The Magnate, A Magnet

The odd man with long hair

During family gatherings, I was often the odd one out. Most of the men, millionaires and magnates, were either bald or balding. I was neither; instead, I was well endowed with hair. One night, whilst a millionaire brother-in-law was sharing his exciting business prospect, I turned circumspect and decided only with a million hair can I claim to better them in something. Now when they talk about the boom in the stock markets and the real estate boon, I get to let my hair down when I party. I’m rich in my own way.

The magnate is a timber tycoon. The origin of the word tycoon is Japanese, an entrepreneur of great wealth and power. Quite appropriate, since his humble beginnings were drastically transformed when the Japanese left Borneo in the 1970’s and gave their timber concessions to him. The origin of his wealth can therefore be summed up in one word, Japanese. Since then, the continued illegal and destructive logging have cleared almost 95% of Sarawak’s virgin forests. Greed cannot see the environmental damage, decimation of flora and fauna and the destruction of traditional livelihoods of the indigenous peoples who rely on the rainforests.

In 1980, China opened up Shenzhen to the world as a Special Economic Zone. It’s population then was 30,000. Today it’s a metropolis of 20 million and a global tech powerhouse, the centre for AI development. The magnate was quick to realise that vast opportunities abounded; he offered me to work for him in 1984. Shenzhen was open but my mind wasn’t. I told myself it would be a scandal to work for a vandal. What would you call a person who vandalises and destroys virgin forests?

The magnate appears in the news a lot. Usually the news is about their illegal logging activities and the reports of corruption; it is surely not illogical that they can escape legal scrutiny by the authorities with such massive ecological destruction. There are, of course, laudable press reports too. Their philanthropy has always captured the media’s coverage. What do we think of philanthropists who trumpet their good deeds? Are they generous for selfish reasons, deriving egoistic pleasures and tax benefits? Urghhlings, they can even turn the honourable, altruistic and magnanimous act of benevolence into an ugly ostentatious act of self promotion and narcissism. The magnate of course is a great magnet for hangers-on and sycophants. I call these yes-people cling-ons, they cling tightly to the magnate, at all times. They are more vicious than the Klingons. At least the Klingons became the good guys in later episodes of Star Trek. But those cling-ons are only after one thing, they seek favours and handouts from the magnate. Urghhlings.

Shenzhen in the early 1980’s