Friday, August 1, 2008

What Is Your Breaking Point?

Food For Thought 8-1-08

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

We all have things that are breaking points for us, things that once they are taken away or violated cross a line in our mind, whether we are conscious of it or not, mean that it is no longer worth it to us. Let’s take a look at living in the Northern Mariana Islands and take a look at where some of our breaking points may be. People have different reasons for wanting to live here, assuming that they do actually want to live here. There are those of course who were born here, their family has always lived here, and had no real choice in where they lived. Most of them will most likely stay here just because they really don’t know anything else and have never had any other options or experiences. Then there are those who were born here, but have been to the United States or traveled around Asia, but they still want to live here because this is home for them. They have a sense of belonging and identity by living here. And then there are those who have come from different places and actually chose to move to Saipan or one of the other Northern Mariana Islands.

Those who were born here, have all their family here, and they haven’t ever been anywhere else are the most likely to stay here no matter what, since it’s all they know. It doesn’t matter how bad it gets or whether they pass their breaking point or not, they will most likely stay because it seems like the only option to them. They will just do whatever it takes to survive, have more people all live in the same house, turn off the electricity, whatever they have to do. Even though their quality of life is horrible, they have nothing to compare it to, no point of reference so they will just keep putting up with this situation, no matter how bad it gets.

Those who have been to the states for college, or who have traveled quite a bit realize just how far behind we are on so many things and how there is a definite price you have to pay for living somewhere like this. The breaking point that determines whether they stay here or seek greener pastures elsewhere could be anything from losing our movie theater, losing Price Costco, gasoline going to $7 a gallon, utilities costing more per month than their rent or house payment to the constant and unscheduled power outages. They might get tired of hearing all the hollow promises from the administration about how they are going to fix things but never really do. They might determine that their children can’t get a quality education out here, or that they can’t afford to put their children in a private school. The amount they have to settle for as a salary out here might be so out of line with everywhere else in the world that they simply aren’t willing to short sell themselves anymore. It could be that the rest of their family is moving away and they want to move to be close to them. It could be that the price of goods rises so high that they can’t afford things that they normally wouldn’t even have to think about twice in the states. But more and more of them have reached their breaking point and they are moving away from the CNMI in droves. I think we’re going to see an even bigger exodus of this group within the next year or two.

And then there is the last group, that’s the one I belong to. For any of us that have been here at least 5 years, we’re an odd bunch. We have lived in other areas where we’ve had many more conveniences, prices have been lower, you’ve had much better selection of everything, and yet we willingly gave all that up and moved here. The reasons are different for every person, and the reasons they stay are different as well, but I think all of us have a breaking point too. At some point the quality of life will have deteriorated to such a point that even the beauty of the tropics that most likely drew us here in the first place won’t be enough to keep us here any longer. But it will most likely be different things for each of us that pushes us to our breaking point. I have seen many friends leave in the last year, and the reasons for the departures are as wide and varied as the people themselves. Many have just watched things continuing to slide down hill over the last 5 years and they want to leave before we hit rock bottom. They love what Saipan used to be, but realize it is not that anymore, and most likely never will be again.

There are those that have left because with the escalating price of electricity and gasoline, they don’t have any extra money for anything anymore. It has wiped out their ability to save up to travel. There are those who are sick and tired of the constant power outages, and losing their electronic equipment repeatedly because of the low line voltage or the power surges and spikes. Some are tired of having crowded classrooms, no supplies, no janitorial service and threats of payless paydays. There are those who have worked at the hospital who are sick and tired of the political interference in them trying to do their jobs. They are tired of being overworked and underpaid. They are tied of having to try practicing third world medicine, realizing that they don’t have the proper tools and support here in order to properly do their jobs.

And then there are those of us who have watched all of these problems materialize and we have continued to put up with them all. It’s usually because there is something else that holds us here, something that we would have a hard time finding most other places. In my case, it’s been the diving and my underwater photography. I can put up with a lot of inconveniences as long as I have those. It doesn’t mean I like the problems or am happy about them, but they haven’t quite pushed me to my breaking point yet, or at least they hadn’t pushed me there up until Monday night. I had a friend from Hawaii here this past week and ask if I could take him out night diving, of course I never turn down those requests if I can possibly help it. We went diving in the Grotto Monday night, and of course I had my underwater camera and was getting some pretty cool pictures down there.

When we got back up to the truck it was pretty dark, and somehow I forgot to put my camera in the backseat of the truck and left it in the bed of the truck. We stopped at a local hangout after our dive for a drink or two and some tacos. While we were in there, some punk came along and stole my underwater camera from the back of my truck. I’m sure that it wasn’t something they needed themselves, as no decent diver would do that to another diver, this was some scumbag who was looking for a few bucks and probably took it straight to a pawnshop. Idiots like that one will ultimately be the complete demise of Saipan, they will have driven everyone out who is working to improve this place and who genuinely cares about it. They don’t care about anyone else, they don’t care about the good of the community, I’m fairly certain they never volunteer their time to help anyone out or to improve our islands. They are morally bankrupt individuals who only think about themselves and really don’t care about the consequences of their actions, the entire world revolves around them. They don’t care if their actions might chase yet another person out of the Commonwealth, one who is a contributing member to society. They don’t think past their next high. And they know they really have nothing to fear by stealing. The pawnshops make it very easy for them to convert their stolen items to cash, they don’t ask for any receipts or proof of ownership. Our pawnshops are a thief’s dream. Why we continue to allow them and make a market for thieves, I have never quite figured out. It’s not like the thieves have to worry about cops on patrol spotting them or arresting them, there is a better chance of them being struck by a falling meteor. And even if by some fluke of nature they are caught, they all know they have nothing to worry about in our courts. They may have to listen to a lecture and get a slap on the wrists, but it’s not like they’ll get any serious jail time or have to reimburse the person they stole from. There are no consequences for crime here, nothing to make a thief think twice before stealing something.

Some people are willing to tolerate a lot of things, but very few people are willing to tolerate thieves. There is something very personal and disturbing when your privacy is violated and someone takes your things. Personally I like the Saudi’s way of dealing with thieves, on their first offense they cut off one of their hands in the town square, so that everyone can see what happens to thieves. Second offense they lose their heads. I know there are those who will be screaming that it is barbaric and we need to be patient and rehabilitate the thieves, but one thing you need to realize, Saudi Arabia doesn’t have many repeat offenders. Forget the three strikes and out rule, you never make it that far. We will continue putting up with the juvenile delinquents, with the scumbags that are too lazy to work for a living and with those with no respect for anything or anyone. And pretty soon, that’s all we’ll have left, because everyone with the means of leaving will have done so, they will be tired of being ripped off every time they turn around.

Taking control of our island means stopping the rampant theft, not tolerating thieves in our families any longer, turning them over to the police and then demanding that the justice system actually does something about the crimes. I realize there is about as much chance of that actually happening as a snowball fight in hell, but if something doesn’t change fairly soon, they will have nobody to steal from but each other and you. Don’t cry when you’re next if you don’t do anything about the problem now!

Food For Thought is now available online at and if you want it by e-mail distribution please send me an e-mail at

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.

1 comment:

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Sorry to her about your camera, Harry. Did you do the obvious and make the rounds of the pawnshops yourself?