Thursday, June 05, 2008

The morning after ...

I must confess that I did join the hordes of motorists who waited in the long queus for last minute fill ups at petrol kiosks last night.
Not so much to take advantage of the pre-revised price*, but simply because my tank was almost empty.
It pained me though to observe the dependency of local motorists on their vehicles, or other 'wonders' of technology for that matter, for their sense of identity or social status.
Perhaps the exorbitant price increase will force us to change and adopt a more eco-friendly life style after all.
Perhaps, from here on, some of my colleagues will stop feeling sorry for me when they see me walking from home to office and back.
Correct me if I'm wrong but economists such as Amartya Sen and Inayatullah have long advocated austere or frugal development policies so as to be kind to our wallets, souls, and Mother Nature.
*For those who don't have to pay for their own petrol consumption, the price of unleaded petrol went up by 41% or 78 sen per litre effective June 5 2008.
=========================================================================================Here's a short excerpt from an article "The freedom to be frugal" by Molly Scott Cato, a lecturer at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff. She is economics spokesperson for the Green Party in England and Wales and was one of the party's candidates for Wales in the 2004 elections to the European Parliament.
"An unexpected consequence of the relative definition of poverty and the growth dynamic that underlies it is the loss of another freedom: the freedom to be poor. In response to the realisation that the level of consumption of most citizens in the developed world is a threat to the survival of our species, some environmentalists have adopted a frugal lifestyle, yet this can result in disapproval from their neighbours. In an article called 'Poor not Different', the German economist Wolfgang Sachs tells of a visit he made to Mexico City shortly after the 1985 Earthquake. He was impressed by the restoration that had been carried out:
We had expected ruins and resignation, decay and squalor, but our visit had made us think again: there was a proud neighbourly spirit, vigorous activity with small building co-operatives everywhere; we saw a flourishing shadow economy. But at the end of the day, indulging in a bit of stock-taking, the remark finally slipped out: 'It's all very well, but, when it comes down to it, these people are still terribly poor.' Promptly, one of our companions stiffened: 'No somos pobres, somos Tepitanos' ('We are not poor people, we are Tepitans') ... I had to admit to myself in embarrassment that, quite involuntarily, the clich├ęs of development philosophy had triggered my reaction. (Sachs, 1992: 161)
The insult was created by Sachs's assumption that he could impose an objective judgement of poverty, that he could decide from the outside the acceptable standard of living, that he could deprive the Tepitans of their right to be poor. As Sachs concludes, "The stereotyped talk of 'poverty' fails to distinguish, for example, between frugality, destitution and scarcity ... Frugality is the mark of cultures free from the frenzy of accumulation." His conclusion about the Mexican village where he was working was that 'Poverty here is a way of life maintained by a culture which recognizes and cultivates a state of sufficiency; sufficiency only turns into demeaning poverty when pressurized by an accumulating society.' (Sachs, 1992: 161)
Readers can access the full article at

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