We wish you a Merry Expensive Christmas!

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Homeless people queue up at a soup kitchen in KL - File picture

Why not change the way we think about Christmas? Perhaps we could think of Christmas as a time to consider the welfare of Malaysians and how their quality of life can be improved, reflects Adrian Lee.

I recently had to make two necessary purchases.

The first being a bicycle as I was advised to exercise more vigorously for my health.

The second a set of car tyres as my current ones were stretched thin beyond their width.

While making these purchases, I noticed the “towkays” of these businesses making the same comments: “Better buy now… next year, prices surely go up”.

Now, before any self-proclaimed advocates of the oppressed and “fair price” defenders and vigilantes storm these businesses seeking a refund for me … being a civilised Malaysian, I decided that negotiation is key to obtaining a discount.

Without wanting to sound like a Scrooge this close to Christmas, I was offered a discount without asking and a “friend-friend” price. Of course, the usual claim that “I’m not making any profit from you” was thrown in.

While I never doubted their honesty, these business owners must’ve felt slightly guilt-ridden for quoting me such prices. Armed with a calculator and original purchase invoice, they explained how prices had become inflated due to purchase tax, import tax, conversion tax, GST and various other taxes that eventually became too taxing for me.

What struck me, however, were the various taxes imposed onto Malaysian businesses – which are eventually absorbed by the consumer. Even more daunting is the argument that prices of items would surely soar next year as the value of the ringgit continues plummeting.

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I then recalled how Malaysians were ‘warned’ that prices of essentials would continue to rise next year. Car manufacturers, for example, have announced that car prices would increase due to the weaker ringgit.

Take a stroll into a hypermarket and see what RM50 buys you today. While we often lament the rising cost of living, we are however not remorseful about our wasteful lifestyles.

While many Malaysians lament that food and essential items are now expensive, they remain unapologetic about wasting them: 8,000 tonnes of food is reportedly wasted by Malaysians everyday. That’s 8,000,000kg of wasted food.

Perhaps it would be good to reflect about the welfare of the less fortunate. Before we moan about not having enough, it would be good to know that we do in fact have more than enough and need to be mindful about our wasteful habits.

And speaking of the less fortunate, the self-proclaimed advocates of the oppressed and ‘fair price’ defenders and vigilantes could lend a helping hand in improving the living conditions of these individuals.

There are many oppressed and marginalised individuals such as migrant workers, refugees and the homeless, who are in much need of welfare assistance. They are in real need of a Mother Teresa and a Florence Nightingale to help improve their lives.

Surely, these outstanding individuals who so selflessly committed their lives to working with the poor in society – in a non-violent manner – can inspire the self-proclaimed advocates of the oppressed and ‘fair price’ defenders and vigilantes.

What better time to assist others in this Christmas season.

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Many seem to have forgotten the reason for the season: Christians celebrating the birth of their saviour. The prevailing attitude seems to be: never mind the Christmas call for faith, hope, love, joy and forgiveness (just how Christian are Rudolf, elves or “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” anyway? ); never mind the religious sentiments behind the occasion; never mind what Christmas is truly about; never mind the rising cost of living and inflation.

Instead, lest we forget, it seems to be all about the compulsory and obligatory giving and receiving of gifts. Just show me the gifts!

So Christmas continues to be about spending money to make others happy. Notice the countless reminders by retailers about the need to purchase gifts, the extended sales periods and how the prices of food items in eateries escalate because of their Christmas specials?

Some might also argue that wishing others “Merry Christmas” or celebrating Christmas could subvert one’s faith. That argument holds water, albeit to a certain degree – for the way Christmas is observed today, it does not seem so much about celebrating the Christian faith but about celebrating capitalist profits.

As the prices of essential items continue to soar, and as many are imported (note: Made in China) with various forms of taxes included, it would surely be a merry expensive Christmas this year. Even the idea of eating at home could prove to be a costly affair.

Why not change the way we think about Christmas? Perhaps we could think of Christmas as a time of forgiveness; a time to consider the welfare of Malaysians and how the standard of living and quality of life can be improved; a time to think about bettering the lives of the marginalised, the downtrodden, the underprivileged and the oppressed in society.

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To paraphrase John Lennon, “Christmas is for the weak and the strong, for the rich and the poor… let’s stop all the fighting and hope for a good year ahead without any fears.”

Ultimately, as we celebrate Christmas, we look forward to a time in the future when we no longer need to fear the rising cost of living, racial intolerance, religious extremism and crime while hoping for good governance, a better quality of life and a peaceful Malaysia.

Happy and blessed Christmas.

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