Finding Fault

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Continuing our discussion, one therefore cannot reap what one has not sown. If one plants rice, one would not expect to reap corn. Putting it differently, from one what reaps, it is evident what seeds one has planted.

The sowing of seeds of Confucian principles and values through the ages in China was aborted during Mao Tze Tung’s cultural revolution as it was considered bourgeoisie. Children were left without the nurturing of age old values as they were snatched from their parents who either joined the proletariat movement or if they were intelligentsia, sent to labour camps to be “reformed”. Filling this void in the cultivating of values was one of the aims of Mao’s successor Deng Xiao Ping, revered as the architect of modern China. He had three objectives. To reform the economy, reform the society and reform the party. Unfortunately being advanced in age when he took the helm, he only managed to successfully reform the economy (which was no mean feat), lifting billions out of poverty. The current president of China Xi JinPIng is continuing his legacy and has embarked on sweeping social reforms to rejuvenate the country.

Whilst the seeds of Confucian precepts were lost during the Mao Tze Tung’s movement in China, they have been painstakingly preserved and practiced for centuries in Japan. To illustrate:

The cornerstones of filial duty and respect for others is so entrenched in the Japanese society that the ancient Chinese custom of bowing has become a Japanese tradition. These Confucian values have been deeply embedded in the Japanese culture for generations and are today a Japanese hallmark.

Confucius was reported to have fished only with a hook and not with a net and would never shoot nestling birds. This principle of taking only what is needed was exemplified after the tsunami of 2011. Long lines formed to purchase food and not only was there order and discipline without rioting or looting, everyone waited patiently and bought just enough for themselves so that those in line behind them had food to procure. There was no hoarding or chaos, behaviour which astonished the world, founded on age old Confucian principles.

Confucius preached the importance of daily self reflection and correction and said that not mending a fault was in itself a fault. This Confucian culture of introspection and change (as opposed to indictment and censure of others) is a trait of Asian upbringing. This is central in the teachings in 大学 which is one of the four books of Confucius. Recognizing and correcting faults in oneself, in one’s family, in one’s organization or country is the Confucian way ahead instead of pointing fingers and finding faults in others.

The sense of honour and responsibility is so entrenched in the Japanese culture that leaders are trained not only take responsibility for crimes committed by themselves but also their subordinates. Confucius taught that one in a position of authority is also accountable for the misdeeds of one’s subordinates. In ancient Japan if one was disgraced, one was expected to perform seppuku or suicide by disembowelment. This sense of shame is what Confucius talks about which keeps errant behavior in check.

The exemplary behavior displayed by the Japanese even in a time of adversity, as evidenced after the tsunami is the result of painstaking continuous sowing of seeds of Confucian values. To solve corporate crime, his ideology would advocate spending one’s time and limited resources nurturing values and integrity and building trust instead of reliance on modern surveillance. This is counter-productive and only breeds anti-trust which has, time and time again been proven ineffective in curbing recurrent crime. The Confucian principle of introspection begins with the recognition of problems as being internal or domestic instead of branding problems (such as corruption) as a foreign scourge. Only then can change occur which will be more effective than casting stones. Indictment of SAC for corporate fraud is but one of many examples with more to follow if problems are not addressed. The Confucian philosophy is not a quick or temporary fix but a permanent and long lasting solution which has to be nurtured in individuals and passed on to future generations. Only when integrity and values have become entrenched personal, familial and national traits and traditions, can this new social order which Confucius worked tirelessly to build, be realized.