These days, you hear so much about right-wingers complaining that the US is being infiltrated by communists and slowly turning into the Soviet Union that it’s become both a meme and a cliche.
So let me add to it by saying that we’re not turning into the USSR, but have already become the USSR — just not in the way that you think.
Here’s a bit of context to set up my story of woe.
I’ve spent roughly the last month of my life moving from Greenville, Delaware to nearby Hockessin.
It’s common knowledge that moving is, to put it very mildly, one of the most undesirable activities one can engage in.
Doing it in the winter time, with cold short days and with long even colder nights, is worse.
Forgoing a month of rentback purely on principle, piling all your possessions into 2 pods and 4 storage units, and camping out in an AirBnB for the three weeks between settlements with a very loud and very active 2 year old, is about as bad as It’s ever been for me… And this is my 18th lifetime move.
I’m not going to get into the details of why we didn’t opt for the rentback, but that was definitely a mistake on our part.
Hogs Get Slaughtered In More Ways Than One
We made plenty of money on the sale of our house to rationalize that there would be a comfortable slow, gradual, single-stage move. So in the heat of the back and forth between realtors, the decision was made and an elaborate plan came together.
That plan involved moving all of our small items into storage, and then hiring moving crews to load the heavy stuff into pods at our old house, then unload them at our new house after closing.
It seems fairly straight forward.
That is, until I realized that we were, in fact, living in the Union Of American Socialist Republics and not the USA I remember fondly as a child.
The first crew, which was scheduled to show up between 11 am and 1 pm and load the pods in our Greenville driveway, cancelled their appearance spontaneously during that very two hour arrival window.
The company that managed these teams called me and explained the situation and reassured me that they’ve already found a replacement crew which would show up between 2 and 4 pm.
In the Union of American Socialist Republics, arrival windows generally need to be interpreted to mean: “We’ll arrive anywhere between the last ten minutes of the window, and the first 30 minutes that come after.”
Arrival Windows: The Great Fallacy Of Late Stage Capitalism
The crew showed up at 4:14 pm as the sun was already starting to dip below the tree line, emerging from a funny-smelling, tinted-windowed Altima as if playing out a scene from a modernized reboot of the 90s classic Dazed and Confused.
The leader of the pack, a bulbous, tobacco-reeking Eagles fan in his early 40s, introduced himself first and the rest of the team followed suit.
Next came a man in his late 40s/early 50s who I suspected was already suffering from emphysema, and next after him came the driver of the Altima, a rail-thin saggy-pantsed, neck-tattooed kid in his early twenties who looked tall enough to dunk without jumping.
Finally, came the guy in glasses and blonde ponytail, who tried as hard as he could to crush my hand as I shook it.
“I’m the bodybuilder of the group,” he said to me as I cringed through the bone-grinding ritual. “You can tell I’m strong from my grip.”
It was an interesting group, who came without any lumbar support belts, furniture dollies, straps or any other types of accoutremants typically associated with lifting heavy objects.
The one thing they did bring was the tall kid’s girlfriend, who stayed in the car for the duration of the job, getting checked on every 15-20 minutes.
This crack team of moving specialists went to work on my house, and for the first hour I thought we were in good shape.
They lifted our heaviest items with apparent ease and unexpected dexterity, and actually looked like they were putting thought into the loading process, as space was already bound to be limited.
Strong grip bro seemed to deliver on his promise of muscular potency, as he moved things I could barely budge with such speed and efficiency that he found time to boast to my wife several times about being the ‘heavy hitter’ of the outfit.
And then it happened.
90 or so minutes into the job I noticed that Mr. Emphysema was moseying like he was taking a walk on the beach, lugging a single shelf from our disassembled entertainment center.
It was all down hill from there as they fell, one by one, into black holes of lethargy.
Where as before they were manhandling large, cumbersome articles of furniture, they were now carrying small, solitary couch cushions and trash bags half-filled with various odds and ends.
My wife pleaded with them to stick to the big stuff. The small stuff we could take care of ourselves she told them. We did, after all, have 3 storage rooms for such trivialities.
It was all in vain. They continued to do as they pleased, growing more and more sluggish in their motions and more and more careless in their placement of items within the 16x8x8 containers.
As hour two ticked into hour three, I saw that they had already filled one whole unit and half of the other, and still had an entire floor and an inlaw suite left to empty. There was no doubt about it: we were screwed.
1 Man Working. 3 Men Watching… Sound Familiar?
Strong grip man continued to run his mouth but was now hardly working, claiming several times that he: “wasn’t superman” when asked to put his back into the really heavy items like my mother’s antique china cabinet or my oversized safe.
Mr. Emphysema disappeared entirely for a while, ostensibly to go suck down a few p-funk lights. Tall kid started checking on his main squeeze at an accelerated rate, and their fearless leader did little beyond getting agitated at the rest of his platoon.
As hour three expired, tall kid pulled me aside and told me that my time was up and that if I wanted more work, I’d have to go into the app and pay another several hundred dollars to make it happen.
I remember looking away as he said that, into the open bays of my garage where they’d placed some of our furniture for wrapping and sorting, and estimated that we would probably need another small pod to hold everything… Or a truck and maybe even another storage unit.
I opted out of contracting them for another hour. It had clearly been Miller time for at least two hours already, and there was no cause for delaying it any further.
My wife and I put our son to sleep, and spent the next three hours reorganizing both units until all but two TVs and our dinner table were left sitting in the garage, homeless.
The next day we got that truck, got that 4th storage unit, and finished the job that we had paid a 3rd party “moving company” more than $1100 to get done.
We’re over the hump, I thought to myself.
When You’re Going Through Hell… Keep Going.
I thought wrong.
Flash forward three weeks… Our old house now belonged to somebody else, and somebody else’s old house now belonged to us, and it was time to move in.
The AirBnB was nice, well appointed and comfortable, but it just wasn’t home and Yan, our son, could feel it the whole time.
He was also quite unapologetic about making us feel what he felt.
On December 18th our two Pods arrived at the new address and at 9 am the following morning, I was there waiting for the unloading crew.
Their arrival time: between 9 and 11.
At 11:20 am I called that same “moving company.” and asked a question that I couldn’t believe even as I heard it emerge from my mouth.
“Where are they?”
The CS rep was very understanding and sympathetic and promised to get a hold of them and get back to me. Ten minutes later, he kept his promise, and my disbelief only expanded:
“We can’t reach them by phone, text or email.” He paused. “Rest assured, Mr. Koyfman, we are working very hard to find you a replacement crew.”
Deja Vu All Over Again
Was this really happening? Was this a glitch in the matrix? A bad dream?
“This is the second time you guys are doing this to me. I hired you for two jobs, and you did it both times.”
More apologies. More calming phrases delivered in tones of contrition.
“I will reach out to our field coordinator and he will be in touch with you, Mr. Koyfman,” the guy on the phone said.
I was staring into our pods as he said this. Despite both of us having bad backs, my wife and I had already done at least half the job ourselves. Maybe we could finish it ourselves too?
The china cabinet that stood close to the entrance of one of the pods, the same cabinet that had taken the entire team, including strong grip bro himself, to haul out of our old house, assured me that we could not.
I hung up and just looked at my wife with an expression that said everything words could not.
“Unbelievable,” she responded. Then added in Russian: “Sovetsky Soyuz.”
Back To the USSR
Those two words, in that context, carried more weight than any non-Russian will likely ever be able to appreciate.
It was a deep, intimately familiar reference, uttered in bitter lament when confronted with anything and everything that was characteristically shitty about the motherland.
Drive over some potholes that should have been repaired years ago… Sovetsky Soyuz.
Spend three hours on the phone with customer service, getting ‘escalated’ from one rep to another, each time believing that progress is being made, only to wind up nowhere at all, or perhaps have your call disconnected altogether… Sovetsky Soyuz.
Spend three months waiting for a doctor’s appointment with your pediatrician, only to have the pediatrician cancel three days prior and pawn you off on a resident you’ve never met… Sovetsky Soyuz.
Collect your child from his $1800/month day care only to discover that nobody had bothered to help him open his lunch box, or change his diapers… Sovetsky Soyuz.
Get a brand new, overpriced air conditioner installed and have it fail three times in the first week, as the outdoor temp climbs into the 90s… Sovetsky Soyuz.
Sovetsky Soyuz meant that things were getting worse, more difficult, more costly, falling apart, decaying, dying, being exploited to death by the ruling class, and generally going to hell.
It meant hopelessness. A dead end. A ‘no-exit’ sign on the one hatch leading out of the hole you’re in.
Worst of all, it’s consistent and uniquitious.
Even within this one relocation experience, the complete lack of care was evident at almost every stage of the process.
Broad Spectrum Collapse Starts Small
The Pods delivery drivers damaged a retaining wall during drop-off, put a WWI sized trench in our lawn, placed the pods opposite of the way I’d requested, and failed to bring any of the 4 dozen moving blankets I had requested and paid for.
Three weeks later they trenched our new neighbor’s lawn on the way in… I’m still waiting to see what they’ll do on the way out.
Of the two U-Haul trucks I rented during this saga, neither came with the requested moving blankets or furniture dollies.
Our rental units were infested with mice, the extent of which we’re still learning more and more about as we unpack our things. And I’m 95% certain that a unit across the hallway from one of ours contained a living human tenant.
Even the USPS got in on the fun by losing the mail they’d been holding for us for 2 weeks, though that hardly registered at all on my surprise-o-meter.
The one thing everyone did on time, without fail and exactly as promised, is charge our credit cards.
Actually that’s not true. The “moving company” I hired to hire the loaders and unloaders double-charged us for the first job.
And this problem is the same, almost everywhere you look.
It happens with our internet and cellular providers, our auto mechanics, our building contractors, our doctors, our engineers, all the way down to every aspect of manual labor.
Our path to a state of being where labor is either unaffordable, or utterly incompetent by way of indifference, is a mirror image of the course taken by the USSR in the last quarter of the 20th century, and the effects are much the same.
Different Origins… Same Result
Nothing is easy anymore because everyone is unmotivated. Quality work, as well as quality products, are becoming a rarity. Skill, when it’s present, is in such high demand that it’s becoming unattaionable to everyone but the wealthy.
The only thing there is in abundance is laziness.
There’s an old joke in Russia that it takes four men to do any job: One to do the work, and three to watch him do it.
If only those who wrote that joke could seen what’s happening here now.
A few weeks ago, a team of 5 men attempted to install a few dozen feet of quarter-round moulding in my mom’s kitchen in Bethany Beach. Three worked while two conferred over Marlboros on the covered patio. They used the grill as an ashtray and left after two hours having achieved nothing, their failure still lacking any semblance of an explanation.
The cause and effect isn’t hard to deduce here, either… Nobody is happy about their jobs. According to Metlife’s 2 decade long survey of work satisfaction, employee morale is now at all time-lows, particularly among Generation-Z and younger millennials who also account for the largest segment of the lower to mid salary jobs within the American workforce.
Unhappiness is so trendy today that the ‘great resignation’ has now been replaced by the ‘great gloom’.
More and more of us look at our surroundings and see a declining, crumbling, past-prime society marching steadily towards collapse.
The Soviets had the politbureau and all of its state-owned infrastructure and state-run corruption to blame for the hopelessness, and we have bloated, disinterested corporatism which hides behind mountains of money, layers of legal protection, and the ultimate of depersonalizing factors — the internet.
You hire strangers online, feeling like you won the war of convenience, and in return, you get work which may have been better off left undone.
“Can’t Win, Don’t Try” – Bartholomew J. Simpson
Oh yes, that replacement crew to unload the pods did show up eventually. Arrival window of between 2 pm and 4 pm. They showed up at 4:30 pm, again, as the sun was already vanishing.
Tired and disinterested, they somehow managed to empty those pods while only destroying the one piece of furniture that my wife and I had no chance of moving ourselves — that stupid old china cabinet.
In the end, they got paid and drove off happily to Miller Time, completely satisfied with a job done.
In Russia, when faced with the utter hopelessness that endless delays and endless apathy bring, the most common solution is simple: You drink.
On the evening of the Pod unloading fiasco, as we sat in silence following the day of moving hell, I realized that I was maybe a bit more Russian than I cared to admit, because that was my only solution as well.
Unfortunately, unlike the financial markets, which ebb and flow, rise and fall, the descent into this abyss of nonexistent work ethic may just be a one way trip.
Modern Russia has not recovered from its Soviet days. Outside the 3-4 biggest cities, the place is a poor, slovenly, backwards cesspit of stagnation and dispair. There are no opportunities. No chances. No dreams or hope for the future.
A select few own and control everything, and their share of the pie continues to grow even as the pie itself shrinks.
Stateside, there is still quality labor out there. But where once a competitive market and dare I say it, pride in what you do, compelled people to do their best, today at least one of those elements is gone, and oftentimes both.
Socialism Starts In The Mind Of The Individual
Now, to be clear, it’s still not as bad here as it was there. It doesn’t take 4 years to get a new car, 2 years to get a new refrigerator, or 2 days to get bread — although we did see hints of that paradigm emerging during the covid supply chain crisis.
But if things continue in our new internet-crazed, politically-correct, corporatist-controlled world, where will we be in another 2 years? Or 5 years?
Where will we be if inflation erodes the dollar to the point where the world has no choice but to switch to a new reserve currency and we can’t just print our way out of every financial crisis?
If you see that there are no good answers to that question then you’ve just taken your next towards insulating yourself from the ultimate effects of this cultural decline.
Want to take the next steps? Here is a good place to start… Fortune favors the bold, Alex Koyfman His flagship service, Microcap Insider, provides market-beating insights into some of the fastest moving, highest profit-potential companies available for public trading on the U.S. and Canadian exchanges. With more than 5 years of track record to back it up, Microcap Insider is the choice for the growth-minded investor. Alex contributes his thoughts and insights regularly to Energy and Capital. To learn more about Alex, click here.
Fortune favors the bold,
His flagship service, Microcap Insider, provides market-beating insights into some of the fastest moving, highest profit-potential companies available for public trading on the U.S. and Canadian exchanges. With more than 5 years of track record to back it up, Microcap Insider is the choice for the growth-minded investor. Alex contributes his thoughts and insights regularly to Energy and Capital. To learn more about Alex, click here.