TUMBY BAY - It makes you wonder, does it not, about people who see other people’s ignorance or misfortunes as opportunities to exploit them and make money?
We tolerate this at a certain level even when the ethics have gone missing. Persuading people to buy things they don’t need or which are harmful to their health. Convincing them to take loans and credit cards they’ll never be able to pay off.
Those sorts of things are regarded as good business or clever marketing. Being convincing and persuasive enough to make a profit is regarded as a virtue by many people. In business, there’s often a very thin line between a salesman and a shyster.
It was the American journalist, Daniel Schorr, who famously said of sincerity that “if you can fake it, you've got it made”.
Then there’s out and out greed with no attempt to fake or hide anything.
In the United States, Martin Shkreli earned the nickname of the "most hated man on the internet" after he bought the rights to Daraprim, a drug used to treat those with weakened immune systems caused by illnesses like HIV.
Shkreli then hiked the price of the drug by 5,000% from $13.50 per pill to $750. He’s now in jail after being convicted of securities fraud over another matter.
That’s a pretty extreme example of the worst kind of human behaviour in a supposedly civilised context, but how does it stack up against other examples – say, among politicians and their cronies?
Is there any real difference between a politician who awards a tender at an inflated price to a kickback-paying wantok (who, if he does anything, makes sure it’s cheap and nasty) and someone like Martin Shkreli?
What that politician is basically doing is using taxpayers’ money (or aid money) to rob ordinary people of their due. I would argue that building an inferior rural road that falls to pieces after a year is immoral in exactly the same sense that Shkreli was immoral.
And making money by taking bribes from shonky drug suppliers who provide inferior products is also immoral.
We now hear rumours that relief funds for earthquake victims in Hela Province are being diverted into the pockets of politicians and suppliers who are charging inflated prices. That is a special kind of immorality. How low can these fraudsters go?
On a more general level, it’s also immoral to fail to pay rent on the building that houses PNG’s disaster relief agency, forcing it to shut down. And what did happen to that money allocated for rent?
A government that complacently allows its cronies to suck blood out of a dire situation is not only immoral but obscene.
By its inaction and complacency, it allows people to suffer and die. Some people may regard that as tantamount to state-sponsored murder.
If people die in Hela because stolen money or supplies mean there is no one to treat their injuries or provide food relief, is that not murder?
In Catholic teaching, an omission is a failure of a person to do something they can and ought to do. If an omission happens deliberately and freely, it is considered a sin.
But I guess if you are a politician in Mosbi dining at the Grand Papua or The Stanley, what goes on in far-flung Hela is of little consequence.
Distance and ignorance are a great panacea for the curse of immorality. And if that’s not enough, perhaps a quick trip to church or confession will do the trick.