October 18, 2010

Fight for your Principles, Fight a System

I have learned that the more I am able to get around corruption, the more I am able to overcome systematic hurdles, the more attacks I should expect. At first, I anticipated that my adversaries would be the ones to launch these assaults, and they have. I remember in one legal dispute, my opponents took out full page ads in all the country’s newspapers and ran them an entire week, attacking my company’s integrity. Those types of attacks are normal and expected.

What I did not imagine is that people outside of the dispute would also join in, in a kind of a multiplier effect. You are not battling against an entity or a person but battling against a system. And those who rely on that system will fight you not because they have a particular problem with you but because the outcome of your dispute might shatter their whole structure. If one individual can actually win court cases, win contracts and do business without corruption, this could encourage others to do the same and jeopardize an entire system.

I try to do what is right under my circumstances. And while I do hope that the decisions that I make will have a positive impact beyond my personal situation, I don’t have the ambition to change the whole environment. Yet, the mere sense that someone – anyone – could get around their system causes collective panic and leads to numerous forces working to protect this order of things.

As a result, just staying in a corner, trying to survive while maintaining one’s ethics and principles can be an invitation to what I call “invisible forces.” Doing the right thing is so costly, so exhausting that it becomes a luxury. Not many can withstand the barrage of assaults that result from trying to operate outside of the system, and many don’t. It is just so much easier to just go along with the flow lest one become the target for destruction.

Even though I don’t promote this openly, it is pretty well known that I don’t engage in corrupt practices. But the environment survives and thrives on corruption. As a result, I am an enemy before I even decide to enter the ring.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, my father died a couple years ago and there has been a real battle surrounding his estate. My legal status happens to make me his primary heir even though he had lots of children. To avoid any battle, I thought that it would be best to simply share equally with everyone and stay out of the courts. As rational as this might seem, it was a huge mistake.

In fact, when there the potential for a dispute, especially when it involves significant amounts of money, the system needs a battle; lawyers need to get their fees; judges need their bribes; law enforcement authorities too. Therefore, the more fights they can create and the longer they can keep them going, the more they benefit. So the various forces will actually fuel the fight – this until there is nothing left to fight over, and then they move to another case. While I have understood this, many of my siblings have not and they have fallen hook line and sinker into the system’s trap.

More importantly, the “forces” know full well that they will not benefit from me and that if I have my way, the disputes will end. So I unwittingly become the target for their attacks with my siblings used as mere instruments. Unwittingly because I chose not to engage in the battle so they brought the battle to me. My offices have been physically attacked by dozens of thugs with the police, when called, just watching as our doors were broken down and locks changed; innumerable criminal complaints have been brought against me, simply because I chose to stand up for the truth; I am on trial for purportedly being a CIA agent and there are two eviction proceedings against my company because we are “a cover for the CIA.” A local police station even issued a warrant for my arrest for “espionage,” amongst other ridiculous accusations.

Of course, these are all ludicrous and unfounded attacks and those who brought the complaints know that there is no basis for them. But because I am brought into the ring, I have to defend myself, and therefore, I have to surrender to their system.

One of the many times I had to respond to law enforcement, they straight out told me that they knew that I was really the main heir but that my half-brother had shown them money and that I should show that I have more. I walked out, suggesting that if they had anything on me, they should simply arrest me.

Last week, I received a call from a friend of a magistrate that has one of the cases; again, he stated that others had made “offers” and that he wanted to give me the opportunity to make an offer of my own, suggesting that the decision would favor the highest bidder. Again, my response was simply that the judge simply do what he thought was right; I would not be “bidding.”

Because of the legal circumstances, it is very difficult for judges to outright decide against me, or for law enforcement to charge me with a crime. However, they drag the cases or investigations for as long as possible, hoping that the pressure and the financial cost of multiple lawsuits, complaints and disruption to my business will cause me to relent.

If I have been able to withstand the attacks so far, it is only through God’s grace. This does not mean it has been easy. It has taken a toll both on my personal and on my professional life. It has also caused me to put on hold many of my projects and other more constructive endeavors. So in that respect at least, the system has been victorious. Although it has not yet destroyed me, it has limited my ability to function normally meaning against the system's interests.

I am an optimist and believe that good overcomes evil. I cannot allow the system to change what I believe in or to dilute my principles. I might lose a lot in a material sense but at least, I will maintain the very essence of who I am. This doesn’t sound very pragmatic but as some say, “pragmatism is the enemy of principle.”

4 comments:

  1. Wow, stay strong and yes stay true to your principles, it's worth it! I'm from a west African country and believe that each time I refuse to pay the expected bribe for added convinience it's a small but meaningful step in changing the culture of corruption. Good luck!

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  2. Thanks for standing up for the right thing. Have you ever informed the (local) Transparency International office or similar initiatives? Joining forces with other anti-corruption fighters might help reach the tipping point... Best, J

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  3. Hi. You can read a word in portuguese about your blog tomorrow morning with this text:
    "O que é ser empresário africano? Leia a resposta no Diário de uma empresária africana, escrito por alguém que usa o anonimato mas que diz ser mulher e viver numa cidade da África subsariana. E vai logo começar pela postagem intitulada "Luta pelos teus princípios, luta contra o sistema", aqui. Para traduzir, aqui."
    Congratulations.

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  4. Keep up the fight, as always, even in the midst of all these obstacles. Be sure that you are making a difference, even if it is a drop in the pond. The ripple will spread eventually.

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