For all our social sins

Lindsay King, Editor: Opportunity magazine

It came up in conversation while braaiing on the day of the 2014 elections. Somehow, between getting the first lot of chicken kebabs on the coals and debating the election outcomes, we just stumbled upon the conversation.

Twenty years into democracy, and on the day of our most important election since Madiba became president, I could not think of a more perfect time to reflect on our short road to freedom.

Not to keep you in any more suspense: I am talking about Mahatma Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Politics without principles, Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity and Worship without sacrifice.

Bearing in mind that Gandhi wrote these ‘sins’ in 1925, it is remarkable that even today they are still very much applicable to the modern world in which we live – in fact, it is probably more applicable now than it was then. As the braai fires were burning incandescently, and I kept a watchful eye on the meat on the grids, we touched on all seven sins, but somehow got stuck on the topic of commerce without morality – pondering to what extent we practise good ethics in business in South Africa, and on the effects of morality in business on our economy.

We debated about the fact that the success of economic and political systems is based on a moral foundation and we realised that without that, and ongoing education, our society and business would become immoral. We spoke about treating one another fairly and of the spirit of benevolence, service and contribution.

And we agreed to the fact that every business transaction and opportunity is a moral challenge – to ensure all parties are fairly treated – based on fairness and benevolence in business. But we also questioned whether the human race actually really operates this way. We decided that without basic, general and specific morality, no progress of any kind can be made in life – and that fairness and a regard for all parties in every transaction is the only way our free market economy and democracy can work.

We even debated whether Gandhi had any of this in mind when he came up with these teachings 89 years ago. Yet it is clear that regardless what the great master had in mind at the time, his teachings have relevance to business and economics as we know it today.

By the time the last piece of beef fillet was done and we rushed off to eat, I could not help wondering why, of Gandhi’s Seven Sins, we unknowingly spent hours debating commerce. My answer to this is simple: Commerce without morality is a social sin because all of humanity is impacted when business is conducted without a moral foundation.

As the new editor of Opportunity, I look forward to promoting, like my predecessors, content and knowledge that will inspire, provide insight, enlighten and ‘educate’ everyone reading this publication. I encourage you all to engage with me and my team in our quest to raise the bar and take this magazine to the next level.

Lindsay King

(Editor: Opportunity magazine)


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Issue 91


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