Thursday, December 18, 2008

Who Wants to Join the Rat Race?

Abby, over at Bad Dogs and Such and others, wonder why everyone isn't lining up to become Americans. That is adopt the American way of life.

As someone trying desperately to opt out of the rat race, I don't find it strange at all.

First, consider what they see of American culture. Meltdown of the Stars - Lindsay,
Brittany, etc. - could be a regular TV show. (And there is a cable show called "Celebrity Rehab" which is exactly that.)

Then consider the story of the Mexican fisherman and the American tourist.
An American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.

Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The tourist complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The tourist then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"

The Mexican said, "With this I have more than enough to support my family's needs."

The tourist then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."

The tourist scoffed, " I can help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you could run your ever-expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

The tourist replied, "15 to 20 years."

"But what then?" asked the Mexican.

The tourist laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions?...Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
Or since I love obscure movie quotes, how about this.
What if I told you insane was working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years at the end of which they tell you to piss off; ending up in some retirement village hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time? Wouldn't you consider that to be insane?
How many of our children are medicated with psychoactive drugs? Either self-medicated with illegal drugs to escape the world that we've made, or medicated with legal drugs because they can't fit into to world that we've made?

How many people go home from that 50 hours at the job they hate to eat frozen dinners alone, scanning the 157 channels of cable looking for something worth watching? And drinking themselves into oblivion once a week or more? Or miss everything to do with their kids upbringing, because it is politically necessary to be in the office late - at least most nights.

Why is everyone looking for that bigger house (pre-implosion of course), better car, cooler iPod, etc? Why is it they aren't happy with what they have? Maybe because they aren't happy and haven't figured out that you can't buy happiness at the mall. (And how many have a really cool media center and absolutely no money for retirement?)

There is a lot to recommend American culture. It has raised a lot of people out of poverty and ignorance, here and around the world. But there is a lot wrong with American culture, and those things are not insignificant. They also tend to be screamed around the world by the media.

If it wasn't for the family obligations I have right now. I would be on my boat, at anchor, in some small Caribbean bay, fishing, reading, eating, drinking with friends (there are always other boaters) and in general not "living in Iowa."

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