Early this week, I came across a shop in town retailing second, maybe third or fourth hand computers.
These are used items that look every inch, overused and probably a danger to those who buy them. The people selling them looked like they are from the Far East.
I got the impression, that these guys were simply dumping stuff in Rwanda and at the same time cunningly making quick bucks.
I saw some old dusty laptops going for Rwf 80,000. Given the penchant for loving second hand things, I knew these guys were minting dimes.
But some time later when I came to think of it, I realized that there is a contradiction in the way some of the most enterprising people do their thing. On one hand they may come across us deceptive and unscrupulous and yet on the other hand they display a great sense of honour.
I had read news about Toyota’s global recall of cars due to faulty parts. Of course this recall has brought out a number of questions that need answers.
But at the same time, it has brought to the fore the humility and that sense of taking responsibility that demonstrate the great honour of Japanese.
The head of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder of the great company, is reported to have publicly apologized for the manufacturing defects.
In apologizing, he showed a lot of humility and by accepting responsibility came across as an honorable man. The code of honour among Japanese has been written about and widely talked about.
In fact these great and enterprising people have a tradition of ritual suicide known as seppuku. Literature about this ritual says that it was originally for Japanese warriors who would die in honour, by committing suicide by falling on their own swords, rather than be captured in war.
When Japanese imperialism was defeated at the close of World War 2, they turned to industry and did it with so much dedication, where failure was not an option.
Failure, brought shame and shame was reason enough to commit suicide. Many business tycoons in Japan have been reported to commit suicide after getting tainted by corruption scandals or for some, failing in their responsibilities.
People who accept that the buck stops with them, and are willing to take the fall with out any prompting by their masters are admirable, because we know not many in these parts have demonstrated that they can do it.
Such people, one notes that they have a moral reason for holding positions of responsibility. They have no sense of entitlement, are in most cases people who have painstakingly and against odds, attained their positions in society.
They are in effect not products of privilege. It is in most cases people who have been given things on a silver platter that lack that code of honour.
They feel entitled and think their failures and mistakes can be tolerated and forgiven or ignored.
It is very rare in undemocratic societies, to hear of a person of influence who has resigned a position after making mistakes or even for criminal conduct. It shows one thing.
That probably the majority in positions of responsibility in undemocratic societies; socially, politically or in business, look down with contempt upon people they are supposed to provide service.
Such will always look for scapegoats and try hard to avoid accepting blame. They are quick to claim credit for any thing positive and equally quick to find scapegoats for their own failures.
Such work ethics and values as espoused by people like the Japanese (who after World War 2 took the route to their own home built democracy) are what make the difference in many cases.
Partly, that is why; some attain high levels of development while others remain mired in poverty. Of course in most unindustrialized societies, there are many factors that have been imposed on us by foreigners that have caused.
But there are many, that one may say are self inflicted or in some cases, one notices a tendency towards self destruction by some who have even made admirable success in some professions.
A strict code of honour, where people take the fall when things go wrong under their watch, can ensure continuity and progress. Giant industries and brands we see all over the world have been managed by families and groups that have great values they adhere to.
Where such values are scarce, companies do not survive over generations. In a number of societies where the culture of accountability is lacking, businesses and even well intended government projects and institutions are never trans- regime. They live and die with the order of the day.