“I neva f***ed anybody over in my life, who didn’t have it comin’ to ‘im, you got that? All I have in this world is my balls, and my word, and I don’t break ’em for no one, you understand?” (Scarface: Tony to Sosa)
“My word is my bond” is part of our cultural heritage in the US. It’s how the West was won . . . if, of course you forget how the settlers treated the Indians . . . and it’s part of our national identity . . . except of course for Presidents, Congress and the US government. Dishonesty seems to be a way of life with those folks. But other than that . . . a lot of ordinary Americans still believe in the value and importance of their word.
The stock market works on this principle. Much business in the US is done on the basis of a handshake. My poker-playing buddy would lend other “players” hundreds of thousands of dollars, just based on their word. With the exception of politicians and government, in the US one’s word has value and means something.
In theological terms it means something. An old version of the Bible, that I was raised on, says, “Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay.” So I was raised that if you say it, you’d better do it. If you don’t intend to do it, don’t say it!
And if you do say it, and don’t do it, your credibility is shot! Period. No ands, ifs or buts.
It seems the saying, “My word is my bond”, originated around the 16th Century. Since 1801 this has also been the motto of the London Stock Exchange where transactions are made with no exchange of documents and no written pledges are given.
Now I get to Panama and a person’s “word” doesn’t mean s***! Just because a person says they will do something doesn’t mean they have the faintest intention of actually doing it. And they feel no shame, no guilt. It’s a way of life. Promises mean nothing. Nothing! Whether its a professional or a day laborer . . . what people say means nothing.
In my culture it is a matter of trust. If I can’t trust you to keep your word, can I trust you at all? If you are not trustworthy and dependable in small things, will you be trustworthy and dependable in large things? So coming out of my culture, when people continually don’t perform, you start to wonder if you can trust them at all.
To say you are going to do something with no intention of doing it, or without breaking your balls to do it, is the same as lying. Who trusts a compulsive liar?
It is a major cultural difference and one which is very difficult for gringos like me to come to terms with. To promise to do something, with no intention of actually doing it, with absolutely no compulsion to perform, goes against every grain in my body.
Welcome to Panama!
As my friends Nikki & Squirt wrote in one of the songs in their “Postcards From Paradise” play, ” . . . better get used to it if you’re going to stay, don’t give a damn how you did it in the US of A!”
But it can still be frustrating as hell!