Balancing Act 

Balancing Act

My friend Brianís company is being audited. Normally this wouldnít be a very big deal. Their books are in order, the book keeper is thorough and responsible, itís a small firm, and it all should go quite well.

Except that they havenít been paying their taxes. Which is also understandable. In a country with an illegal regime for a government, more and more people are withdrawing their support, in one way or anotherórefusing to pay their city council for undelivered services, not paying their income taxes, not making contributions to the national social security schemeówhere the monthly payouts deteriorate rapidly in the face of inflation, etc.

So now theyíre being audited, and theyíre faced with a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, they could hold fast to their principles, maintain their position of non-payment, and risk getting turned in by the auditorsómany of whom are former tax department employees. And, having been turned in, the company could face closure, the directors would be black listed, and possibly unable to do business in Zimbabwe again. On the other hand, the company could compromise its principles, be realistic about its position as a very small fish in a shark-infested tank, pay its taxes in arrears, and show the paper work on this to the auditors.

Brian is pushing for the latter. Heís not keen on a potential life in exile, and he reckons better to make some concessions here and there and, by so doing, live to fight another day. Outside the fear and the dread and the weighty burden of a difficult decision, itís easy for me to be disappointed in him. Surely itís better to stand by your principles, I asked, and not let the mugabe regime claim one more victory, however small.

But, as Brian points out, he contributes to ďthe systemĒ everyday, just by living here. He registers his vehicle, and pays carbon tax on that. He goes to the shops, and pays the VAT that is included in the price of goods there. And so do all of us, by living here. Two friends of mine left Zimbabwe a few years ago. More than anything, they said, what pushed them out was recognising that, every day, just by being here, just by employing people and running a business and supporting their family, they were contributing to a semblance of normalcy here. And, while nowhere is perfect, they couldnít stomach the injustice hereóand their own felt hypocrisy in how they saw themselves contributing to it.

I think about their decision often. Maybe compromise is a necessary part of life. But itís a difficult thing. And I find it hard not to feel like Iím losing a part of myself in the process. If just being here, just living here, is participating in and contributing to this illegitimate regime, one way to counter that is to continue to expose it. To inform, inspire and contribute to the resistance. Itís tiring, challenging, and difficult. And energising and incredibly rewarding in its own way. Nothing is ever easy, or simple, or perfect. But maybe thatís also part of life. Striving for that fine balance between demanding change, or justice, or improvement, and accepting our own flaws as part of what is.

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Comments

Comment when you say it like that it makes a lot of sense

Wed Apr 5, 2006 2:18 pm MST by bob stevens

Comment when you say it like that it makes a lot of sense

Wed Apr 5, 2006 1:53 pm MST by bob stevens

Comment I know I'm off topic but today is the best day as she has said

Mon Apr 3, 2006 3:45 pm MST by tim smith

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