Across Continents

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Changing values?

June 28th, 2011

She’d looked bemused. Why, I asked? Seemed I was the first person she’d met who’d actually incapacitated someone using plastic tie-wraps. This wasn’t, she quickly added, the sort of thing people normally did. I’d recounted the circumstances in a rather matter-of-fact way. Without fuss, melodrama or embellishment. Merely describing how it was. Something that had been necessary. I’d felt very strongly about this.

She wasn’t questioning why I’d done it. Just the apparent shift in my values that placed this sort of thing on a par with, say, fixing a puncture. What you did to get the job done. But had I shown a little moral flexibility? Crossed a behavioural boundary I might later regret? Found her observation thought provoking.

Details of the incident add little to the narrative. Suffice to say it’s a rarity on the road. Distraction rather than detraction. Simply put, a situation had arisen to which I’d chosen to deal with, well, logically. Applying the rules. In this instance, the doctrine of reasonable force. The usual moral, legal and practical arguments. Carefully, if quickly, considered.

Decision made, dealing with the miscreant was just a process to be followed through. Unexpected response from a Westerner. Art of surprise. Swiftly executed. The offender rendered harmless. To himself or others.

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Moral compass

November 28th, 2010

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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