Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Leaving the Country Is Not a Desperate Act

I wanted to thank Angry Future Expat for playing Ann Landers to a BIDER reader (we'll call this person B.R.) who needed some advice on their loans and job prospects overseas. I sent the reader a response of my own in a private email, but I thought Angry Future Expat would have a better answer (he did) in response to the worst case scenario for not paying off private loans. I recommend stopping by and reading B.R.'s letter and AFEP's response.

AFEP is absolutely correct in that leaving the country is not a desperate act, but a smart one and, as AFEP said, " a profound and powerful act of civil disobedience". It is more than okay to feel angry about your current situation whether you are an unemployed recent graduate, a person laid off after years of loyalty and hard work to your former employer, someone drowning in student loan debt because you thought an education would open doors to something better than a minimum wage job, or the millions of people who are currently unemployed or losing business because of a man-made disaster like the Gulf Oil Spill. You have every right to not follow the status quo, say enough is enough, and just leave the abuse that our current system has inflicted upon you.

If B.R. decides to stay, at least understand and accept that your situation will likely not improve within the next decade. It is not due to any fault of your own, but because we are only at the beginning of a very long great depression and no one in the upper echelons of power cares about you or me to change the system that made them incredibly wealthy. Holding out hope for non-existent jobs or any loan forgiveness or economic assistance from corporatist-runned higher education system and government would be foolish. By reading our blogs and writing to me and AFEP that you aren't going to sit by another year unemployed after working your butt off for your BA and JD, you are doing something courageous. Something that most people in your situation havn't even considered. You are taking charge of your life and taking it wherever in the world you can find a livable wage, a lower cost of living, possibly a national health care system, and an escape from your own self-destruction forced upon you by people and corporations that could give a damn what happens to your life as long as your continue to benefit its coffers.

I came across a magnificent and profound piece of writing by blogger Arthur Silber. His post, appropriately titled "Memo to the Victims: You Yourselves Will Pay for the Crimes of the Ruling Class", mainly addresses the Gulf Coast oil spill victims, but I think it applies to every single one of us. Especially for the scambloggers who have been met with some derision and scorn. As long as the ridicule and criticism comes from the powers that be and their apologists who make their six or seven-figure salary off the backs of millions of unsuspecting young people, we're doing something right. I've quoted much of Silber's post below, but I recommend reading the entire thing and forwarding it to anyone you know who has been affected by the Gulf oil spill, which is pretty much all of us. Ask yourself if this is the way you want to live and if not what are you going to do about it to break the goddamned rules, as Silber says. Only your life and happiness are at stake.

As more and more people are now acknowledging -- and I think they are entirely correct and, if anything, still underestimating what will be the ultimate costs of this calamity -- the damage caused by the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico will most likely be felt for several decades at least. The economic costs forbid accurate projection at this point; that might not be an altogether regrettable result, for a fuller version of the truth might well be so horrifying that it would induce paralysis of both thought and action. The human costs -- the livelihoods destroyed, the families subjected to unendurable stress and most probably similarly destroyed in very large numbers, the hopes and dreams put on indefinite hold, only to be surrendered in their totality in time -- prohibit contemplation.

One aspect of the profoundly evil system that has been destroying us for over a hundred years -- and make no mistake, it is deeply evil in design, intent and effect, if by evil we designate those actions which destroy the very possibility of thriving life -- is especially awful. The authoritarian-corporatist-militarist system victimizes untold millions of individual human beings, as well as many other forms of life as we see again today, both here and abroad. That would be a momentous evil in itself, but this particular evil is unsatisfied with only this first form of destruction.

Thus, the victims are targeted a second time, and they are forced to become collaborators in their own destruction. It is crucial to understand that these two forms of destruction are not separate manifestations of separate evils. They are the consequences of the same evil, and the two forms of lingering torture and death (psychologically at a minimum, and frequently existentially as well) are part of one overall design. I've discussed certain cultural-psychological manifestations of this dynamic in a number of essays. For an introduction to this analytic approach, I would recommend one article in particular: "Let the Victims Speak." As I stated at the outset of that essay, the nature and operation of this dynamic are very complex; it took me a few decades to appreciate its character. If the subject interests you, I therefore suggest a reading of the earlier article in its entirety.
You may be grievously harmed and even permanently damaged by the actions of those who hold unanswerable power -- but you may only speak about this evil and its effects within the very narrow limits set by those who would destroy you. If you are killed, the identical prohibitions apply to those who still manage to survive and who would protest the unforgivable crime committed against you. In this manner, the complacency and comfort of those who possess immense power and wealth are underwritten by the silence forced upon their victims. The victims may speak and even protest, but only within severely circumscribed limits, and only so long as their rulers are not made to feel too uncomfortable, or too guilty. Anything which approaches too close to the truth is strictly forbidden.

This is the system of government carefully erected and fortified in the United States over the last century. In the last several decades, it has been made impregnable and unassailable. If you tell the full truth or even approach it, you are consigned to the void beyond the most distant borders of permissible debate.

I consider this only a start at the task of understanding this pattern and its operations; time and health permitting, I will address these complicated matters in more detail in the future. But I now want you to consider another aspect of this collaboration in their own destruction forced upon the victims.

The pattern is the same: the victims are forced to participate in their own destruction. If you participate in our authoritarian-corporatist-militarist system in any significant way, there is no way of escaping this dilemma. I repeat the point for emphasis: this is the way the system was designed. The events of the last decade in particular and the events of today -- the acceptance of torture as a "normal" method of state- and warcraft, endless criminal wars of aggression, genocide, the funneling of vast amounts of wealth from defenseless "ordinary" citizens to the already engorged ruling class, the destruction of the Gulf and a huge additional number of lives -- are not aberrations, the result of the system having gone awry. This is what the system is designed to do. Most people recoil from evil of this magnitude; they refuse to identify and accept the system for what it is. They still seek to "reform" or "save" it. In other words: they themselves seek rationalizations and justification for their continuing collaboration. The ruling class is many things: avaricious, consumed by lust for power and control, heedless and uncaring of the immense destruction they cause, provided the destruction never touches their lives. But the ruling class is emphatically not stupid. To state what would be painfully obvious, if only so many people were not so wedded to denial: they constitute the ruling class, and you do not. And they counted on your reluctance or outright refusal to identify their evil. They knew they could depend on your continued collaboration in your own drawn-out torture and death.

I'm forced to admit that, if one were to consider this system from the perspective of its greatest beneficiaries, it is a goddamned beautiful thing. It is elegant. The government takes gobs of money from taxpayers, it shovels huge amounts of that money to already enormously powerful companies, those companies then provide services essential to the government's unending campaigns of widespread destruction and death -- and in the necessary course of providing those services, the companies themselves commit numerous "egregious" and "willful" violations of health and safety requirements (all documented by Turse), and the companies thus inflict enormous suffering on some of the same taxpayers.

Then, in a display of our rulers' magnificently bountiful kindness and thoughtfulness, some of those injuries -- just some of them, for how can many of the victims ever be made close to whole again in any meaningful way? -- will be compensated, using a small portion of the huge wealth made possible by the taxpayers in the first instance.

As I say: elegant.

And this is merely one example, if an especially heinous one, from one industry. How many times in how many industries is this identical pattern repeated every single bloody and blood-filled day? Countless times, in countless industries.

This is what the system is designed to do. It does it with astonishing efficiency. Short of civil disobedience on a huge, unrelenting scale, that is, short of widespread, unceasing non-cooperation, the system will continue for the foreseeable future, probably in roughly its current form for the rest of your life. There is no sign that non-cooperation on the required scale will occur or is even being contemplated, except by a few outliers like me. And, possibly, like a few of you.

So what are you going to do? Scream at the injustice? Yell about the monstrous evil being committed every hour of every day? Write another blog post? I do not exempt myself from the all-encompassing irony which now consumes us, amidst the rising torrent of blood.

But: Withdraw your support, if you choose to. Disobey. Break the goddamned rules. Do not cooperate. If a sufficient number of people chose that course, change might begin.

Consider it. I suppose not all that much is at stake -- only your soul, and your happiness.


  1. Back again. Love the blog and this is still the only one I post on. Thanks for the links. Interesting blog but little in the way of practical advice. The problem is that many of us have a little and resistence could cause us to lose that little amount. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.
    On the collection front, (I unfortunately have some experience), they can also tap your bank accounts (all your checks will bounce even if you do successfully fight it off). They can record judgments so in the future if you own property it will be encumbered. It is all stuff you can deal with, but go in with your eyes wide open. Keep it up.

  2. Is there something wrong with me that, even though I've fantasized about it, I absolutely refuse to leave the country out of my own sense of spite? Is it just stubbornness on my part? I just can't believe it's come to this after everything we've been through as a country that we're literally driving out citizens like other countries that have suffered "brain drains" in the past.

  3. Maybe AFEP can do a follow up post about where to look for jobs and what kinds of jobs are out there for ex-pats in Asia? When I think about my ancestors coming to the US, they worked in factories and mills. I can't see white collar US workers going to China to work in a factory or to an Indian call center (one of the big industries for their middle class), so what booming industries are out there for ex-pats?

  4. Political class = ruling class.

    Wake up sheeple.

  5. Agree with number 1 that this advice, while interesting in the abstract, is not practical for most people.

    Quite frankly, if it were such a great alternative, the bloggers that recommend this path wouldn't just be talking about it, they would have done it by now. How long has the "future" expat been saying that he will do this? At some point, the present is the "future" you had talked about.

  6. I didn't say leaving the country was practical for everyone. But for many of our readers who are in their 20s and 30s, childless, do not own a home, and owe more student debt than they can ever repay, leaving the country would be a solution to some of their financial and employment issues. I won't divulge Angry Future Expat's plans, but he has lived in other countries before and has a solid plan to leave again in the near future. Cryn at Education Matters works in another country and I have law school friends who are in the process of moving to another country this summer. I have a job offer and plan to leave before winter. It is possible and very practical for young people who are open to experiencing something new.

  7. "Thus, after having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." Tocqueville, "Things I Learned While Pursuing A Worthless Degree"

  8. Hey, that's kind of insulting! I'll leave a) when I want to or, b) when I get sued, and not one goddamn second sooner.

    So, fuck off.


  9. Exit plan in place.

  10. There is something horribly wrong in America when a large segment of the population is expected to survive on so little. There are only so many good paying jobs. While education might benefit a worker individually, it cannot benefit the poor as whole, since competing to get a good job only takes the job away from someone else. In most cases education, in and of itself, does not make the recipient much more productive.
    However, I do not feel unions and minimum wage increases are ideal, or even very effective solutions.
    There are many loopholes employers use to get around paying minimum wage, such as forcing employees to act as subcontractors (regular expenses of operations come out of worker's paycheck), making employees pay for "damages" that are common occurences in the industry, and setting productivity expectations impossibly high while simultaneously allowing employees to recruit off the books family members to help them. It is very difficult to regulate working conditions in a job; the only effective way to improve conditions is having demand so much higher than labor supply that employers must compete with eachother for workers by having a safe and comfortable work environment.

    The question is; should "low-level" jobs be paying a living wage, or should there be more good jobs created? I side with the first of these, since there needs to be many people at the bottom of the pyramid to support those higher up.



Blog Template by YummyLolly.com - Header Image by Arpi