WHEN HOUSING BECOMES UNAFFORDABLE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

Just came back after spending five days in Hong Kong. During the daytime, we didn’t go to any popular sightseeing place except meeting up with friends and relatives. In the evenings, we went back to the hotel to watch the news on TV about the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement.

A visit to the occupied zone

With clashes between the police and protesters, we had to avoid passing by the Mongkok area. The original protest site in Admiralty was occupied by aggressive leaders of the Umbrella Revolution. To get a glimpse of the Occupy Central supporters, we decided to pay a visit to the peaceful protest zone in Causeway Bay.

Causeway Bay was still bustling as usual even without Chinese tourists flocking there. We managed to find the closed-off area at Yee Wo Street. Both sides of the road were decorated by posters with slogans written in different languages. There were not many tents there but they were set up neatly in one area. The protesters had built many facilities, including library, study centre and discussion area.

In the early evening, the occupied part of the road was empty like a ghost town, save for a few people chatting on the chairs. The busy pavements on both sides of the road was a big contrast – with people hurrying home, meeting up with friends, or heading for the big sale at SOGO.

Confession of a protester

The camping site reminded me of a confession from an Occupy Central supporter on facebook:

I am a typical boy from public housing. My parents have high hopes on their only child. They hope that getting a good education for me can drag us out of poverty …

In September, I didn’t join other tertiary students to boycott classes. I am worried about my education and results. I don’t want to disappoint my family. If I can’t graduate, I can’t find a job. I don’t want my parents to be in debts with my college grant loan. I don’t want to see our dream of upward mobility dashed.

After the teargas incident on September 28, I decided to come out after some thinking. I am scared. But I cannot pretend that I don’t see anything. This society is really terrible with developer hegemony (monopoly/domination) and serious disparity between the rich and the poor.

On the day I decided to go, I had done my calculations. I would be fortunate to earn a salary of HK$17,000 (S$2,800) from my first job after graduation. But when I thought about paying the grant loan and supporting my retiring parents … I might have to supplement my income with part-time tuitions. However, I couldn’t afford to buy myself insurance, let alone buying a property.

… No matter how hard I try, even if I work 24 hours a day, my family will never get out of poverty. History tells me that this is not an individual’s problem. It is the system that has problems.

Our next generation is a totally different generation

My parents are baby boomers whose main concern was to fulfill the basic needs of everyday life.

I belong to the Generation X who were taught from young to follow rules – study well, get a good job, and work hard to improve our lives. We don’t talk about dreams. It is a luxury. We talk about increment, promotion, upgrade and social status.

We learn from the Occupy Central that Generation Y are not easily contented with just allowances, peers, social media, computer games or high-tech gadgets.

Our Generation Y grew up with everything well provided. They don’t have to sacrifice for the sake of the family. When they know that even if they work equally hard, they will never match their parents’ achievement, why will they still toil day and night at a workplace they don’t really like?

They are free to chase their dreams – to fight for what they think is right or, to live a life they truly want. They are individualistic, entitled and vain. They like to break rules and are not ready to compromise.

What will Generation Z become?

As we strolled past the protest zone in Causeway Bay, I wondered what the future holds for Generation Z. I ended up having the following conversation with my nine-year-old.

Me: Do you think it is right for Singapore students to ‘Occupy Starbucks’? Why?

Child: No. Because they should go home to do their homework and revisions. Other people cannot sit if they occupy the seats the whole day.

Me: Do you think it is right for Hong Kong students to Occupy Central? Why?

Child: No. Because these are public areas. It is inconvenient for others.

Me: If one day you find injustice in the society, what will you do?

Child: Don’t know.

Me: Will you sit in the coffee shop and complain?

Child: Mommy, that’s what old uncles do.

Me: Will you sit in front of the computer and send hate comments or attack someone under an anonymous identity?

Child: No. I am not a coward.

Me: Will you find who’s responsible, meet the person face-to-face, and say exactly what you think?

Child: But I am scared.

Me: If one day, even though you have a well-paying job after you graduate, you still cannot afford to buy an HDB flat, and you can’t get married and start your family, what will you do?

Child: Then I won’t get married. We will stay with you and daddy. Me and my sister too.

It seems that my efforts of teaching the kids to develop their independent thinking, to be independent and fend for themselves are all going down the drain …

Check Also

Worker’s Party MP He Ting Ru Calls Out Systemic Racism in Singapore

Sengkang MP He Ting Ru said she was dismayed that many Singaporeans are living with racism. "There is no place in our society for racism, sexism or xenophobia," she wrote.