Monday, February 21, 2011

Something about believing

Artist: Viktor Vasnetsov

Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?

-- Yann Martel (from Life of Pi)

(Just to put the above quotation in context, you might like to read about Life of Pi right here.)


  1. I tend not to believe in things that are hard to believe; though I do believe there are people such as Siddhartha Buddha, Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and others whose compassion and self-sacrifice on behalf of others rises to a level that is far beyond that of which most people are capable. I also firmly believe that the world is full of injustice. Actually that last one is easy. Recently I’ve discovered a new euphemism that is being used to cover the distinction between just and unjust, greed and fair play, criminal and law abiding, compassionate and selfish. The term I am speaking of is ‘business model.’ It seems the term ‘business model’ is the latest euphemism for ‘anything goes,’ including any form of abuse, injustice, or greed, as long as it doesn’t threaten the life styles of the affluent. This I don’t find hard to believe.

  2. There are two Apple computers in my house. I’ve always admired Apple because of the company’s commitment to excellence, even when it sometimes seemed to sacrifice profits. But just in the last few years Apple has grown to become the second largest company in the world, behind the Exxon Mobil Corp. It may actually be the most profitable now. The company has achieved a dominant position in smart phones and the new ipad. Just this past week they announced that any publication that wishes to sell magazines, newspapers or books through their apps (Applications) must pay them 30% of the selling price. I dare say most magazine publishers don’t make a profit of 30%. Some newspapers are barely getting by. I found an online discussion group about Apple where I wrote, “Greed will kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” One responder replied, as if I was somehow totally ignorant, “It’s a business model.” I responded, “A used car lot that sells cars which have been dragged out of a flood and had a coat of paint on them is also a business model.” Oddly, the next day I read the story of the pirates off the coast of Somalia who seized a yacht and kidnapped a couple who travel the world distributing Bibles. I am sorry to say that, even as I was in the process of writing this, I read that the pirates have killed the couple and two traveling companions. But, following the initial report of their kidnapping I was struck by the response of an American diplomat. He said the pirates had made a big mistake in kidnapping the couple. “They have had a successful ‘business model’ in hijacking large tankers,” he said. If the U.S. feels that they are a threat to average Americans it may decide to be more aggressive in attacking the pirates. The price of injustice is too high for too many. That is sad. But what is sadder still is that western society will be much more enraged of the death of four Americans aboard a yacht than it ever is about millions of poor the world over who die from multiple causes, many of which go unchallenged if they can be said to fall within what is deemed a ‘business model.’

  3. Hi, Tom. Go over to the sidebar of this blog and click on The Anchorhold. (It's another of my blogs.) As of now, the top post is another (longer) quotation by Yann Martel that speaks directly to what you are saying here.

    (By the way, I really hate the term "business model". It will probably not surprise you that it's a favorite of the bishop of Oklahoma.)

  4. Yes. You are right. I only noticed the term 'business model' recently. But it is very inclusive. In the minds of those who use it, it covers everything from selling apples from a cart on the street, to selling cocaine on the street, to running a hospital, to human trafficking, to running a spiritual center. It hears no evil and see no evil. Too often, however, it opens the way to do evil by enabling evil to pose as an every day normal kind of thing. And, of course, it is.

  5. Most sinister of all, the term 'business model' has come to be used to absolve those who use it from making moral choices or distinctions.

  6. Haven't read the Life of Pi. It has gone on my list.


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