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Chinese Poppies

Tomorrow is ANZAC Day. You’ve probably never heard of it if you live outside of Australia and New Zealand but it is a national holiday where New Zealanders and Australians are encouraged to think of the people who have served in the armed forces in the past (ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).

The organisation for returned service personnel is known as the RSA (Returned and Services’ Association) and it has an appeal leading up to the 25th where it gives out (paper) poppies for a donation. The poppies represent the poppies which grew in the battle fields of Flanders in Belgium during World War I.

Whatever your opinion of war most people would agree that the majority of people who served in the armed forces were in many ways innocent victims of greater political forces, so they tend to help out by “buying” a poppy from the collectors for the RSA.

In the past the poppies have been made by disabled people here in New Zealand as a way to give them employment, but this year the RSA decided to source most of them cheaply from China instead. That’s why they won’t be getting a donation from me, or many other people, this year.

I’m not against buying from China (or anywhere else) in every case. If I was I would own almost nothing because just almost every piece of technology I own (including all my beloved Apple devices) are made there. I would prefer it if China wasn’t a virtual slave labour source which allowed big multinationals (including Apple) to get rich but that’s the current reality.

But where there is a clear alternative I would prefer to support it. Sure the Chinese poppies were cheaper, but is cheaper always better? Cheaper often has unexpected consequences. I would be happy to donate 10 dollars for a New Zealand made poppy but I won’t give them anything for a Chinese one. Which is really cheaper?

A lot of the problem comes from the example set by corporate leaders. Recently a particularly obnoxious one called Jim Quinn who is the CEO of our national railway KiwiRail (a state owned company) first refused to use a division of his own company to do work it could easily have done, and now wants to sell that same division (the railway workshops in my home town of Dunedin) because they have no work.

Is it any wonder that when horrible people like that set an example that others are tempted to follow? They think it’s OK to abandon morality and ignore the big picture to save a few dollars. Well it isn’t. We pay CEOs lots of money to make the best decision, not the cheapest. Any idiot can just look at a report and choose the smallest number. It’s just not good enough and the CEO of both KiwiRail and the RSA should resign (and preferably leave the country so we don’t have to put up with them just moving on to the next organisation they want to demoralise).

Business leaders really do get it easy. They can justify their vile decisions by saying they are just following best management practice, they often hide the details of their dirty deals behind the lie of “commercial sensitivity”, and they spend a fortune on publicity campaigns, hideous spin-doctors, and professional lobbyists so that they can continue with the loathsome farce which is modern business.

Naturally the current government, being ideologically motivated to encourage this sort of thing, doesn’t help and things will no doubt get worse before they get better.

So the matter of the source of some simple paper poppies has turned into another political rant. No surprises there!

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