Escape

It’s snowing at Casa Crucis…light snow mixed with a bit of sleet. It’s the middle of April! Yeah, it won’t stick, but still…

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The American Thinker

An article in The American Thinker echoed, to an extent, with an experience of mine. It was some time ago. I was a contractor working for AT&T on a software project. One of the people I had to work with was Mark (I don’t remember his last name now, the events occurred twenty years ago.) Mark was a Unix system administrator and a proud member of the CWA, the Communications Workers of America.

I was a database administrator and had to work closely with Mark to insure database changes were implemented quickly and accurately. In a usual work day, I would spend a couple of hours with Mark—listening to his continuous tirade of AT&T oppression against the union, unfair wages, too much work, long working hours, etc., etc., etc. It grew tiresome. By my second day, I was disgusted with his litany. As a contractor, I wasn’t union. Mark gloated that the union would soon force me to pay union dues.

It didn’t happen. The union went on strike, for other reasons, and all of a sudden, I was assigned to do Mark’s job. I did his and my jobs together. Not only did I keep pace with the project, I eliminated a back-log of tasks Mark had neglected.

Three weeks later, the strike was over. Due to wage hikes, some administrative positions at AT&T were eliminated. Mark was one whose job was eliminated. He had not been aware his position was considered, ‘administrative.’ His tasks were assigned to a contractor. Mark had two weeks to find another job or be laid off.

A by-product of the strike was my project. It was over-budget and behind schedule. It was canceled and I was off to another contract.

Fast forward ten years. I was now employed at Sprint as a middle manager. My group had to work with a team in Texas. My team would develop software, the other team would support the servers for the production system. I scanned the names and saw a familiar name—Mark’s.

AT&T was union. Sprint was not, except for the Local Division, the former United Telephone Company that was the end-user local telecom provider in several states. Mark was employed by Sprint in a non-union position.

Early in the project, we spent a few minutes catching up. Mark had not found another union position within AT&T—the union had all such positions locked by contract. Mark was laid-off a few weeks after my contract with AT&T ended and he found another UNIX administrator job near Dallas, TX, a non-union job. Suddenly, Mark’s outlook changed. He was being paid less than when he was employed by AT&T, but now his take-home pay was more. Texas was also a Right-to-work state.

Mark shifted jobs. Each one paying a bit more until he joined Sprint. His attitude had changed. The CWA still tried to unionize Sprint and each attempt failed. Mark was no longer a union advocate. Instead, he was now strongly against the CWA and unions in general. It was surprising the change in environment, moving from a union to a non-union job and moving to a Right-to-Work state can make in a person.

What has this to do with The American Thinker? This article.

Escape from Liberal Despair?

By Andrew Thomas, April 14, 2014

If you want to understand why there are so many liberals in New York City, listen to the story of a couple I know all too well.  Donna and Frank, earning six-figures in salary, lived in relative squalor in Brooklyn, NY, as I related to AT readers in February.   They resided in a dark, dingy, rat-infested one room apartment.  Their neighborhood consisted of streets of dilapidated industrial buildings and sidewalks littered with trash and makeshift habitats for the homeless.  This was punctuated by the deafening traffic noise and exhaust fumes from the elevated expressway that ran overhead.

Like flies in the proverbial vinegar jar, they believed it was the sweetest place on Earth.  However, there was a subliminal anger dwelling deep within them, a vague feeling that some outside force was waging war on their existence.

Frank joined the local chapter of ISO, the International Socialist Organization.  There, he learned to cultivate his anger and resentment, and focus it on a hatred for capitalism, evil corporations, and greedy CEOs.  Donna was easily drawn into this dark cloud of bitter antipathy for all things capitalist and conservative.

Here I have to confess that Donna and Frank are more than just friends, they are family.  I am stuck with them.

Whenever they would come over for a visit, there was tension in the air.  Although Donna was upbeat and loquacious, any mention of conservative values or beliefs would set her off.  Frank was always in a bad mood.  He would stomp into our house without saying a word, sit in a corner with his arms crossed and wait for someone to light his fuse. 

With teeth clenched, Frank once told me that he had been oppressed all of his life.   I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, since I knew that he had led a relatively blessed upper-middle class existence since childhood.   Note:  He is not a blood relative, so his oppression fantasies are not my fault.

In January, Donna received a job offer from a company in Orlando, offering approximately the same six-figure salary as she was making in Brooklyn.  She accepted, and they moved immediately.

All of this is prologue to our latest encounter.  A dramatic change has taken place with Donna and Frank since their move.  They appear to be genuinely happy, and at peace with the world.

My wife and I took a long vacation to Orlando in March.  We spent a lot of time with them, and I was struck by the absence of tension in our relationship. 

Their new apartment is beautiful.  Everything in it is brand new, clean, and brightly lit.  The view from their balcony of the Orlando skyline and Lake Eola is breathtaking.  Their rent is about half of what they paid in Brooklyn. 

We walked to the downtown Church Street area for dinner.  The streets were filled with young, upscale professionals dining at the sidewalk cafés and dancing at the clubs.  The environment was vibrant and life-affirming.  I have never felt so old.

At dinner, Donna talked about her new job.  The work ethic of Millennials is atrocious, said Gen-X’er Donna.  They demand shorter work hours and flexible schedules.  She was appalled by their lack of commitment, and has had to fire several of them.   As a Boomer, I had to chuckle at the irony.

Frank seems totally different, as well.  He hasn’t yet found a job in teaching, but he is definitely upbeat about the future.  He talked about the horrors of the Common Core curriculum, and the difficulties in dealing with the latest generation of students.

With an enthusiastic, positively energized voice, he spoke about the promise of Orlando’s future and the vast opportunities available for entrepreneurs and investors there.   Frank has developed a passion for real estate, and has done some intensive research on potential areas of growth and development in the city.  As we drove through downtown, he pointed out several properties he thought I should purchase for investment.

I was amazed.  The anti-capitalist angst and negative energy I had felt from the two of them has been replaced with an optimism and an inner peace that is a stunning transformation.

I credit the “broken windows” theory.  A deleterious and toxic environment, such as the one Frank and Donna experienced in Brooklyn, is a cancer to the soul.  The result is a darkness that produces envy, frustration, and a hopelessness that is the foundation for a distorted leftist political philosophy.  As a growing, less-regulated and more free-market environment, sunny Orlando has been their repaired window.

Frank reminded me of Mark. Mark may not have been as rabid as Frank in the article above but they did have similarities. When we worked together at AT&T, Mark was at a hair-trigger, ready to take offense and ready to denounce any opinion that didn’t align with his.

Like Frank, when I next met, well, spoke with Mark, he had changed as radically as had Frank. A new environment, a new home in a conservative state, out from under the union thumb, Mark now had a new attitude, a new and much better life than the bitter one I had seen a decade earlier. I never met Mark again after we separated at AT&T but we spoke nearly every day while on that project and became friends.

Environment does impact life. Perhaps not in the way many assume. It is not the old ‘nature vs. nuture‘ argument, but similarities exist. It still takes an open mind to change. Unfortunately, given our government schools and massive welfare, all too many have no desire…nor need, to change while existing off the labor and money of others.

That life of dependency can and will change. At some point, to quote Margaret Thatcher, “You will eventually run out of other people’s money.” What will they do then?

1 thought on “Escape

  1. Unions are like attorney’s. They profit most when they can instigate agitation between the two negotiating parties, whether they be corporations and workers or husband and wife. The one exception is public service unions, which have the politician siding with the worker because they want the union to support them at election time while the taxpayer, who foots the bill, has no one truly representing him. His man at the table is stabbing him in the back in exchange for votes at election time. PSU’s should be outlawed. A Taxpayer Protection Act and term limits would be good for America

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