Sunday, May 22, 2016

kant stop the bribery

I love to exercise my moral dudgeon.

Here in Mexico, two topics will always get me worked up. Pirated DVDs and paying bribes to police officers.

Pirated DVDs are about as common here as they are on Manhattan street corners. The fact that people who purchase the DVDs are stealing money from the people who used their skills to create the movies is not my prime concern. It is where the revenue goes.

In New York city, it is to criminal rings. Some Mafia. Some Chinese gangs. Some drug cartels. Everyone gets a piece of the quesadilla.

I choose not to buy them for that reason. What other people do is their choice. And I can exercise my election as a moral agent almost every day of the week here in Mexico.

Not so with police bribes. In the eight years I have been here, I have never been stopped by a policeman, let alone being asked for bribe money.

Not that the police haven't tried. Several cops on foot have waved me over. I simply ignored them.

Our local message board mulls over this question regularly. If you are stopped and are asked for a bribe, should you comply or refuse? I have always taken the Kant position -- the moral imperative would prohibit me from indulging in an action that would corrupt my soul and the social order in which I live.

That is big talk from a guy who never had to take out his high morals and run them around the block. That changed today.

I was stopped by a federal policeman on my drive back from Manzanillo this afternoon. Around here, the federals have a reputation for being good cops -- riding high above the tawdry world of money passed surreptitiously as a form of legal absolution.

The cop made a fair nab. I committed the type of traffic error that is commonly practiced here, but is still simultaneously dangerous and stupid. I thought I had got away with it. But two miles further down the road, the policeman caught up with me and pulled me over.

He knew I knew what I had done. There was no sense in arguing. He then asked me for my drivers' license. I ignorantly pulled out my wallet to had the license over to him. Of course, that was simply a good way for him to see how much cash I had.

He then asked me for my registration. Stupidly, I had taken everything out of the car this morning while leaving it to be cleaned. I failed to stop at the house to put everything back in. Just as in The States, driving without a registration is an infraction.

There was no doubt I was in trouble. The Kant side of my brain said: "Accept the citations. You earned them. And move on having learned a moral lesson." Before any other voice in my head could speak up, the officer informed me he was going to write two citations -- or I could simply pay the "fine" on the spot.

I asked: "How much?"

He responded: "Six thousand pesos."

At this point, I broke into a cackle that would have made Hillary Clinton proud. Six thousand pesos is the equivalent of about $330 (US).

"-- Or you do not get your license back."

At that point, the Trump in my head slipped Kant a mickey, and suggested that we might be able to do business. After a few rug merchant exchanges, we arrived at an accommodation.

In a bit of negotiator flourish, rather than slip the pesos subtly into his hand (which I understand to be the custom here), I held them out the window about face level. He was not pleased.

So, my moral high tower turned out to be made of Jello. I could try to justify my action by pointing out that I had a carload of frozen goods that were returning to their natural state, and I did not have time to sit by the road and await my citations. After all, the whole encounter took about five minutes. Very efficient. Very corrupt.

Let me point out once again. I fully deserved the loss of that money. It would have gone to him or to some judge.

But, best of all, the entire exchange was in Spanish -- and I held my own.

Even with my moral lapse, that is success enough for me for the day.

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