OK, I admit it. I love my smartphone way too much. I use it for everything; finances, video, weather, investments, music, books – you name it. I have reduced my home computer use by about 90%. And because I have an Android phone, many if not most of the Apps I use are free. Really, aside from the “cool” factor, my smartphone has improved and streamlined my life. But, have you ever thought about those guys who make the Apps? Do they deserve something, even though they gave me the App for free? The answer that I tell my students all the time is “Yes, if you use someone’s App for your benefit, you are obligated to that person.” Huh?
Sound’s weird doesn’t it? Being obligated to someone I don’t even know? The Japanese concept is called “Giri”. Giri is strictly translated as “right reason”, but more loosely means duty or obligation. The idea is simple – we live in a society in which we were all completely dependant on each other. If someone does a service to you, you assume an obligation to repay that person commensurate to what they did for you – whether they ask for it or not.
A Web-designer friend of mine always allows me to pick his brain for free – something for which he would normally charge others. I always ask him to send a bill to me, but he is too nice to do it. What he does not understand is that no matter how nice he is to me, he is providing a valuable service to me, and I am obligated to him regardless. He cannot relieve me of that obligation. That is my Giri.
The concept of Giri can be perverted as well. Doing something only to get something in return can turn into an ugly, mafia-style act that has no honor or justice (think the Godfather saying “You owe me a favor”). No fulfilled obligation is honorable if the act of fulfilling it creates an injustice.
Therefore, I will start making a list of the App makers for my smartphone, and sending them donations, to repay the service they have provided me. That is my Giri.
What is your Giri?