Monday, November 22, 2010

Gaming the system

I often wondered how we survived 29 years of communism. We were resilient for sure, the survival instinct kicked in and we learned quickly, as a nation, how to game the system. It was not an issue of moral ethics, it was an issue of how were we going to eat or stay warm another day.

I am also wondering about certain Americans and illegal aliens who are taught by ACORN, La Raza, the Mexican Consulate, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other like-minded liberal groups to obtain legal and illegal benefits under the loopholes of the law, enabled by many generations of democrat Congressmen who view this country as discriminatory and socially unjust and thus in need of "fundamental change" that only they can bring about, providing that the new beneficiaries of their benevolence vote democrat in perpetuity. People like me, who escaped oppressive regimes, know and recognize that these euphemisms are code words for socialism and communism. Without help from lawmakers, we had to improvise and devise our own survival plans under the radar of the Economic and Fiscal Police. Groups of Americans and illegal aliens game the system in a country where freedom still offers its legal citizens the opportunity to reach the American dream without theft.

The economic barter system based sometimes on theft became the predominant method of survival and economic exchange under communism. I say sometimes because there were citizens who never engaged in barter via theft. Their religious and moral beliefs forbade them to do so. However, most workers stole materials, finished products, or services from their employer, in this case, the communist government. It never occurred to them that they were stealing from themselves because nobody believed the ideological lies that the means of production were owned/shared in common (The Latin word "communis" means shared). People knew they only owned the clothes on their backs, dishes, and a few pieces of furniture. Because their communist daily needs were barely satisfied, workers exchanged with others various goods and services in short supply, under the radar of the Economic Police. A butcher would trade stolen meat for a case of wine, a week's worth of bread, a couple of liters of cooking oil, medicines in short supply, soap, shampoo, a doctor's more attentive care for a patient, or a couple of kilos of sugar and flour.

Farmers were more honest in their exchanges since they at least raised the animals or grew the fruits and vegetables. Some lazier and thus needier farmers resorted to stealing, selling, and/or slaughtering a neighbor's pig, cow, or sheep. If they were caught, so be it, the jail time was worth surviving a few months on the stolen meat.

Lazier farmers brings to mind the failed communist experiment at Jamestown where each family labored together for the community but some chose to labor less than others but all benefited equally from the crop. It is for this reason that the community as a whole was facing starvation. They soon realized that dividing the land into smaller plots and giving them to each family increased the incentive to work and thus the successful capitalist model was born. And they were hungry no more.

More daring thieves stole goods made of iron and sold them as recycled scrap metal, i.e., rail road tracks, metal fences, transformers, light fixtures, cemetery rails, and pretty much anything that was not nailed down, screwed too tightly, or cemented.

Gypsies took theft to new heights in their race for survival. The Rroma, the now PC term for gypsies, stole car tires, windshield wipers, rear view mirrors, metal bars from windows, trash cans, door handles, public commodes, toilette paper, and pretty much anything in stores that their huge skirts with multiple pockets could hide.

They stole electricity by connecting directly to the light poles. As soon as they were disconnected, they would re-connect. When given free apartments to take them off the cold streets and migratory wagons, they dismantled them and sold everything piece by piece, doors, appliances, commodes, sinks, light fixtures, parquet flooring, linoleum, until there was nothing else left but the bare walls, and they moved out into the courtyard where they slept around huge campfires and improvised tents.

Gaming the system also involved birthing multiple babies and becoming an honorary mother hero with a pension for life. Of course, not everybody was able to physically deliver that many babies. From the time a woman became pregnant, she stayed home pretending to be sick, on constant maternity leave. After the baby was born, mysterious illnesses plagued him/her until kindergarten. It was easy to obtain bogus baby illness certificates from doctors who barely survived themselves and relied on bribes from patients for their existence. Employers knew these certificates were fake - nobody cared, as long as they got their meager monthly pay from the government. The work ethic mantra was, "they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work."

A package of Kent cigarettes could buy a person sick with a cold or the flu three weeks of paid leave. A bar of foreign made Lux soap or a bottle of Nivea shampoo helped you see a doctor immediately as opposed to waiting weeks. A package of Chesterfield cigarettes might persuade the lab tech to do a chest X-ray the same day or a blood test in one week as opposed to months. A cassette player would assure attentive health care from your government-assigned physician for a year. These doctors, who were told where to practice medicine, how many patients they had to see daily, and how much money they could earn, were so overwhelmed that the care they provided was substandard at best. They supplemented their meager incomes with bribes all the time, Hippocratic oath not withstanding.

These cons are not unlike the Pigford Settlement in which 88,000 farmers claimed that they have been discriminated against and denied the right to farm based on their skin color, each collecting $50,000 from the federal government. This is an obvious fraud since there are only around 40,000 farmers in the U.S. I guess the argument could be made that people living under communism had no choice or opportunities to do anything else, whereas Americans are still free to pursue any American dream the honest way, starting from scratch, earning, and keeping the fruits of their labor, without expectation of "spreading the wealth around," a.k.a. welfare.

If an honest Romanian citizen tried to protest and reveal the labor dishonesty, he/she was quickly bribed, beaten, forced to shut up, or threatened by the communist syndicate or union.

There were honest people who tried to survive on their pay but they were very poor and needy, their existence quite precarious. The government did not care and it certainly did not honor the communist promise of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." They had little food, lacked modern conveniences, education, and access to basic medical care. They were depressed, abusive and abused, often alcoholics, falling through the cracks of the communist workers' "paradise."


  1. I'll never forget the cold winter mornings when i had to wake up at 4-5 o'clock, to stay in line for the 2 liters of white liquid they called it milk. The snow was knees high and the temperatures anywhere between -5 and -10 Celsius.
    You just could walk the streets from line to line asking: "what is this line for?" before taking your place at the end.
    I'll never forget my first visit to a supermarket after arriving to Israel. I walk the isle with food for children and i felt like crying. OMG! Special food for children! Look! Plastic baby bottles! Look at the meet! Look! Look at all this Chocolate!
    I am sure now that i embarrassed the hell of my friends that took us to buy a few things for dinner.

  2. I had the same experience, Adrian, which I described in my story, "My First Trip to the Grocery Store." My friends took me places for the first time on purpose, just to watch my reaction.