Companies across the world often try to do some good for the community in which they operate – it’s called Corporate Social Responsibility in business jargon, but sometimes the action of the company jars so much with the intentions of the community or charity that it leaves me open-mouthed in astonishment.
Take the 140th anniversary of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi as an example. German pen maker Montblanc has produced a special limited-edition anniversary pen in his honour. The pen retails at $25,000 and a proportion of that money will go to the Gandhi Foundation. In a clumsy reference to the famous Salt Tax protest march, just 241 pens will be sold – referring to the 241 miles of the march.
Gandhi led a simple life, focusing himself on creating work and prosperity for India as well as peace and understanding between the various religious groups in his country. He promoted Indian products, but even then he focused on craft and the retention of the traditional skills that were being lost through urban modernisation.
What would he think of a pen, made in Europe, and priced so high that an Indian worker on an average salary would take around 26 years of labour to buy it?
Personally, I think he would be horrified. I’m a European and I think it’s in poor taste. It looks like a beautiful pen, but it remains just-a-pen. Some might argue that it raises money for charity and therefore it must be ‘a good thing’ – probably the same people who argue that rock concerts full of has-beens and nobodies are ‘a good thing’ so long as they are staged for the benefit of charideeee.