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Website owner:  James Miller


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Illusions


   You are on vacation, traveling in a foreign country.  What a 
   country it is!  You just love it.  Everything is so different, 
   so quaint, so picturesque, so charming, so idyllic.  It seems 
   like a little piece of heaven right here on earth.  "Oh, how 
   nice it would be to live here", you think.  The beautiful 
   mountain panoramas, the enchanting ocean beaches, the quaint 
   little houses, the friendly people, the pastoral scenes.  Oh, 
   how you would love to live here.  It is a fairyland, paradise!  
   The old churches, the plazas, the flower filled patios, the 
   quaint outdoor markets.  It is overwhelming to the senses.  So 
   different, so enchanting!  You are just so fascinated and 
   delighted with the land.  But appearances can be deceiving.  
   Life has its illusions and mirages.  And the fact is there is a 
   whole lot about this country that you don't know.  You think it 
   is all just what you see but it isn't.  For example:  Although 
   you don't know it, foreigners are being kidnapped and held for 
   ransom -- with police involvement.  In fact, this is a poor 
   dysfunctional country filled with corruption and crime.  Things 
   aren't the same here as they are back home.  The culture here 
   is different.  People here just don't think as you are 
   accustomed to thinking.  These people live by a totally 
   different mentality.  Their concept of time is completely 
   different than yours.  Efficiency is an alien concept to their 
   culture.  No one is ever on time for an appointment.  That is 
   just their culture, their way.  The systems and institutions 
   are inefficient, stupidly run, and thoroughly exasperating.  
   Getting anything done of an official nature, whether it be a 
   driver's license, a passport or whatever, is an ordeal, a 
   matter of a day spent standing in a succession of long lines, 
   and quite likely involving paying out a little extra money here 
   and there to help things along.  There are all kinds of inane 
   rules and regulations and one is always having to get some new 
   document or get a stamp on something or other and there is 
   always some problem about doing it, but not a problem that 
   can't be very easily fixed by passing a small amount of money 
   to the official.  The buses and trains are never on time.  The 
   telephone system is up at times and down at other times.  The 
   same with the electric system.  All is aggravation.  People 
   can't pay their utility bills by mail.  They have to go to the 
   different offices and spend hours in long lines every month to 
   pay them.  The mail system is unreliable, trusted by no one.

   Crime and violent crime is rampant and when people get robbed 
   or murdered they don't even bother to inform the police.  
   Everyone knows that is a waste of time -- the police are lazy, 
   ineffectual and won't do anything.  Poor people from the 
   country come to the big city looking for jobs, but can't find 
   them.  They have to eat, become desperate, and turn to robbery 
   and crime.  So there are few jobs and lots of crime.  The 
   criminals work in teams, identify their prey, and do their 
   little routine with great art and precision. And imagine this:
   While you are visiting the country a couple of policemen knock 
   at your door.  They inform you that they are going to search 
   your room. They very quickly "discover" some bags of cocaine in 
   a dresser drawer and then slap handcuffs on you.  You are going 
   to be arrested and will certainly spend years in a rathole of a 
   prison cell. However, you soon learn that there is a way out of 
   this.  For a sum of $20,000 they will just escort you out of the 
   country and forget the entire thing.  You say that you will stay 
   and fight it.  They tell you that the judge is a special friend 
   of theirs and you will surely be found guilty.

   This is a country ruled by corruption, ignorance, incompetence 
   and cultural stupidity.  Bribery and governmental corruption is 
   universal, a way of life, a cultural norm.  Corruption is so 
   universal and thoroughly ingrained that it forces everyone into 
   participation.  To get almost anything done you must pay money 
   under the table.  Everyone is "on the take" from police officer 
   to high government official.  The people are marked by 
   impulsiveness, disorganization and laziness.  It is a society 
   where fistfights can ensue over who will yield on a road or 
   sidewalk.  Government jobs are all obtained through 
   connections, often family connections, and are often filled by 
   the unqualified, incompetent and ignorant.  The impulsive, 
   rash, troubled, under-educated brother of a high government 
   official soon has a high job of substantial responsibility.  
   The children of top government officials are suddenly found in 
   top jobs immediately upon finishing school and in no time at 
   all are living in big mansions with servants and are 
   entertaining lavishly.  The 19 year old son of the new head of 
   customs is suddenly driving Mercedes cars and throwing big 
   parties.  Large sums of foreign aid of various kinds coming 
   into the country pass through a gantlet of corrupt officials, 
   with each official shamelessly, creatively, artfully stealing 
   just as much of it as he possibly can -- with the consequence 
   that the sums dwindle to nearly nothing by the time they arrive 
   at their destination (like a great river that gradually 
   dwindles to a tiny stream by the time it gets to its 
   destination because of all the water that has been diverted 
   from it along its way).  The country has just come back from 
   the brink of bankruptcy, been baled out by huge international 
   loans, and officialdom is living better than it ever has, 
   thriving in the great influx of money.

   The country is a democracy with about twenty political 
   parties.  No party ever stays in power for long.  Most 
   government jobs are political and there is a great changeover 
   in personnel with each new administration.  All the new people 
   know that they won't be long in their job, their time is 
   limited, that they must take full advantage of their limited 
   time to enrich themselves as much as they possibly can. 

   The country has a small ruling class, a circle of wealthy 
   aristocratic families, that clings tenaciously to power.  The 
   most of the rest of the people are poor.

   What is the point?  Well, the point is this: Life has its 
   illusions.  Things are not always what they seem.  Appearances 
   can be deceiving.  Life is full of illusions and deceptions.  
   Whether one finds himself enchanted by some foreign land or 
   enchanted by some member of the opposite sex, life can have its 
   surprises.  There is often more than immediately meets the eye.  
   And the full truth often only reveals itself with the passage 
   of time.  For the dreamer this can be a sort of lesson.  That 
   idyllic place of your dreams may have something more behind it 
   than what you see.  And that person who has just swept you off 
   your feet may be like that enchanted land of your dreams.

   Things in life come in packages -- where you have to take the 
   entire package.  Sometimes the package contains more than what 
   you see. 


   Aug 2004


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