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The Fallacy of the Middle-Class: Overcoming Social Resentment (XX). The Happiness of the Middle-Class Illustrated.

Have a beautiful Friday. Today´s post is about happiness, not measured in terms of indexes or key performance indicators that some organizations have been ventilating to us for some decades. But happiness in the simplest form, the beauty of feeling enjoyment and satisfaction in our daily life, regardless of the economic situation. And I will illustrate it with an example.

On my last post, I analyzed with proof of evidence that the achievement of the SDGs’ or its´ direct consequence should be the robust and strengthened middle-class. I used the El Salvador example, in which our extreme poverty country is perceived as a Low-Middle Income Country (LMIC) by the cooperation agencies and multilateral world. And that is not possible. If our official minimum salary is between US$203.44/month to US$305/month, El Salvador is still trying to get out of poverty.  It is crucial to recognize when using only economic GDP/capita indicators to categorize nations and make rankings, economic development” experts may be biased, and they must consider other integral and ample indicators. Including the grade of happiness of the Middle-Class.

“Please don´t hurt my Mommy”. A handmade watercolor exercise by Eleonora Escalante. Size: 5 inches x 7 inches. Paper: Fabriano 5. Photo Reference from Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, Britain.

El Salvador is a poor country. There has been some social mobility during the last 20 years, but we are still a low-class nation. To rise as a Middle-Class we must continue trying to find education investments in the public sector, to a point in which there is no difference to send our kids to a private school or to a public school. Everything is intertwined… investing in education (schools, professors human capital) has to be done hand by hand with investing in public projects (transportation systems, integral water systems, power and energy, municipal projects, ports, airports, highways, recreation and park infrastructure, art facilities, innovation hubs, research&development for specific industries).  Investing in education goes in parallel to infrastructure public investments that can help to mobilize sources of funds to create jobs. The private sector acknowledges why, how, what and where to invest their own resources when it comes to their own growth, but poor nations require a balanced portfolio of social development projects that can help the poor to become middle-class. If our governments plan ahead to invest only in infrastructure, we end up having golden roads without educated people. If our governments invest only in education, we end up having beautiful schools and PhDs without possibilities to be well paid either because governments don´t collect enough taxes, or because there is a lack of government sources to maintain the school operations for the long run. So everything is balanced and intertwined, as much as happiness.

Happiness… what is it? First of all, happiness is not a life-style neither can be solely defined in terms of economic standards or income. Of course, the degree of economic stability helps any family on earth to be less worried about its future, but happiness itself has a multidimensional approach. Country happiness is characterized by an inner satisfaction of living, regardless of each individual difficulties, but because there is a promise of future, and hope for what comes.  To be happy means to be enjoying life, showing satisfaction, or rejoice in our daily actions, thoughts, and behavior. Happiness is always measured by a certain degree of satisfaction. And in terms of Middle-Class, it is basically when we reply Yes (and without any doubt) to the question: Am I lucky or fortunate to live as a Middle-Class?

What happens when the Middle-Class is not able to be pampered and protected to be happy. It´s unfeasible to say that we live well as a Middle-Class in a happy country if more than 2 million Salvadorans live in foreign lands and every emerging middle-class kid who goes abroad does not want to return back. It is illogical to believe that El Salvador is a happy land, if the majority of the middle-class children who were able to leave El Salvador, to study abroad, are not and do not want to return back, because they know if they return, their life will be obscure, wretched and on suffering economic conditions. I am proof of evidence, of what happens when the Middle-Class is not able to be pampered and protected. As a member of the 1% top percent of the Salvadoran Middle-class (who has received the best international high-quality education you could imagine for Salvadoran standards). If I, as an entrepreneur do not monetize this company in the next 2 years, or if I don´t begin to cash in at least US$30,000 to US$60,000 dollars per year by 2022, I will be a sad example for the next younger Salvadoran generations who read me. These youngsters (including all my former Millennial students) who admired me, will think that it is impracticable to be a strategic innovator and academic author under the digital model. My commitment to being happy in town, by my own means, will be annihilated, and the Middle-Class people who are watching and observing my case will be in despair for their kids’ horizon.

Commitment to happiness regardless of economic circumstances. Of course, Eleonora Escalante Strategy strategic reflections sagas are really new (I have been writing since the year 2017), and like any start-up, particularly in this field, knowledge academic authorship, I recognize that success is not automatic, neither immediate. It takes years to polish and improve all that I do. I also have been shifting from consulting to authorship writing (in a Foreign language that is not my mother tongue). Moreover, since this is a new industry for me, I understand that it takes more than a few years to make this business profitable. It is normal. Anything in life that is worthy of praise and sophisticated academically digital, is also competing for the approval of my peers who write about strategy in top universities and other consulting houses. Any entrepreneurial journey requires a lot of time, persistence, and patience. The true commitment that I have to this blog is not just for me, and for my future wedding with Alex Guillermo Lozano Artolachipi, my future babies which I will raise 20 years later than my generation X peers, but also with all my younger readers from the Millenials and recently graduated Generation Z who are starting to work.  I am committed to proving that if I can make a living with my current work (being a Latina, living in a poor country without opportunities), these new tiddlers can dream and hope to make it, if they get prepared in advance, if they work hard, and they keep their positive spirit high!

Happiness for the Middle-Class is a roller-coaster journey. I will explain this section using my own journey as a Middle-Class Citizen.  Regardless of my past history salaries. let´s see the origin of what catapulted me to be middle-class. In the year 1996, I was blessed to win a couple of scholarships to pay for my education in foreign lands. My parents couldn´t pay for my education abroad. So, when I was 26 years old, I applied to the Fulbright Scholarship (administered by the American Embassy), and I was granted a tuition award only. So I had to find other sources of money to pay for the rest of my education expenses. So I arranged for a student loan of US$30,000 dollars then. At Cornell University, I applied to be a teaching assistant, so I worked correcting exams, papers, and helping one professor in his teaching assignments. I received US$700 dollars per month in return for that job, an amount which allowed me to pay room and board expenses. I also applied for a half-grant to pay for my second master’s degree in Chile. Non of my academic awards required me to work afterward for any Salvadoran organization (I never signed any commitment to be hired after my studies with the government of El Salvador or other local entities), but there is no free lunch. I was obliged to return to work in El Salvador for 2 years because the Fulbright Scholarship contract stipulated as such. Trust me, I did not aspire to return to my home-town. I associated the word unhappiness with this city because I knew I was living in a post-war and insecure country before my departure to New York. I also acknowledged that I wouldn´t be able to find well-paid jobs, neither the personal possibilities to reach my career happiness. But God opened a door: as a blessing out of nowhere, before leaving Cornell, I was lucky to be hired by ABB Structured Finance in Switzerland, so at least I had the chance to work for some time overseas. When I joined ABB, they hired me right “baked from the oven out of Cornell”, and I was able to earn CH 100,000 swiss francs/year in Zurich, which is also a low middle-class income by Swiss standards. Two years later, when I came to Central America, things here proved to be sour in terms of revenues for me. In this region, the Middle-Class journey has been so freaky vulnerable. I have lived a lot of ups and downs. I have been employed for 2 years, then unemployed for another. And I have not done anything wrong in each of my jobs, but to try to do my work with the best ethical quality I can, and with the resources, I was given.  Some years I have had good jobs, meanwhile others I have not had any income. Regardless if I was hired as a full-time university professor or Vice-president of business development for an American remittances corporation, or as a consulting adviser for the World Bank, my earnings per year were on average US$36,000 dollars (before taxes), which situates me in the Low-Middle Income Class. But trust me, in Central America, the salaries are very low for the Middle-Class. And what is worst, is that even though I was categorized as an LMIC citizen, I was paying my student loan (because not all my graduate education was paid through scholarships), I was also earning to pay the loan-car, and the credit cards consumption loans, which reduced my cash income to almost half. This unstable shaky situation, made me lose an asset in foreclosure, a house that was the collateral for the student loan I did in 1996.

I have never forgotten the promise of God to me: that I will not be in bondage, that I will marry Alex Guillermo Lozano Artolachipi, I will have babies and I will be personally happy. Every day I pray for it. With all my heart.

All I knew is I do not want to work under bondage. Since the year 2012, my economic situation has been extremely hard, to the remarkably low bottom limit of not generating any type of revenues. After the World Bank assignment, I spent 4 years looking for a job outside my land, I think I sent at least between 100 to 200 CVs per month (since 2013-2016). In the meantime, I had to return to my parents´ home because I was unable to stand for myself. But, with all the trust and hope you can´t imagine, I began the entrepreneurship journey with this startup, Eleonora Escalante Strategy. And you know that I have been sowing during the last 4 years, to reap in the future. I am committed to continuing with this endeavor because I do know I am doing good for others. By now, I have at least 60 to 90 readers per day, which is my most fantastic achievement. I inaugurated my strategic reflection activities with one or two readers three years ago. Can you see the growth? I am so happy for this. To sell strategic reflections is not the same as to sell cakes, or cups or lipstick, or fashion items. I am blessed with my readers, and their loyalty to my sagas is deeply appreciated. Every time I think about my clients (my readers), I am extremely happy to see that my work is honored by their time. I still have no revenues yet, because my practice depends on the academic sponsors that I will be able to attract, hopefully, the international universities I have been looking for, but I have an endless faith that it will pay off. The last thing I want at the moment is to be employed, and I promised to never work for political endeavors, so I have to wait for my start-up to flourish.

What does it take to be happy? I believe the Middle-Class all over the world faces different challenges in their search for happiness. As mentioned previously, happiness is not a lifestyle, but the possibility to reach a stable daily state of affairs that could help us to be satisfied and make our dreams come true (whatever the hope and faith tangled for that dream). We have to cognize that “inner happiness” (in relation to ourselves) comes first then “outward happiness”(happiness in relation to others). Regardless of the economic circumstances, which in the Middle-Class can change from one day to the next one (as I explained in the latter paragraph), it is our inner happiness that has to be built and protected at all cost. Simple things in life are a fountain of happiness, a walk in the park, an ocean escapade, a sweet coffee when we wake up, the possibility to take a clean and safe tram or metro-train in which all passengers have a seat and are reading their books (without the burden of driving daily and experiencing congestion traffic at peak hours), the security that occurs of living in a secure town where there are no gangs waiting outside your home to blackmail or threaten or bribe you every week. The assurance that we send our kids to wonderful public schools where their teachers are not just caring and protective but are also developing their kids´ brains to the utmost. Happiness is having a family. Happiness is also the inner feeling that we experience when we have the freedom of choice for our professional matters (no one is forcing us to choose a career or personal path that we don´t like). The satisfied inner spirit that we get by our perceptions of social generosity when we fell down. The satisfaction of knowing that every time we are sick there is a public clinic in our canton or neighborhood that we can access, and regardless if we are poor, low-middle class, or high-middle class, the medical personnel of that health facility will be there to support us… The gratification of knowing that there is hope in our life journey… distinguishing that there is a chance that if we work hard, ethically, under international standards, we will end up creating stable future cash flows, not just to keep the bills paid, but also we will be able to save for our retirement…

All these things, we take for granted, but basically, our happiness is a sum of everything we experience that keeps us with faith and hope to live our present and change for a better future.

Cheers!. See you next week with the “Human rights state of the Middle-Class”. Zillions of thankful blessings for reading to me.

Be happy with me Alex Guillermo Lozano Artolachipi. Much love x u.

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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