Posts Tagged ‘mutual help’

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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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 2

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

edited Nov. 22, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Now let us look at why honesty leads to success and happiness in life.

It’s all because the fundamental feature of human society is mutual help. Thus, to be as successful as one’s ability warrants, one must maximize both the help one gives to others and the help others give to one. Of course, a lot of this occurs as buying and selling, including the buying and selling of labor, i.e. going to work for an employer, and a lot of this occurs as non-monetary mutual help among family and friends.

No matter, for the mutual help to be maximized, one must give an open and complete picture of what one can offer. Only thus can one maximize one’s “customers,” whether monetary or non-monetary, whether stranger, acquaintance, friend, relative or family.

Only thus then can one maximize one’s return, again whether monetary or not. When one helps others, others will help one. With monetary mutual help things are priced beforehand with each exchange, with non-monetary mutual help among friends and family things are fixed beforehand as part of the Cardinal Obligations (see my blogs Mar. 2 – April 5, 2007). Either way, for others to help us maximally, they must be able to see clearly what our needs are. Only by being open and honest with them can they best help us.

It’s a mutual help world out there, and to be as successful and happy as one’s ability warrants, one must be honest.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life - 1

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

edited Nov. 22, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Why should one be honest? Well, it’s because honesty leads to success and happiness. Huh? Someone asks. Isn’t it by being “tricky” (古惑) that one gets what one wants? Aiya! No, no, of course not!

Yes, the worldview that the world is all about tricking others, a variant of the dog-eat-dog worldview, leads to nothing but failure and unhappiness in life.

Being tricky and using deceit is OK for temporary gain only, and in the long haul the more you trick and take advantage of people, the fewer friends you make, and therefore eventually you will end up being unsuccessful, friendless and miserable.

True, among people who believe in this worldview of deceit, those who actually go out and lie and cheat are only a minority. Even for the majority, however, even for who refrain from trickery and cheating, this worldview is no less harmful.

Such people, who often, sadly, consider themselves more honest than most, are frequently bitter and complain that the reason they are not successful in life despite their ability (technical ability, that is, not moral ability) is that they are too honest and not tricky enough. Sigh! They do not realize that the very reason they are not as successful as their ability warrants is precisely because they have not been honest enough. For one thing, with such a worldview these people are never completely up front with others. Thus when others are able to help say, advance a career to a level more commensurate with the ability, they are never given the chance because people with such a worldview are ever so coy about their situation. Also, people with such a worldview are forever suspicious of others when they try to help, and so when others try to help they are eventually forced to give up in frustration. Yes, repeat that time and time again, throughout life, and one naturally ends up being unsuccessful, or at least not as successful as one’s ability warrants.

Feng Xin-ming


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Mistaken Worldview, Mistaken Portrayal of Reality

Monday, October 29th, 2007

“The New Marriage Life (新結婚生活),” a Chinese soap opera series recently shown on Chinese TV KTFS Bay Area is really sinister in its concluding episode: the hero, a very successful college graduate and executive who throughout the series shows a lot of compassion for his peasant older brother and goes to great lengths to help him, actually only does so because of feeling guilty about having cheated the older brother out of going to college so that the hero has been able to! And the soap opera shows this dishonest man, who has flagrantly violated all morality and ethics, is absolutely forgiven in the show and enjoined not to tell the older brother, just to keep helping him. Alas, where is uprightness? Where is integrity? The whole cheating of one’s older brother out of his due is portrayed as being natural and expected – after all, when faced with the choice of either vicious, deliberate cheating of family or not going to college and thus staying a peasant, isn’t one supposed to choose the former? Isn’t life all against one and one against all? Isn’t it the law of the jungle, even when it comes to family? Oh woe! Oh what a terrible worldview!

Yes, when you expect others to be immoral, you then can act immorally yourself, since you are just protecting yourself and at worse you are just doing unto them what they would do unto you anyway. This worldview, this portrayal of reality is most pernicious. In fact of course, it is a mistaken worldview and a mis-portrayal of reality because, as we have pointed out in previous blogs (e.g. April 2, 2007), life is actually based on mutual help. Human society is based on mutual kindness, and is the diametrical opposite of the dog-eat-dog world.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why the Supremacy of the Relationship-Defined Cardinal Obligations is Good for Freedom

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

The reason the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations is good for freedom is because, except for the relationship between the government and its citizens, the obligations are voluntary and government authority and legal coercion is unnecessary.

The obligations are based on mutual benefit; one violates them at one’s own peril. One gets punished by natural means; if one violates one’s obligations one then loses the reciprocal obligations the other party owes oneself.

Thus, if a son is not xiao he risks his parents becoming unkind, as the reciprocal of the offspring’s xiao is the parents’ kindness; and if a husband is not respectful and cooperative he risks his wife becoming disrespectful and uncooperative, as spouses’ respect foir and cooperation with each other are reciprocal.

Furthermore, other people who have a relationship with him, seeing that he does not carry out his Cardinal Obligations, may also cease carrying out their obligations to him. Thus the son who is not xiao risks having his own son being not xiao to him, and the seller who cheats his buyers risks having people who sell to him cheating him.

Not only that, but also other people who do not now have a relationship with the obligation violator/reneger will cease to come forward to have relationships with him. Since relationships mean mutual help, this means the violator will get very little help and therefore will not succeed in life or find happiness. Thus, a seller who violates his obligations will find fewer and fewer customers, a husband who violates his obligations to his wife will lose friends and few will become his friends, and so forth.

The supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations is the supremacy of mutual help, nothing more. It is the honor code for mutual help. It codifies honorable conduct for relations of mutual help in human society, relations that can be life long, relations that no human can live without. Adopting this honor code is entirely voluntary, but extremely beneficial. It is most conducive to success and happiness. Having such weighty incentives, once people understand the idea, they will conduct themselves according to this honor code, and there is no need for external coercion in the form of legal authority and government.

People are free to adhere to the honor code or not. If they do, they get rewarded, automatically, without getting the authorities involved. If people don’t adhere to the honor code, they get punished, again automatically, without getting the authorities involved.

Government can be as minimal as possible, intrude into the lives of citizens as little as possible, and yet society runs harmoniously and justly, with everyone looked after. The weak, the aged and the disabled will be cared for by those who know them and are close to them, rather than by some anonymous big brother government agency.

As more and more people adopt the idea of the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations, it will usher in a new era of free societies.

Feng Xin-ming


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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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The Cardinal Obligations Continued: Mutual Help

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

What do all six Cardinal Relations have in common? They all have in common the fundamental feature of human society: mutual help.

Reflecting the fundamental property of human society, the Cardinal Relation between government and subjects is but a relation of mutual help: the government is there to help its subjects by protecting them and keeping order, and in turn the subjects help the government by cooperating with the government so as to make order possible, and by paying taxes to sustain the government.

Also, the Cardinal Relation between parents and offspring is a relationship of mutual help: the parents help the offspring survive, grow up, and learn (become educated). When still immature the offspring help the parents by cooperating with them in the upbringing by obeying and respecting the parents, and when grown up, the offspring help the parents by providing sustenance and care to them in their old age and debility.

The Cardinal Relation between older and younger siblings is a relation of mutual help: the siblings help and cooperate with each other.

As for the Cardinal Relation among spouses, the husband and wife help and cooperate with each other in building a life together.

Of course, mutual help is clearly the real link underlying friendship. Never mind encouraging and admonishing each other, even when it comes to just friends mutually entertaining and amusing each other, that is a form of mutual help.

Feng Xin-ming


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En- Yi` 恩义 or Kindness and Obligations, and the Modern World

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

The traditional Chinese emphasis on the repayment of “en`” 恩 (”yun-1″ in Cantonese), is completely compatible with modern society. Some people think that human society is a dog-eat-dog world, or is a world of the law of the jungle, but they cannot be more wrong. The fundamental feature of human society is actually mutual help.

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!

This is mutual help; this is what human society at heart is all about. The more humans advance, the more society becomes intertwined, and the more complex and intricate becomes mutual help. In fact, progress in a society can be defined as the development of more complex, more intricate, and more thorough-going mutual help: the mutual help we see in a modern city is far more complex and intricate than the mutual help we see in a primitive hunter-gatherer tribe.

So when you repay “en” or kindness, you are helping those who have helped you. In turn, those whom you help turn around and help you again. This is also mutual help and what human society is all about. The Chinese emphasis on the repayment of “en” or kindness encourages the development of mutual help, and is therefore, not only compatible with modern society, but is also a great boon to its advancement.

Feng Xin-ming


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