Depending on one’s background, people have exhibited varying reactions to the recent increase in living costs.
I WAS at a restaurant for lunch and the menu came with a note stating the prices of all dishes would be raised by RM1 (small), RM2 (medium) and RM3 (large) because of the increase in material costs.
It was a polite note pleading for understanding from the customers. The first thought that came to mind was that the proprietor was at least transparent about it. He could have quietly raised the charges.
Since the year began, people have been united in talking about price hikes, though not so united in debating other equally pressing issues.
But even on the rising cost of living, we appear to be in a world of contrasts.
And so we read about this tycoon from Hong Kong, who flew into Kuala Lumpur on his private jet with his friends to feast on the hyper-expensive empurau fish. That dish alone apparently cost RM3,000.
Then there was the story of the 200kg grouper caught off the waters of Penang, which the renowned Ka Bee Café in Weld Quay bought for RM11,000.
The savvy proprietor knew his investment would pay off as he has a ready client list. Once the news was out, customers came in droves.
One businessman from Hong Kong took the first available flight to Penang to “indulge” in his extra special fish head bee hoon soup.
We can see that the super-duper rich from Hong Kong are doing a lot for our local economy. They not only come for our big expensive fish, but also for our extra delicious durians.
To these people who can spend and are prepared to spend, how would they know what the ordinary people have to go through?
And the harsh reality is that they are not only foreigners but also from our own country.
Whether it is about food or some pressing social issue, we have to acknowledge that the way we view things will be shaped largely by the world we choose to inhabit or for some, by the world we inhabit not by choice but by circumstance.
For example, if you choose to live in a neighbourhood that is predominantly of one ethnic grouping within a particular class, you will be less sensitive to the needs of others simply because you will hardly have any social interaction with them.
So, if you are talking about the state of education, the debate will revolve around private or international schools which your children attend rather than national schools.
Likewise, it’s hard to talk about public transport needs when you have never experienced what it is like to wait by the roadside for the feeder bus that will take you to the LRT station, or be caught in a jam while the taxi meter is ticking away.
And what about health? Visiting a top notch private hospital, complete with banking facilities and branded café outlets, and a number of high-end wheels parked in the doctors’ zone is quite a different experience from visiting someone in a public hospital, where scenes of cramped waiting rooms and caregivers camping in every available space outside the wards are all too familiar.
And how are you to take part in or understand the faith debate if you are just an adherent in name but not in deeds?
I suppose that is the reason why some of us would gasp in horror that our regular teh tarik has increased by 20 sen, while others sipping fine wine in a fancy restaurant would not even bother to check the price list.
So, who defines our country and decides what the priorities are? Which public discourses deserve our full attention and which do not?
Do we just concern ourselves with our own little worlds? Or do we search our conscience to see if we have done all in our power to right the wrongs within our sphere of influence?
The answer lies within all of us.
Soo Ewe Jin (email@example.com) believes our life’s choices can make a difference in the world but is sad that the choices being made on our behalf can sometimes lead to unsavoury consequences. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Online Opinion Columnist 12/01/2014