Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Land of the Free

Even after nearly a month since I got back to the old ancestral abode, it's nice to know my consciousness that any minute could be my last, if not my heart, is still in Kazakhstan.  Culture shock is a funny thing, not least reverse culture shock.  From the realization that the light doesn't actually have to say walk for me not to get killed while crossing the road—I literally had to have my husband teach me how to cross the street again—to the sudden giddy knowledge that in this country you can literally pay someone to do just about anything.  And not only will they do it, but they'll be pleasant and happy and actually act like they want to do it.  Whether or not they actually do is, of course, irrelevant.

The best part about being back though?  The freedom.  You can do anything here! Be anything.  Say anything.  Only in America can you not only pay anyone to do just about anything, but you can have a job or not have a job.  You can choose to blame yourself for lack or surplus of said job, or blame someone else.  You can expect to go out and find a job, or expect someone else to find you a job.  Only in America, do citizens have the freedom to go jobless.  Entire families have the freedom to go hungry, live out of cars, and ask other people for the money to get by.  It's that easy!

The post-Communist world, for all its progress, certainly can't boast that.  In Kazakhstan, you're still forced to feed your family, even if you can't get a job.  The government will literally use its own money to feed you.  And if you're extra oppressed, the government might even go out of its way to get you a job.  True, you can still choose to have a ridiculous number of kids, but be aware that if you get pregnant, the government will force you to let it pay for your doctor visits up to and after the baby is born.  

Surely, it can't be all that bad, you ask?  Well, no, not entirely.  You still have the freedom to smoke all the cheap cigarettes (and they are cheap, thanks to lack of taxes and, I'm gonna assume, also regulations) you want and no one says a word.  Exercise is also relatively frowned upon, unless you're an Olympic athlete, so you shouldn't feel an inordinate amount of pressure to be fit.  But be aware, no matter how long you live, unless you die before you retire from your government-provided job, you will be forced to live off the government mandated pension fund that was put away for your future benefit.  So don't get too damn cocky.

Ah, to breathe the free air again. 

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