Tuesday, June 08, 2004

living in grey

Business, of course, is a civilized form of warfare, with certain codes of ethics and conduct that businessmen more or less adhere to. This does not prevent the practice of unsavory business practices, given the fact that people will always try to get away with what they can, abusing the grey areas of law and relationships. This includes aspects like bookkeeping (almost all companies keep two books - one for the BIR and one that has the real numbers), employee benefits, hours, payment terms, scope of work and many others.

But I believe in the necessity of maintaining professionalism when engaged in a business. To some it may just be a game, but to many like myself, it goes beyond being a livelihood.

In my handful of years as a businessman, I've been exposed to many situations where a quick buck could be made - if I took a nebulous shortcut, if I gave a percentage of my fee to a government fixer, if I showered certain people with gifts, if we got in bed with a certain murderous presidentiable. I'm happy to say that, so far, I've managed to ignore the various temptations. But continual exposure drains one's heart if not one's resolve. I obviously prefer to work with entities with a code of ethics, but sometimes situations aren't selective and the lost opportunities cost more than just money.

My partner and I believe in erring towards the side of what is right (and what is right is usually neither the most popular nor easiest option). So in instances when abuse occurs (supplier, client, whathaveyou), it affects us tremendously.

Then why bother? Why not just put on a game face like everyone else? Why not take advantage and subscribe to Gordon Gecko's maxim "Greed is good"? Why not take the position that business is about winners and losers and you've got to be a winner?

I take a look around me and see a gambling lord who also runs drugs and sex clubs (untouchable and a multi-millionaire), a property developer who pokes a gun in the face of one of his tenants (a salon which could not accommodate him because the shop was full), a government agency that awards projects not to the best bids but to the largest "finder's fee" (thus escalating the true cost to taxpayers because the fee needs to be covered), an internet cafe chain owner who flipped the business at the cost of multiple friendships (but now that he's rich, he can buy new friends).

It is futile to ask the world to be fair. I suppose the only thing we can do is to run the business with our principles intact and just let the karmic wheel take care of itself. Is this like poking my head in the sand and just hoping that I'm not carried off by the waves?

I don't know.

It's an ambiguous enviroment and it is always challenging to navigate when what is revealed in your field of vision is mostly grey.

essential: invisible

De Saint Exupery would have us believe that it is only with the heart that one can see clearly, that what is essential is invisible.

If I adhered to this line of thought, I would have killed almost everyone I've ever met.

The heart is a poor judge of character and worth, easily deceived when it wants to believe in the best, and just as easy to condemn when betrayed. It reads meaning into actions and creates issues where none exist. It creates situations when hope is held aloft like a cruel banner. It distorts reality to get in line with its vision of how-things-should-be.

The heart bends mirrors and is selectively blind, misremembers certain words said and holds other memories to microscopic scrutiny, creates phantoms of experience and fears the unknown.

It is better to think, to consider, to weigh. Not coldly, because it is a fallacy that the intellect is pure ice; not in a mercenary manner, because it is also a wrongly-held notion that the mind is immune to emotional considerations; and not in harsh structures, for the seat of thought will be the first to concede that there are many ways to approach any given situation.

When the deepest part of your heart is burnt, put the feelings on hold and think it through. Where the heart screams for vengeance or succor, you should let the mind consider the situation and the consequences of potential responses. What the heart condemns with tears, intellect can see the value of.

It is perfectly fine to feel - that's what makes us human. But the heart can only see clearly when it feels like it. Better to temper it with what the mind knows: that while what is essential may be invisible, we must take into consideration more than just essentials.


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