Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sometimes the Truth (Is Hard to Find)

Who lies for you will lie against you.
~Bosnian Proverb

A half truth is a whole lie.
~Yiddish Proverb

Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies
soon grow color-blind. ~Austin O'Malley

A lack of honesty is one great area of frustration in the country where we serve. I qualify this by acknowledging it is probably an issue everywhere, but somehow it seems so ingrained in the actual fabric of the culture here in Chile. In fact, to paraphrase the statement I was given in explanation to a situation that arose today: "It's the Chilean way of getting things done."

For me personally, perhaps where I find this dishonesty most unnerving is in the professional setting. I could give numerous examples but I'll settle for this most recent one. Here in Chile there is a 19% value-added tax (called the IVA) that is commonly included in the price of goods and services. However, certain price quotes will separate the IVA from the base price. Such was the case this morning.

This year our Parents' Association (mentioned in this post) has been tasked with purchasing the raw materials to build pedestrian guardrails outside our children's school. They look like this:

With monies passed on from last year and additional funds earned through special activities this year, we now have the means to do so but are researching the most cost-effective option. Yesterday Pedro and I received pricing from one steel company in town, and this morning I provided that to the school. They in turn had received another quote and were still in conversation with a gentleman from Santiago. In comparing the two we realized their quote was slightly higher but already included the IVA.

Here is the conversation that followed:
Staff Member 1: "Oh, couldn't you tell him to take the IVA off?"

Staff Member 2: "I could try! It's not like it's a major project such as a huge building."

Staff Member 1: "Exactly! He could say it's for his personal use, maybe an addition to his house."

Staff Member 2: "Great idea! I'll tell him to say he is going to come help his mom with a small project at her house here in Iquique. I'll call him right now!" And then to me she added, "It's the Chilean way of getting things done!"
It may be the Chilean way of getting things done, but it certainly isn't God's way. What a challenge to walk in integrity when culture and society says it is okay to act otherwise! And what a great reminder to pray for my Chilean brothers and sisters in Christ, who live and work in this atmosphere each and every day.

1 comment:

Brad and Carrie said...

We had a very similar conversation about the ethics here and how frustrating it can be. And, how casual people can be about lying and cheating. I hate it. I try to remind myself that with no moral standard, I shouldn't expect any different, but wow, it's hard.