As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a big fan of “Poldark”. No, not the ridiculous chest-baring modern remake, but the 1970s original with Robin Ellis (who did his scything fully clothed, as any gentleman of his era would have done – harrumph). Watching it again recently, I found myself more interested than before in the story of a desperate Ross Poldark allowing local smugglers to land their boats in his cove. Suggesting the arrangement to Ross, Mr Trencrom – smuggler-in-chief – is keen to emphasise that his business is not smuggling but rather “a protest against excessive taxation, which also happens to show a small profit”.
And a few days ago I was reminded of the transformative power of perception when I spotted this story on the BBC website. In short, six former soldiers from the UK were among thirty-five people arrested in November 2013 while working on an anti-piracy ship sailing in Indian waters. The Indian authorities said that the vessel was not licensed to carry weapons, and all thirty-five involved have been sentenced to five years in prison on firearms charges. They say that if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas, and it certainly seems ironic that men hired to guard merchant ships against pirates have themselves been imprisoned. But from the point of view of the Indian authorities, we have a heavily-armed ship in their waters without permission. I am sure the case is much more complicated than that, but it’s all perception again. And, as ever, whether you are an anti-piracy guard, Mr Trencrom or an MLRO, much will hang on how well you document your justification for taking a certain course of action.