Posts Tagged ‘buyer’

The Sixth Cardinal Relationship, That Between Buyer and Seller

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Back in my blog of March 31, 2007, I said that in today’s world, we need to recognize a sixth Cardinal Relationship ( 第六伦, or 第六倫 in complicated script), that between buyer and seller. In my blog of April 5, 2007, I listed the Cardinal Obligations the two parties owe each other in this Sixth Cardinal Relationship: the buyer is obliged to pay on time and in the amounts promised for the good or service bought, and to make clear what he wants and expects. The seller is obliged to deliver the good or service on time and in the amounts and quality promised. I also said that this Cardinal Relation includes the relationship between employer and employee; the employer is the buyer and the employee is the seller. When it comes to the teacher and the student (or parent), the student (or parent) is the buyer and the teacher the seller.

Some people have commented that they don’t see why lowly buying and selling is so important that it should be elevated to a Cardinal Relationship. Doesn’t buying and selling inherently involve cheating? As for saying that the relationship between the teacher and the student is part of buying and selling, why, they say, that’s outright cheapening of a relationship held to be sacred in traditional Chinese Confucian thinking. Haven’t I heard of the old adage, “be my teacher for one day, be my father all my life” (“ 一日为师,终身为父” or “ 一日為師,終身為父” in complicated script)?

Just to refresh the reader’s memory, the other five Cardinal Relationships (五伦, or 五倫 in complicated script) are between: government and citizen (ruler and subject), parents and offspring, sibling and sibling, husband and wife, and friend and friend. Their mutual Cardinal Obligations I’ve talked about in my blogs from February 25 to April 2, 2007.

Well, I think that not only do we merely need, but also we need desperately, to recognize the relationship between buyer and seller as a Cardinal one.

For one thing, as I’ve discussed in my blog of April 5, 2007, buying and selling is truly mutual help on the grandest scale. Indeed, far from being a “cheap” act, buying and selling is the sacred act that has transformed humans from a stage when life was short, brutal and barbaric, to the stage now, when life is quite a bit more civil, enlightened and comfortable. And no, cheating is not an inherent part of buying and selling. Please see my blogs of Nov. 4 and 17, 2007 on how honesty and integrity is the only way to make money in a sustained way and on how shopping around will keep one safe from cheating. No, buying and selling is a sacred act of mutual help. Such a sacred and important act must be recognized as belonging to a Cardinal Relationship.

Second, where there is prevalent recognition of buying and selling as being honorable and respectable, where sellers and buyers are usually honest and usually don’t cheat, the society is relatively rich, and where the opposite is prevalent, the society is poor. It is not an accident; it is cause and effect. In the old days, when China has been one of the richest, if not the richest, country in the world, the attitude prevalent in society has been that one must be honest, must not be greedy, and must not cheat. In the past, Chinese businessmen have had a sterling reputation for honesty, fairness, and being true to their word. By enshrining buying and selling into a Cardinal Relationship we will contribute to the development of society and the progress of mankind.

Third, a lot of Chinese and Asians in Asia in general operate in business according to the thinking that you need to become friends first, and then you can do business. That’s why you have to go to all those drinking parties and boys’ nights out (including brothels) to do business in Asia. They often can’t just sign the contract, and on the basis of promises made and monies paid, do business with people who are not emotionally bonded except on a working, formal basis. If you are not emotionally bonded with them they just might, or actually they think that you’ll think they just might, cheat you, and they think you just might cheat them. I think that’s bad for work hours, for the health of the businessmen involved, and the whole setup discriminates against females, who can’t go on boys’ nights out the same way as males. Recognizing buying and selling as a Cardinal Relationship will correct that situation, make life much better for businessmen, and enable females to participate in Asian business in a more equal footing.

As for “be my teacher for one day, be my father all my life”, I know where that comes from: it comes from the same cultish places in traditional China where the cultish aberrations of xiao (being good to parents) come from. It’s that intellectual trend that started around 1000 C.E. to change Confucianism from a set of practical and reasonable tenets into a metaphysical cult of absolutes and excesses. Hey, listen, if it’s true that being one’s teacher for one day makes that person into one’s father for life, then what about the even older adage, from Confucius’ Analects no less (Chapter Shu Er, or 《论语:述而》/《論語:述而》), that “when I am in a group of three, there has to be someone who’s my teacher” (“ 三人行,必有我师焉” or “ 三人行,必有我師焉” in complicated script)? Then one acquires fathers every day? Maybe even several times a day? Hey, I think that making one’s teacher into one’s father is an act of luan lun ( 乱伦 / 亂倫) or mixing up of the Cardinal Relations. Yes, yes, I know they use the term luan lun to mean incest nowadays, but I am using the term in its original meaning in The Analects and other traditional Chinese writings.* So no, I don’t think I cheapen or besmirch the sacred role of teachers at all when I include teaching in the just as sacred buyer-seller, Sixth Cardinal Relationship.

Yes, time to recognize the actually sacred act of buying and selling as part of the just as sacred Cardinal Relations, with sacred Cardinal Obligations.

Feng Xin-ming, May 11, 2008, minor edits June 21, 2008
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* See Ci Hai 词海 / 辭海,Shanghai, 1989, p. 2107, under the entry 乱伦 / 亂倫.


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Cardinal Obligation 6: Between Buyer and Seller

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Finally, the Cardinal Relation between buyer and seller, a sixth Cardinal Relation invented by me - is it also a relationship of mutual help? With all the talk about the “hidden persuaders,” how “big corporations manipulate us to buy their products,” and how “big business” manipulate the market to make us overpay, sometimes it is hard to see how the relation between buyer and seller can be one of mutual help. Socialist ideology and much traditional ideology from around the world, especially the poorer countries, say that buying and selling are somehow inherently dirty as the profit motive (hence “greed”) is involved, and that sellers are morally suspect as they are always looking to “take advantage of the customer” and take the “poor sucker” for all he has. Such is the cynical worldview of the “dog-eat-dog world.”

Sadly, there is still much currency to this type of thinking, especially in the more socialist and poorer parts of the world. No, the honest, non-cheating profit motive is not the same as the dishonest, cheating “greed.” The honest, non-cheating profit motive means striving to help one’s customers better than everyone else, or more than everyone else, or striving to help more customers than everyone else. Those laudable and honorable strivings are the only real ways to make more profit honestly. Of course, collecting on payments due is part of the honest profit motive, and is absolutely necessary to ensure justice and to ensure that the provision of the valuable and useful product or service under consideration is sustainable. It is absolutely honorable, therefore, for a buyer to demand and collect on payments due him, otherwise he will not be able to continue producing his product or service, it will become unsustainable, and soon noone else will be able to enjoy his product or service. He is only being responsible to other consumers and would-be consumers of his product or service to strive to make it sustainable. As for taking advantage of one’s customers in price, quantity, or quality, that is the surest path to ruin for a seller, because there is only a one-time profit and there will be a real dearth of customers as his putrid reputation becomes known.

Buying and selling is truly mutual help on the grandest scale. As I have written back on March 4:

“An extraterrestrial visitor will find the massive and intricate amount of mutual help in human society simply amazing. Millions upon millions of people go to their jobs at set hours and perform their tasks more or less to order, day after day, providing goods and services to help other people. These producers then go regularly to yet other people, like the grocer, the hairdresser, the doctor, and so forth, and receive help in the form of needed goods and services, just so much and no more, with little or no fighting, scrambling, or whining. Everything is very orderly, yet there is no one controlling or directing all this traffic!”

Indeed, advance in the level of wealth and modernization of a society can be seen as nothing other than increase in the quantity and complexity of the mutual help in a society. Every new product or service is just another type of mutual help being brought into being: whereas before we have no life-saving treatment for say, appendicitis, and appendicitis is a sure death sentence, with modernization and medical advance in a society a new type of mutual help is born, the persons called surgeon, surgical nurse, anaesthesiologist, operating room architects, builders, maintainers, janitors, and so forth, who can come together to help people by providing them with the service called an appendenctomy, come into being.

Should it be any wonder that, where there is prevalent recognition of buying and selling as being honorable and respectable, where sellers and buyers are usually honest and usually don’t cheat, the society is relatively rich, and where the opposite is prevalent, the society is poor? It is not an accident; it is cause and effect.

In the old days, when China has been one of the richest, if not the richest, country in the world, the attitude prevalent in society has been that one must be honest, must not be greedy, and must not cheat. In the past, Chinese businessmen have had a sterling reputation for honesty, fairness, and being true to their word. In fact, an article in Readers’ Digest that I’ve read during the sixties talks about how the secret to success of the overseas Chinese businessmen in Southeast Asia, besides an amazing work ethic, is their legendary integrity. Alas, that kind of integrity is not much in evidence in the thinking prevalent among people in China these days, thanks to the half century of socialist ideology there.

For the sad situation in the prevalent attitude and thinking among Chinese people nowadays, special responsibility must also be laid on the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” of 1966 to 1971, and the “Campaign to Critize Lin Biao and Confucius” immediately after, from 1971 to 1976. Those ten years of ideological “ethnic cleansing” have thoroughly rid China of its traditional culture, traditional morality, traditional integrity, and traditional courtesy, in a word, rid China of its moorings.

Feng Xin-ming


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Repaying En- 恩 or Kindness, the Five (or Six) Cardinal Relations

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

The concept of the repayment of “en-” 恩 (- = first tone; this is my “home-made” pinyin for easy keyboarding) or in Cantonese, “yun-1″ (-1 = Cantonese first tone), is a very important one in traditional Chinese culture. “en-” means a kindness, a significant, great kindness, not just a little tip to the waiter or something like that. In traditional Chinese culture, it is very important to repay kindness. In fact, repaying “en-” is considered to be the basis of society itself.

To repay the kindness (the “en-”) bestowed one by one’s parents is the basis of “xiao” (”how-3″ in Cantonese) or “being good to parents.” Now “xiao” or being good to parents is considered in traditional Chinese society as being the basis of civil society and the most fundamental guarantee of moral conduct. So, by extension, repaying kindness or “en-”, in this case that from one’s parents, is regarded as the fundamental foundation of civil society in traditional China. Repaying of “en-” is indeed considered very important.

In traditional China, what transpires between the parties in society’s Five Cardinal Relations (wu^ lun’ 五伦 or ng-3 lueun-4 in Cantonese), is described by the term “en- yi`” 恩义 (”yun-1 yee-6″ in Cantonese). “en-”, as we already know, is kindness. Now “yi` (义)” is a bit harder to translate, as in Chinese it’s used for a lot of different things. In this context I think the correct translation is “obligation”. So what transpires between the parties in society’s Five Cardinal Relations is kindness and obligation.

To explain, the Five Cardinal Relations are those between the ruler and the subject (between government and citizen), between the father (parent) and the son (offspring), between the older and the younger brothers (siblings), between husband and wife, and between friend and friend. These comprise the most important relations in society. Of course, today we would add a sixth, that between buyer and seller, where buyer also includes the employer since he’s buying labor power, and seller includes the employee who is selling his labor power.

So, in the traditional Chinese thinking, what the parties in society’s fundamental relations do is to bestow kindness on and carry out obligations to, each other.

Feng Xin-ming


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