tunnel rat posted on November 13, 2011 23:38

Here's a speech I gave at my local Occupation's Veteran's Day celebration:

When I was four years old, my father fled the Communist regime of Hungary.  He took me to Yugoslavia, drugged me up with sleeping pills, tied me to an inflatable raft, and in the dead of night, swam two miles across the Adriatic Sea to Italy.  After nine months in an Italian refugee camp, we made our way to New York City.

I would not see my mother or brother for 15 years, when they finally came to America after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

At the age of 20, I wanted money for college and curiously walked in to a Marine Recruiting office.  I was interviewed by a recruiter.

“Do you like the outdoors?” he asked.  I guess so, I thought. Sure, I like the outdoors.

“Good.  I recommend Marine Corps infantry,” he said.

He assured me that I would get tens of thousands of dollars for college, and the Marine Corps would help me get my citizenship.  And that I would make enough money to buy a car, and to go to school while I was on active duty…

I would later learn that he was the top Marine recruiter in the nation that year, and most of what he promised was not exactly true.

A year later, I was in boot camp, standing at attention.  A drill instructor asked me why I joined the Marine Corps.  I didn’t want to say “I needed money for college and I was bored” so I told him what I thought he might want to hear.

“To kill communists, sir.” 

Two years later, I was in a helicopter flying into Kuwait on day one of the ground war called Operation Desert Storm.  Our platoon sergeant gave the signal to invert our loaded M-16s, and the door gunner pulled back the bolt on the 50-cal machine gun.  Fortunately for me, we were not going into a hot LZ, just a barren stretch of desert soon to be overrun by starving shell-shocked Iraqi soldiers begging to surrender.  People ask me if I was scared then.  I say no.  I don’t know why I wasn’t scared back then.  The Marine Corps has a way of doing that men.

Maybe, and I quote freely from “Full Metal Jacket”:

“The Marine Corps does not want robots.

The Marine Corps wants killers.

The Marine Corps wants to build indestructible men.

Men without fear.”

Unlike my brothers and sisters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, my war was brutal and short.  I, like most of the 500,000 other troops, made it home safe. 

I eventually did use some of that money that the recruiter promised I would get for college.  I got my citizenship, and left the Marine Corps in 1993.

I found work in the computer business, becoming a contract programmer for large Fortune 500 companies. 

I always thought that having my Marine Corps experience on my resume would be a plus; that is until the dot-com boom.  Suddenly, IT became filled with eager liberal arts majors, building websites in their trendy offices while their dogs slept under their desks. 

I would go to interviews with my short hair, suit, and wing-tips, and be the only one wearing a tie.  I took my Marine Corp experience off of my resume, and started getting offers again.

I’ve been in the “closet,” so to speak, for over ten years now, not wanting to let stereotypes and people’s pre-conceptions about the military influence their opinion of me. 

And this may be for good reason.  A couple years ago, I started a new job at a big local company.  I overheard two managers discussing some programming candidates that were coming in for interviews.  One manager mentioned that a candidate had served in the Marines, and that they would need to do a thorough background check, just in case he has “anger issues.”

I bit my tongue.  I have anger issues, and it is not because I served in the Marines. 


Which brings me to the Occupy movement. 

One of the things I have seen in my career in IT is the rampant discrimination, displacement, and denigration of American workers as companies outsourced and offshored as many tech jobs as possible.  When they could not offshore the work, they brought in cheap guest workers who were essentially indentured servants and made the locals train them. 

Train your replacement, or you will not get your severance package, many were told. 

I witnessed this firsthand. 

A few years ago, I was working on a web project at a large local company.  One of the guys I worked with was a gray haired Vietnam vet named Joe. Joe was a legend at that company. He had seen it all, and lived to talk about it. He knew where the bodies where buried.  And he also had a son that had committed suicide, and he volunteered at nights at the Crystal Cathedral, running a suicide hotline.

I loved Joe like a brother.

He was a warrior, a guy that still could keep up with the latest technologies, even though he was pushing sixty. He had just had a kidney replacement, and the drugs made it hard for him to stay awake in boring meetings. Can't say I blame him. Those meetings sucked.

Joe and I bonded. He would give me shit about the Marines, and I would talk trash about the Army. I taught him about web development, and he taught me about life. His devotion to the spirit of his dead son was epic.

One day, something weird was going on. First one of our chickenshit managers came over and tapped the programmer sitting next to me on the shoulder and I never saw him again. Then they came for another one.  I made some calls. They were all getting fired, escorted out.

Joe comes in at about 10 AM, and I tell him about the executions. Good thing it wasn't him, we joke.

Ten minutes later, the collaborators come for Joe. They wouldn't even let him pack his stuff, just escorted him to a conference room, where he was forced to sign some paperwork in order to get his severance.

Guess who showed up the next day?

Two guest workers from Indian outsourcing giant Infosys, the lead element of what was to be a massive offshoring initiative.  Infosys, by the way, is currently being sued for visa fraud and is under criminal investigation by a Texas grand jury.

The company where Joe and I worked systematically purged senior, high-paid Americans, some vets, some single parents, all good workers and replaced them with foreign guest workers in what could almost be described as occupational apartheid, or what I like to call “ethnic cleansing”; of Americans, that is. 

When I saw a similar pattern of discrimination at my most recent job, I filed an ethics complaint, was promptly put on paid suspension, and eventually terminated.  Fortunately for me, I could fill my days in between jobs involved in the Occupation.

That’s a good thing.  BECAUSE I HAVE ANGER ISSUES.

I am angry at corporations that used the threat of outsourcing and offshoring to drive down the wages of American workers and cut their benefits.

I am angry at seeing grown men, cowering in their cubicles, working unpaid overtime, groveling to their mid-level corporate taskmasters, terrified of losing their jobs.

I am angry about corporations that have turned my chosen profession into a globalist gladiator pit, where I compete with the lowest bidders in a race to the proverbial bottom.

I am tired of knowing that vets have a higher unemployment rate than the regular population.

And while I am angry, I have no fear.  I do not fear the lose of my livelihood, my house, my family.  People ask me if I was afraid of entering the job market again in such an economy. 

No, I fear nothing.  I survived the Marines.  I can survive this.

Now, this is the second war I have fought for my country, and the first one where I knew my enemy.

Yes, I say war, a peaceful revolution.  As John F. Kennedy said:

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Don’t underestimate the seriousness of this movement.  We are seeking fundamental changes in the way this country operates, and it will be a long war, not a brief skirmish.  And we need to be lucid, patient, and above all, serious. 

I’ll end with some lyrics from the Talking Heads song “Life During Wartime”:

“This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,

this ain’t no foolin’ around.

This ain’t no Mudd Club, or C.B.G.B.,

I ain’t got time for that now.”



- Vineet Nayar, CEO, HCL Technologies

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