One random day in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, as requested by the bus driver. That led to the Montgomery bus boycott, and of course, ultimately leading to the famous speech by Martin Luther King, “I have a dream“.
Of course, it is unimaginable today that such an event is possible in United States. But it was only about 60 years ago, black people in United States do not have the basic civil rights, in fact, they have limited rights whatsoever.
That sounds crazy? Try these.
In 1972, the United States Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution, which proposed banning discrimination based on sex. The ERA was then sent to the states for ratification, but it would fall short of the three-fourths approval needed. Yes, as crazy it sounds, ERA is still not implemented in United States today.
And Al Gore, yes the environmental hero people admire today, was busy fighting rock&roll music back in 1985.
We take things so much for granted.
Today, of course it is totally unacceptable to get/ask a person, based on race, to give up seats to others. Yet it is totally acceptable to have first class and business class in commercial flights.
We may think, come on, we should deserve more if we have paid more.
Is it much fairer to give up (more comfortable) seats to richer people but not white people? Is it much fairer to ask poorer people to cram in uncomfortable seats but not asking black people to stand at the back of the bus?
Capitalism is our most influential religion today. And we take it so much for granted – we don’t even dare to ask why.
Speaking of capitalism, there are other crazy examples.
We believe “mark-to-market’ is the most appropriate accounting principle in measuring asset value. For example, no matter how much you pay for your apple, if you neighbour just sold a similar apple for $10, your apple and therefore your asset is worth $10.
Perfectly makes sense right?
Now think about this.
Let’s say in a large residential compound in Hong Kong, there are hundreds of similar flats in it. Let’s say everyone bought it at 1million dollars. And out of the blue, one person sold it for 2million. In this accounting principle, everyone in that compound will automatically double their personal asset. If there are 1000 flats there, the world has just become richer by 1 billion just like that.
Finally, I still remember vividly a Chinese executive told me this joke when I first started working in Shanghai. Two Chinese men were walking along the street. One saw a piece of dog poo and asked the other person, “if you eat this, I will give you 1 million yuan”. The other person ate it! The person was shocked and said, “how about if I also eat it, will you return the million yuan to me?”. The other person agreed. The person ate it and they were back to square one. Oh wait, not really! What really happened was, two people ate dog poo but the GDP of China has just increased by 2 million yuan!!