Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Greed and philanthropy

L is a very shrewd businessman.  He pays his staff as little as possible.  He charges as much as possible for his products and services.  He pays his suppliers as little as possible, taking full advantage of the large size of his orders to squeeze out discounts.  He also pays his suppliers as late as possible, often months after the goods have been received.  But if you ever owe him anything, he is ruthless and swift in collecting his debts.  He is careful in cultivating his relationships with the rich and powerful, because it is good for business. But he gives no consideration to the old, the young, the poor, the handicapped.  If you cannot pay, he wants no contact with you. He abides by the law, but he is without mercy.  Business is business.

On the other hand, L makes quite a number of donations to prominent charities and causes.  He also makes sure that he gets maximal credit from it.  Often in the form of buildings and institutions named after him.  He likes to be known as a caring person. 

I am not trying to describe any real person.  But Mr. L seems to be the role model of a lot of us Hong Kong people. 

Does philanthropy make up for naked greed in business?  Can I squeeze someone dry for my enrichment, and then turn around to give the same person some small change - and feel smug in my generosity?

I don’t think so.  I think God is going to say, “Wipe that smug look off your face,” and worse.

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