One of my dad’s books that we used to joke about…


My dad used to read spy novels when I was a boy. We used to tease him for reading such ‘trash’ instead of devoting himself to the classics.

Turns out I’m getting interested in spies too as I grow older. (I’m about the same age now as my dad was when he read spy paperbacks).

Funny how life turns that way.

Reminds me of a friend who once said, “I’m turning into my mother!”

Well, I’m not my dad nor am I turning into him. But I can better appreciate some of the views and interests he once held (he’s moved on to the next life).

Before I was introduced to the French thinker Michel Foucault, I went thru a brief NeoMarxist phase in my twenties while unduly influenced by my liberal arts university professors. In pure Althusserian form, I lectured my dad about how advertising creates a fake desire for things we really do not need.

Dad, who taught marketing and became the Dean of Business at Ryerson, replied, “So you do not need your electric guitar?”

Ouch. He got me there. I had no good reply. 🙂

I still have that telecaster propped up in my bedroom, even though I prefer playing ‘guitar’ through a midi keyboard these days.

But I digress.

What interested me about today’s spy stories is how the spies always violate something sacred and tell some cock and bull story to everyone around them.

The Czech claimed he wanted to escape the occupying soviet communists. He had no particular dislike for the US but just wanted a job. He imagined he would get out of the spy biz if he “didn’t like it.” But of course, it never works that way. Once you’re in, you’re in for life… unless perhaps you have a penchant for cement overshoes.

And the French spy, well it doesn’t say just how he deceived everyone around him. But I imagine more details will emerge during the course of the trial.

The third guy – an American – violated his oath and betrayed his country because

He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.” 

I suppose if a university professor were to become a spy, they would violate the honorable ideals of not only good scholarship but also of fair play and the duty to cultivate students. An academic spy would have to cut down their brightest students because these top minds could become a real threat if gainfully employed in the academic system.

So spy professors by their very corrupted nature breed mediocrity in academia. It’s just a logical progression. Or I should say, an illogical progression. Instead of the best and brightest gaining employment, the second-rate hack who will kiss the spy’s butt gets the job.

It may sound strange but I believe it happens more often than most people realize.

Now that many young people are heading out for the first time or possibly returning to university, I wonder what percentage will get a fair chance and how many will find that their careers are sabotaged by spies.

It’s hard to predict a percentage because spies by definition do their dirty work in secret. Nobody knows what they are really up to, sometimes not even their spouses. So a good number of victim students would have no idea they are being ripped off and cheated. Not until the spy’s cover is blown, that is.

Most spies who leak sensitive information to a hostile power receive heavy prison sentences. And rightly so.

They really are the lowest of the low who violate the trust, openness, and goodwill that make our democratic countries the desirable locales that they are: Places where natural borns expect and immigrants come in search of a fair deal and a better life.

Anyone who systematically undermines that trust, openness, and goodwill deserves the stiff prison term that such spies usually receive. It may not be what the spy wants but it is better than cement overshoes. And it just might help some spies see the light and turn toward a more authentic way of living.