Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A Letter sent to Revenue Canada

Many years ago, I received notices from Revenue Canada. I couldn’t understand what the messages were saying to me so I sent the following message to Revenue Canada.

Once upon a time, a handsome beggar sent some papers to some people in a far away city called Ottawa where the papers were thrown into a machine called a computer. In those papers were written some numbers which were supposed to tell the computer about the beggar's meager earnings for the previous year.

The computer digested the information and spit out a nasty note telling the beggar that he had better send some more money to that far away city. The beggar knew of course that without the money, the computer could not operate but at the same time, he asked himself, "Why should I feed the computer? I already gave it everything I own"

He sent a letter to the computer and told the computer what he was thinking about feeding the computer. The computer sent another note back to the beggar telling him that it needed more information about the beggar's home payments so that it could make the correct adjustments.

The following year, the beggar filled in the information about the home payments of the year in question and sent it along with the new information that the computer wanted with reference to the meager earnings the beggar had earned in the previous year. The beggar sat back pleased with himself because he believed that the computer would get it straight at last.

Then one day, the computer sent a nasty note telling the beggar that he still owed money to that far-away city. The beggar couldn't believe his eyes. In the note, there wasn't a thing mentioned in the nasty note as to whether or not an adjustment had been made for the previous payments paid out re his house.

He realized of course that the computer was obviously ill. He figured that as time passed by, the computer would get better and when it was well again, it would send another note telling the beggar that it was feeling better and that the new information was fully digested and that there would not be any more nasty notes sent out again from the computer.

 The beggar's belief was short-lived. The computer sent out another   nasty note telling the beggar to pay up. The beggar realized that some illnesses are terminal and nothing can be done to cure the afflicted victims. He considered just ignoring the nasty notes in the hope that when the computer finally passes away, so will the notes. But then he remembered that some victims linger on for years.

 He considered going to that far away city with the intention of ending the misery of the computer by pulling out its plug but his senses reminded him that active euthanasia was still not permitted in his society.

Alas, what can a poor handsome beggar do in these circumstances? Nothing. He did everything he could. Nothing he did cured the computer. It just writhes in agony, spurting out nasty notes. The poor beggar just sits in his home wondering when the next nasty note will be spit out.

 He does pray however and he dreams, although his dreams are a bit far fetched. He has this recurring dream that one day the computer will be cured of its terminal illness and that its decaying mind will again function at its original level. He waits with anticipation for the day when the computer sends him a nice note telling him that it is cured, all is well and everyone will live happily ever after.

 But do you know what the beggar misses more than anything else? You guessed it—it’s a letter actually written by a human and not a machine. Ah, but that is dreaming beyond the realm of possibilities. That era went by the board a long time ago when Man discovered the computer chip.

So like the ancient mariner, he wanders the world, telling his story to ease his mind but knowing that all the while he is telling his story, it isn't going to change a thing. So the poor handsome beggar just carries the computer notes around his neck like the ancient mariner's albatross, to forever wander, to forever hope and to forever dream until the end of time or bureaucratic indifference—which ever comes first.

That was the end of the message. It was mailed to Revenue Canada on September 13, 1985. On October 10th of that year, I received a phone call from Revenue Canada. The caller said, "I'm from Revenue Canada and I'm a human."

Before I got that call from Revenue Canada, I gave a speech in Milan, Italy while attending a United Nations crime conference where I met with the Solicitor General of Canada. He told me that my letter was shown around his ministry before it ended up on his desk. Was it shown to all the other ministries in Canada also?  I believe that sometimes, humor will act all along as the grease that will smooth messages to their destinations. 

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