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Doing well, doing good?

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    I walked past another Carnegie Library in London this evening and reflected on the contrasting characters discussed on Tuesday evening at the Forum in Belfast.

    Carnegie’s entrepreneurial skills are legendary. He took risks that paid off. A few years of pain for him paid off with a life of wealth and patronage gained from steel. Tolstoy’s Pahom decided it was definitely worth a few hours pain to have a lifetime of gain. However he failed in his risk analysis. Samuel’s hero Ahron instead seemed to mindlessly give what he could not afford.

    I have reflected that perhaps the issue is not whether we do our risk – benefit analysis or not – and we always should. But rather we should consider more carefully the risks and benefits we put into the equation. Ahron seemed to assess only the present benefit to the recipient of his generosity and ignored the risk to his own well-being. Pahom seemed only to care about the future benefit to him personally and to his peril forgot the present risk to himself and his family. Carnegie ensured his own benefit first and then looked at the benefits he was willing to bring to others – but only as he perceived them.

    I think the only one who slept soundly each night was Ahron. Perhaps with the odd pang of hunger, but knowing he had done the right thing. Maybe ‘Doing Well and Doing Good’ could be replaced with a simple ‘Do Right’. He had a longer term timetable in his mind than the other two. That’s a challenge to all of us I think.


    I was reflecting on the 3 characters we encountered through the readings – Pahom driven to his destruction by his acquisitiveness, Aharon driven to his destruction by his selflessness and Carnegie somehow in the middle.
    Pahóm Aharon Carnegie
    Vision Short term Short term Long term
    Suffering Accept suffering for gain Accept suffering for gain Accept suffering for gain
    Focus Only on self Only on others Self & others
    End Dies because of his choices Dies because of his choices Prospers b/c of his choices

    Pahom’s only goal was to acquire, Aharon’s only goal seem to be to give away, Carnegie seemed equally driven to do both. His paternalistic approach feels to me to be a different issue – not one congruent with our times, but as much driven by his context as anything else?

    My difficulty with Aharon is that his behaviour was only possible in the context of others around him “picking up the pieces” either feeding him, or supporting or otherwise. This is (and was) clearly unsustainable, so whilst perhaps admirable, it cannot be thought of as a model, more of an object lesson!


    Better formatting:

    Short-term vision, Accepts suffering for gain, Focuses only on himself, and dies for his choices

    Short-term vision, Accepts suffering for gain, Focuses only on other, and dies for his choices

    Long-term vision, Accepts suffering for gain, Focuses himself and others, prospers for his choices

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