Marina Mahathir: The cost of telling the truth; It takes courage to stand one’s ground, but the greatest reward is the ability to sleep at night, knowing that one’s conscience is clear

Updated: Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 9:07:53 AM

The cost of telling the truth

BY MARINA MAHATHIR

It takes courage to stand one’s ground, but the greatest reward is the ability to sleep at night, knowing that one’s conscience is clear.

WHEN parents try to teach their young children certain values and behaviours, consistency is the key. When you tell children that lying is wrong, then they must never catch you telling untruths. If you say there’s no money to buy some fancy new toy, then you can’t come home with a brand new car without them wondering how come you can afford that. Children have natural radar for hypocrisy. It is tuned to catch any inconsistencies, white lies or complete untruths that parents spout because these grate against the natural sense of fairness that kids have. And every time they catch their parents out, a small bit of parental authority erodes. This anti-hypocrisy radar is only maintained if the child doesn’t then learn that to be hypocritical is more rewarding than to be true to one’s own conscience. If they find that there is nothing to be gained from telling the truth, and everything to gain from fudging facts, then the children grow up with their moral compass askew. They learn not to take responsibility for their own misdeeds but to blame others for it. Thus you get stories, for example, about kids who blame their maids for not putting their homework in their schoolbags on the day they are meant to pass them up. Unfortunately there are more and more adults behaving in this way these days.I can only assume that once they did have a conscience, believed in certain things but along the way grew to learn that being true to that conscience is no way to get ahead in life.

As children, they might have had a strong sense of justice, of instinctively knowing when something is unfair.

But when they become adults, that instinct is put aside because it’s not a ticket to advancement. Besides if everyone else is doing it, why be the exception?

To be the exception requires the strength of moral character that is able to withstand the pressures that come from others, whether family, colleagues or bosses.

It also requires the courage to take whatever blowback that might come from standing one’s ground, some of which undoubtedly will have implications to more than one’s self.

But for those with such courage, the greatest reward is the ability to sleep at night, knowing their conscience is clear.

These days I find myself wishing I knew more people of such moral fortitude because they do seem thin on the ground.

I see people who have no qualms about making themselves popular by preaching the oppression of those who have no voice.

I shudder to read of people who blithely believe that the rule of law should only apply to themselves but not to others.

If one were ever to accuse them of any crime, they immediately plead that they are innocent, but they accord no such consideration to those they don’t like.

They say that those of us who open our mouths in protest have no respect for the law, when they themselves barely hesitate to override those very same laws.

The tragic thing is that these types of people think they are leaders, because in the popularity contests they indulge in, they win.

Never mind if their means of winning would hardly fit a child’s description of fairness, what matters most is that they win.

I look at the lineup of the so-called leaders we have and I have to despair.

Not a single one of them would be anyone I would look up to.

None are names that would come immediately to mind as those who could take us confidently into the future, to take our place among the best in the world.

Instead I see people whose minds remain in an ancient age where might is always right, and the majority always wins. And a fat wallet is everything.

Many years ago I was in a country much poorer than ours where I met a young politician who seemed just the type of dynamic leader the country needs.

There were rumours that he would stand for election as the mayor of their capital city.

But when I asked him, he replied that he was not going to.

“It takes a million US dollars to have a running chance of winning that post,” he said.

It wasn’t that he did not have the money because he came from a wealthy family but he did not feel that was the right thing to do.

Today I saw a quote about how much it takes to stand for party elections in our country.

It costs four times more to run for elections in a party of three million members than to stand for mayor of a city of 18 million.

Enough said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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