2009-08-13 / Sam Bari

Stop that whining!

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Back in the early 1980s, I sailed my little 38-foot cutter from Canada to Florida via Bermuda and a tour of the Caribbean Sea. Other than relatives and a few friends coming to visit for short periods, I made most of the voyage single-handed. This afforded many days to think profound and lofty thoughts, and to ponder the meaning of life.

Unfortunately, I have no conclusive thoughts on such perspicacious matters despite stalwart efforts. However, as I read and watch the constant political gamesmanship, whining and complaining in the news today, I cannot help but reflect on some of my concerns during that 18-month adventure.

At first, the feeling of freedom was euphoric. For once, I was in command of my life. I was beholden to nobody; I was out from under the stifling thumb of any government, and living on a floating home that was completely self-sufficient.

I could say, do and write anything I wanted with absolute impunity. As soon as I turned off the short-wave radio, I was cut off from the rest of the planet. Back then, the Internet and satellite phones were items of the future.

I understood what Johnny Depp meant when he played Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean” two decades later. He was asked what his ship, the Black Pearl, meant to him. His answer was, “Freedom. The Black Pearl represents freedom.”

I floated on the freedom fantasy for days until the weather got rough. While I was at sea, my life was capsulated in a corky, windpowered vessel that was little more than a giant-size Clorox bottle. On radar screens, my tiny ship looked like an insignificant speck of dust. Floating on the ocean in powerful seas, far from land, became a humbling experience.

A few hours earlier when the seas were kind and I felt as if I were at one with Neptune himself, “freedom” was a noble word, worthy of sacrificing life and limb, so to speak. As the seas grew and the wind sharpened, I realized that “freedom” came with a price tag.

If my boat sank and I somehow made my way to shore, I would be homeless. I would need a job and a place to live, and the worldly possessions that make life tolerable. Now Big Brother’s thumb looked more like a life preserver. A comfortable desk in an office with a coffeemaker had a certain amount of appeal.

Although I fancied myself a man free of all societal responsibilities, I cannot with good conscience say that I had completely severed the umbilical cord to life in the comfort zone. No. I was not that brave.

If I found my boat and myself in serious jeopardy, all I would have had to do was press a button on my EPIRB and I stood an excellent chance of being rescued. EPIRB stands for “Emergency Pulsating Intermittent Radio Beacon.” If a U.S. Navy vessel saw my signal and came to my aid, I would not have been charged so much as a dime for the service, as long as the emergency was legitimate.

Imagine the cost if the aircraft carrier U.S. Enterprise were required to change course for hundreds of miles to pluck me from the water.

We live in a country that takes care of its people. Recently, former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea to rescue two American journalists who were imprisoned, possibly at hard labor for 12 years. Not many countries would do that for their citizens.

Our government has programs to help the homeless improve their situation and re-establish themselves in the mainstream of society.

In many areas of the world, people consider homelessness as a way of life. They perceive their nomadic lifestyle as nothing more than one of life’s hardships.

As I sailed the tropical seas those many years ago, I didn’t really feel as if I were some kind of modern day adventurer and explorer. I was nothing more than a writer/photographer living out a fantasy in a safe area of the world where I wasn’t exposed to any substantial threats.

Had I been in other parts of the globe where Americans aren’t quite as safe, I still wouldn’t have worried. America takes care of its own.

We have the freedom to whine and complain on full stomachs in cushy armchairs in nice houses. Be grateful for that freedom. It only exists in this system that we can’t understand.

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