Is the economic strategies committee (esc) recommendations old dressed up as just-new –

February 18, 2017

Q: Mellinails have been described as the strawberry generation in Singapore – they’re fickle minded, have an entitlement mentality and tend to whine. In fact Singapore has the gloomiest mellinials in the world. Do you agree or disagree these segment of society needs to get their act together?

A: Hey come on. Kompf. Go easy. Go easy. You want my frank take. If I am a mellinail in Singapore. I too would be gloomiest and probably morose as well. Go easy. Because they have it uphill on virtually aspect of work, life and play.

It’s not easy to be optimistic and forward looking these days. This is not a specific indictment on Singapore society per se – it’s just the prevailing social and cultural landscape of our times.

Mellinials whether they are in Germany or Malaysia or for that matter any where else on this planet can’t be a happy or optimistic lot – as they face tremendous social and cultural and economic pressures from all directions which previous generations did not have to deal with.

To exacerbate matters there is of course the ever green of the generational divide, but with mellinials this divide is significantly amplified by digitalization and tech convergence – which makes it challenging for the older generation to connect meaningfully with mellianials today.

But it’s important to get over the noise and pigeon holing habit of just describing a generation that came after mine or yours.

As when we ask ourselves the basic and fundamental question. What do mellinials really want? Hey Kompf. They just want the same things as you and me when we were their age. Only understand this. This time round it’s harder for mellinials to actualize those wants – the valence between yearning and fulfilment in this age is not so clear this time round. Hence I see this belief where people like to label mellianials as having an entitlement mentality or job hopping like rabbits as simply a function of the collective anxiety shared by all mellinialist concerning a futurescape where the only certain thing is there will be more uncertainty ahead.

Kompf. That has to be five chili depressing no matter what generation you belong to.

Q: You brought up a very interesting point – what do they really want? The same things like when we were in their age. You speak as if we are in the same age category. But how do you know what I really want as a mellinial?

A: You know what Kompf. When I engage people I don’t really consciously make an effort to say to myself. Maybe I should. Oh he or she is in this age category. This is what they want. Or this is what I assume they aspire towards. I don’t ever Pigeon hole people. Because to be honest with you – I know your wants and desires may differ from mine. Yes, that’s certainly true. But I am also acute conscious of the reality there are certain things that will never ever change.

Brotherhood. Trust. Respect. Keeping one’s promises. Having your well being in mind with every act. These things don’t ever change.

But as soon as we start a dialogue where you label me as an analog, old economy or farmer who is still living in the colonial era of sail boats and ivory dentures. And I just think you have 1,000 imaginary friends who are all in Facebook – then I think it’s very hard to make a meaningful connection.

Let’s have an agreement. You’re an individual. Refer to yourself in that way. And so am I.

Q: Do you believe it’s much easier to be an individual in your age? Compared to let’s say mine?

A: What does that have to do with any of the ESC recommendations?

Q: I just thought that maybe that is why you ended up leading such an interesting life as a farmer. I reckon to do that takes quite alot of individualism. So I was thinking perhaps this is what’s lacking in my generation. As since we are so connected, the idea of the individual can only give way to group think or some homogenous mindset where everyone aspires towards the same things in life.

A: OK. I get it. To be perfectly honest with you. I was even strange and perculiar to even my peers in my own generation. Most saw me then as a odd ball. As I worked my way thru university. I was always changing in and out of uniforms. So all they saw was this kid who was always coming to lectures and seminars in dirty work overalls, chunky steel cap boots, carrying a big bag with a bright yellow hard hat attached to it – but even in the pre-internet age there was definitely such a thing as a social network. Students who worked only mixed with students who worked. Just as students who didn’t have too because they were on scholarships or funded by their rich parents did very much the same. Birds of the same feather flock together.

It’s not so different from how society is organized today. But I will grant you this. In my era. There wasn’t so much peer pressure to conform. I mean you could be a very odd person and most people would just let you be simply because you could hide the awful truth the only thing that made you come across as normal to everyone else is the idea you’re conscious of your own abnormality and no one would ever know that because there was no blog or for that matter means to communicate that belief to a mass audience. I guess you could probably write it all out with pen and paper stuff it in bottle and throw it out into the river. But even if it’s read. There is no way for you to know where it all goes from there.

So to some extent it’s true to say it was much easier to be an individual in my age. But again it all goes back to what was your experience of life at the moment of your youth – for me since I’ve always worked a variety of jobs to get by. Everything from a technician in a nuclear plant to hanging by a rope installing stuff on poles that stick out from tall buildings. I don’t have any hang up’s about rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty. For me there is nothing shameful about physical work.

I am just as comfortable digging a hole in my plantation as I am in a suit attending a formal business function – when I reflect back most of my peers who worked and studied don’t seem to suffer from an inferiority complex concerning that sort of attitude towards work that society considers beneath them either.

My point is ultimately it boils down to who you’re mixing with during your formative years that will influence your outlook and approach in life.

Remember what I said birds of the same feathers stick together.

The problem with the internet age is – you don’t nearly have that sort of privacy or autonomy these days to feel comfortable in your own skin.

I mean these days when I see people who I hardly know enjoying themselves in instagram – even I am conscious of missing out in life. And I hardly know this people at all. But I am also at the same time skeptical as well. That’s to say I am always interrogating the scene and wondering to myself is this for real? If you ask me why is it so difficult to be an individual these days – it’s simply because peer pressure is so incredibly high. The threshold is so high that one is always acutely conscious of the gap between yearning and the fulfilment of that desire. Real or imagined doesn’t matter. But if I am a kid from let’s say a poor family looking thru the periscope of the internet at how this guy or that gal in instagram can afford to go on that super expensive holiday, buy that car, do that cool thing, experience that once in a lifetime moment – then I guess even I may feel a sense that I am missing out in life. But that’s only because I don’t realise those are the type of people who I’ve elected to mix with and call my community. So at the end of the day it comes right back to what I said – the people who you choose to mix with in your formative years will ultimately be the greatest influencers in where and how you decide to live, work and play. They may even be able to modulate your mood as to whether you’re happy, ambivalent or sad as well.

Only like I said, how real is it all?

Q: You mentioned there is need for reality. Why is it so important in this age? Does it have anything to do with the post truth age?

A: There is no post truth age. If you ask me there was actually more lies masquerading as the one and only truth in my age. Only because the apparatus of mass assimilation were all controlled by only a few oligarchies that all had a vested interest to recount a story or event with a certain bent to serve their respective specious end. Only in my age. No one questioned it as they do now. As there was only one way communication. So this whole idea of a post truth age is all hyperbolic bullshit – the way I see it – it makes far more sense to develop the individual skills sets to be able to winnow truth from lies. Rather than leaving it all to some organization that you don’t even know who actually sits on the board or is funding openly or secretly.

That’s how I saw it then and now.

The onus to beacon out the murk is always on the individual.

Q: To you it’s always the individual that matters most and not the group. Maybe that is what differentiates us?

A: Maybe. But even if you happen to belong to a group. You first need to internalize what your beliefs are. Otherwise what’s the point of belonging to a group. You will just end like Ribena getting diluted by people who you hardly know and end up being like everyone else chasing the same things that everyone wants.

At the end of the day there is no running away from the fact – you need to see yourself first and foremost as an individual.

Most people your age don’t like to see themselves as individuals. You really know why Kompf. Because it’s connotes the antithetical idea they’re not a part of the rah rah you jump I jump as well brigade i.e you’re a lousy team player or someone who doesn’t see the wisdom of getting along with others to get things done – but to me an individual is simply someone who sees himself or herself as the CEO of his or her corporation.

That individual may well work in a firm or organization – but since he or she is an individual. There’s a set of mission statements. A vision and even a methodology to reach the goal point.

Q: What advise would you give to mellinials today in Singapore?

A: I’ve already made myself super clear on this point Kompf – I consider you first and foremost an individual and I hope you extend me the same courtesy to treat me likewise – so what’s all this talk about me giving advise to a group of people who I hardly know anything about. You want me to stick a post it on your forehead that says – I am motivated to save people and planet? Is that what you want? Or maybe you much prefer me to put you in a fridge like a box of strawberries?

Q: There is no need to be sarcastic and rude….(interruption)

A: Correction. You are the one being not only rude. But worst still you’re not extending me the courtesy an individual rightly deserves – you automatically draw the conclusion that I am perculiar because I choose to be a planter. Or farmer. Or maybe a hermit – but why don’t you ask me what my mission statement is as an individual – maybe it’s reads like this. I want to live my life under my own terms.

Why don’t you ask of me – what’s your vision? It may be I want to be able to walk my lands and not see a single soul for hours and should I come across a stranger even have the elemental right to shout out – get off my land!

You seen the way I work. Do you think it’s easy street. No! Commercial farming is the only profession in the world where you have to buy everything at retail and sell at wholesale – its tough as tungsten nails. But it’s also very rewarding as well – I get to live the way I want close to nature. We get to talk three hours straight because it’s too bloody hot to go out today – there’s no boss micro managing me. As for the government where I located smack in the middle of the wild – they might as well be on the surface of the moon. They help me. I say thank you. They don’t. I just carry on till one day I get so hot under my collar. I pack up my bags. Sell everything and relocate to the Ukraine and grow wine. It’s all in my hands. Happiness, sadness, wealth, poverty, good health, terminal illness – as an individual I don’t ever put those things in anyone’s hands. It’s all there in my hands. As I am first and foremost an individual.

Now one more time please fraulien – do you want me to treat you like an individual or a mellinial?

Q: Let me put it this way. If you’re in your late twenties. Have worked in Singapore for five years. And you feel you’re still going nowhere – what would you do?

A: Politicians like to say when they’re pushed to a corner – no one owes you a living! My response is along similar lines – no one owes Singapore a living either!

Go. Think. If workers can come all the way to Singapore from wherever they hail from – why can’t it flow the other way?

To work in another country is the only reliable way I know how to develop self-confidence as an individual.

There is no other way. You know in Singapore there are many people who look down on foreigners. But do you notice those who have worked abroad never ever do that. You want to know why Kompf. Because only these category of individuals know how hard it is to work, live and play in another country. They also know how it’s like to be in the receiving end when natives shout out ‘go home!’

Suddenly the world is a big place with no familiar landmarks, and you quickly find that there is no definitive right or wrong path. You discover a lot about yourself – you meet some really nice kindred spirits along the way. But you also come across really nasty fucks that just want to take a bite out of you. But what’s important is you’re already broadening your range of experiential knowledge beyond just what you experience in tiny Singapore.

Go! Even if the pay is crappy. Go! Even if you have to struggle speaking a foreign language and people there make fun about the way you pronounce words. Go! Even if you have to downgrade.

Look at it as a form of education. A long term investment in character building. The pay, living conditions or whether it’s too hot in summer or cold in winter is not important.

Going is important!

As when you have diversity, experience and a broad sweep of the world on your side – when opportunity comes right up – you will spot it. The croaking frog in the well will not and most importantly you will have the confidence to act on it.

To broaden one’s horizons, to me, is to become aware of greater possibilities and options. It is to add new strengths to one’s current repertoire of strengths – to become cognizant of possibilities outside the previous limits of what might have been considered possible.

Therefore my advice is go if you are that grumpy. That’s what I would do.

Q: I get a feeling here that you don’t necessarily see uncertainty as a bad thing. I even sense from our conversation. You might actually see it as a form of opportunity?

A: You know Kompf. Even the best conceived plans are fraught with risk. You plan to get this by this age. That by the time you hit your thirties. And suddenly bang something happens and it all changes. But to me that’s how actually life is – it’s not like launching a space mission to planet Mars. Where everything proceeds from A to Z according to preplanned timeline.

For some people I don’t disagree that may well be the case.

But for the vast majority of ordinary humans living in this timeline – where they ultimately end up in life is one part serendipity and the rest maybe a mix of good and bad experiences.

Only understand without the bad squeezing in somewhere between serendipity and the good they probably wouldn’t be able to seize those opportunities that came their way – either by enhancing their knowledge or progress by having once experienced failure.

Every businessman can benefit from serendipitious moments. Man goes to start a coffee plantation in Costa Rica. His harvest gets wiped out by bugs. Tries again. Wiped out again. One day he decides to drown his sorrow in the local canteena – overhears a conversation between two gringo’s lamenting how difficult it is these days to source great coffee beans for Starbucks and the likes – if only they can get a man whose willing to transverse the brigand infested villa Madre and knows coffee well enough to appraise, rate and put a fair price on the tonnage. If only. Man decides to join their conversation. Soon he’s appraising coffee beans from South America to Africa as he knows those locales like the lines on the palm of his hands – he gets a certain percentage from every ton – it’s a good business model that allows him to also sail his plastic sail boat and enjoy the solitude of the sea when he visits those places where he offers his services. The quality of his work is first class. Eventually he carves a niche for himself in the international coffee scene – as the equivalent of the man from Del Monte for premium beans. Soon he saves up enough to put a decent sized bet on the roulette wheel of the make or break coffee commodities futures market. This man reckons Robusta beans will be hit hard that year by locust storms sweeping in from the North all the way from Morocco – in July, he heard sailors from the Coite de Noire talking once about how strange insects were caught in their lateen sails far out at sea northwards – he held one of those critters up to the dying light of the blue mountains. He noticed they were friskier and their wings were broader than usual. He realised that year in northwestern Africa the bone white dry Sahel was in full bloomed. The rains must come earlier that year and plentiful water nourished more than just pretty wild flowers. Buried deep in the desert sands were the eggs of desert locusts that needed water to hatch. There would be so many that year, the skies would turn dark by mid July – this the man reckoned was a once in a lifetime X marks the spot moment – that day he tripled his bet on Arabica. On his fifth trip to West Africa two days latter between the lighthouses in Guinea and Senegal. He noticed the waters were choppier than usual – the winds waxed and waned capriciously like a promiscuous woman tightening her legs as if in a futile attempt to preserve whatever dignity she still had. This he knew to be the mistral winds from the Sahara. That’s not right the man says to himself. She’s not herself this year – a minute latter he realises the ochre winds known as the sea of death – Junjaji fisherman called the Tisulur would blow late as well that year. The great wall of swirling sand that usually stopped the locust from sweeping down all from North to Western Africa would fail that year. By evening. The man puts everything he has on that one number…the roulette wheel of life spins the ivory ball bounces around and falls squarely on the numbered slot he marked – he makes a killing.

That year all the robusta and cereal crops were wiped out from the largest locust infestation in African history – all the way from Algeria to Mali.

This time the man buys land. This time round he plumbs for oil palm. He hits it so right for three consecutive years. He buys more land and finally he’s made for life.

That’s how I see it Kompf. Life is never just a straight line. It’s riven with uncertainties.

But don’t let that make you gloomy. It doesn’t become you.

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