Thursday, July 03, 2014

Being rich

Recently Lee Ka Shing - one of the richest men in the world - reputed to be worth over $30 billion dollars - remarked that he was fearful over the wealth divide. That's a bit like a wolf complaining that there are too many sheep these days. I find that rather "rich" coming from him. If he is so concerned - why doesn't he pay his workers more? Or increase the number of scholarships? Or advocate an increase in property taxes or a cap on rental rates?

On a side note - the problems of Hong Kong people are compressed by their closeness to China. China with its vast pool of workers will always make it hard for HK workers, even white collar workers, to make a decent wage. In the past HK had its inherent advantages - access to the open market - but now its just one of the many Chinese cities now. Its uniqueness is greatly eroded.

My grandfather was an incredibly wealthy man. He was a millionaire when $10k could buy you an apartment. He was also a Christian - and a miser. I think my mum or one of my aunts described him as a "miser". He was also described as being a Scrooge. He lived in a mansion filled with newspapers. There were stacks and stacks of them piled over hardwood furniture, piano, sofas. Outside in his garden were rusting equipment to process rubber. It was like Miss Havisham's house. When I read Charles Dickens' books - I felt I was reading a work of non-fiction.

Despite being a Christian- in reality he worshiped money. He loathed spending it. He hated giving it away. During Chinese New Year, when it was customary to visit senior relatives, he would lock his gate and not allow any visitors in. My father once scaled the rusty barbed wire fence to go knock on his door. He was turned away.

My granddad locked his gate because he did not wish to give us the red-packets to his grandchildren. Inside each red-packet it was customary to put in some money $2 upwards - and in return we would give him a mandarin fruit. But he so loved his money that he'd rather sit barricaded in his house than part with his cash.

How pathetic. But most rich people are like that. Most rich and powerful people I think are psychopaths really. Most of them obtained their wealth and power by backstabbing their friends, underpaying their staff, bribing officials, swindling their investors, and being very ruthless.

Everyone lauds Steve Jobs. But no one seems to care that his iphone factories in China has one of the highest suicide rates. For that matter people also tend to deify warlords like Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan - forgetting that they slaughtered millions of people and caused untold misery and suffering to millions of people - even genocide. Why do we remember them so fondly and not cast them with the same brush as we do Hitler, Pol Pot etc..

If I could meet with my grandad I would ask him just one question. What is the point in being rich? And maybe he would reply "Having the freedom to do what you want." And I would then ask, "Are you doing what you want?" And he may have replied, "Yes. I'm being rich. Now go away."

This sort of loopy logic is like some scene out of the cartoon South Park.

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