The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

This Is What Happens When you Cultivate A Culture Based On Possession …
May 9, 2008, 7:18 am
Filed under: Comment

Jesus, how bad has societies obsession with materialism/possession got when a country known around the World for its lack of crime needs to put up posters like this around it’s shopping malls?

Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if we found out this was another strategy by the banks to get young people to work for them rather than do something more fulfilling, creative and/or rewarding.

Saying that, I particularly love the statement ‘CAN YOU CONSIDER BUYING A CHEAPER SUBSTITUTE’ when the nation has been nurtured to only value prestigious and ‘aspirational’ brands/products – and this leads me to something I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time.

I think most of you know that Singapore is a land obsessed with shopping.

Sure, many cultures like to acquire material possessions, but you’ve seen nothing until you’ve come here.

Apart from having more shopping centres per capita than anywhere else in the World [and they’re still building more] Singapore has whole locations dedicated to particular niche categories.

You want to buy something for your fish tank at home?

No probs – go to the place where every bloody shop is an Aquarium retailer.

What about Christmas decorations?

Easy, pop along to the Concourse and you can stock up till the year 3010!

Anyway, this isn’t a post about how Asia believes in a ‘collective category’ strategy [which is very different to the West’s attitude of ‘category isolation’] it’s a call for help because I’m looking for some advice on how to undeniably validate a hypothesis I’ve got.

Singapore Chrismas Shopping crush Photo: NeilalDerney123

I should point out what I am about to say isn’t limited to Singapore [infact the ‘inspiration’ for it came from Australia] I just believe it is especially prevalent here and if proved correct – I would like to try and get the Government to instigate some social/corporate reforms [God knows how / God knows what] because I genuinely believe it has major implications on the fabric of society and as a result, implications on the growth and development of Singapore as a whole.

OK, so on with the hypothesis …

Most people agree that Singaporeans have 2 key pastimes … Eating and Shopping.

My suggestion is that the reason these activities have such a disproportionate level of importance in people’s lives is because as children, they represented the key times where they would/could interact with their parents as a family.

Now let me explain why.

Life is tough in Asia.

I’m not saying life is easy in the West – it’s just that out here, there is a value system that for thousands of years has dictated how people must behave [and what they must achieve] if they are to be looked on favourably by family, friends, community and country.

Because of this, the pressure to fulfil these goals is immense so people spend an incredible amount of time [and energy] pursuing academic, professional and social ‘qualifications’, leaving little time for them to connect and bond with their family other than when they eat and/or shop. [hence my hypothesis]

Yes I know I’m being generalistic – of course not everyone is like this and Singapore is especially at ‘risk’ because of the countries wealth/industry/infrastructure – however there are many, many signs that Singaporeans are now associating shopping and eating with ’emotional happiness’ rather than simply an ‘activity’ [plus the fact that in many cases, people eat and shop in the same physical location] so if anyone can give me some advice on how I can properly test my hypothesis, I’d be grateful because as I said, if it proves to be correct, the ramifications on Singapore are just as dangerous as the threat of terrorism or SARS.



22 Comments so far
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1) See if there’s a correlation between suicide rates and shop closing hours?

2) Track obesity and indebtedness trends against academic qualification?

3) Ask Emah?

Comment by John

omg – where did you find that ? I find the unconscious spelling error/pun “seizable” offence hilarious too !

Ok – to your hypothesis – I think you have hit the nail on the head ! Parental attention and instant gratification in an otherwise somewhat “void of demonstrable love” family life, leave a permanent scar. And so the cycle goes on. How to test it? hmmmm – the other national pastime of giving nothing away unless you think it a) will benefit you b) bring you money or c)be what everyone else will say, will make that very hard.
And yes, I generalise, but only from 24 years of first hand experience here !

Comment by fan

for those who dont know campbell, he was exploring this sort of weird connective shit eons before any fucking tipping point or freakonomics hype.

stop being a smartarse dodds, thats my fucking job and besides its fucking interesting. when hes proved right. occasionally.

is there something you can do with the banks and look at singaporeans average spending habits versus average income, history and inflation and see if this links with the categories that have had the highest income and distribution growtht in the country? what about credit card debt, how is that and what is causing it? what about proportion of technology owned by the country? youd have to take you out because youd be fucking skewing it but how it that growing against other countries? has the average price paid in restaurants gone up out of proportion with inflation. come on campbell, dont make me do everything for you.

fuck im being serious again, i really must stop that.

ok so do the singaporean government have posters on how to wipe your ass and shake hands?

ahh thats better

Comment by andy@cynic

I don’t know if what you’re suggesting is limited to just Singapore Rob, but maybe it is the first time a Government has actively acted upon it though if memory serves me they are also directly responsible in influencing this attitude and when you factor in Asia’s “face” element, you can see how it is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets worse, lol.

And for what its worth, I think your hypothesis is absolutely bang on so I’ll have a think at some ways you can prove it, I’d have some suggestions now but I’m still in shock over Andy’s comments and serious approach to your challenge.

Every now and then he does let his real side out on this blog doesn’t he 🙂

Comment by Pete

personally I love any society that spells out the fantastically obvious ‘say no if your friends ask you to steal’, hmm I was confused there about what I SHOULD do, thanks for pointing that out. which brings me to the urge to procreate – that most basic and presumably innate ability (the 2 kids in The Blue Lagoon seemed to work it out on their own). The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sport has long been known for running events, clubs, classes to encourage Singapores youth to hook up and start population building – running marriage preparation classes, BIG dating events etc… all good stuff of course, but what I find interesting is that it has now become an OPT OUT institution – i.e. as a young Singaporean you are automatically a member (and presumably expected to turn up at these things – possibly bringing your own name badge) unless you actively contact them to say you don’t want to be. what a fab idea! perhaps we could follow this model in the west – everyone is automatically a member of a book club – unless they opt out, people are automatically organ donors unless they opt out, the men in my home town automatically have to spend some quality time with their kids rather than in the pub watching football, unless they opt out…, it could do wonders for society.
I have nothing against housing estates (I grew up on one) but I have always felt that if you want people to have babies – make them live in one for a while. the 16 year old, cider swilling girls, living on their own on benefits who used to live on my street had no problem turning out no end of screaming, snot nosed kids. Perhaps it should be tried with Panda bears??? the female ones would fit right in, they already have 2 black eyes…

Comment by Mr McG

Is there any merit in looking at the level of ecommerce transactions that happen in Singapore compared to other nations with a similar level of technological capabilities because if your hypothesis is true wouldn’t it mean proportionately they are below other markets because they favour visiting malls than buying online?

I always found your chaos theory connection work amazing so I hope you will be able to dedicate some more time towards it because it leads to some of the best ideas I’ve ever seen or been part of.

Comment by Bazza

great post rob – i love this cause and effect stuff too.

if a nation bases its emotional happiness on eating and shopping, it would be interesting to have a look at the relationships it forms based on these ideals as an indication. does food/shopping feature much in online dating sites? do people get married in shopping malls or restaurants? what’s the rate of anorexia and bulemia (both reported and unreported) – given that food and happiness are inexorably linked in these diseases?

and also rob, you should read The Last Chinese Chef, about eating and culture. it’s very enlightening.

Comment by lauren

Thanks for all the suggestions so far guys – really appreciate it – but I’m also looking for advice on the best way to develop ‘undeniable evidence’ so my argument can be made to the powers-that-be in such a way they cannot just refute my point of view as circumstantial.

And Lauren I have read the book, it’s tops – and you should read ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely which highlights even more weird and wonderful associations which affects how people think and act.

Oh and for the record, Singapore has the highest number of Shopping Mall Restuarants per capita in the World – which could be for many reasons such as climate, but also the fact it combines their 2 activities in one simple loaction 😉

[Andy, I am particulary impressed, but more that you decided to write it on the blog because this is the real person I know]

Comment by Rob

cheaper substitute?…man i luvvvv this prada but maybe i shld get 1 from the streets of bangkok =P

Comment by pissed

Mr McG;

Hi; I thought all living creatures are programmed by Nature to mate and liked what we watched in documentaries, some suceed and some don’t. The reason for one queen in the ant and bee species. Everything is arranged by Nature and our leaders think they can play gods.

They should get all their single MPs hitched first, to test the effectiveness of their godly role. Already there are more problems than they can resolve and yet they are fooling with Nature.

A Romeo can play partner to multiple women and a girl(some below 16 yr old) can have multiple partners and yet the ‘educated’ need matchmakings and students need sex education, stupid geniuses!


Comment by patriot

Pissed and Patriot … this blog is attracting nicer [read: weirder] people by the day!

I have also realised that whenever I write anything to do with Singapore, the number of people that visit this blog goes up massively – so expect every post to start with “Singapore Say’s: …” 🙂

Comment by Robert

Chinese and food… its a big deal.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

yes, eating and shopping is what stressful and materialistic Singaporean do. Why ?
Because something to do with possession.

Eating give you food in stomach, mean you possess the food. Forgetting that you will shit it out soon. But never mind, Singaporeans are a forgetful lot. Eating make you forget about stress. The more stress you get, the more food you eat, and naturally, the more shit you emit.

Shopping satisfy you in physical desire or release from stress. The more shopping you get, the more high class you become, and you believe you possess such status and pride.

Pathetic Singaporean.

Comment by David

“Oh and for the record, Singapore has the highest number of Shopping Mall Restuarants per capita in the World – ”

Chicken or egg ? Singapore is such a dull country to Singaporean and if that the best way to make it interesting is to let Singaporean forget its trouble and stress and bring it interesting thing as long as he doesn’t mind paying for it. So the culture slowly become entrenched as many female and male alike spend money on mall to purchase their desires.

Remember in our country, the government’s mentality is MONEY IS NO 1 WHY WE EXISTS ! and even more if they can satisfy the materialistic desire of Singaporean and foreigner through profit. Uniquely Singapore you should have written.

Comment by David

i dont know who you are david, but with that fucking attitude i like you

Comment by andy@cynic

you dont work for robs halibut fisher do you?

Comment by andy@cynic

Apart from having more shopping centres per capita than anywhere else in the World [and they’re still building more] Singapore has whole locations dedicated to particular niche categories.

where did you get this statistic from?

Comment by jun

I know Jun – and what’s scarier is the majority of them have the same bloody shops.

As for that stat, I got it from a senior brand development guy at ESPRIT and given there seems to be one of those shops every 3 feet, I believe him, ha!

Comment by Rob

sorry, but that just doesn’t seem very scientific to me.

Comment by jun

i like you for slagging rob off but he didnt say it was scientific and i dont know how it would ever be scientific because its just fucking maths but we all know the fuckers love shopping more than jabba likes krispy kreams so thats ok for me, its only a stupid blog

Comment by andy@cynic

maths is a science. if anyone wanted to quote a statistic, wouldn’t it be wiser to check its veracity first?

Comment by jun

youre a feisty fuck arent you but i think youre missing campbells key point but i bet you work for the singaporean government so thats exactly what youre trying to do 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

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