Workout 13 Feb 2013

Copy of Morphs

20 minutes first thing (6 AM): air-conducted the first movement of Beethoven’s Third Symphony lying flat on my back.

Watching Obama work the racially integrated crowd before giving his State of the Union Address today, while Boehner sulks and Joe Biden is as usual Happy Joe I am thinking that my country has to make this work, to put, in the President’s words, the Nation first whether led by a black man or a white man, a black or white woman, or by Happy Joe Biden in his declining years.

There are indications that the Vice President has a negative net worth and (see below) this is an inspiration to all us ordinary slobs.

It is a fantasy that a well-run family is one in which Father uses Excel to create a budget as Boehner claims. First of all, wealthy families don’t budget; that’s one of the delights of high net worth; as Gordon Gecko says, you are Chrissake liquid without having to waste time on “best buys”, “bargains”, and, the rest of all that diddly crap. Creating a budget is an admission that there very well may not be enough money for the family to survive. I regard this as a failure since I grew up in the fat years, when my father seemed to be wealthy. Altho I budgeted enthusiastically in the 1980s the decade still seemed one of failure.

Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that one family member (the military) gets what it wants and, in turn, need create no budget and has zero accountability.

I’ve budgeted for years. I’ve had frequent overruns, I’ve plugged the dam with credit and now I owe HSBC a mega-amount. However, since coming to China in 2004 I never missed rent, I’ve never missed my “payroll” (my helper’s wage) and so far I’ve never missed an HSBC payment. This through a series of disasters including sudden termination, cancer and the loss of a son.

When I Google for ways to negotiate my debt down a bit owing to my cancer, I discover that for HSBC to discover (in an official way) that I have cancer, their logic would be to demand the balance so as to not get screwed if I die before 70. All I know is that I can take care of the debt from Social Security while having a bit left over to survive even as I budgeted to pay child support.

But NONE of the postings I see on the topic “HSBC debt” discuss how the poster might repay the debt: posters just want to know whether, if they return to the UK without paying a penny on their debt, they will be harassed or unable to buy a house.

These people just believe as an article of faith that they somehow shall have their debts forgiven. They may very well be in for an unpleasant surprise, and justifying their behavior, which is theft same as HSBCs predatory lending, is just tu quoque. I don’t know how the HSBC deadbeats are doing. Chances are they are living with ever more superannuated and ever more angry parents or that they’ve taken their own lives. Debt is not pretty. HSBC isn’t God, but my payments to this daemonic firm are in my view right and proper.

My Father’s psychology, and to some extent mine, was that of Calvin Coolidge who when told that Briand of France, and Stanley Baldwin of the United Kingdom, were complaining about the onerous burden of World War I debts: Coolidge said “they hired the money”. I can see my father saying to me, “you hired the money, didn’t you.”

It is paradoxical to claim that I budgeted while also allowing my overuse of Visa and HSBC “revolving credit” to buy books and go to Paris (and fail, sadly, to get to meet my son there despite his presence at the time in France.) All I can say is that I met rent and a payroll and, in the Now I am free of credit.

I am free, that is, of banks and other institutions pushing credit on me. This means that what I get is mine. It’s just Social Security which is an honest recoup of wages owed to me from 1970 through 1999 but, il est a moi. When I left the beautiful Kamalaya spa in Koh Samhui last August not a jot of worry about using this or that plastic to pay for it interfered with my serenity: I’d paid for practically everything through an EFTS cash transfer before coming. I knew exactly where I stood with my finances.

But…apart from these matters, all I’ve wanted since 1981 was a bit of on the job dignity. Thought I had it when in 2005 I got a full time teaching job. I failed to realize, early enough, how HSBC Visa and “revolving credit” could combine and generate negative synergy. I was always paying more than the minimum on Visa but the minimum on revolving credit and expecting a work bonus as promised.

But too late I found that the company was using an algorithm to keep my classroom (as opposed to prep) hours just shy of the required bonus! I often enough found myself idle, so I went out and found new clients for the company on Facebook. My employer took their business without acknowledging my contribution.

I should have noticed this malarkey but did not. My colleagues were begging their managers to let me teach some of their classes, especially in obscure Shakespeare since I’d read every play of “Sa si bi yah” (Shakespeare’s Chinese name). But these pleas were met with the blank stare of post-2008 panic.

Before the crash, the managers of this company could afford the appearance of affability but after the crash this turned into a vacant stare I now realize was of panic; their business model was getting the highest and most consistent rates in the sky high real estate of Causeway Bay; should a steady input of happy parents fail, they would be thrown out by the building owners. I’d received a bonus with no problem in 2007, the last of the fat years. But in 2009 I received a letter telling me that no bonus would be forthcoming, because I hadn’t taught enough hours: but the hours were assigned. I got the firm clients only to see those clients’ kids assigned, by the Algorithm, to other teachers. Welcome to Asia, as Nuri Vittachi would say.

I think I was supposed to quit but as the air went out of the Hong Komg job market I hung on for a year. Indeed, in the summer of 2010 I succeeded with a class of adolescents who simply didn’t want to learn English public speaking: but taking a look at their anger and then, the insipid crap in the text-book I instead assigned Jules’ speech from Pulp Fiction:

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

The kids loved this and the other teachers on the floor applauded; but again, your performance in the for profit teaching business can at any time be “liquidated”. If Mellon was right (“liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate…”) you’re the forgotten man. When I first read the Mellon quote (at the time of my foolish divorce) it seemed to resound with a sort of brave anger and the perverse poetry of business (such as getting fired for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all). But I was facing in fact the sublime monstrosity of capitalism for the first time with no illusion. The for profit teaching business is held in ill-regard because the capitalist would much rather break the spirit of the “real” PhD. For-profit teaching flirts with the unethical which is why I’d rather just be a private tutor for bright students one on one.

Once again, I’d mistook a couple of boom years with “negative unemployment” for reality and thought myself slick, thereby neglecting, once again, the basics of personal finance! But Paris was great. And as 2010 waxed and waned like so many years prior, I realized that I needed to shepherd the weak more and more through the valley of darkness not so much by word as example; next came freedom.

HSBC, like Godzilla, like my cancer stomped my life with shock and awe. But there is a justice in their demand which was missing in the conduct of my former employer or that of skanks who expect sugar tit in Britain after fuckng up in Hong Kong. But all I can recall of the time, when I arranged to pay (was, more precisely, directed to pay) a balance that was not subject to interest compounding was the serenity of the doomed. I feel it now.

These problems are not solved. I just arrange that the balance in my account is enough to cover the automatic HSBC debit and I try on a daily basis to overcome cancer. My father, who was always scared but a brave man, calls upon me from beyond the grave like Titurel (der Fromme Held) to “disclose” the false Grail of depression but fuck that shit, depression killed my son. I need neither be depressed nor manic: I could simulate a normal human being…such as Happy Joe Biden.


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