Mar 25, 2009 - published work    25 Comments

Keeping up with the Joneses

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If analyses and common sense are to be believed, the world is facing a financial mess because people spent more wealth than they created. Then they thought that if they put off payments for some time, they would just vanish into thin air. The tragedy is that none of the debts vanished into thin air and all those deferred payments finally caught up with us.

While there are some who have tightened their belts and cancelled those dreaded shiny plastic cards that promised the earth, the moon and more, there are others who continue to spend as lavishly as they previously did, with no regards to an economy in the toilet. They not only want to keep up with Joneses, they want to leave them far, far behind.

Going to the numerous lawn – the summery cotton fabric preferred by ladies in Pakistan – exhibitions in the city, you could have thought that the financial crunch is nothing but a figment of someone’s imagination. The number of exhibitions has gone up, the number of designers coming up with their wares has gone up, and the volume of cloth being sold has definitely gone up. I encountered women who flew in to Karachi from Larkana and Quetta to buy the desired cloth at one of the exhibitions.

Just step out of your house and you will see cars that are bigger, shinier and faster than anything you have seen before. There are times when all you see are Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) on the roads. Plying those huge monstrosities on the congested Karachi roads borders on cruelty, yet people keep on doing it to show off that they can afford a huge, fuel-guzzling vehicle – the economic, social and environmental fall outs be damned. Granted that most of them are bought with public funds as is painfully obvious by their green government number plates, but one must admit that to justify such excesses in times like this would take some earth-shattering logic and creative accounting on part of the government officials. To spend our tax money to buy vehicles to transport the ample selves of numerous begum sahibas and secretary sahibs must call for some extraordinary skills.

As if SUVs in general and Hummers in particular were not bad enough, a family in Germany has bought a six-tonne armoured tank to use for shopping and day trips. The tank is armed with a disabled 30mm gun and has three-inch thick armour plating. The owner Joachim Schoeneich has even fitted a baby seat to the British-built Fox tank for his toddler son Paul and is only concerned about finding the right parking space for his abnormal mode of transportation
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Have the executives at the military industry gone completely bonkers? They are selling a battle tank for £24,000! That’s cheaper than a Lamborghini. They have been selling Hummers for quite some time, and now comes the tank – guess what will follow this? Will they start selling mini versions of rockets that children can hop on, like a witch’s broom, to get to school? Are we looking into a future where the rich and environmentally unaware would take thrill trips in F-16 fighter jets to impress ladies? One must feel sorry for Schoeneich’s two year old son, Paul. If daddy has bought a tank for shopping and day trips, the poor kid will probably have to buy a space ship to go work.

Originally published at Dawn.com
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25 Comments

  • As self indulgent as it may sound, i just loved this comment on Dawn.com and I am posting it here.

    Dear Ms. Javed,
    Unlike many other journalists/opinion-holders in this country, you write pretty well. More importantly, you write often. But that doesn’t mean you can write about everything under the sun without first caring to figure out what you are going to write about. The ironies that intrigue you in this article, for example, presume that global financial crisis should affect consumption patterns in Pakistan and that a German family buying an armoured tank is somehow reflective of a consumption pattern in Europe (and perhaps US as well). If you had done a bit of research, you’d have figured out in less than half an hour that both of them are entirely rubbish presumptions, produced by an arbitrary juxtaposition of facts in your mind. No doubt, Pakistan is an economic shit hole but, unfortunately, it is yet to be affected by the global financial crisis. On the other hand, Europe is in deep shit because of the crisis. Think about it, why would the German guy buy a tank if he could have afford a Lamborghini?!

    I hope I am just being a responsive reader. Also, I hope you’d write with greater care in future.

    Regards,

    Samir

  • Hi Tazeen,

    I’m from the friendly neighbourhood India 🙂

    I stumbled upon your blog just yesterday and haven’t stopped reading it since. I’m hugely impressed with your intellect, skill, style (satirical, witty, tongue-in-cheek). And at the cost of sounding parochial, let me admit, I was even more impressed to know you are a Pakistani and a woman. Bravo.

    I’m a devout fan already. Going to spread the word about you on FB. Cheers.

  • for once i m gonna say too…

    think you went a bit OTT there!

    but you are right… and it is something we figured out ages ago…

    in Pakistan the rich only get richer….

    however, having said that… as a nation we rely on pretentions… our main theme is ‘laug kia kahain gay’ … and that is what makes our world go round rather than whether we have food to eat or clothes to wear!

  • Hey… there’s a eye opener book out there called “Games Indians Play” by V Ragunath I think. Pakistan’s no different… applies to anyone with a defunct logic in this part of the continent. It narrows down to why we are the way we are, using game theory. Very interesting and highly recommended. Not really sure if its available in Pakistan though. Hmmm… now I’m curious to know if you do get it in Pak 🙂

  • Tazeen didn’t u do the tankboy blog already? This is old news man stop recycling

  • i quite like the idea of hopping onto the tanks

  • awww little kids atop rockets would look so cute.

    that would make a great toy

  • I’m really looking forward to such future….my kids are going in a space ship to another planet for HIGHER studies….lolz…

  • It really is about the Bejamins and the Quaid-e-Azams. They couldn’t be more wrong.

    PS: Someone in Karachi owns a Hummer…seriously. What were THEY thinking…

  • If I had that degree of money to waste I can think of so many things that would be more fun and productive than putting on airs. And a tank for shopping really? That is ridiculous. It’d be such a pain to run out and get some milk 😛

  • Tazeen, you have an engaging, fresh writing style that immediately draws the reader in. I really enjoy it. This is my first visit to your site. I can assure you it won’t be my last.

  • Just before my brother got married he was looking for a new car (or at least one that would go). Checking out the auto press we found that you could buy a Saracen armoured car for less than the price of a new car. It wasn’t clear whether or not the guns were disabled; we were living in a rough bit of Manchester and that could have been the deal-clincher.

  • Desi-styled explanation of the global economic crisis:

    “Pajja is the proprietor of a Siri-Paya and Nehari Shop in Lahore. Sales are low and, in order to increase them, he comes up with a plan to allow his customers to eat now and pay later. He keeps track of the meals consumed on a ledger. Word gets around and as a result increasing numbers of customers flock
    to Pajja’s shop. Pajja’s suppliers are delighted and are very willing to sell more and more raw materials for the
    meals he prepares. Pajja shows them his ledger of receivables and they extend him credit.

    A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and gives Pajja a credit line and then increases Pajja’s borrowing limit. Taking advantage of his
    customers’ freedom from immediate payment constraints, Pajja jacks up the prices of his Nehari and Siri-Paye.
    Customers dont mind as they are not required to pay on the spot. Sales volume increases massively; Banks and suppliers lend more; Pajja opens more outlets. He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the customers as collateral.

    At the bank’s corporate headquarters, expert bankers recognize Pajja’s customer loans as assets and transform these customer assets into BONDS. These negotiable instruments are given exotic names such as SIRIBOND,
    PAYABOND, MAGHAZBOND AND BONGBOND. These securities are then listed on the Stock Exchange and traded on markets
    worldwide. No one really understands what the names mean and how the securities are guaranteed but, nevertheless, as
    their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items. One day, although the prices are still climbing, a credit risk manager of the bank decides that the time has come to demand payment of one of the debts incurred by Pajja. Pajja in turn asks his clients to pay up. One by one they refuse; the clients cannot pay back the debts.
    Pajja refuses to serve them any more. The clients stop coming. Pajja is really screwed now. He cannot fulfill his
    loan obligations and therefore claims bankruptcy. All Bonds drop in price by between 80 to 95%. The suppliers of Pajja,
    having granted generous payment due dates and having invested in the securities are faced with similar problems.
    The meat supplier defaults on payment to the sheep and cattle supplier and claims bankruptcy. The atta supplier is
    taken over by a competitor; Pajja lays off the cook and staff. Bankruptcies soar, unemployment mushrooms.

    The bank that lent the money in the first place is set to collapse. It is saved by the Government following dramatic
    round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties with Pajja commuting back and forth in his
    Executive jet and Mercedes 500SEL, brokering the deal.

    The funds required to save the economic collapse are obtained by a tax levied on the citizens, most of whom do not eat Nehari or Siri-paye. UNDERSTOOD?”

    Now replace Phajja with USA, GM, Citibank …

  • “most of them are bought with pubic funds”

    Really? Am sure some of this is partially true .. Good read.

  • Avionic Spanker

    All the cars with green number plates in Pakistan are government property. Whether it is provincial government or federal government, they all spend our tax money on buying luxury items for their ministers and bureaucrats.

    Kevin,

    Where in Manchester do you guys live. I remember getting lost one day behind the train station when i was a newbie in Manchester. I saw a lot of teenage kids with shaved heads and i thought, there you go Tazeen, you had to get lost in a supremacist neighborhood. I later found out that David Beckham had just shaved his head a few days back and all kids had dutifully followed suit.

  • Yawar,

    I used to work at an ad agency and the owner bought a hummer just before i left that place. The funny thing is, no one ever saw him driving that hummer. I mean whats the point of buying a humvee if you dont drive it yourself!!!

  • can i book those cotton fabrics online?? !!
    smart n funny take..sadly, most readers take it to heart, i say!

    P.S : ur new about me is damn cool!

  • Hi Tazeen,
    I’m hiding behind a pathetically thin pseudonym so I can’t say too much about where we were living but it wasn’t all that far away from the footy ground.

  • You cant blame people now…they have a reluctant mind as well and not too keen too change 😛

  • well Metro opened its door today to karachi walas and after getting stuck amidst a sea of gazillion cars and over excited aunties clad in chiffon in the parking area, one couldnt have believed that there is a recession going on….

  • well the irony in our countries is that those who have money, power, influence kind of rule the rest..and the huge disparity gets widened almost every hour.

    Also I agree with you regarding maddening materialism, as they greed has no end.

    nice blog!!

  • Ummm,”most of them are bought with pubic funds”?

    Please tell me you mean “public”! Although, I guess it makes sense this way too.

    Anyway, interesting blog. It’s hard finding opinions from inside Pakistan these days. Keep it up.

  • @Tazeen: You worked at THAT agency??? Yeah that guy never drives it. Sits in the front with a guard and a driver though. From what i guess, his kids dont drive either!

  • it never gets fair!!

  • Not to belabor the point, but Pakistan’s economic state has nothing to do with financial risk emanating from excessive (mismatch of) leverage.

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