No job? No money? Don’t worry, be happy
Tony Henderson, policy secretary of Hong Kong's Green Party, Hong Kong resident of 31 years, and author of 1993's Humanize Hong Kong, has seen changes in his own Lantau neighbourhood as a result of fears for the future.
"There's an influx of Discovery Bay residents into Mui Wo - the former, a contrived `lifestyle' suburb, the latter, a rural village. The reason for the `rat-run'? Tightening budgets as firms face financial insecurity and fire people in a knee-jerk response," he says.
"Could be you baby, but not me," Henderson adds. Then he explains how he can be so sanguine. You see, Henderson says, he recession-proofed himself years ago.
"I have no debt and I have no assets either - no home, no car, no yacht, no rowing boat - though the last one might not be a bad idea, and would likely come in as handy as my bicycle. I do rely on a friend's co-operation on an exchange basis for my low rent, with a joint project where he gets his value by my work and I get value by having an affordable home. This is not `lucky', this is foresight, this is a plan."
What advice would he give on the topic of recession-proofing? "Do not operate with a credit card. Yes, have a credit card by all means, but use it judiciously and pay no attention to any `freebies' offered," he says.
Henderson advocates a back-to-basics approach. "Find a solid pan and use that, or a good wok, and it will last a lifetime and you'll get to enjoy amazing culinary versatility. Stop buying tins and frozen food; hit the wet market and go local for the greens. Seek out that well-stocked little corner shop for condiments and spices. Buy Chinese beer - sufficiently chilled down, it tastes as good as any premium Western brand."
Henderson also has advice for body and soul as well as the household budget.
"On the intangible side, start looking after yourself properly. Go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, walk the hills, swim in the sea, and eat what's in season. Co-operate with others, and expand your relationships with neighbours and like-minded souls. Trying to do-it-alone is old hat. We need others - we are all social creatures - and others need us.
"Help where you can. Give, always give - not material things necessarily; give time, your skills, share knowledge. In fact, don't lend money - give it away, but don't lend.
"Relax. So what if you don't have a job right now? Get busy, do other things, go where you've never gone before, meet people in out-of-the-way places, visit temples - all for a change of heart and mind. Reconcile with your past, forgive others, forgive yourself. You are just a peanut in a whirlwind. Clarify your present; open your future."
Henderson pauses, gazes over the Lantau hills. "Crisis? What crisis?" he says, shrugging - effortlessly disproving the adage that even if you escape the rat race, you're still a rat.