Monday, December 29, 2008

Waste, want, morals, greed

UK's holiday waste smashes all records

Too much packaging. Haven't we heard it before? These days I tend to walk away from stuff that I might buy, but don't, purely because there is too much unnecessary packaging. (Or if the packaging is not as eco-friendly as comparable products.)

Of course this has its roots in 'stuff' travelling very long distances to come to us. Toys, fruit, cake, etc. Where food is concerned we also have the problems with preservatives.

Take festival times. It used to be -- at least in my experience with Chinese New Year, Autumn Festival, etc -- that festive goods were made in our locality and we bought these as close as possible to the times we needed these items.

My father was a pork butcher, and two nights before Chinese New Year the wet market would open in the evening instead of the morning. There the housewives gathered to 'fight' over the freshest seafood, pork and vegetables they could get their hands on.

At home, in between homework and Extra-Curricular Activities, most of us would be busy helping mum, grandmother or an aunt making the festive goodies. We then took these round to the relatives close to us, and kept some for entertaining our own guests over the 15 days of Chinese New Year.

Nowadays everything comes in double-triple layers of packaging from some factory in some country that we know little of.

Then also we are now forced to buy some types of ordinary foods in such large quantities we don't have a chance of eating it up before they rot. It's all to do with profit margins, of course. (Meanwhile people across the world are starving because they don't have any.)

I must confess that as a result I sometimes would buy a small pack of assorted vegetables instead of buying them separately. I know they would go in the pot the very same day (or the next).

Bishops target Gordon Brown in damning attack on Labour

And a few bishops are taking some politicians to task. O no! The politicians are not taking this lying down.

The fact is the bubble was clear to see. OK, we didn't understand that the triple-A rating money products were not exactly triple-A because there was some collusion between the rating agency/agencies and the banks, etc. But the fact that people were borrowing far too much -- for their properties, for their cars, for their renovations, holidays, CLOTHES -- was clear.

Still no politician was keen to breathe a word about it. No, no, no, we must not 'talk down' the economy when the going is good. It would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. End-result: so many of us are now destroyed, either because we have lost jobs or our savings, or both. (The politicians, meanwhile, still hold on to their handsome pensions and huge expense accounts. Cool.)

Joblessness is so soul-destroying.

I come from a 'saving culture'. From early on in our lives we were taught to save. My parents opened a bank account for me when I was very young. It came with a Donald Duck saving bank. I put away whatever was left over of my meagre pocket money. Come Chinese New Year or birthdays, the ang pow/hongbao/red packet money went straight into the bank.

The Donald Duck was then taken to the bank and the cashier would count out all the money and tell me how much richer I was.

I could not find anything similar when I tried opening a child account for our son. Then there also strange rules about parents and grandparents not being able to give more than a certain amount of money to one's grand/child for tax purposes.

Instead I see my son's mates spending their parents' money buying useless cards from the Londis shop to exchange at school. A complete waste of money.

Any way, what has happened is very much the result of greed. There is nothing wrong with money or even having lots of money. The Bill Gates and Warren Buffets of this world have given generously. We know. Others have given equally generously but rather more quietly to charities.

But there are those who love money too much. After you've made your first million, how much more happiness can you buy with the next million that you make? And the next?

It's back to the LOVE OF MONEY being the root of all evil.

We still do not know how much Mr B Madoff made off. How much more money does he need, I asked. My husband suggested that it was not money that motivated him, it was the thrill of doing something so outrageous and getting away with it that provided the adrenalin.

Maybe. But in the end both ordinary people and those who love to have even more money became victims.

It has been said that the economy has had a positive impact on the environment. Not because people are starting to care more for the environment as such. But the necessary consequence of spending less is a greatly reduced carbon footprint.

People are switching to cooking more at home, taking fewer holidays, etc. All this will be good for our fragile earth, I think.

For a start, I hope there are far fewer devotees worshipping at the altar of nearly disposable fashion.

I've just made the pineapple filling for some tarts to put me in the Chinese New Year spirit.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008


We did something unusual this year. We took off to mum-in-law's the week before Christmas. It was a short, pleasant visit.

Amidst the doom and gloom I had to fight my own battles. On the Friday before Christmas my GP told me rather nonchalantly that I have arthritis.

Nothing much we could do, it seems. Physiotherapy was prescribed and if I am lucky (lucky??) I might be seen by a physio six weeks down the road and he/she might be able to prescribe exercises to prevent the arthritis from getting worse. Ouch!

Surely I am too young to get arthritis? GP said he's had arthritis since he was 32.

Was that supposed to cheer me up?

Apparently my kind of arthritis has to do with 'things' growing from my spine affecting the spinal cord. This was causing numbness in my fingers, leading to an x-ray which confirmed it.

Well, if my body can make boney material where there isn't supposed to be, does that mean that I am in no danger of suffering osteoporosis then?

Dunno. Actually I was so shocked by the diagnosis that I didn't get to ask many questions at the surgery. I found out more about my condition on the internet.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Educating girls

The news about the conviction of Shannon Matthews's mum -- although a foregone conclusion to many, it seemed -- left me quite sick in the stomach.

Actually I WAS sick in the stomach. Having gone to the hospital on Monday for an X-ray it appeared that I picked up a bug. I was sick Tuesday evening and could not hold my food down for the day.

Recovered sufficiently well on Wednesday I thought but there is still a constant discomfort in my stomach. There! Set the record straight.

I revisited this blog and was a bit amused to then find this report: 'Educate girls to stop population soaring' . Basically it tells us that "the longer girls stay at school, the fewer children they have" and reducing the population is critical to the sustainability of the earth.

And on Women's Hour this morning -- only because I was too ill to get to do what I normally do this time of day -- I learned that the cervical cancer rate is highest amongst women who come from the lower social classes and more deprived areas.

What can I say?

A few weeks ago I met a boy brought to our toddler group by his grandmother. I found myself describing this boy to my co-workers as "a boy who does not know how to play".

He went to the table with the Duplo pieces and started sweeping everything off the table until some mothers stopped him.

Then he saw the jigsaws. All he wanted to do was remove the pieces from the board and throw them on the floor.

I took a few pieces of Duplo and approached him, showing him how to play with them. His grandmother quickly told me, "He knows. He has those at home."

Later on I asked, "Has he got brothers and sisters?"

"Yes!" grandmother said, "Five," and then continued, "Five brothers and five sisters." In fact the mother has just had another baby.

We do not probe when they come to us. But they look like they have come from the Horn of Africa where there is still the practice of large families.

The poor boy ended being held on to by the grandmother for the rest of the session to keep him out of trouble. I said she must bring him back again so that he could learn to play. Unfortunately I've not seen them again.

Some people think that educating girls is a waste of money. I know many families who stinge and save to put their sons in private schools. The girls? Well, any state school would do. (Of course they do tell me that it is a good state school. But somehow not good enough for the brother/s.)

My late father used to say with great pride that he held no such prejudice and made sure we all had ample basic schooling. Thank God for that.

Others think that my doing a PhD was a waste as I am not using it for any financial gain.

I am blessed to have had a good education. Yet I believe that just because I am well educated it does not mean that I must make some grand sums of money from that fact.

Rather, having an education has given me the choice. I could have chosen to return to a lucrative career. It is a choice that this mother of eleven or the Sharon Matthews's of the world probably do not have.

Much (not all) of this world's ills could be alleviated if only women, and especially young women, could be empowered. And the best way to empower them -- whether or not they then choose to be full-time mothers or career women -- is to educate them so that they could have a choice.

If all else fails, their children could expect to have some better parenting input.

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