Sunday, March 1, 2009

The New Concept of Survival

TEMPE, Ariz. — Mark Cooper started his work day on a recent morning cleaning the door handles of an office building with a rag, vigorously shaking out a rug at a back entrance and pushing a dust mop down a long hallway.

Nine months ago he lost his job as the security manager for the western United States for a Fortune 500 company, overseeing a budget of $1.2 million and earning about $70,000 a year. Now he is grateful for the $12 an hour he makes in what is known in unemployment circles as a “survival job” at a friend’s janitorial services company. But that does not make the work any easier.

“You’re fighting despair, discouragement, depression every day,” Mr. Cooper said. (

It's sad, but it made me think. If I were to be put in Mr. Cooper's position, what would I do? Would I have enough bravery to do what he did? I would probably say yes, but it will take time and internal battles to make it work. I wouldn't be a janitor or a baker though just because I'd eventually get fired from those too. But I think I could make a good typist, librarian or someone who reads to old, filthy rich people for a living.

Survival is the name of the game. Just like any game of survival we cling on to whatever that WOULD keep us alive. In the primitive concept of surviving the wild or the jungle, we get ourselves dirty, strap off our good clothes, eat manageable to unsanitary food and find ourselves so far from our ideal way of life. That is such a primitive concept of looking at it because now we have a new concept.

Affluence and security are easily targeted in this global recession that leave couples and professionals crippled. Top paid executives have now become janitors, bakers, call center agents and contractual professionals.

Prestige, Power and Pride, things that these people once hold valuable, are traded off for one thing that helps them to survive. A Paycheck.

But the Paycheck of Survival is not always promising. It might come from professions these people wouldn't think of doing. A top manager and an executive, doing janitorial work, is mind and heart wrenching. A corporate executive doing call center jobs and baking weren't realistically acceptable. It's a harsh world and merely "surviving" puts us in that spotlight.

In my opinion, no one should ever feel retrenched or fired in their entire lives unless they deserve it. It's like a relationship that has gone sour when you have no idea what you've done to deserve it. It's even worse than cutting relationships because emotion is not the only thing on the line. In unexpected cutting of jobs, emotions and actual physical lifestyle are challenged. After retrenchment, another challenge seeps in underemployment.

But when survival is concerned we wouldn't care for trivial things. We tend to shove away pride and all intangible things that we hold dear for that one paycheck. We'd worry about fulfillment and success later. The justifications of continuing to live, lies in each and every one of us. In Survival, we cling on to every bit of hope no matter how unattractive it might be. In survival we must never lose hope.


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