Tuesday, July 27, 2021

You Don't Have to Live as a Refugee!

There is a difference between living and warehousing.

In my previous posting, I mentioned how some folks working at Amazon are little more than warehousing themselves like the goods they are picking and packing.  Hanging out in a rundown RV, walking across the street every day to the looming building, and working for long hours and low pay. How did they end up like that?  And is that really living?

For many people, life is something that happens to them, and not the other way around.  Things, events in their lives, occur, and it is like the weather - they can't see it coming, and they have no control over it.  These are the folks who think that money is like rain - some days it pours buckets, other days are a drought. And its been pretty dry lately.

This is not to say that we have absolute control over our lives - we are always at the mercy of outside forces and the almighty (or the law of probability - take your pick).  But there is a difference between being proactive and inactive.

For example, in some postings from many years ago, I noted that in order to change my life situation, I had to move away from depressed Syracuse, New York.  And a good thing I did, too - the factory I worked at is not only closed, they bulldozed it to the ground.   I guess they felt they had to salt the earth to make sure nothing would grow there, ever again.  But the main thing was, it allowed me to change my life, forever.  Sometimes you have to move to where the money is.

As I noted before, I left Syracuse in 1987.  Within a decade, I was a law school graduate, owned my own home, owned my own office building, had my own law practice - as well as two investment properties - and found the love of my life.   Something to think about, if you ever start to believe that nothing in your life will ever change - or that such changes will take forever.

It did not come without some effort, of course.  And teamwork.

In response to that posting, I received a number of comments which were disheartening.  First off, some were saying, "Well, how can you leave your friends and home behind!  It's your hometown!  Your friends!  You owe them something!"   Kind of hard to parse that, but it is funny how people will see an attachment to a run-down community and drug-addicted and/or mentally ill friends, to the point they sacrifice their lives in the process.

The second comment - the subject of this posting - was something to the effect of, "Well, I guess I should move, then.  Where do you think I should move to?"  And this reflects the "refugee" type behavior we see so much in the USA, particularly in Florida.

When I moved to Washington, it wasn't some stupid willy-nilly move, taking city names out of a hat and then deciding where to go.  I interviewed with a number of companies across America, and I decided to take a job offer from the Patent Office, after talking to an old family friend who recommended I give it a try.  Mark moved here after college with a job offer in hand from Williams Sonoma, to open their new store in Georgetown Park as a manager.

We both didn't just load up a U-haul with our crap, towing an old, inoperable Camaro behind, and just drive until we ran out of gas and then set up shop there.   You'd be surprised how many people do just that.  They hear there are "jobs a-plenty" at such-and-such location, and like the Joad family from The Grapes of Wrath, they load up the truck and a-move to Beverly.  Hills, that is.  Swimming Pools, Movie Stars.

It is living like a refugee.  They may find a job, but never a career.   They move from one flophouse or trailer park to another, from one low-wage, low-skill job to another, never advancing very far, never getting out of debt, declaring bankruptcy more than once, and often hopeless and depressed.  And yes, drugs and alcohol figure prominently in this equation.

That is, in part, how I was able to turn my life around in a decade. I gave up drinking and pot-smoking and moved on.  Funny how that works!  Within a year, I had graduated from Engineering school (after toying with a degree for nearly a decade).  As I noted before, it was like letting go of a pile of cinderblocks I had been dragging around - I raced ahead, a man unleashed.

But beyond that, I had a resume, a work history, a career path.  I wasn't just moving willy-nilly and hoping someone was hiring when I got there.  That is the difference between living, and living as a refugee.

And the comparison to refugees we see across the world, I think, is apt.  Or more precisely, they are one and the same.  Worldwide we have a refugee crises, as people flee hunger, drought, violence, and persecution.  Often, they wait too long before moving - often after it is too late.  Often, they move to a new area, with no concrete plans as to what to do, carrying all their possessions on their back, at the mercy of the fates and the goodwill of others.  Often, it does not work out well for them.

There are some, like Yassir Arafat, who benefit from keeping people as refugees as long as possible.  He kept his own people in refugee camps, in primitive conditions, knowing that it was good eye-candy for the news media and would generate sympathy - and aid checks, which he cashed and deposited to his Swiss bank accounts.  Letting people settle and make a living would spoil all of that.  Funny thing, though, the Arabs who didn't flee Israel are still living there, working and voting.  But I digress.

When I was at Syracuse University, I met a young Palestinian fellow who was in a wheelchair (due to an accident).  He was studying Engineering. His goal was to get a good job in the US and get the hell out of the West Bank, where there was no future for him.  Oddly enough (or not so oddly) many "back home" thought he should give up his life and dreams and move back to "fight the good fight" and sacrifice his life so Hamas could score some politcal points or whatever.  He was fortunate, but also smart.  He got the hell out.

Throwing your fates to the winds is never a good idea.  And while fate plays a hand in all of our lives - including and especially the final chapter - that does not mean you should give up on making any attempt at improving your lot in life. And yes, sometimes this means making sacrifices - giving up the drugs and booze and "friends" who want to drag you back down.

But of course, the people living as refugees aren't reading this.  They aren't typing up their resume or thinking about their career path.  At best, they hope to get a job somewhere, maybe a "good-paying" job that doesn't involve a lot of work.  And maybe someday, they'll strike it rich, through some unknown means - perhaps a lottery ticket.   Maybe then, they'll restore that 1985 Camaro they've been dragging around from place to place.  That would be bitchin!

But of course, these dreams never quite work out, and such folks end up resorting to petty crimes and often end up in jail.  You see it all the time down South - the infamous "Florida Man" (it's just one guy?) who is always up to some sort of antics.

When I see folks living like that - like refugees, whether in their depressed hometown or on the road like the Joad family in a U-haul - I kind of feel sorry for them.  They are trapped in a jail-like existence, but yet they carry the key to their cell on their belt.   They just can't seem to find it, or figure out how to use it.

You don't have to live like a refugee.  Unless you want to, of course.