Saturday, February 2, 2008

With a little help from my friends

The title of a notable Beatles song came to mind here in Bangkok as I read a short report in the Nation newspaper.

A recent public opinion poll obtained results that more than half of surveyed Thai citizens would accept a corrupt government if it would make their lives better.

Here is living cultural evidence of consequentialist thinking in ethics - the greater good washes away concern for sin.

The survey found that 50.5% of those polled would accept a corrupt government if it made their lives better.

With respect to business ethics, 62.9% of those polled would not behave honestly in their profession if they deemed it necessary. Some 78.1% of respondents showed a tendency to let their actions be dictated by prevailing public sentiment. On the question of diligence, 68.2% admitted that their willingness to work depended on their mood, 62.65% tended to use emotions rather than reason in solving problems and 61.8% felt shy when they had to help others.

In short, promotion of business ethics and corporate social responsibility may face some challenges in such a cultural context.

Is the solution mass conversion of Thais to some alternate culturally derived disposition of personality?

I am reminded of the American protestant missionary sent to Siam in the 1850's. When questioned by his patrons in Boston, he wrote back that it was true that after 2 years of effort he and his colleague had converted only 2 Siamese to Christianity. But, he admitted, his work would go faster if "only the Siamese believed in sin."

No comments: