I’ve said before that Governments asking us to spend, spend, spend is not what is needed. Because after the spending props up the ailing American-style Capitalist system – what then? Do we keep going with the bailout binges and rescuing financial giants or the auto industry? Did you read that porn boss, Larry Flynt, is asking for a $US 5 million hand out to save the sexual appetite of the United States?
Or do we start doing some really serious reflection and realise that change starts within? The second-half of the 20th Century was an era of extreme individualism fueled by free market policies. Community-minded values disappeared. The greed for individual wealth does not result in a healthy society. I often wonder if postmodernism is to blame for our current state – postmodernism resists definition but questions all narratives such as family, society, art, religion and morality. And so you live by your own rules, you don’t care what others think, your only focus is the self – in other words, extreme individualism. Shared rules or understandings no longer apply. I must think on this more and do a post.
But I think that this might be part of Obama’s appeal. As a community organiser, he was focusing on common problems, common values, common issues. His speeches have been about a common-based society that challenges the wealthy, capitalists and the entrenched corporate power that dominates our economic model. This is my hope: that Obama can successfully introduce a new discourse that speaks of a society of common values. He’s already talked of a Robin Hood-style plan to tax the rich and redistribute the wealth to the middle classes. Of course, accusations have been flung at Obama about socialism (the economic philosophy of which involves taking property from the rich and redistributing to the poor). You only have to read his father’s article, Problems Facing our Socialism, to work out what Prez Obama’s ideals are going to be.
Seems though that young Chinese might better Obama when it comes to organising people and restoring a quality of life at lower cost. China’s phenomenal growth has resulted in the rise of a consumerist society dominated by The Brands. But the global financial crisis has hit China – factories are closing; the manufacturing sector is taking a deep dive; China’s aviation industry is in need of a bailout; the country is bracing itself for social unrest in early 2009 because of rising unemployment; and export growth is shrinking.
So young Chinese office professionals are calling for frugality and a return to a simpler life. Wang Hao, a 24-year-old Beijing office worker, has so far organised 55,000 young Chinese in his campaign to curb living expenses. He has a blog, which offers advice on how to spend less on clothes, fast food, The Brands and various consumer goods. Wang Hao says that young people should try to prune their spending back to just 100 yuan per week (around US$ 14.62; AUD $20.00 ; Euro 10.89). There are other sites and blogs, some offering recipes for meals that cost under 10 yuan.
At the same time, the Chinese Government is urging consumers to spend to boost the economy and announced a US $586 billion economic stimulus package. Much like Australia and the US, the Chinese Government is hoping to create jobs by spending money on infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, housing and power plants. But whilst Chinese officials are determined to “protect eight” (meaning 8% growth in 2009), young Chinese are tightening their belts, which is much as I predicted in a recent post and shows a decline in consumer confidence.
Now, I would certainly be hard-pressed to live on AUD $20.00 a week (especially when my weekly train ticket has just taken a hike up from $63.00 to $66.00. Hello? CityRail how do you justify this cost when the trains continue to be reminiscent of the Third World?). So how far can a young Chinese go on 100 Yuan? Apparently, you could buy nine McDonald’s Big Mac burgers, half a tank of petrol or two movie tickets. Limiting oneself to 100 Yuan might be a bit extreme but young Chinese need to do something when you consider office workers spend an average of 2,500 yuan a month whilst their income is approximately 2,192 yuan a month (US$320; AU$454; Euro 238).
Wang Hao now cycles to work and eats steamed buns for lunch instead of scoffing down pizza. Another young Chinese, Lin Yufei also 24 years old, has launched a group called “Let’s have a 100-yuan week” on popular Chinese social networking website douban.com. Lin says: “The point is not only saving money, but to lead a quality life with lower cost”. The website shares ideas and experience amongst participants, which obviously could lead to a more communal approach to living in the post-global financial crisis world and the younger generation practicing thrift could educate society in general.
I think this is just one example of a conscious shift towards a better, lower cost, emotionally and physically healthier, more frugal lifestyle – the post-GFHF economy. I am considering starting a new blog that would do much the same – tips for leading a frugal life.