Friday, May 30, 2008


The redoubtable Yakov points us, grumpily, to Jason on 'what to do when you're laid off'. Jason thinks the appropriate response is to book a flight to somewhere cheap for a long vacation. Yakov does not.
I am of Yakov's mind - this advice is good only for the glittering digerati, the young strong and lucky, the children of privilege. I can't speak for Yakov, but this might be an emigrant thing. Those of us who escaped only by dint of outworking the competition, have a jaundiced view. We see a steep and thorny way through the miseries of poverty: salvation is through hard continous work.

Of course it may also be simpler, maybe it's just the optimist/pessimist divide. I have a nagging suspicion that those damn'd cheery optimists have a way of creating good luck by their very sunniness. I've never been able to fake optimism though and certainly can't pretend to the real thing, so this remains a source of gloominess. Hah.

One more thing: quoth Jason,
"But I'm married with a family and a house... Ok, you win. You're screwed, but that's the life you chose for yourself so you're going to have to live it. It's worth noting, however, that most Europeans wouldn't consider that a reason not to travel. Right this second, there is a German couple pushing a stroller down a remote beach in Thailand, and they're not going home for another month. What's your excuse again? "

Well, let me count the differences between a US couple and that German couple. The German couple each have a Worker's Council (read: union) to protect their interests at work; they have 5 to 6 weeks of paid leave a year, plus 10 other paid days off; they have state-guaranteed health care, so if they lose their jobs they don't lose health care coverage; they have state-guaranteed pensions, so they don't have a 401k as the only thing between them and dogfood for dinner in retirement; they have the euro, the strongest currency on the planet: five excellent reasons they can be a tad more carefree than US wage slaves. "Americans average 25.1 working hours per person in working age per week, but the Germans average 18.6 hours."

That German couple is on vacation for a month. The only way a US couple could get a month's vacation, is to be laid off simultaneously: at which point their family is laid bare to the rapacious wickedness of ill fortune.

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