April 18, 2009
So here's how to act like it's the worst downturn since the Great Depression
By jeremy au yong
Hi, my name is Jeremy and I'm a reformed 'what-recessionist'. There, I got it off my chest.
There was a time in my life where whenever someone asked me about the recession, my reply would be 'What recession?'
I was young and foolish then but I have since - as in, since about 10 minutes ago - come to see the whole thing in a new light. Turns out, there's nothing quite like a paycut to help you snap out of it.
But having come through the experience, I now feel duty-bound to try and make the world a better and more understanding place for my fellow what-recessionists. I feel the need to answer a higher calling, fulfil a bigger purpose and to hopefully in the process, grow as a person.
Or it could just be that I badly needed something to write about this week. It's one or the other.
At any rate, I know that there are still many people out there who are afflicted with the condition.
Go ahead and ask anyone about the recession and you are likely to receive one of either two responses.
Most ordinary folk will say: 'We are in the middle of the most horrible, armpit-soaking, pants-burning, mortgagebusting slump since the Great Depression. Stuff all your money in a safe place (such as a shoebox, not a bank) and go hide in a cave until it's over.'
The what-recessionist though will fervently assert that the first group is exaggerating the situation.
The claim is often made on the basis of there being crowds everywhere, even in places where a lot of money has to be spent.
As you are probably aware, people are still thronging travel fairs, IT fairs, clubs, shopping centres and swanky restaurants, not to mention annual general meetings of women's rights groups.
In fact, the only places people seem to be staying away from are hawker centres, but that's an entirely different story; a different plate of rojak, so to speak.
When most normal people see these crowds, they think to themselves: 'Sure, times are bad, but what do we expect people to do? Sit at home and mope all the time?'
A what-recessionist thinks: 'Why aren't these people sitting at home moping?'
At the heart of the problem is that us, what-recessionists have a very clear image of what the worst downturn since the Great Depression should look like: people should be staying home, moping and being fearful, leaving shops and restaurants freer for the rest of us.
To us what-recessionist, the economic slump is sort of like Hurricane Katrina - a very serious, very tragic problem that affects a lot of people but has no direct impact on our lives.
However, most other people, not having experienced anything close to the Great Depression, are not behaving in a way what-recessionists expect.
This can be very unsettling.
Fortunately, I have a solution. I have drafted a brief code of conduct on how to behave during a recession so that the world the what-recessionists see matches more closely to economic data and corresponding mental pictures.
The draft is very short at the moment but covers most of the key areas.
Rule 1: Queuing. No one is allowed to be in a queue of more than five people when paying money, but it is okay if you are receiving it.
That would rule out queuing to get into the new Butter Factory club or to buy a flatscreen TV but it would still allow people to be in line signing up for Workfare.
Rule 2: Alcohol. No alcohol can be consumed for the sake of merriment.
Before you consume an alcoholic beverage, ask yourself if you are feeling depressed. If you are not, then you are not allowed to consume the beverage.
Rule 1 is not waived for this purpose so even if you are depressed, you cannot drink to drown your sorrows if you have to queue.
Rule 3: Happiness. If you are happy and you know it, keep it to yourself.
I guess this shouldn't be too hard since you are not allowed to have any alcohol.
Rule 4: Ostentatious cost-cutting. Try and make a big show whenever you conduct any cost-cutting, no matter how minor.
For example, a downgrade from 4-ply to 2-ply toilet paper should be accompanied with a 30-minute complaining session to a what-recessionist friend. It'll make him feel better.
If we all can adhere to these rules, what-recessionists can become more at ease with the world and then slowly come to terms with the real nature of the recession.
Needless to say, as a reformed whatrecessionist, I'm already doing my part. I'm not queueing, drinking solemnly and generally being sombre.
I'm also looking for every opportunity to perform some ostentatious cost-cutting.
For example, today I've decided to retrench a proper ending to the column.