“How to Get Rich in Rising Asia” is a story about a Man striving for a life with financial security, perhaps in excess, and not truly fulfilling what it means to be happy. The Man does not feel fulfilled until the end of the book when he is taken out of his comfort zone of money, power, and status- left without an income and without his health, and is left to better his interpersonal relationships which ultimately leads to a more fulfilling life and his happiness. Many people in our society are caught up in the ‘importance’ of possessions, for we are a very materialistic culture. The book provides us with a lesson not by example, but rather by repeated failure, and places an emphasize on the important things in life.
I chose the following picture because it show the positive impact of supportive personal relationships.
“How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” is a book about a boy growing up in said “rising Asia”, in search of ways to gain financial stability and security in the world around him. Throughout the book, he is faced with many situations, which could have brought him pleasure in many ways- however, pleasure and happiness are never directly referenced or mentioned at any point in the book. During the first half of the book, it is clear that the protagonist’s journey is based on the search of money for pleasure. I was not too fond of this book because of the writing style and the story in general. It did not stress any major points directly, rather just carried the reader through a journey of a man’s life, which was supposed to be paralleled to the reader’s life- after all, it had been portrayed as a self help book up until it became clear that this person’s life was to be learned from based on his failures rather than by example of his accomplishments.
The man seems to be suffering throughout the book- at least in my own personal interpretation. He was never satisfied with his relationships, whether it be with his father, or siblings, or the Pretty Girl, or his wife, or his son- he was always looking for bigger and better things of monetary value to bring him pleasure. The search for money had lead to poor decisions and poor judgments; ones that absolutely made the reader question the protagonist’s moral character. The concept of the novel was sad; the man was continuously searching for a happiness he could not possibly find in money and business; rather, the happiness he was looking for was not fulfilled until he became closer with the Pretty Girl and his own son, at the end of his life. Happiness is subjective- different things bring each of us a different amount of pleasure. While many people value materialistic objects as the key to a happy life, oftentimes it is through personal relationships and doing good for others that we as humans feel most fulfilled.
The Man’s story and moral character can be evaluated by delving into the theories or Aristotle and Pojman. Aristotle speaks of happiness and good men in terms of the goods that they do rather than the goods that they have; “a happy man lives well and does well”. According to Aristotle, the main goal in life – the point of the journey of life is to strive for happiness. Aristotle refers to a point in one’s life, which I can only assume to be close to death, where a man values himself by the goods within himself rather than the goods he possesses- the internal goods. This is where is becomes evident that the Man was not on the track to happiness until the later point of his life, when all of his possessions, wealth, and social status had been taken from him by his ex-brother-in-law. Aristotle talked about goodness and happiness, and so we will talk about how the Man was good and how he was not before we can talk about his happiness. With goodness, naturally comes the thoughts of morality.
Aristotle spoke of moral virtues in the sense that they are not naturally occurring- they are a learned behavior that must be practiced and exercised to become a part of us. This coincides nicely with the point that Pojman made about cultural relativism in the sense that morality is different among different cultures. If someone is not raised with moral virtues, they can not rightfully be judged because of the absence of these virtues simply because it was not part of their culture. So I pose the fact that the Man was not an honest businessman, not a good husband, not trustworthy, did not stand up against violence or unjust acts, etc.- but he could not be judged for not responding to these a certain way if his culture did not place an emphasize on the importance of them.
When we meet the Man, he is still living in a rural area with his family while his father is traveling back and forth from the city. In the beginning of the story, we are introduced to him while he is suffering from what seems to be a horrible ailment. In his culture it was normal to have this type of sickness, and he was not paid much attention to. In America, however, someone who had the possibility of dying from a virus or bacteria would be hospitalized immediately and would have intensive care, while here the Man, or boy at the time, was just depicted as lying there sick, while his parents were having sex in the same room that him and his siblings slept in. One could see how this differs from normal American culture, and how a difference at a young age could change the fundamentals of morality from ‘doing good for others’, and converting them into ‘survival mode’.
So then the boy goes to the city with his father and the rest of his family. He attends school, where he is humiliated for being intelligent, and eventually is employed at a video store. While working at this video store, he sees the pretty girl walking to her house often, and eventually comes into contact with her, discussing the possibility of stealing a movie for her viewing pleasure. This is the first of many immoral incidents on the Man’s part. However, we have to weigh the options- would there have possibly been another way the Man could have gotten the girl the DVD without stealing it?- perhaps not. I feel that it would be appropriate to attribute his wrong doing to the fact that he was interested in his own benefit, which was the chance to interact with the Pretty Girl, rather than actually intentionally doing wrong; being passively immoral, if you will.
Throughout the story, there were many times when the Man was immoral. One big example that I could not disregard was the fact that his entire water bottle business was built on the fact that he was not purifying or filtering the water professionally. Rather, he was just boiling the water and selling it as purified. During a conversation with one of his workers, he discussed that if someone got sick from the water if it was not boiled the right way, it would not be good for business. I felt that it was immoral to not recognize that it would be wrong to make someone sick in the first place. Also, I could not understand how someone could sell a product claiming it was one thing and actually selling something of lesser quality- but I suppose that would delve into a concept of business ethics. Regardless, the fact that he built his business on false advertising and deceiving his clients was morally wrong.
There was also a situation in which he felt threatened because of his financial power and status, and so he hired a body guard for protection. While he was out with the body guard one day, the guard felt that the Man’s safety was threatened by an individual, and so the guard shot him. The guard did not consult the Man before killing the individual. However, it was not written in the book that the Man reacted in a way, objecting the actions of the guard and stating they were wrong. It was morally wrong for the Man to not address the wrongdoing with the guard.
The Man married a woman whom he was not entirely interested in. They had a child and he was not often present because, as always, he was in search of bigger and better things like money and social status. His marriage had fallen apart, and by the time he was interested in repairing the damage, his wife had zero intentions of putting effort towards the relationship. It was immoral for him to ignore the responsibility of marriage and a family. However, it is worth mentioning that we were not exposed to the culture regarding marriage in ‘rising Asia’. Perhaps it was the norm for the man to distance himself from the family to provide money- and so we as a culture are not in the position to judge because of the lack of knowledge on the matter.
The Man’s interactions with the Pretty Girl were overall immoral on both of their parts. I feel as though they toyed with one another’s emotions throughout the story, and it was not fair to either of them. The pretty girl was not necessarily the most modest character, and she was often with other men while the Man was getting married, having a family, lying and cheating to make money, etc. Their relationship was not feasible, but nevertheless, monumental. There were many instances when it was evident that they longed for one other, but were unable to make it work because of other desires like money and fame. Both the Man and the Pretty girl are guilty of this. However, I believe that if the Pretty Girl had given the Man the opportunity to be with her earlier in the story, in a more concrete way, like marriage, that he would have graciously accepted and perhaps the story would have played out much differently.
The main concept of this book was not directly introduces: the search for happiness and the importance in life. Throughout the book, the Man was not ‘happy’ although it seemed like he was chasing his own tail around it. The man did not seem satisfied with his life until all of his money and possessions and statuses were taken away from him. Towards the end of the book, the Man no longer had his health. Once he was discharged from the hospital, he was living in a hotel and helping young men who were trying to become entrepreneurs, giving them advice and showing them the way. Helping those people made him feel satisfied and happier with himself. However, he was still longing for something else. He had rekindled his relationship with the Pretty Girl and they lived together, having a mutually satisfying relationship. His son had visited and stayed with the Man and the Pretty Girl for a while- that was also an important relationship that made the man feel very satisfied.
The man was not a ‘good man’ throughout much of the book, because of the example of immoral decisions he made, and therefore I did not sense him as a happy man. It is hard to decipher if happiness makes you good, or if goodness makes you happy. However, it is very evident that when the man was no longer passively immoral, he became happier. It is also very evident that the reader did not get a sense of satisfaction from the Man until he was nurturing his interpersonal relationships with his son and the Pretty Girl, supporting the fact that his true happiness was not fulfilled by material possessions and money. At the end of the book, the Man is dying, and we are painted a picture of a scene, which is either a dream or a hallucination. The Man thinks that he is in the hospital again, surrounded by many people. This reinforces that fact that he recognized the importance of his relationships with others- he did not dream of money, or water bottles, or cars, etc. The important things became clear to him much like Aristotle mentioned- “a man values himself by the goods within himself rather than the goods he possesses”. Even though the story ended on a sad note with the Man dying, I feel that the man had a successful story because he was able to find satisfaction in his situation and recognize that happiness was manifested in relationships rather than possessions.