Sunday, 21 October 2012

Too Much Greed

There is an old Chinese saying, "People's heart is no longer as it used to be in the ancient times." In essence, it is a lamentation that morality has deteriorated, based on the assumption that our forefathers were kinder, simpler and less dodgy. I don't know much about the human heart in ancient times. And I'm not sure, from my reading of history, if it would be justifiable to claim any significant change of humanity, be it good or bad. But the old proverb just keeps looping in my mind after seeing what happened yesterday and this morning.

Yesterday the university where I work opened to secondary students who will go to colleges and universities next September. We have prepared an information pack with programme details and admission requirements in a non-woven bag. Specially designed in bright colours, the bag was meant to be a souvenir for the visitors.

A dozen of elderly folks and young children wasted no time to come to our reception, asking for the non-woven bag. We told them the bags were for the matriculation students, but some of them insisted. We then reluctantly gave them one each, so that they would leave.

But some of them came back a few moments later and asked for another bag. The first one they obtained were, I supposed, put in their own clutch bags so that it was invisible as if they were just asking for the first time. Some others asked the young children who accompanied them to ask, so that the student helpers did not realise it was a repeated request. And the trick worked. Later in the afternoon I saw an old woman leaving with five non-woven bags on her shoulder, wearing a smile of victory and satisfaction.

This morning I jogged for half an hour, practised tai-chi and then went to a coffee shop nearby to enjoy some quiet moments, as I usually do on weekend mornings. I ordered my coffee, took a complimentary magazine from the rack and put it on a seat, and returned to the counter to wait for my order. Within seconds an old woman in grey hair sneaked in and grabbed the magazine away. I ran out of the shop and stopped her, saying, "Hey, why did you take it away?" Somewhat astonished that she was caught red-handed, she apologised immediately, "Oh, I'm sorry. I just wanted to read this." "The magazine belongs to the shop. You can't take it away like this." She kept apologising and patted my arm, apparently out of fear that I was going to report to the police.

Pardon me for being blunt, these two incidents only indicate sheer greed of the some elderly people rather than reflecting any hardship of their life. I'm not sure if these point to the deterioration of human heart, but certainly cause some disappointment about our fellow citizens in this city.


  1. Anonymous5:24 am

    Yes, it is a common greed. Yes, it is disgusting to see people acting that way. Yes, those offenders took away the opportunity of the intended students for those bags. After all, no violation of ethics should be condoned. Nevertheless, when your anger subsided, you may wish to look from another angle.

    There is really no earth-shattering harm done by this incident. The promotional purpose of employing these bags will still be accomplished somehow; no matter whether they are carried by the prospective students or the grandmas shopping for groceries. It will be a different issue, of course, if someone tries to hoard 200 bags and sell the loot for a profit.

    Think it is a compliment for the design and attractiveness of the bags. Those responsible should congratulate themselves for the success of their pet project.

    Think about the offences by high government officials and those big bosses in corporations. They know no boundaries of greed. The poor grandmas and grandpas may take ease by knowing they are not going to hell because they snatched a few bags.

    I believe you are a Roman Catholic. You must know the difference between venial sins and mortal sins.

    Ontario, Canada

    1. I know. So this is just meant to be venting. Of course these behaviours are far from being sinful, but still very annoying and irritating. By no means they are comparable to the offences of the rich and powerful, but when traits of greed infiltrate in all sectors of society, I just can't help feeling upset and frustrated.

  2. Anonymous8:15 am

    I went to Lok Fu Plaza early one morning and saw a long queue of elderly people getting free newspapers. Most of them were collecting newspapers for their sons and daughters who were still sleeping. Some returned to the end of the queue with many newspaper from the same publisher. Apparently they are collecting papers and sell them to paper collection centres.

    In the old days, we could earn 50 cents for sewing and stitching works, key holders, assembling plastic we could buy some meat from the market. Those were the happy days.

    Today, people in HK is deprived of opportunities to make a living.

    If one is unemployed, the only choice is probably filing one's case for welfare support.

    Should we always blame the government for not letting people to earn their livings with dinity? Should we blame the property tycoon for standardising retail outlets with surcharge on selected brands?

    I was deeply disturbed when DBC was forced to operate and yet the government officials pay no attention to the unemployed.

    KMB makes money out of onboard advertisments but money is kept in its subsidary company. John Chan or his succesors has links to the Transport Bureau so the voices of objection to fare increase are suppressed.

    The Mandatory Provident Fund makes it mandatory for high management fees. After years of contribution into greedy banks, what you have got is barely sufficient for your retirement needs.

    How much money does one need for food and basic necessity? If our civic education is good, the core values of family care will sustain. There will be love and caring for all. The Lee brothers should spare a moment to reconsider what they have done so far and the broken hearts of the elderly listening to free broadcast channels can be repaired.

    Poltics is a dirty game. The greedy people at the top of organisations has all the power to do whatever they want and it is the poor grass root people begging for mercy and a humble living.

  3. Anonymous9:58 pm

    DBC is not the only free broadcasting channel in Hong Kong. You have to buy an expensive radio to be able to listen to DBC. Most elderly are not listening to DBC. I see no connection between the broken hearts of the elderly and the failure of DBC.
    There are plenty of voices objecting KMB’s fare increase in the media. There is no shortage of independent clothing alteration shops offering sewing and stitching services. Please come to Tai Shing Market in Wong Tai Sin or the Oi Man Estate Market to take a look. In the 1950s or 1960s, you did not have the choice to turn to welfare support when you were unemployed. The only way to sustain your living was to ensure you got employed by accepting whatever wage and condition of services offered to you. If you were ill and could not afford to go to a private doctor, you had to get up at 5 am to queue for a chip to see a government doctor and you had to buy your own bottle if the doctor prescribed coughing syrup to you. It is the responsibility of your children (whom you have spent most of your income to raise) to support you if the MPF is not sufficient to meet your retirement needs. Why should the taxpayers (who do not have any relationship with you) be required to support your retirement needs if you have spare your children of their responsibilities. Accusing people at the top greedy is now a convenient excuse of sparing one's own responsibility to be an upright person.


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