Thou shalt not steal [Intellectual Property (IP)]

A half truth is a whole lie. ~Yiddish Proverb

Ultimately greed is what brings a society to its knees.  It might be one person or a conspiracy involving many but all the covenants with God,  regardless of religion, include the basic tenets of faith  and counsel against ‘stealing’; this is at the core of the 10 Commandments and that of thousands of years of philosophical thought leaders. To look in the mirror or into your soul and know that those nebulous grey areas that allow corruption to populate do not exist, this is integrity.


Face value – not just taking things at face value, not the value of the face staring back at your in the mirror but also the perceived value of saving face.  We, global citizens, seem to be consumed by the latter – not so much the first two of my ‘face value’ examples and that is the crux of what is going so wrong with our world.  Cheating is essentially stealing and stealing is a lie we tell ourselves to somehow justify when the inconvenient truths of our actions are pointed out to us.  The failure of admitting wrong, taking responsibility rather than casting blame or manifesting righteous indignation in response to being revealed seems to be mounting in our experiences. Who and what to believe? When to question? To intervene, expose or to simply walk away? (And if walk away, where to hide from the insidious nature of corruption?)

I am a ‘face value’ person – even if I could ‘help it’ I wouldn’t want to change.  I genuinely prefer, Marcus-Aureliusas my new Croatian friends Zeljka and Dubravko have each mentioned in their uniquely individual phraseologies, to get my fingers burned rather than to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude and assess people over time.  But, in truth, it has been happening with greater frequency of late – about once a month if I am honest.  At some level I wish to understand why my ‘depth perception’ seems to be blind to ulterior motives, nuances of (lacking) ethics, and outright criminal activity (until it slams me upside the head as it did last week).

About seven weeks ago I was asked (by someone I love and who has been a friend for a very long time) to do a favour for someone I don’t know.  It seemed a benign thing, help this third person to save some money by purchasing something in the United States and then forwarding it to them in Southeastern Europe. On the basis of the friendship of 15 years I agreed and frankly didn’t think much about it; thankfully my naïveté comes complete with an ‘intervention goddess’ because my ‘good deed’ effort was thwarted by a very sensible company policy to only ship product to their existing customers (which when I asked my friend for a name I was informed there wasn’t a name to provide).

Night Cove

Zyken Night Cove Alarm Clock

Like one of those alarm clocks with the light and sounds that gradually and gently wake you, I have just started to process that in our desperate global economic times I very nearly became a co-conspirator in the theft of Intellectual Property! It’s not a pleasant realisation.

According to the various persons with whom I have communicated via phone conversations and email exchanges (amounting to several hours of time already)  since the 8th of February if I am lucky this should be reconciled sometime between the 4th and 7th of March, it is not lost on me that all of these resulting entanglements impacting my bank account, my time and energies and (I fear) the loss of the cherished friend are serving as poignant lessons in ’cause and effect’.  It’s ironic (somehow) that I have always been quite vocal to friends who think buying fakes is okay (the whole argument spanning human rights violations to the cost of developing a branded product, marketing it and protecting it which often fell on ‘lalalala’ conveniently deaf ears).  As a marketing communications professional part of my responsibilities are to work with legal counsel to “protect the brand”, its assets (product portfolio) and the jobs that come with creating said products. I have been quoted in general business and trade publications, and interviewed on the radio and for inflight news programmes specifically about protecting Scotland’s indigenous products, namely Harris Tweed and Fair Isle Knitwear. So, I think it’s somewhat reasonable to be angry about almost being duped into violating everything I hold true.  Still, I want to BELIEVE with my whole heart that my friend didn’t understand what was being asked of me – this is our most basic human instinct to protect what is precious to us. Yes, even as I shared my concerns and asked to speak outside of business hours to clarify what was and wasn’t known there has only been CYA email in response – oh, how my heart is seizing up!

So this is a blog post about the larger issue of morals and ethics and our global marketplace and the nuances of doing business in other cultures (and our own regardless of where we live) and the grey areas which exist as a result.

Yarmouk refugee camp

Photo credit: Reuters

I am currently reading Jack Cashill’s Ron Brown’s Body, How One Man’s Death Saved the Clinton Presidency and Hillary’s Future for two reasons: it looks like Hillary’s bid for The White House is imminent and Ron Brown’s death in Croatia was never fully investigated. Suffice to say that at Chapter 10 Cashill is still outlining Brown’s assent (and not yet his fall) but the scope of the ‘dealing’ is really quite extraordinary. And as we (the world) hold our collective breath over the Ukraine’s future and what Vladimir Putin might do in concert with Viktor Yushchenko to remain the regional Alpha Dog (while Yushcenko is clearly Putin’s bitch) I am struck by how the powerful will do a great deal to stay in power at the peril of ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire and personal interests. The New York Times was given special access to the “Museum of Corruption” (the apt moniker assigned to the 140 acre – notably 1/2 the size of the country of Monaco – compound which is called Mezhyhirya) and what’s striking is how (relatively) quickly Yushchenko was able to create an environment of personal enrichment while bankrupting his country – and how desperately Putin wants his puppet (Yushchenko) to remain in power even at the possibility of inciting World War III.  Equally so we bear witness to the enormous human suffering (as well as resilience, dignity and patience) of the Syrian people – this image – above left – published in The Guardian earlier this week and the revolt of the Venezuelan middle class – I doubt that the population of any “average American city” likewise confronted with such hardship would be such a model of decorum or equally get up off their complacent asses (as long as video continues to stream and junk food is accessible) to make an effort to improve some tiny aspect of our collective experience.

Our future is being bankrupt by theft, from the attitudes of Nestle Corporation related to the privatisation of the worlds’ water to infidelity in relationships, from a seemingly simple request by a friend to purchase two of “something” and ship it (wherein the second of each of these presumably would be reverse engineered and thus have me be an accessory to international corporate espionage) to the current violations of sovereignty happening (as it has many times over 2000+ years) in the Crimea with its valuable access to the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and subsequently, global shipping lanes to the poisoning of our planet with fracking and big oil pipelines.

“Men kill for many reasons, they steal but for one-greed.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow

While I agree with Ms. Penman’s words some version of death always also accompanies theft.

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