What is everywhere, on everybody's minds, instrumental in affecting the quality of of people all around the world, and Made in America?
Why, our current 经济危机 dung heap, of course.
Now that their once free-flowing coffers are bust and they are effectively living on borrowed time and money, the greedy, grasping eyes of the West turn to China and its $2 trillion of foreign reserves, like Bilbo's beleaguered dwarves slinking towards the Lonely Mountain and the dragon Smaug with his stupendous treasure trove and jewel-encrusted hide. Of course, the supreme irony of the situation is that just like how the denizens of Middle-Earth shunned Lonely Mountain for its desolate landscape and fearsome inhabitant, the West once sneered at China's primitive, unwieldy financial systems. Even now many Westerners and Western-centric Asians still look contemptuously at anything Chinese, disparaging them for being nothing more than just... Chinese. Now it is this backwardness inherent in many fledgling nations that have protected them from cutting edge folly.
All this, because of Greed, and that wonderful cornerstone of Western civilisation called Individual Rights. With a constitution that places individual rights and individual freedom above all else, the USA sold to the rest of the world that paragon of Western capitalism, the American Dream. And because humans are by nature greedy and selfish, that evocative call of the American Dream, complete with hot apple pies sitting in picturesque houses with white picket fences, became too seductive for many people to ignore. With the droves of people settling down in America over the decades, so grew the public conviction that everything belongs to them by right, and if they haven't got something, well, they could just sue somebody for it. With the intense drive to own everything that your neighbour has and more, the American household became the main source of capital for the US economy.
Think Singaporeans are the ultimate kiasu people? Think again.
So all was hale and hearty until 1999, when the American household quietly upturned from being lenders to borrowers, and foreign capital became the only source of money for the USA. But even so, this was all rather hush-hush, and with the distraction of Sept. 11 and Iraq, nobody really paid attention to the fact that the whole of America was starting to survive solely on credit.
But even so, the greed and covetousness kept on escalating into the 21st century, and even though foreign investors were silently buying up low-risk investments and American debt, the influx of capital and borrowed affluence were not enough. Hotshot bankers and financiers who knew too much for their own good but not enough for everybody else's good started playing around with their magic numbers and spreadsheets so that everybody could get their American Dream for a dollar, minus the fine print of course. And because no sane foreign investor was willing to pick up the high-risk investments, they swapped dicey financial products amongst themselves like a game of high-stakes mahjong, where everybody picks up someone else's unwanted stuff until the whole system is interreliant and there's no more accountability.
And we all know what happened after that.
2008 has been the worst year to graduate in so far, and 2009 might turn out even worse. From a solid track record all the way until university, and a formerly bright future wherever I chose to go, I'm now saddled with no substantial work experience and unemployment rates soaring higher and faster than the Burj Dubai everywhere I go. This was supposed to be a year where a management graduate from one the world's top business schools could pick and choose and negotiate any job she wanted, and all I'm left with is mounting debt and new furrows on my forehead and that perpetual sinking feeling in my solar plexus that I'm sure most of you enjoy too. And statistics have shown time and again that people who graduate into a downturn do distinctively worse over their entire lifetime than their peers who graduate when the economy is stable.
Why such bitterness, you ask?
Well, when one really takes a step back and looks at the overall picture, there seems to be pointed lack of anger and blame in the world towards the USA for ruining everybody's lives for at least a few years. Indeed, the USA has indirectly caused people to die who otherwise wouldn't have, had this crisis never come about. Whereas when the rest of the world does something the US doesn't agree with, there's a massive outcry, a public upheaval, and the US will use all its financial leverage and political clout to get its way. The US has always appointed herself upholder of the world's ethics and morals precisely and only when it suits her, insisting that other nations apologise when they appear to slight the US or contravene with her so-called values. But now when the shit has hit the fan, and we all know where the shit came from, the culprit escapes blame once again.
Japan's humiliating defeat at the end of WWII left an indelible stain on the national psyche of the Japanese that has lasted until this day. Their contrition at having caused such a global catastrophe is etched forever within their society's subconsciousness and manifested in their taking extreme responsibility for mistakes large, small, and imagined, and a rigid unwillingness to inconvenience anybody.
Japan has her honour, and because of her greed for territory more than half a century ago, Japan and the Japanese are still apologising to this day.
America has no honour, and not a single American has apologised. Will it take half a century for America, once the golden land of opportunity, to say sorry?