it is now - I could have leeched off my parents but only enough to survive. I may even have had to do some subsistence agriculture on the side.  

But in 1991, in the summer of my childhood, the whole world decided to throw us their lifelines, to anchor their economies on our shores. Result: by the time I grow up, there are jobs aplenty, salaries on offer that can feed small countries in Africa. And these alien jobs, these extra-terrestrial salaries, are all housed in the motherships of multinational corporations that are more than willing to spread a little monetary joy in the lives of the owners of the properties they operate from. So like any nouveau riche couple, it will simply not do for my parents for their offspring to be anything less than uber-successful.      

I had to flee to Britain in shame to pursue my higher education in development economics. How else would my parents explain such a terribly romantic field of study to their contemporaries? Whereas in Glasgow, I could soak my soul in whiskey and embrace writerly existential angst and temp my life away without the scrutiny of my self-appointed mentors back home. Alas, those still-colonial Brits only extend your visa if you're a doctor or an engineer, the 'technical' jobs the natives refuse to accept because they're too busy finding themselves on a beach in India! Here in Singapore, I do my best to not impress but they simply refuse to fire a man with a British degree. Unless a suitably qualified Brit comes along to take the job, of course. 

My request, Messrs Obama and Cameron, and Frau Merkel, is simple. Give me back my economic uncertainty, my lack of career prospects, my birthright to toil and suffer. I man the 7/11s, I drive your big yellow taxicabs, while you lot run banks, manufacture weapons and generally rule the world. That was our understanding, remember, before all this outsourcing nonsense? In the slightly modified words of some of your own salt-of-the-earth countrymen, stop coming to my country and giving us your jobs.  


Renaissance Hippie           

P.S. Image courtesy here  

                              Losing my religion - REM



Rija Yousuf said...

Thank you for writing this.

red dirt girl said...

This is actually pretty funny in a pathos driven way ... Yes, I believe I have spoken to one of your countrymen who attempt to dissect my problems with my cell phone,my dishwasher, my macBook ....They are always quite polite, but I find we tend to get lost in translation ...!


icyhighs said...

I thought the solution was always "try switching it off and then back on again"? I'm beginning to think I can pull off humour!

JOutlaw said...

you can always just quit? I mean, if you want to follow your dream of living foot to mouth, then who am I to stop you?

icyhighs said...

True that, JOutlaw. It's obvious this is all tongue-in-cheek, right? No? I'm beginning to think I can't pull off humour after all.

Poke The Rock said...

Here is the plan: you give me all your earnings and then you can be a struggling artist? Deal? Great :)

Really loved the writing style tho!

goatman said...

You had jesus freaks too? I also suffered through those and the drug and music induced naval gazing wonderers. And was one for a time, but you move on, at least some of us did.
I guess you just have to stick your head out of the window, take in a hit of air and realize how wonderful it is to be alive!
Came across a quote by your Mr. Ghandi:

"What do I think of Western civilisation? I think it would be a very good idea." Ha

icyhighs said...

Ha Poketherock! Trust me, you don't want to be in my shoes, financially. Student loans, credit card bills, heck I've even got unpaid phone bills. Doesn't help that I like a wee tipple every once in a while. :)

icyhighs said...

Hey Goatman, that Gandhi quote is ace though I suspect the old guy wasn't entirely unbiased in his views! And I agree, it is pretty darn amazing to be alive. (I'm having a good morning after ages.)

*Note to self: Quit navel-gazing!*

goatman said...

There ya go . . . you can pull off humour (humor)! I guess letters are free so why not use all that you can?

icyhighs said...

Never would have taken you for a minimalist, Goatman! I was raised on British spelling (the pros of childhood in post-colonial India!)Still remember being told off for insisting 'colour' was spelt (spelled)'color' back in second grade.