Reader's View: Businessmen, not idealists, put food on table
Have you ever watched the movie, "King Rat," which was written by James Clavell and which was filmed in 1965 starring George Segal as Cpl. King, a shrewd, charismatic American soldier? This epic story is about Allied soldiers taken prisoner after...
Have you ever watched the movie, “King Rat,” which was written by James Clavell and which was filmed in 1965 starring George Segal as Cpl. King, a shrewd, charismatic American soldier? This epic story is about Allied soldiers taken prisoner after the “fall of Singapore” and sequestered by the Japanese in the Changi POW camp. British officer (a noble) Robin Grey was provost of the Ally prisoners and worked diligently to provide military discipline and to cooperate with their captors.
Cpl. King (“King Rat”), however, outsmarted them and controlled the camp by monopolizing the flow of goods through trading with the Japanese guards and local Malay villagers. He even invented a method of trapping and cooking rats to trade for goods and favors among the malnourished prisoners. He found ways to feed them and to provide clothing, medicines and cigarettes. Of course, he demanded payment in return, especially their participation in his scheme and keeping quiet.
British Imperialism was outperformed by American ingenuity in this harsh setting. It helped keep the prisoners alive and gave them hope. The Changi camp had the highest percentage of survivors of all Japanese POW camps. Cpl. King, however, was acting mostly in his own interest and more the ignominious than the hero. The British royals hated him and even tried to have him courtmartialed after their liberation.
It wasn’t pretty, but, sometimes, results are more productive than style. His entrepreneurial talents sure came in handy to help the POWS survive, whether you liked him or not.
Idealists don’t put food on the table; businessmen do. Pride is cool, but eating is, too, folks, and commerce is the spoon that stirs the stew. Just ask the unfortunate people in Venezuela.