Across Continents

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Moral compass

The moral high ground has deceptively lofty peaks. Treacherous to the unwise. Those with moments of madness. Even if wielding the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play. As one former Conservative MP can no doubt attest to. But a moral compass. No matter where you stand, it helps you follow the right path.

Which is handy when, in all probability, you’ve inadvertently spent the night in a brothel. Alone. Well, apart from Emma. My trusty steed. Or talked late into the night with a fellow foreigner who’d an encyclopedic knowledge of prostitution in China. And not the slightest hesitate to share it. Keeping your bearings. A passive observer, wishing to record, to share. Offering insight into less obvious aspects of society.

And then there’s corruption. Back in Azerbaijan. Ethically more troubling. Because, if you want to get things done, you have to participate. The compass waivers a little. Steadied only by the recognition that bribery and back-handers are endemic. Part of the very fabric of society. Theirs. Just how it is.

So, did I pay the odd bribe back there? Of course I did. Of necessity to get things done. Might have referred to them as "fees", "donations to the coffee fund", a "warm handshake". But unmistakably illicit payments to unduly influence the conduct of others. Bit of local magnetic variation. Just like the Black Cullins on the Isle of Skye. Sort of.

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