Not always whiter and greener

My friend’s daughter always complains about the heat in Brisbane and has said to me how she would love to live in cold Europe. She doesn’t like her air-conditioned car and looks forward to skiing. My Belgian acquaintances find winter miserable and think it is a paradise to use the outdoor swimming pool and visit the nearby beach any time you feel like it.

A former neighbour recently confided to me about unmet expectations in her new job. She described in detail her uneasiness working with native-English speakers (she’s French) which, ironically, was one of the main reasons why she left the Francophone working environment (i.e. she wanted to improve her English by speaking it every day).

When I visit Singapore or Philippines, I observe smilingly women snuggling under their umbrellas not necessarily to prevent from having skin cancer but to avoid getting browner/darker. In western countries, however, men and women spend a lot of time and money trying to get tanned as it is considered good and healthy looking.

Many parents, particularly women, are caught between staying at home to care for their children and working to augment family income. Stay-at-home parents argue that the relationship between babies/young children and parents is fundamental in personality development. On the other hand, working parents maintain that the child/day care environment has a positive impact on the children’s intellectual and social skills. I have heard stories of women who became depressed after a few years in purely parenting commitment. Likewise, I know of several individuals who are happier and healthier now that they are not in the workforce.

Generally, human beings are never satisfied with what they have thus this saying “It’s greener on the other side.” Often, we feel and think that the quality and quantity of goods, services, needs (essential to maintain life, such as clean water and food) and wants (make our lives enjoyable and interesting but we can do without) can be better.

It’s understandable that individuals wish for improvement. However, extreme change has to be thought of carefully and manage intelligently as we often see what we want to see, which can be limited and biased. Often, what looks like white (a colour which is associated with certainty, safety, happiness and purity) is actually ivory or cream.

When deciding to change because it’s greener on the other side, we should use both our intuition and reason, and get the emotion out of the equation. We can’t react to a situation based on what we feel neglecting facts and figures. Bad decisions have been made due to too much or not enough information and too much or absence of emotional attachment. Decision making is founded on our values. Our values are influenced by our experiences, circumstance, family, friends, teachers, classmates and others we meet along the way. It is a skill that serves us for the rest of our lives, therefore, should be handed down to younger generations; and because in every decision we make (either trivial or important), there are social, economic and psychological implications.

My December 2015 article was “Solidarity Amid Insecurity” in honour of the victims of terrorism in Paris. Brussels experienced a similar carnage ten days ago and Lahore (Pakistan) five days ago. I’ve no word to describe these terrible crimes, but would like to quote Salman Rushdie: “How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized” (Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002).