"No one can survive on a diet of hope". This is one slogan that I see in the bus stops of Singapore.


Of course, there are some who reminisce about kampong days. Yes, the family is poor, but surviving in a small space, sharing scant food helped to foster family relationships. These are some stories shared by the early ancestors here. Playing with marbles and crickets all served to build up community bonds, too. Even in the epic novel "Little Women", the fostering of family ties through poverty is vividly depicted.


Yet, there is another face to the story. There were those "oil" men in kampong Singapore then, when they rub themselves in oil from top to bottom to escape capture easily. They were poor, and became thieves. And crime rate goes up in Singapore.


Remember the days of coolies-when you have sacks of rice in front of you and you were told to lift them up? And if you cannot lift it, you will not be given any money. And then, you have nothing to eat.


When you are rich, then you can start helping other people through charitable acts. You can use your strength to help the weak. You can do so many things you never dream of accomplishing before.


Yet, money can also lead to family fall-outs and make matters very complicated. Even in Singapore, have we not seen ugly heads rearing during en-bloc sales and inheritance distributions? And when Singaporeans drive to Malaysia, our cars are chased and hit by Malaysian motorists envious of Singapore's strong economy.


At the end of the day, there are two sides of every coin. The truth is whether you are rich or poor, it all boils down to you. However rich or poor you are, whatever ups and downs you have, it is your own value system that will always determine the way that you live your life. You cannot run away from you.


There is one thing though. When you are poor, one is more likely to be closeted within one's own family. If a person needs to take on several jobs to pay bills, would the person still have time to care about others? The person must think about his own survival first. It is a very acute vulnerability that every single one of us faces. Of course, this is a general statement, but I dare say that it is the case for most.


It is only when a society is more affluent when people can look beyond themselves to fulfill Rousseau's general will, where the people in this kind of society think of society as a whole to maximize society's benefit and welfare. Just look at the trend globally. Is it poorer countries that can help richer countries? No, it is the exact opposite.


Of course, one can argue a concrete jungle is a city that is cold and has no visible face. Yet, it is not necessarily true and can be the same in tribal countries. Rivalry among tribes for gathering sites, hunting ground and the latest - a share of the tourism pie like in Yunnan or Nepal are all common sights in rural countries. Therefore, it is the innate nature of the people there that decide whether a community can co-exist peacefully; again, the people.


People can argue where there is poverty; there is also widespread religious fervor. Yet, is it the case where the people there are really religious or is it because the people there are truly desperate? And if religion teaches them to do good, then why are there mass murders, massacres and genocide in those poorer countries? Why then?


There are very few communities in the world that can stifle their hunger and still concern themselves with the greater good of the country. There are not many. A few yes, but not most. The Russians. The Koreans. The Africans.


Yet, for most ordinary folk- when you see no food at home, and you are hungry, will you still care about others? Yes, again, there are a few. But very, very rare. You may be reduced to the state where you wonder where your next meal is coming from.


Money does not buy happiness. There are two sides to everything. However, money does allow you to look beyond yourself and into your community where you can then decide whether to play a part and determine your role in society.