Choosing Life

Scene from Nada by Sherif El Bendary –  I titled this post after the novel Using Life, which is banned in Egypt, and whose author, Ahmed Naji, was imprisoned by the authorities there for 2 years, and is still not yet allowed to leave the country
BONUSI have made public a private post I wrote earlier this year.  It’s called Egyptian Progress, and has a PIC of me as a younger man in El Alamein.

In the previous post, I painted a scenario of how it is in the US for many men (and women) after they turn 50 and the lifestyle options they once had at their fingertips vanish due to the suden and unexpected loss of a good job.

The picture I painted was bleak, but not unrealistic.  I know personally a person in my situation who committed suicide — right here in the small town in Florida where I now live — because he was trying to deal with some of the same issues that I was.

He was not some mental case loser; he was a former airline pilot.

Really bad things can happen to you after 50 — unless you have that magical nest egg that is somehow invulnerable to the unpredictable swings in value of your precious portfolio — and you do not happen to have a defined benefit plan as a fallback, such as that enjoyed by the many 40 year old ex NYC police officers who come down to Florida, flush after selling the house in Queens or Staten Island, and take second jobs as some local law enforcement muscle, as they rake in $150+/yr (assuming they loaded up on those OT hours in that last year on the job) after the 20 years and out hustle.

But if you don’t happen — at age 42 or so, like those cops — to have a publicly tax funded pension (that by the way, may go bankrupt sooner than you think, depending on how much and how fast politicians squeeze it dry), or a regular pension from one of the few companies left in the US that still offer that offer a traditional pension as a job benefit… well, you are out of luck, unless you are 25, and work at places like Google or FB.  Just don’t plan on still having a job there at 40, because most likely you won’t.

And if you turn 50, lose your job, and the market tanks on your 401K, and your mortgaged house goes under water, you, my friend, are known as being fucked in the ass 6 ways till Sunday.

Welcome to capitalism, American style.

How long do you really believe this phoney Trumpie recovery is going to last?

Do you really think that all this good news is due to good honest people not screwing the system any way they can?

Or is it that when the inevitable crash comes down, the 1%ers will escape unscathed, yet again, leaving you and the only shared resource we have, our beautiful environment, in the slag heap of the ugly maw of boundless corporate greed?

As I mentioned in the previous post, something bad  happened to me at 49.  I was the naive idiot who believed it all.

And for next 17 years, after the roof caved in, I couldn’t deal with it, as the money slowly ran out, and increasingly my life seem to be without any recognizable purpose.

I sometimes would remember the glorious summers I spent as a kid in Montazah palace in Aida beach (see pic up top, for a sad view of how it is now) before Farouk’s palace walls started to crumble, and those horrible high rises were built that completely disfigured the beautiful Alexandria of my youth, as the corrupt to the hilt Egyptian “army” took everything they could get from the old bashawat… and then some.

Other times I would think, why is it that I never got the credit for what I did?  Why did others always get the key to the executive bathroom, as I slaved away, sometimes for 20 hours a day, and designed and even managed to build (by leading a small team of 5 talented programmers, after millions were spent by this mega corporation on Big Name consultants who said it could not be done without spending millions more) an incredibly successful mainframe financial database that enabled traders and portfolio managers to make a personal fortune while I got nothing except 75k/yr and a 5K yearly bonus, while other sharp elbowed IT politicians rose up the ranks on the basis of the success of this project — I am talking about you, the Investments Division of the Metropolitan Insurance Company in New York — where I helped build the most successful multi platform integrated trading asset database the company had ever seen, but was pushed aside, as other got the nice promotions to VP and the great pensions later on.  This database was used for over a decade at MetLife, and I got nothing out of it but a paltry salary for a few years:  and after building it, I was  kicked out the door, or rather, given a small windowless office in the Hawaiian room and told to find another job, the sooner the better.

Why was that, I wonder?

Because I happen to be an Arab-American?  Is that why, Metlife? My contempt and disgust for those I worked with there then today is boundless.

But I have to let it go.

After all, no one cares or thinks about the loser. It’s the American way, right?  Losers have that bad loser smell that comes off their ill-fitting loser suits. It’s dog eat dog, loser, just don’t let anyone see those sharp teeth, or the spray of red blood on your white collar, because that the trick of it.

Let’s move on.

What I can say today — after almost dying from a thyroid storm induced heart attack on the subway platform in Times Square in NYC — is that if something like this happened to you, that your life exploded, and you thought there was no way back in from the cold, well, I have news for you.

There is.

I think in the end what it boils down is believing in yourself once again.  Somehow you have to find a way to do that. Forget the guy on some street corner pitching the latest feel good snake oil.  Forget about some specialized notion that some god, from any religion, is going to show up at your doorstep and help you out — except of course for the undefinable universal entity, often known as HIYAPAWA, who is always there when called on, and needs no church, synagogue or mosque to be found.

Forget about the idea that some politician is the answer to your problems, or that some therapist will clear all the wreckage, at whatever exorbitant rates they charge nowadays.  None of that means anything at all; though it is true that simply believing in the possibility of a form of yourself that is more powerful, awake, and alive than who you are today can move mountains.

You make not look as attractive as you once did.  You may no longer be as positive about life as you once were, because you know about the kids dying in the boats as they try to cross the seas and countries to find a better life.  You may have become a cynic, because after working in the corporate world you may think that the ultimate essence of every human being is a vile, ignominious piece of arrogant self-serving crap — which becomes evident as the good looks of youth fade away, and the true underlying nature of every person is revealed.

You may feel all those things, but as long as you find a way to believe in yourself once again…. somehow… despite all the pain… all the hurt… all the illnesses…. and the financial setbacks… despite all the betrayals you will come across in life…. despite all these things… if you are not some psycho monster… you will still have you… and that does not goes away, that is something that no one — not some warden, not some Gitmo torture fuckface, not some asshole President, not some Big Boss who thinks he is the biggest cheese of them all — can touch.

Sometime you may succumb to the temptations of nostalgia. You may go, as I did, to a place like Gouna, looking for love where you grew up, but ending up feeling like a ghost among those walls, which used to be yours, but now somebody else lives there, and you don’t any more.

I think that any belief that you rely on to keep on living must be tested and strengthened by putting some wildly unreasonable plan into action, one that is ambitious and wild and not settling for I’m gong to volunteer at the library for the blind or wheel out patients at the hospital of the mad.

Challenge yourself.

Go for something insane, that no one your age can possible be expected to achieve.

You may no longer think as quickly as you once did, or don’t retrieve bits of information from your brain as fast as you once could, but you do have something that is much more powerful than it was when you were young:  you have the heuristics of experience in a brain that has seen the world, and knows how it really works.

I don’t buy the Old Guys Rule decals that fat assholes in FLA like to put on their cars.

Old Guys Don’t Rule, except in the most uninteresting ways, if they have a fat wallet to go with their fat stomachs.

For people like us, who lost everything, given what we know about ourselves, our limits, but also our possibilities, there can still be things to look forward to.

Not golfing like some links dude in the Algarve or Gouna or FLA.

But doing something late in life that actually means something and makes a difference in some important way to the world we live in.

Now that is something worth living for.

leaving america