Saturday, January 06, 2007


do the right thing

A few days back I came across a small but interesting news in our local newspaper about how lately the garbage dump somewhere here have been visited by more people than usual looking for “treasures”, and I don’t mean that old sofa with torn out fabrics, three legged chairs and other usual odds and ends that they can fashion into something useful but all because someone found RM80,000 in a bag in this dump a few days before that. Until this time I never realize that we have human scavengers mucking about in our garbage dump sites unlike in some countries , which we always see in the news, like that infamous one somewhere in the Philippines say. The reason for my ignorance is that we have this huge garbage dump less than a km from my parents’ house and we’ve NEVER seen even one person want to go near there let alone rummaging among the mountain of trash like some house rats.

But that’s not my point. What I’m interested in is this. What did that someone do with the 80,000 that he found?

He obviously didn’t keep it a secret since we now know about this but did he keep all this money to himself?…my guess is any self respecting dumpsite scavenger would do exactly this. But here is a classic case that attracts me to those discussions on kantian ethics and moral responsibility . there you are, not looking for anything and expecting nothing but out of the blue is presented with some precious gift lying there in the dumpsite which obviously belonged to someone who in his right mind would never thrown it out to rot away. and what is the moral and ethical responsibility for you to do in this situation?

If you are always ‘short of money’ (as 99.9% of us seem to be- no matter how much we already have-) my bet is we count our blessing and keep it to ourselves and use it in countless permutations to sooth our conscience a bit, say donate a bit to charities, family and friends etc but I bet not too many will send it to the authority…and why should we? after all the authority may not find the real owner, or worse knowing how corrupt and inefficient they are, the money would surely come to a worse end. And so we justify ourselves to keep all these money. but is this the right thing to do?

I’ve always grappled with this question. What is ‘do the right thing’?…I guess nobody knows the real answer to this big question otherwise the world will be a lot happier place. Osama thinks he’s doing the right thing. George w think his way is ‘the do right thing’ and in the mean time Palestine Afghanistan, iraq is burning and now Somalia is being raped by “American slaves” – the Ethiopians.

When I was in my late teens one of the books that really affect and influence me was Dostoevsky’s crime and punishment and I came to identify with raskolnikov’s delimma so much that for a long while my hotmail address was under the name of raskolnikov. But then I grew up, become weak, less idealistic more cynical, cowardly , grumpy and a little bit sadder and probably madder…I guess this is the usual process of getting older …

And oh, do the right thing is the film that makes me discover and love spike lee films….but that’s for another time , may be.

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