Archive for corruption

Ear-Wiggy

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by javedbabar

I have always felt alone in Lucerne, thought Shama. It is my own doing mainly. I have kept to myself. I wanted to get away from the city, all those people making noise and trouble, and I haven’t wanted to re-engage with people, even in this small place.

But I don’t feel alone now. I guess it had to be someone special, an outsider like me. Who is more of an exile than Zadam? He is a disfigured being hidden within a green, hooded coat. His facial features are reversed. A man ignored, who ignores. Like me, he seems weak but is strong.

Shama was protective of Zadam. He thought of him as a kid brother who needed help to make his way in the world. He also provided a way for his self-appointed “big brother” to escape self-imposed exile. The flipside of integrating Zadam into everyday life was that Shama too must engage with the local community.

He thought it would be good for them to attend a local election meeting. They could smell the hot potatoes, spot elephants in the room, complain about white elephants, and enjoy hearing politicians getting abused, which was always quality entertainment.

Shama and Zadam came in late and sat at the back of the hall. Some people stared but then turned away. Whether they became ashamed of their rudeness in a temple of political correctness, or they didn’t want to miss anything going on up front, was unclear.

The mayor was a local business man. He owned the airport, the bottle shop and the grocery store, leading to claims that he used his assets to unbalance the local economy. How he did this was never explained, but there was a history of accusations. His style at gatherings was called B&B, a mixture of bullying and boring people into acquiescence, and in private there was further B&B: bribery and beating. He was a political player par excellence.

The mayor was asked questions about the very high levels of village taxation, its unbalanced budgets and non-existent plans, impossible building regulations, vicious personal arguments and crippling legal disputes. Some of these questions received stock answers, but most received no answers at all.

Zadam began talking to himself.

“Please be quiet,” said Shama. “You are disturbing people.”

Zadam said, “He can’t answer. He can’t answer.”

“Shhhh!”

“I know the answer. I know the answer.”

Zadam’s upside-down head caused his senses to be reversed. He could see both points of view of every situation, smell what things would become, and also hear true answers, rather than the false, unclear or irrelevant ones that most people spouted out, and usually preferred to hear. He liked that film where the general said, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

Zadam couldn’t stop talking and people around him became annoyed. Shama asked him again to be quiet, but instead he got louder and eventually stood up, chanting.

The mayor tried B&B but it didn’t work. The chairman of the meeting also failed to silence the heckler. Eventually they just let him speak. No one was willing to publicly mishandle a disabled person.

Zadam said, “Why should I be quiet? You are not saying anything. You say you don’t know the answers. I know the answers.” He told the audience everything. He told them about the mayor’s personal 5% cut of taxation, crooked accountants, deliberate lack of planning so project funds could be hidden, the corrupt Building Control Officer, veiled threats, and lies told in court.

Following the meeting, the mayor and incumbent councillors withdrew their names from the ballot for the forthcoming elections. There was a motion for Zadam to stand for election but he declined, saying that the only poll he liked was a “pollipop”.

This confused people enough to not pursue the motion.

Common Sense

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by javedbabar

Shama’s new job as Training Director came with some goals, which he discovered in a file marked Targets. There was something strange about them though.

They were originally dated 2012, but that year had been crossed out and replaced by 2013, and then 2014, 2015, 2016, all the way to the current year, 2020. Within the file was a sheet of paper stating a single goal: To double training numbers.

Shama knew that business goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely). This goal was not SMART. What was the starting figure? Was this a goal that had not been achieved, hence the sequence of years on the cover, or was it more like a Mission Statement, a perennial goal?

He checked a file called Budgets, whose years were marked in a similar manner to the Targets file, counting from 2012 to 2020. This file was more informative though. It showed the Training funding reducing every year. If The Authority wanted to double training numbers, why were they halving funding? It didn’t make sense.

He knocked on the Managing Director’s office door. A voice called out, “Come!”

“Good morning. I am a bit confused about something. Do you have a few minutes to help me?”

“A few minutes, sure.” The MD was a very attractive woman. Shama thought, she must keep herself really fit. She had unblemished, golden skin and perfect breasts and thighs. He stomach was as flat as an ironing board. He had heard she was in her fifties, but she could pass for forties, or even late thirties. What a knockout!

She said, “How are you getting on here? Are you enjoying your new job?”

He almost corrected her: jobs. He was doing two jobs but only being paid for one. She however was never busy, seeming to do a half-job. But what would correcting her achieve?

“I am learning a lot,” he said.

She interrupted. “As you should be! You are Training Director. If you don’t train yourself, how will you train others?”

He didn’t know how to respond, so moved on. “I am developing the Jobs of the Future program. This is a vital pillar of our work force’s development, covering skills required for the new flexible, collaborative economy. We are focusing on pattern recognition, common sense, creativity, imagination, and other skills.”

“That sounds wonderful. So what’s the problem?”

Sue, the receptionist, had helped him with some financial analysis.  “Well, we don’t have enough funds to achieve our goals. The amount of money available for training is reducing each year. I will write a letter to The Authority requesting more funds…”

“That won’t be necessary,” the MD said sharply.

“But we need more…”

“No we don’t. We have enough money.”

When she said the word money, things clicked. Her tailored blue suit, jeweled watch and perfect manicure; her unnaturally full lips, taut face and high breasts; her Mercedes parked outside. These adornments were all bought with money. She had enough money. That was where it was going, somehow slipping into her wallet. If he wanted to keep his job he’d better stop pushing. That was common sense.

A part of him also wondered, was there enough to share?

Mining Data

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2012 by javedbabar

Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak. Gemma’s knitting was getting on his nerves today, and Mr Amin wondered why. She was usually a quiet presence in the corner of the lounge and her daily knitting was reassuring – something small and progressive in a huge unstable world. He liked to watch her knitting and purling, creating new patterns on new garments to enrich people’s lives. There were hats and socks and sometimes jumpers. Mr Amin saw that her knitting style was changing. Each stitch was smaller and tighter, as if pulled into itself, and she was working faster. He wondered whether she was working towards some crazy knitting goal, or it was just natural progression of skill

James seemed to be unsettled. Mr Amin said, “How are you doing today?” James didn’t respond directly but rolled his eyes and his head gave a shudder. Something was bothering him. When someone is the victim of a serious stroke, it’s hard to say what. Mr Amin held his hand briefly and said, “Be well, James. Be well.” He wondered what people did to end up like this. Was Karma just?

“What are you doing to him?” said Gemma, looking up from her knitting without speed or rhythm wavering. “He won’t respond to you. Why do you bother?”

Her insensitivity annoyed Mr Amin but she couldn’t rile a trained diplomat so easily. He said, “It’s always worth bothering with people, Gemma. You never really know how you will affect them, so I feel it is best to treat people kindly, and what happens after that is beyond my control.”

Gemma said, “Huh!” and clicked her needles more loudly. Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK.

He felt that he had better sooth her too, saying, “What are you making Gemma? Is it a hat?”

She brightened at the opportunity to talk about herself. “Yes it is. I sell them to Guru Baba’s disciples. Because of my career as a math teacher, I know about sacred geometry, it’s just combinations of shapes. They want a set of twelve hats with holy symbols. This one has OM.”

“What about the others? What’s on those?”

“Well, here’s my list. There’s OM right here, then a Cross, Star of David, Crescent Moon, Dharma Wheel, Khanda, Taijitu, Water symbol, Torii Gate, Bahai Star, Pentagram, and Black Sun, the symbol of mystics.”

Mr Amin thought back to his father’s funeral forty two years ago, with OM’s and swastikas chalked around the pyre. His father had risen from a small village to become Northern India’s Minister of Culture, a wonderful model for social mobility. He had become very wealthy and had the ability to get anything done, even the impossible – like freeing up land for power projects. Imagine if the dams and drilling hadn’t gone through – India’s development would have been hampered. Despite Mr Amin and his brothers finding daily blackouts exciting, in later years he felt sad that his nation couldn’t even keep its fridges running.

He was proud of his father’s achievements and had entered politics at an early age. He had risen in the diplomatic service before being himself appointed Minister of Culture upon his father’s death. He was shocked when he examined his father’s files though. Many were missing and the ones present bore great holes. Financial ones. His father had not been as noble as he had thought. It was India after all. Everybody was corrupt. His discovery shouldn’t take anything away from his father’s achievements. His administration was just tempered by practicality. Mr Amin wondered why he was thinking about this now. He hadn’t done so in years.

Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK.

James too was thinking about his father, who’d run a mining company in BC. He’d come from Ireland with nothing and spent ten years searching for gold. His claim near Golden had eventually yielded rich results and he had become very wealthy. Rather than squander his gains though, he had used them to build up his business, expanding from Golden into other parts of BC. James had loved the extraction operations. He’d operated trucks and crushers from an early age, mining copper, silver, nickel, and zinc. His father was especially proud when James made his own discoveries.

On James’s 21st birthday, his father had said “Son you are ready to take over from me. I’ve spend much of my life here, and now I’m going out to see the world. He had travelled to the world’s great holy places – its great excavations and constructions – Rome, Delphi, Jerusalem, Giza, Petra, Moenjodaro, and the Taj Mahal. In India he’d heard about a big mining company behaving badly. He’d discovered that to secure extraction rights they were destroying an ancient temple and forcing poor villagers from their homes. He’d started a campaign to save the village and temple. The big mining company had complained to Mr Amin Sr., the Minister of Culture, who decided that this foreigner was a threat to the development of his nation’s resources, and also to his fat commission. James’s father disappeared one day on a site visit, and his body was never found.

Now at Open Hearts seniors daycare centre it was Mr Amin’s duty to care for James. Karma was more complex than straight addition and subtraction. Fathers’ sins were also visited upon sons. Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak.

Extrapolator

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , on January 7, 2012 by javedbabar

In my sixty years at the General Store I’ve never seen anything like this. Our green and golden valley’s become orange and pink. There’s hundreds of workers in safety vests. Don’t know why they call them that – in my day if a guy dressed like that, he’d get beaten up. And red and white tape across the forest, like a festival barber shop, except not a very good one, the cutting is patchy. Young women smiling, giving you the come on, then calming you down, flashing “Slow” boy, and then “Stop”. Still, good to see so many people working. Wonder who’s paying?

There’s lockdown tonight. Gotta stay off the streets. I push aside some Viagra boxes to peer out. A local store’s gotta stock everything these days.

Choppers dangle shipping containers, and a Jumbo-copter swings something the size of a house. A convoy of flatbeds hauls concrete blocks; there’s pairs of trucks balancing bridge sections. Next morning there’s this God-Awful noise. If a constipated bear was roaring in the steambox of a Victorian engine in an endless conduit, you’d be close.

Next morning the lockdown is over. I go and ask Pink Sweety a few questions and offer her some thermal underwear. Say she can try it on in the shop. She says I am an old creep and I should know better at my age. “My grandmother used to shop here,” she says. “And she’s warned me about you.” Damn, she knew about my spy hole in the saddle box. I used to fit right into it.

I go to Tangerine Boy, and call him “son”. I think he likes that, probably doesn’t know who his father is. “That’s the Extrapolator, Pops,” he says. I want to “pop” him on the head, but my fist would bounce off his hard hat. “Haven’t you been reading about the big project in your papers? Lucky for you I’m a Public Rural Interface Committee Kommisar, I can tell you all about it. BC Bylaw 2012, Volume 17, Edition 6, Set 24, Evolution 14 says that ‘All features must conform to best practice’.”

“What ‘features’?” I ask.

“As it says, Pops, ‘All features’. They are to be regulated holistically within the existing non-local paradigm.” I feel a bubbling deep within.

“What’s ‘best practice’?”

“The consensus view on constructive activity that is sustainably authorized.”

Why has everybody started speaking mumbo-jumbo? Official words that mean nothing at all? What’s wrong with saying things plainly? What you really mean or think about stuff? But that could be offensive to somebody, somewhere, sometime, and they say we can’t have that these days. Political Correctness. Paranoid Cuckoo. I pop a smelly one out behind and move away.

A billboard says that our valley indeed does not conform to best practice. They say the balance of low UV-sunshine, windchill, water sediment, snowy crystallography, drainage nodality, wildlife passage, agricultural offsets, tourist magnetism and heritage values is not optimized. They say that this can all be resolved by amending the physical proportions of the valley. The Extrapolator – invented by the UBC Dept of Vibrational Tectonics – will stress the earth’s crust to make the valley 100 meters less wide. Screw that, why don’t they fix the power lines over the centre of town, or throw some trees around the railway tracks?

The main distinction these days is not between truth and lies, but between truth and bullshit. Even lies have a purpose, a certain integrity, a sort of honest hope. But the aim of bullshit is to confuse you. To dim your wits causing a fearful paralysis. Like on Tinker’s 60th birthday, but that wasn’t my fault.

Over the next month, forests are cut down, farms are flattened, and houses commandeered. Those affected are told not to worry; generous rebuilding loans are available from the government on easy terms, at 150% of existing values. Everyone’s cashing in. I get a check after they bulldozer the store, but not before I sell out of my most profitable lines: leathers and Viagra. Double bonus. I chat to Pinky Sweety whenever I can, but the guys from the pub keep shouting out “Hey Napoleon, have you found Josephine?” and “She said yes, you can get off your knees now.” I’ll show them yet. I don’t even like the pub. Same old bores. But where else can I go?

There are daily discussions, weekly workshops, monthly marketing plans, quarterly quantas, and annualized analyses. Any protestors are paid off, scared off, or carted off. At the end of the month, our valley conforms. “Exactly 100 meters more narrow,” they say. They stress the word “more”, as if they have given us something extra. Now it will have the right balance of “occupational logistics, psycho-climatography, and social shunt”.

A bill of $40 million is presented to the village. A million a day plus service plus bonus plus tax. There is a press launch. The Premier cuts a blue ribbon across the new, more narrow valley. I stay at the store that day. Still got the marks from the handcuffs the last time.

Ten environmental monitors will remain for a year. That’s extra. The rest of the workers pack up, ready to move onto their next project – it seems that the next valley is now 100 meters too wide. I’ll head up there in my new Mustang, wave at Tangerine Boy, and see if Pinky Sweety wants a ride. I’ve got a lot of cash now and only a few years to spend it. And I saved a few of them magic blue pills. In this crazy modern world, at least there’s one thing you can count on to point you in the right direction. Maybe she’ll flash me a “Fast” sign.