Month: June 2010

06.25.10 chattel


Just in case you missed the point, I have a career. My job is portable in the sense that I can ‘work’ just about anywhere, but I am compensated for that work in traditional ways. If I freelance an article or sell a book in one country, but live in another, there are complications both in getting paid and in paying taxes for the work.

One simple example: to receive money you need a bank account. To get a bank account you need proof of residency – a visa, a permanent address. Banks and governments frown on efforts to move money across borders without sufficient documentation.

I dwelled in the United Kingdom for five excessively long years before I was able to get a bank account. I still have no pension or investments of any variety, and affordable home ownership is out of reach. Yet my savings account is clogged up with cash. Why? Because the passport and residency documents you possess actually matter. This is not a principle, this is pure pragmatism.

This is the subtext to a secret plan that has been afoot for about a year: Byron was offered a fancy job with a Prestigious Institute (PI for simplicity). When he first outlined the plan of accepting the job, one of my main objections was the portability or lack thereof for my career.

What is the provision in Germany for self-employed people, writers, artists, freelancers? How would I (or could I) enter whatever they call their social security system – pay taxes, accumulate pensions, acquire health insurance, etc.?

The answer: not easily, if at all.

That answer is not acceptable.

Rummaging for a solution, one of the representatives of PI suggested that the institute provide me with a cover story – a nominal fake job and salary as… something or other… so I could access the benefits system.

Excuse me?

I am not chattel.

I am also not young, naive, or stupid.

While I can be flexible about where I work or live, I am not willing to compromise about other issues.

I am an adult with a well-established career. It was already a massive compromise to even consider moving to a remote German town, then start the laborious process of rebuilding my professional contacts.

It is offensive to an intolerable degree to suggest I accept any further level of degradation, for any reason. To serve the career of another person?

In a word, no.

And everyone should feel relieved that my rage is limited to typing the above paragraphs.

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