That is the most popular question in my life right now. I hear it every time I tell another person why I’ve quit my job, why I don’t need a “get the 10th coffee free” card, why I don’t want to join the Blockbuster monthly plan.
At REC Silicon, where I was working with the Expansion team, listing all of the spare parts for a new silicon plant (that’s a lot of parts), I had already given notice that I was leaving at the beginning of July. When James and I decided that it was a bad idea to spend $5000 driving to and getting settled on the East Coast, it was because we could spend $2000 getting to India, and then $200-$500 a month, living fat. And if the whole point of staying in the US was to build up funds for traveling, we were on the wrong track.
I asked if they would like me to stick around another few weeks and the answer was a resounding yes. And over the next few weeks, I heard a dozen people tell me that they’d pick New England over India any day. I’m still flabbergasted. Yeah – regional flavor is an interesting thing, and I’m glad I’ve lived in several parts of the US, but wow. What’s wrong with India?
“It’s a third-world country. Need I say more?” “Isn’t there a lot of violence there?” “You could catch some deadly disease.” “So many poor people…”
Et cetera, et cetera.
I want to know where these people think they’re living. Where can’t you catch some deadly disease? How many people did I know who spent 50-70% of their income to live in closets in San Francisco? How much violence do they think happens in the US?
I’m really concerned about the US self-image. I don’t know enough about India yet to really address the ideas, possible misconceptions, and terribly judgmental statements about India, but I certainly know enough about the US to worry when people act like it’s so perfect here. I have read some powerful statements about the rot behind the whitewash in the US. One article is here: http://www.michaelparenti.org/HiddenHolocaust.html. I haven’t delved into this man’s motivations – haven’t found out what boards he’s on, etc, etc – but he is describing things that I have seen. I’ve seen them living in San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, and Moses Lake. I have seen them as the manager of a low-income housing apartment complex.
Personally, I’m most concerned with lack of decent-paying jobs, violence, and general unhealthiness. The United States ranks 97 out of 140 nations on the Global Peace Index. That’s the 30th percentile. If your child came home with that ranking on standardized tests, would you be proud? And in grades, that’s definitely an F.
When it comes to health, you don’t see people starve to death very often in the US, but those $1 cheeseburgers don’t provide enough of the right nutrition. A lot of the emotional manipulation that is presented to the middle class about the poor uses the fatness of our poor people as evidence that they have more than enough to eat. Fat cannot equal starving, in this equation. But boxes of instant mashed potatoes from the food bank won’t do the trick. And if you haven’t seen Super Size Me, give it a try.
There’s so much I have to learn – and so little I think I can really know by just staying put, sticking around in the US. I’m open to the possibility that I’ll get to India and find it more horrifying than beautiful, more hateful than hopeful. I think I won’t, but you knew that by the fact that I’ve decided to go there.