Saturday, December 12, 2009

Getting Up to Speed

Moving to another country with a family requires a fast track to the new home’s life style. For example, moving from Asia to America is a big leap. The attitudes and perspectives are miles apart that perhaps one could easily adapt if one spent his growing years feeding on Hollywood movies, western music and western literature. Still not enough to ensure an easy landing as it’s a big step to understand the inner working of American life. For instance, if one moves from a society that encourages public transportation to a car owner centric culture. Also, from a society that is based on scarcity to one of abundance.

After hitting the ground, the first thing that one should work on is one’s credit score. The credit score is one’s doorway to a good life. Getting a good credit score means having a credit card (sometime more than one) and using it frequently, paying a mortgage and a car loan at the very least. In other words, being in debt is the goal. Saving money is not something that is respected here. So being in debt to financial institutions is one’s passport to prosperity. It’s like an enormous factory producing money so that one should avail of this outpouring of credit to fit in. If one does not avail of credit, the powers that be will lower your credit score and adversely affect your future prospects.

Being in debt actually means that one is a part of a society who insures that the wheel of ‘prosperity’ is constantly turning. The turning wheel encompasses a long chain that start from the raw materials dug from the ground in Asia or Africa, products built in the factories of China and Malaysia or Eastern Europe, shipped through the seas to the developed world and sold on huge malls like Carrefour and Wall-Mart. This also means the multitude of cars manufactured in factories all over the world as well as the houses being built and stocks being sold all of which contribute to a rising bubble. A bubble means that it’s a fake, something not real but driven by artificial means.

Strangely, that’s modern life and one should know how to navigate all the complexities to be successful. Learning about IRA, ROTH plans medical insurance, health care, college tuition, car loan, mortgages, interest rates, ARM or fixed rate loans, driver’s permit, federal aid, bankruptcy laws, federal and state taxes, immigration laws and so on are just a part of what one needs to understand to settle here. All these are interconnected and affect your life in ways that you would not realize. But all these structures and rules and laws work to make one’s life a success in ‘the pursuit of happiness’.

Somehow these are the concrete manifestations of a dynamic society that works; a way of life shaped by wars and greed, by innovation and wealth and individual effort and hard work. Things seem much simpler back in Asia until one realizes that the government and its bureaucrats make all the money. Everyone here needs to hustle and all these structures aim to equip one with the ability to make money; often with a chance even to be wealthy. Of course, it’s an illusion because like a bubble it’s all a fake. No inner contentment despite the large house, new car and latest gizmos. Perhaps this is where Asia trumps the west with its yoga, tai chi, meditation and cultivation of the inner life.

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