Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Once a Rogue Always a Rogue?

Because of the difficulties on the site, this week I have been doing a lot of thinking.  I know, an unusual occupation for me. As a general rule I try not to think to much. I'd drive myself crazy.  However sometimes serious topics arise and needs must.
The site meeting was cancelled on Sunday as Hotel Owners mother is very sick and has had to go to hospital. The meeting has been delayed indefinitely. This leaves "Ali" in limbo for the time being. The decision about his future must wait indefinitely.

I'm a teacher and my basic philosophy is to believe in and encourage people. English gent believes you cannot change peoples nature. Once a rogue always a rogue, once a thief always a thief! I disagree.

In the past year Ali has worked outside the site any chance he can get. It is extra money in his pocket. English Gent says that money is his God and that any chance he gets to leave the site to earn some extra money, in spite of a new contract, he will go. If English Gent becomes the site manager, in my opinion, there are major difficulties ahead.

The first is that he has no comprehension of the cultural background. He sees life here in his own terms. He    has a Turkish business partner and often goes with him to visit his village. In the year and a half he has been visiting the village, everything is still the same. There has been little or no improvement to the houses etc. Any money earned is not spent. Why is earning money so important? Life here, for the less well off, is about survival, not living. The pension, if you have paid your social security is very little. Many depend on finding another job once retired or their families to look after them. Even those who have some money in the bank do not spend it on making their lives easier or their houses look better. Tomorrow may be a rainy day.

 The second reason it will be difficult is that he does not believe in Ali. He says he is his friend, a good guy, but then turns around and looks for all his faults. He has been burned by Turkish people in his restaurant business, therefore all are out to look after themselves and make as much from you as they can.  All of us have our faults, but we also have our good points. That should be our starting point. Work on what is good and go from there.

My point comes back to mutual respect.

In the past Ali has gone off site when he should be here. In my opinion, the reasons are two fold. The first,of course, is to earn extra money.
The second is there is no respect between the manager and himself. She looks down on him and treats him as less than a human being. They show more respect their dog and their cats. Therefore any chance he has to get one up on them he has taken. There is guilt on both sides. But it is definitely a chicken and egg situation.

I believe that if Ali now gives his word he will keep it. I have been through many scenarios with him e.g. a rainy week, the site needs work but there is work outside waiting for him too. Which will he do first, where will his primary loyalty be?
English Gent has worked in factories and part of his job was managing people. He thinks I should go buy a fiddle and play it on the streets. I'm incredibly naive. People don't change.

I have worked in a school and also have managed people, parents, pupils and staff.
If a child or a person has a bad reputation what have they got to live up to? Nothing!

Example:  Middle Child is in the senior class. His older brother has a serious medical condition, life threatening, and is also a bit of a tearaway. His younger brother has ADHD and is on medication. Middle child has learned the only way to get his parents attention is to kick up.Everyone in the school knows Middle Child now has a behaviour problem. Therefore anything that happens, he is the instigator. No-one is interested in why.
 I have never taught middle child, but after an incident in the yard had occasion to "deal with" or talk to him. One of my questions to him was why was he behaving in this manner? Where did he think it would lead him? His answer was that he would probably end up in prison. I told him he was he only one capable of changing other people's opinion of him and his destiny was in his own hands but there are people who are willing to help him.
This child was not a reformed character overnight and who knows how things will go for him in the future. His parents came to tell me that I was the first person to listen to him But he did try. It was a case of two steps forward and one step back. We all heaved a sigh of relief when he managed to get himself through the rest of the year without serious incident. But I worry for him when he begins his secondary schooling next year. He needs that belief in him to help him deal with his anger issues.

So this brings us back to the issue.  Can a leopard change is spots? Is a thief always a thief, is a rogue always a rogue?  What is the best approach, to assume the worst and be very firm from the outset? To set norms and reasonable expectations and communicate a belief that once these are agreed they will be kept? The carrot or the stick? Will the carrot allow advantage to be taken? Will the stick break the camels back?
What has been your experience?


  1. I've always been told that a leopard doesn't change it's spots, that when a one lies with dogs the get fleas, that you can't change anyone...but, I like to keep hopeful, as I have seen both sides of the coin - and been that person also.

  2. you always hear people can't change, but there are so many instances where a leopard does change its stripes...
    the key I think is we can't change people, they have to change themselves. if they have no interest in change, all the old cliches will ring true. but if they are the one seeking change, they will usually be successful

  3. I'm of two minds. People really don't change much after their formative years. That's not to say they can't change - just that big changes are rare. One thing is certain - unless the person wants to change, there will be no change.

  4. I would agree with Thom! That's what we talk about in psychology... all the time! But people do change only if they want to and this holds true for small issues like smoking to something big as an addiction. So holds true for every aspect also.

  5. I agree with Thom and Hajra. Having said that, I still tend to have faith in and trust people unless they give me cause not to. People can change. The key is growing and gaining insight into oneself.

  6. I think this is a matter of cultural understanding as much as change. Certain attitudes and conducts are inherent to different cultures (such as interpretations of honesty) and hard to change according to our Anglo beliefs and expectations. When in Turkey - or anywhere else - you have to first understand the culture and the individual's needs (like you) rather than generalize and try to impose your own (like English gent). I saw this happen in Mexico. Many foreigners, particularly Americans, tried to impose their ways and were often let down. Others, more like you, were willing to meet halfway, had a better experience. Turks and Mexicans and other cultures, while avid to learn our ways, can't completely change their innate beliefs/attitudes, but there may be a compromise. Unfortunately, Ali needs both his off site work and his steady job and can't see why one should affect the other. Someone like you might be able to help him get his priorities straight. Maybe, like Middle Boy, he will rise to the challenge, but at least he should have the chance to prove himself one way or the other.

  7. I would have to say that my philosophy, my rule is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to people. I've also been called 'naive' but I think I would rather be 'naive' than be 'pessimistic'. Some people do change while others really really don't. And so my approach has always been to give people the benefit of the doubt. When I've had a bad experience with someone, depending on how severe it is of course, I don't forget about the lesson, I become more careful, but I'm willing to give second (or even third) changes. The more the person matters to me, the more chances I'm willing to give :-)

  8. Hi Penelope, I agree wholeheartedly with you. It never fails to amaze me how people set up home in a new country based on two weeks holidays when they fell in love with the climate, the prices and the friendliness of people on "Bar Street" They have no real idea of the many facets of the culture that exist. They know nothing of the language, the history, social structure etc. and are not willing to learn. They wish to set up their own "Little Britians" in the sunshine, imposing their culture, language etc. on those around them. They forget that it was to escape this that they moved in the first place. Compromise is necessary. Funny thing is, at home and in many of the "developed" countries Ali would be praised and encouraged for trying to better himself. Here he just does not know his place.
    Joy, I too have always given people the benefit of the doubt, until I have been truly kicked in the teeth. In Ali's case, he has always done his work here in the site but perhaps not to exacting standards expected. On the other hand, he holds the keys to everyones houses. He is left money in case of emergencies, and I would trust him totally, as does everyone else. There are two times of tattoo, one permanent, the other henna, it lasts a short time and then wears off.
    I think this leopard is really a pussy cat who has had a henna tattoo. There aren't any permanent spots to change. I'd prefer someone I can trust to an immaculate garden. Time will tell what will happen. I just hope at next weeks meeting there will be proper conditions of employment set down and his status will move from "slave" to employee.

  9. I agree with Penelope. It is also a cultural issue. That said, the situation seems entrenched and poor Ali is stuck in the middle of it.
    I googled employment law in Turkey and from what you are describing the owner is simply ignoring the Turkish law. If that's the case, it's a black and white case and she can't treat him like a slave. Keep us posted.


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