About selling the tape recorder. It was a portable one, which Geoff, God rest his soul, connected to the voltmeter of our van to ensure that we had the power to run it while we were on the road without having to concern ourselves with changing the batteries. We sold it to an American guy, an Ugly American as it turned out.
First we had to go to a building in Kabul to the appropriate government department. I remember it clearly. It was early afternoon and here we were, two North Americans trying to wend our way through a Third World bureaucratic quagmire. He had the tape recorder on his shoulder, with Jimi Hendrix blaring. I suggested that he turn it off because, not being the sort of music one hears in the East, it might be upsetting to the people working in the building, including those with which we had to deal to get the tape recorder sold. Along with the van and a camera, the tape recorder information including its description and serial number had been stamped on my passport upon our arrival in Afghanistan. Upon leaving, we had to have official documents of sale for all of these items or have them in our possession or else face some kind of punishment, a fine perhaps, which we were not interested in having to pay. Obviously. So here we were, him with the recorder, both of us attempting to get the appropriate papers regarding its sale.
We entered a room with two or three “officials” sitting around and no sooner had we stated our business than we were told to turn off the music which the American did. But it was too late. “Come back later,” one of the guys says, “we’re very busy at the moment.” What a drag. We left, came back another day without the music this time and got what we needed to do the deal following trips to two other government offices until the process was complete.
I didn’t blame the Afghanis one bit. It was their country and that fact was slowly starting to dawn on the guy from the States. You know how Americans were and still basically are: some of them anyway believe that they come from the most important country in the world and that people from other countries should kowtow to them. Another thing a lot of them seem to think is that if it isn’t happening in the United States, then it isn’t happening at all. New Yorkers feel that if it isn’t happening in NYC, it isn’t happening at all; people from Manhattan and Brooklyn, for example, believe the same thing about their respective boroughs – that is if it’s not occurring in Manhattan/Brooklyn, it is not worth taking note of at all because whatever it is is not important. That guy who bought our tape recorder and the tapes that had kept us company from England all the way to Kabul was part of what is referred to as an ethnocentric political culture, one that puts the U.S.A. in the centre of the universe and that’s that. I guess events beginning with 9/11 in the States have put a significant dent in so self-centred a world view. Remember that I am talking the early 70’s here, the Nixon era, when terrorist activity had not yet started happening in the U.S.A. as yet, or in many other countries either, for that matter, themselves victimized by terrorist acts later rather than earlier in their respective histories.
I was overjoyed when we finally sold the van. It was more difficult than I had anticipated. Driving to the market place daily for close to two weeks and having no success day after day. Finally we got lucky. The five hundred bucks Am. I got for it allowed me to survive in India until I gave what remained of it away along with my passport, other documents and my return ticket home, back to Canada, but more on that later.
First I dumped my western clothes and started dressing more eastern – high collared long sleeved shirts, white pants, wider than jeans and minus both pockets and belt loops, a little embroidered over the shoulder bag, and sandals, jappals as they are referred to in India. I kept the aforementioned denim jacket, though, the one with the beautiful Phoenix.
One of my prize possessions was the Afghani burnoose, a kind of long, woollen, black cape with beautiful white embroidery, which included a lovely hood with a small white tassel sewn on to it. I wore it all the time in Montreal during the winter. I was back with my parents for a couple of months, already a very tough situation for all parties and one that was exacerbated by the disappearance of my burnoose which my mother, who hated it, either gave away or threw out, and never had the guts to admit to having done so.
I believe that I have always been a very spiritual and non-materialistic man but that it took me two trips to the East to recognize and come to grips with being a spiritual person especially in the west where most people weren’t and aren’t. Remember the light in the Indian eyes and my earlier statement about the west beating the light right out of you, and fast too? Well I really am convinced of that. It is almost impossible for anyone to be a materialistic spiritualist or a spiritualistic materialist – it’s either one or the other, at least as far as we westerners are concerned.
I am not advocating poverty here. I am saying that I saw things beginning in Iran and continuing through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India which amazed me and forced me to question my previous system of values which, although being less materialistic than that of most of the people I knew, was way too much in terms of its emphasis on “success” measured in terms of what we do for a living, the amount of money we make, the type of house we live in, the car we drive, etc. This goal-oriented thinking serves as a rationalization for some behaviours which are unacceptable in and of themselves aside from the fact that they are also contributing to the moral decline of our civilization. One of these behaviours is lying.
Some students in the private school somehow made a differentiation between lying in business and lying in private lives. There are two problems with that. We used to argue about this in class quite often with my position being that you cannot be two people, and that if you lie in your professional life (a) that makes you a liar no matter how you slice it, and (b) this will turn you into being a full time liar, one’s private life not excluded. I take complete and total exception to the students’ argument that lying in business is alright as in …”Sorry, the 200 dozen T’s you sent for dying are not quite ready. We’re doing them as we speak and you’ll have them early tomorrow at the latest.” Where the fuck are those T’s?”, I ask my partner immediately upon hanging up the phone. This type of thing must happen quite often in the business world which contributes to its having become an acceptable mode of behaviour.
Like I said, I can’t come close to buying into the argument that lying is okay in one’s business or professional lives. Take the legal profession for example, specifically a defense attorney who has been told by his client that he is in fact guilty of armed robbery. This attorney will then lie as necessary, anything to get his guilty client off; and if that gets her into a stone house on a corner lot in Hampstead so much the better. This lawyer doesn’t ask herself too much about the lies she told and the witnesses she manipulated to get this house and neither did a disturbing number of my private school students. For people like this, the end justifies the means.
Perhaps I am so against dishonesty today because I lied my way through university, even getting caught in a big lie I used to tell to appear big to my friends and fraternity brothers to whom I now say I am sincerely sorry and thanks to most of you, with the exception of the two or three little bastards, who gave me a hard time about the lies I told. I take full responsibility for this unacceptable behaviour and have this to offer as an explanation. The physical and psychological abuse I suffered at my father’s hands ran deep and led to extreme self-esteem problems which led me to the need to build myself up.
Traveling to India rid me of my lying problem for good except for one lie which I cannot discuss, for now at least. I believe that living with Scleroderma is the price I have to pay for that lie.
Dishonesty, unfortunately, is all around us and is composed of two types – that which we never find out about and that which we do. In the latter category let these names roll around your brain – Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Michael Milliken, Earl Jones, Bernard Madoff who basically got life a few years ago in the States for ripping off people for millions or billions of dollars – can’t recall which – and all people who run Ponzi schemes lying to their investors about where their money is going and/or coming from, George W. Bush, Dick Chaney, Tony Blair and everyone who lied to the people about Saddam Hussein’s supposed cache of weapons of mass destruction, Alan Eagleson, Aaron Hernandez and people of his ilk who lie like crazy when they’re up on murder charges; I can hear some of you thinking “what the hell do you expect the man to do?” I expect that “man” to man up. If you do the crime, take responsibility for it. Not to mention Ben Johnson, Lance “I never did steroids” Armstrong, Mark McGuire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger The Dodger Clements. Not to forget Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and others of their ilk.
I never lied – not once that I can remember – in job situations when I landed in deep shit rightly or wrongly so. I always went with the truth and I hung in there regardless. I was paid to leave the private school, however. It’s only fair to mention that. If I hadn’t taken their offer, I may have been fired, unjustifiably for sure, but terminated nonetheless and I would have dealt with that in the same way that I handled leaving of my own accord. That is get another job which took me the Christmas holidays to do. I left in December 2004, and had landed a job by the beginning of the January term in 2005, staying with the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Board until I took retirement in 2010, following two years of sick leave caused by the onset and early raging of Scleroderma.
To be continued