It’s Good To Be Missed – Reflections

By | August 14, 2018

It is good to be missed. Humbling too. I have moved ‘homes’ for a while now and while head is still in the clouds at times, I have been publishing blog posts and columns at www.danielaginta.com. But old habits die hard. Some people said they still look for me here. I checked the stats and they reflect the very story. So it is then, I decided I will cross-post my columns here and there for a while. Blog posts will sprout from the other location alone (a subscription form is available on the homepage at www.danielaginta.com.) My ancestors would shake their finger at me. You see, I grew up with many sayings and the one for this situation goes something like this: ‘do not try to sit in two boats at the same time.’

There are a lot of memories here; people who have been along for the ride for a while wish to see the lights turned on once more in this little virtual home I’ve built. I kind of wish for that too sometimes. Transitioning to a blog that though it bears my name for easy recognition, yet has no social media outreach, well, it’s been a lesson in slowness and humbleness. It’s a big world out there and you have to learn how to stay afloat. I am still figuring out the moves.

Then again, after a few months of reflection and considering the pros and cons, I have reached a compromise regarding social media. I will return to Twitter for publicizing my column. I like the conciseness of communication (140 characters per tweet) and the fact that you can be a part of a tribe of sorts (environment, writing, social issues, in my case.) I do not have to see the whole wall full of people’s lunches, decision to photograph their toes against the ocean/lake backdrop, or heavens forbid, another compilation of time-saving hacks in the kitchen. Life is short indeed.

Here’s this week’s column: Integrity – A Precious And Rare Commodity These Days

It was the summer of 2006. We lived on the coast and were in the market for a car. The online ad described exactly what we had in mind: suitable family car, not too big, not too old. The price was a bit high but the mileage was low enough to explain that. The seller was a single mom of three who lived in a small house on a tree-lined street in one of the suburbs.

We test-drove it, examined it and took it to a mechanic nearby though the woman showed us a recent inspection. All good. The next day we went to the local ICBC office to finalize the transaction. A formality, right? It was, until the ICBC staff said, ‘wait a minute.’ At that point, the seller had disappeared, and with her, the money. One of her kids was sick, she said, so she just had to go check on him but she’ll be right back. She did not return, and the car which had more than 400,000 kilometers on it instead of the advertised 110,000 was ours. Can you say fraud? We drove back to the woman’s house to clarify the misunderstanding. The affable lady was gone and a more vicious version of her threatened from behind the door after refusing to answer the phone.

That was an expensive lesson. And a huge disappointment in fellow humans. Later we sold the car for a fraction of the price informing the buyer of the real mileage, and also learned of the ‘single mom selling car’ scheme. Not sure if it’s still a thing nowadays. Likely not, due to CARPROOF vehicle history reports – do insist on one when you buy a car.

Integrity is a big concept; a fragile one. There is something solid and unflinching about a person who shows it. It restores hope in humanity and mends many a broken thread that other people’s deceptive ways create. I can argue that while I would never get hooked by a phone or internet scam – they are often quite obvious, though there are many vulnerable people who do respond and end up losing their money or identity to fraudsters. Being vulnerable has become punishable by scammers, and there is little, most often nothing the scammed can do.

That some people can learn to commit fraud and live with it is unthinkable to anyone who believes integrity is the way to go. ‘How could they?’ is a rhetorical question. It’s not just small-scale scams either.

In 2015, for example, Canadians lost $1.2 billions to fraudsters, according to the Better Business Bureau of Canada. I guess the money ‘earned’ can blanket a temporary restless conscience, should that ever occur. But it would be unfair to single out the scammers that often remain hidden under a veil of anonymity. There are plenty of white-collar scammers who live well and prosper, was the conclusion of a long investigation by The Globe and Mail: around one in nine people found guilty of financial crimes by Canadian securities regulators become repeat offenders. The scale of the punishment does not match the offense, the investigation concluded.

Then comes tax evasion. We all remember the KPMG scandal from a couple of years ago. Rich Canadians paid mere peanuts, if that, by signing up for a tax product in the Isle of Man. Tax collectors go hard after citizens when they do not pay their taxes, unless the citizens are rich enough to get ‘help’ through various tax evasion schemes. The owing tax can climb up to substantial amounts, but alas, due to many happenings that we witness in high-speed sequence, even big scandals can disappear into oblivion after a while. That a high-level decision by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to grant amnesty to tax evaders did not help; it even angered CRA employees, who felt an investigation was mandatory. This particular scandal was documented through a CBC Fifth Estate episode appropriately called ‘The Untouchables’ and several well-documented investigative articles by the same. If you have the time and the nerves to read and watch, that is.

Living with integrity is a worthwhile goal to pursue. And yet, status, money and who knows what else, compel people to take an alternate route. Even in academia, according to a recent article in the Vancouver Sun featuring Derek Pyne, Associate Professor of Economics at TRU, who has dared to dive into the world of dubious journals and the increasingly worrying trend of academics paying money to have their work published in such publications. Yes, the pressure to publish can tempt even those who should know better. (There are 12,000 or so of such journals and Dr. Pyne is presently suspended and banned from campus due to his forays into the ethics of academic publishing.)

Integrity is a big word. It’s a way of life if you care to adopt it and a rewarding one at that, if you do not care for artificially-pumped status or questionably-acquired funds. Integrity is a concept that permeates all fabrics of society and something we should teach our children to uphold. From the people who sell us cars, or various products, palpable or not, to the people who educate our children and get voted in as political leaders in a community, province or country, integrity should be considered sacred. Because it is. And so is its legacy.

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