One of the most complicated transactions I have ever been involved in during my years at Vulcan was the purchase of the patent rights for a Russian concrete pile cutter (shown at left.) The patent had around a dozen inventors and two research institutes, spread out from Moscow to Vladivostok. The sheer logistics of getting everyone to agree to this, to say nothing of the financial considerations, made it a daunting task.
After six years of work on it we had actually made quite a lot of progress, but the Deputy Director General of the main research institute was trying to hold out for more money. Since the market for these things is pretty limited, we had to be careful.
At this point the Russian government sponsored a Russian technology exposition in Washington, DC, and the institute was one of the exhibitors. They sent their Director General; we thought it would be a good time to make some progress without the expense of another trip to Russia. So I went to Washington, was met by my translator, and we set out to have a meeting with the Director General.
On the way we stopped by the hotel room which the institute’s people were using as a headquarters. It was a mess; clothing and trash were piled everywhere, vodka bottles being the most prominent. Evidently these people were having quite a time during their trip to America.
We got to the exhibit hall and managed to pull the Director General aside for a meeting on the patent. In preparation for this meeting, I had prepared a “protocol” (we usually call it a “letter of intent” in the U.S.) which outlined what was for us an initial negotiating position. So I presented this and asked the Director General what he was prepared to sign to conclude this agreement.
At that, my translator looked me straight in the eye and said, “He is prepared to sign anything.” Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared for this; I was used to a lot more “horse trading” in negotiations, particularly with people outside the U.S. But sure enough, he was; he signed the protocol. Back in Moscow, his deputy was enraged at this, but there was nothing he could do; the negotiations were completed and we obtained the patent assignment.
We live in an age where people are said to be deceived by all kinds of “isms”: moral relativism, secular humanism, post-modernism, and the like. But having been in the real world for too long, I like to look at things a little differently. The problem with people today is that, after years of excessively rapid upward social mobility, blistering technological change, and relentless manipulation by those who own and operate the society, they are, like our Director General, prepared to sign anything, to go along with anything so long as their lives go on as they have, no matter what the long term cost is to themselves.
“For a time will come when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will follow their own wishes, and, in their itching for novelty, procure themselves a crowd of teachers. They will turn a deaf ear to the Truth, and give their attention to legends instead.” (2 Tim 4:3-4) This is where we’re at, with the disintegrating families, eroding human rights, and the growing consumer debt which is turning a society of owners into a society of renters, at the whim of those who control the financial destiny of the nation. Christianity, which takes a definite stand on many issues, is looked on with hostility as a menace to the stability of this house of cards, proclaiming as it does an ultimate authority beyond the state.
But there’s always a payoff of some kind in the end. Our Russian inventors and institutes were paid off in U.S. dollars, a valuable commodity in Russia in those days. Those who sign with the rulers of this world have another payoff altogether: “The wages of Sin are Death, but the gift of God is Immortal Life, through union with Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) It’s your choice. Are you prepared to sign anything?