When the Going Gets Tough

Updated: May 18

As an old saying goes: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

That kind of jingoism was never more apropos than during the current Covid-19 pandemic when an entire generation is dropping like flies, carted away from hospital loading docks in refrigerated semi-trailers then unceremoniously abandoned in mass graves. Yes, folks. I’m talking about the USA and all of the hardest-hit countries. The going has gotten tough.

On a brighter note, a question: “What are YOU going to do with that $1200 check you received with Donald J. Trump’s signature at the bottom?” You know, the so-called economic stimulus? Take notice that the President-for-Life (wannabe) and his cabal of sycophants and political retreads simply stole the idea from former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, whose proposed $1200/month guaranteed income promised to put the economy in a state where it would have been less vulnerable to collapse.

I won’t be receiving any handouts from POTUS45. That’s because I abandoned the country of my birth and its society predicated on racism, bigotry and greed, for a more sedate life here in the Mediterranean. If, by some cynical twist of fate, a $1200 check appears in my post box, I’m going to frame it, or better, purchase as many masks, gowns, gloves and face shields as it can buy and donate them to the local hospital.

For readers who think that only the rich and socially elite can afford perpetual sunshine, good wines, music and the company of beautiful women, let me put you straight. It’s not that hard to achieve, not rocket science. You don’t need to be born with the right parents, marry into money, or suck up to your despicable father-in-law. You know what I’m saying.

I spent 40 years as a very small cog in a very large corporate machine, nose to the grindstone, tail between my legs. I won’t name the company, as many of my former workmates are still toiling away, and now facing massive layoffs. These are folks with high mortgage payments, education expenses, private health insurance costs, you-name-it, steeped in debt. They are the middle class of professionals and semi-professionals, technicians, line workers, clerks and others who do most of the work and pay all of the taxes. Simply put, they can’t afford the luxury of a global pandemic. They can’t even risk the loss of even a single paycheck.

But these are extraordinary times.

In 2011, I faced a similar crisis of employment. I had enjoyed a reasonably secure job as a design professional in a major engineering firm. This firm lined up with Haliburton and others among its corporate peers to scoop up the windfall profits generated by the Bush dynasty’s assault on Iraq. They were in bed with practically every political entity in the world. Their corporate charter was in the Seychelles and they paid not a penny of corporate tax. What could be more secure than a job with such a powerful employer?

I want to be clear. This was one of the best employers in the world with over thirty-thousand employees. That's three with four zeroes. Nonetheless, practically all of today’s major corporations are structured on the Mafia model. Power runs from top to bottom while responsibility runs from bottom to top. Boards of Directors and CEOs set profit targets that often have little to do with the realities of the marketplace while placing downward pressure on the organizational pyramid to satisfy those targets. If production teams manage to achieve the mandated profit quota for any given year, next year’s target is increased by a hefty percentage. The logic is that if all those lazy employees managed to satisfy this year’s economic goals, then they can surely do better. This formula leads to a plethora of health and social problems but that’s too much for a brief blog entry.

The Mafia model means that the Godfather (CEO) at the top of the pyramid dictates to his immediate subordinates how much money he wants in his envelope each month. His subordinates add their percentages then pass the order down through the ranks to the soldiers at the bottom who have no option but to push more drugs, pimp more whores, hijack more goods trucks, extort more small business people, bust more parking meters. You get the idea.

The whole shit-show is fueled by corporate newspeak, what I call the ‘dead language’, the equivalent of a blank stare. If you want to know what corporate newspeak is, then simply tune in to any of President Trump’s briefings or check out the ‘mission statement’ of almost any major corporation. The thousands of institutes that offer MBAs – the currency required to get you a stake in this hideous system, teach courses on it. Nonetheless, those who actually work don’t talk like that.

Ten years ago, I too labored under the weight of a hefty mortgage, three kids in university, and high taxes to pay, not to mention having to put bread on the table each and every day. I took an assignment to go abroad to manage a construction project without any uplift in salary or perks whatsoever. It cost me and my family, but that’s what you do when you’re a cog in the great wheel. They did offer a flight home every few months, but it didn’t mitigate the pressures of separation. The corporate message was always clear: if you didn’t like it, then there’s somebody else waiting to take your job. The corporation rents you out at several times the value of your actual salary plus benefit package because it needs to keep filling all the envelopes, except yours of course. You don’t get an envelope.

At some point in this assignment, my employer decided to abandon its contract with the client, leaving the project half completed. They issued me an ultimatum. Get on the next flight home or lose your job – no severance pay, no golden parachute. You’re fired.

This posed an ethical and even moral conundrum. I’d never quit in the middle of a project, never dropped the ball. How would I face the client’s staff who interfaced with me? How would this go down on my personal resumé? In the end, I told my old boss to go fuck himself. It was the best decision of my life. He fired me.

The consequence was that my employer’s client became my client. My client gave me a car, paid my family’s relocation expenses, our rent and my daughter’s private school fees, as well as our private health coverage. It didn’t really matter because the country had universal free health care, even for foreigners. Even our grocery bills were chargeable. Plus a huge uplift in salary.

Now self-employed, I pay my own pension plan contributions and home country taxes and end up with far more money at the end of each month than I’d ever imagined possible. Five projects later, the economic curve continues to build. Finally, I paid off my longstanding house mortgage then purchased another house here, where there is no winter, sun shines each day, good wine goes for $1 euro/liter, and I no longer require chiropractic or psychiatric intervention.

It could have been Covid-19 that propelled me toward independence, or any other trigger for that matter. The point is that you need to muster the courage to break away. If you fear that you don’t know enough about business to make it on your own, then think again. Everything you need is available via free tutorials on the internet. You can learn business development skills. You can do your own bookkeeping. You already know how to work hard. You can succeed.

Just keep telling yourself that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Take that $1200 of free money and invest it in yourself. Don’t blow it on lottery tickets. Don't buy more accessories for your AR-15 or use it to march on the state capitol to protest the quarentine (and come home sick with the virus). Don't send it to Pastor Paula White. Use it to change your life. Use the freedom you gained from being cut loose to create your own means of support. Use your great imagination. Partner with those you admire and trust.

Rethink your relationship with a government beholden to powerful corporations, banks and credit card companies, an Administration hijacked by con artists and gangsters. Remind your favourite 2020 candidate of two very important issues, neither of which any of them have yet mentioned:

Number One: Institute a universal guaranteed income. Covid-19 will be back with a vengeance, so take this practical measure to reduce the pain while stimulating the economy toward better outcomes.

Number Two (and equally important): Free Reality Winner and award her the Medal of Freedom. Any candidate that does not pledge to free this genuine American heroine does not deserve your vote.

Photo: April 2019. Our loved ones unceremoniously dumped into mass graves.

Think about it. Then act.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, you can download free novels and short stories at www.francescorizzuto.com. Please self-isolate, stay home and READ, READ, READ. And thanks for visiting this blog.