Thursday, August 18, 2011

What An American Immigrant From Shanghai, And The Leadership Class Of The Soviet Union, Have In Common

Two successful transitions from economic and political systems:


I was officially qualified as the poorest man in Beverly Hills, giving English lessons and doing business correspondence for this woman from China who works for the Federal government as an accountant. In return I got her living room couch to sleep on. She explained to me that she was hired for her well-paying, secure government job, chosen over a multitude of other applicants, because her English was so bad she was clearly trapped for all time in the slave class and posed no threat to anyone's ambitions.

I observed her carefully, and concluded she had deliberately taught herself to speak bad English. When there were for example only two grammatical forms to choose from, single and plural, she would choose wrongly not 50%, but 90% approaching 100% of the time.

Really she only wanted her business letters edited. She sat in a room alone working the numbers, didn't have to talk to anyone, but she did have to communicate by email with her supervisors and accountants at other offices who could not understand a word of her English. Before she met me, she repeatedly hired editors from internet classified advertisements, asking candidates to do a test job at 10 dollars an hour. Finding fault with the work, she would offer a three or four dollar settlement for their time, and move on to the next victim. She got herself blacklisted on the site she used. Before this, she would register at the local community college and use the free tutoring services for immigrants subsidized by the federal government. She did the same at the public library.

Using diplomatic connections her family had arranged for her to come to the U.S. as a political refugee, her college education paid for by the government. She brought her aged mother to the U.S., and using cash smuggled out from China bought an apartment building in the Chinese area of Los Angeles, which they managed together, adapted it into a rooming house, and were making a considerable profit. Her mother warned her that Americans were a vicious immoral lot, and "Caucasians" carried many dangerous deceases, so light skinned Americans were best were avoided along with, of course, all the other more obviously dangerous varieties. The family planned to return to China when, saving the Federal Government salary and the profits from the rooming house, they had amassed a million dollar fortune.

The Chinese immigrant, now Federal Government employee, never bought anything unnecessary, cooked her own lunches and dinner early in the morning out of ingredients bought at Chinese markets, packed them into plastic containers, loaded the whole in a black plastic garbage bag, and lugged it to the truck of the car. In the couple months I stayed at her place she crashed the car twice, the first time made a thousand dollar profit from the insurance company compensation, the second time the car was a total loss and she bought a better one with the generous pay out.

When the Chinese immigrant had accomplished with the use of my editing services the month long process of setting up of an in-house bank for her department, she told me her bosses were very happy with her. And these were the same bosses who had put in writing in her latest employee review the harsh criticism that she was arrogant and insensitive with her subordinates! But a week later she said to me:

- You have to go. You refused to teach me when I asked you to.

- What? When?

- Yesterday evening, when you came home.

- What! Stop lying.

- I feel offended by you. I have no self-esteem.

- It doesn't matter how you feel. Obviously your feelings are based on lies, deliberate misunderstanding, vanity, one or all. Don't pay any attention to them. You'll feel better.

- When are you leaving?

- A few days.

- Good.

So good-by to my couch and being the poorest man in Beverly Hills!


I have read that, hard as it is to believe, our country's hundred-thousand employee security establishment was caught entirely by surprise by the fall of the Soviet Union. Theorists later concluded that a loss in oil revenue was responsible. But the latest idea, based on statements made by the Soviet leaders themselves involved in overseeing the change, was the general sense of futility and embarrassment of these leaders when they compared their way of life with that of their Western counterparts.

This too is hard to believe. What I think more likely is that they learned, with better exposure to their Western counterparts, exactly how they could make the transition profit them personally. New exposure taught them confidence in themselves, rather than threatened their feelings of patriotism.

So why didn't the theorists see this coming? Looking at historical change in terms of economics and politics, they neglected to give proper weight to the well known fact that political leaders use politics and economics to keep themselves in office, which is their first and fundamental necessity. Once in office they proceed to enrich themselves and then also, if they wish, play with implementing the economic and political proposals that got them their jobs. When the Soviet leaders saw how they could profit from a shift of economic and political principles, they made the change. Something in their exposure to the West taught them how such economic and political change could be managed to their personal advantage.

But that is a different story. What the Chinese immigrant and the Soviet leaders have in common is the dedicated pursuit of money and power.