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Strategic expatriation

One anecdote doth not a trend make, but if the guy who used to be my snow/lawn guy -- before I became poor and determined that no organic matter would leave the property -- is thinking of expatriation, there are no doubt others. Just saying.

He gets both Ed Schulz and Limbaugh on the radio, and doesn't really want to pick either side. So, cash out while you can, and take the dollars somewhere sane. Yeah, making assumptions, I know... But in the long run, we're all dead. And can anybody really argue against making one's carbon footprint smaller, which expatriation -- or, to take a leaf from Stirling's new post, "post-" or even "proto-" patriation -- would almost certainly do?

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Walter Wit Man's picture
Submitted by Walter Wit Man on

He would probably have more freedom and less danger in a place like Australia or New Zealand. I've been looking for a good climate change model to help with this sort of calculation. Pacific islands?

The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the World. It is moving inevitably rightward towards fascism. There will be more war. Fewer civil liberties. More economic inequality. It may be too far gone to change things on a fundamental basis.

It seems prudent to think of one's options. I guess timing is everything. The frogs have been in the pot with the temperature gradually increasing. At some point they're going to look around and say, "hey, we're not frogs, we're humans with inalienable rights, and it's getting friggin hot in here, and those smooth-talking guys that are telling us this is simply a hot tub experience at the spa might not be telling the truth. Let's get the fuck out of this pot!"

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

I myself had been thinking this, and then my son cautiously broached the topic a few weeks ago. ("I keep wondering how good an investment this country is," he said. "Ask China," I said. "No, I mean... for myself.")

I alluded to this awhile back, in another comment to another post. (But I may not have been totally explicit. It still feels like something I can't actually come out and say. I wonder how many others are wandering around silently thinking things like this.)

If only we didn't feel that every place that was a feasible move would have us in a worse employment state.

It is tearing me up that I feel that my country has reached a point where its soul may not be recoverable.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

I will never leave the United States of America of my own volition. It's my home. Moreover, I still believe in the American Dream, however tarnished it's become.

If young people of talent and intellect desert the United States in this, her darkest hour, what was the point of even founding the country? The United States was born out of the ideal of human liberty, and it exists as both country and symbol. And symbols are absolutely necessary. Not only must the United States be preserved and restored for the sake of its people, but for the sake of the world.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

Except at heart, of course.

You echo how I have always felt, and I've fought for this country to be what it should be all my life since about age 15 (Viet Nam, kids!), and in the darkest hour I have never felt so close to hopeless about the possibility of turning things around.

And it also infuriates me, because this is my country, and - as you say - I cannot make myself give up on it and just hand it over to the forces of evil. Yes, that's exactly how it seems to me. Evil.

How I usually end up when I think this way, is thinking that I have to be more frakin' VISIBLE as an opposition to the direction we are headed. I think of this. (apparently, I can't embed it)

I want to wear, constantly, the equivalent of the black armbands which we wore during the Viet Nam War, and everyone knew what they meant (and they could get you in a lot of trouble - that's the point! If you can't get in trouble for wearing them, you're not OUT THERE as opposition.)

Oh, I really must go now, but you've got me on fire...

ETA: I logged back in, even though I really do have to go (now!!!), because I want to make clear that...
For me, the reason I think of leaving is not (only) that I see myself being set out on an ice floe, along with so many others, by the country that I have lived in and worked to better all my life... it's that I cannot bear to think that by staying here I somehow validate what that country is doing. Which is why, in the end, I usually come down on the side of "stay and figure out how to be a visible opposition to the current course".

My son, who has watched me suffer for being so much of a socially conscious person (and there is a price we pay, do not doubt it) and who was born when Reagan became President, has a necessarily different view of things. He's never been alive in a time when mass protest was actually effective. Hell, it's hardly even visible any more. I get it.

Which is not to say that he doesn't want things to change. He just has less belief than I do in the power of ordinary citizens, having never seen it.

And my goodness, that's sad.

cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

and I shudder to think of bringing her up in a country where it feels as though there is no representation in government at all for those of us who are truly left of center; in a country where rape culture is so inculcated that she is more likely than not to experience harrassment and possibly things worse than that; in a country where even in her alphabet book (I'm going to make my own because of this) the two black children included are yelling and getting undressed; in a country which is so commited to style over substance that we no longer even pretend to want to elect leaders with intelligence, compassion, ability AND experience, but would rather vote for some guy we'd like to have a drink with.

My husband and I periodically talk about moving to London, because we'd like to live somewhere where we have community, cultural diversity, a smaller carbon footprint, and an opportunity to live somewhere that seems to be making at least some progress. Of course, given the Tories' recent accent, we wonder...

Walter Wit Man's picture
Submitted by Walter Wit Man on

There was an awesome essay written around 2005 [i think]that I found I think through this website. I can't find it. But the author talked about how humans have always migrated to better places and that it's in our DNA. And that Americans are populated by people with wanderlust (or used to be anyway). Anyway, the author was motivated to finally leave by the Iraq war--that was an awesome essay and I can't find it.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

I've been splitting my time between Hong Kong and New York for the last six years. Gradually I find myself spending more and more time in Hong Kong.

It sounds like a luxurious lifestyle, but it's not. I got lucky in the property market and bought a small place in New York that I own free and clear. It's given me the freedom to explore other options. I am a freelancer, and by juggling and scraping and subletting I've been able to make it work.

But I find myself getting tired of juggling and scraping and subletting. It's taking up too much of my time and energy. Keeping a frugal life going in two of the most expensive cities on earth is draining me.

So I find myself facing a crossroads: Hong Kong, or New York?

I love New York. I was born there and have an intense emotional attachment to the place. My first boyfriend, my first job, my first apartment away from my parents. So many memories! The nights I spent out till dawn, listening to Talking Heads at CBGBs, waking up each morning to a new poster from Keith Haring scribbled on the subway walls, feeling the amazing rush of the just-out-of-Stonewall gay revolution in downtown clubs...I feel very lucky to have experienced New York in the late 70s and 80s

But time and distance has made me realize that that New York, my New York is gone. Artists and writers and crazy, impulsive souls can't afford the rents here any more. Anyway, you don't need to come to New York to be creative, for it is no longer the center where you have to come to "make it." There is no center anymore. You can make it from Seattle, or Atlanta, or San Diego, or Shanghai.

Also vanished is my America--the middle class world of the 1960s where even the granddaughter of a coal miner like me could aspire to get into the Ivy League and then go, pretty much for free.

The clincher for me, though, is the publishing world. The market where I've made my living for decades is shriveling up. I always assumed that native speakers and writers of good English prose would remain safe from outsourcing--how could they move my job to China, or even India? But I didn't imagine the Internets would turn everyone into a "writer", and that companies like Demand Media would surface to suck up their labor. Now the articles that I might have made $500 to write are being churned out by hacks at $15 a pop.

But enough of my professional woes. My point here is that migration, ultimately, is driven by economics and perceived opportunity. Which are of course, connected to politics. My grandfather left England in 1924 partly because he was pissed off at how the British government had treated him as a soldier in World War 1. However, his main urge for going was that he was one of 18 children in his family, and the fifth son. The family business wasn't going to be landing with him. So he made a calculation, and got on a ship to America.

The people who say they are going to leave the U.S. because of Bush, or Obama or whoever---they rarely do. Leaving is hard, and expensive, if not in cost than in human energy and emotion. You don't do it unless you have the stomach for it.

I suppose I have the migration DNA. This is America, all of us do. And, like my grandfather, I've been making the cold hard calculation: do I want to grow old in America with little savings, working in a decimated field, threatened with ruin by a crappy healthcare system and every other politician trying to shrink my pitifully small social security check?

Or do I want to take my chances with another culture, in another place?

(In Thailand, by the way, I recently visited the dentist for a full checkup and cleaning, the dermatologist for a full cancer screening and surgical removal of a couple of suspicious moles, and the gynecologist for a checkup. I went to the best hospital in Bangkok, all my doctors were top-ranked. Total cost of everything? (Including a full panoramic baseline dental xray)? $225.

Anyway, I've pretty much decided to take the jump. I have doubts and misgivings, and expect to pass through a difficult stage of letting go. But I know, absolutely, that I must.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

this summer -- any suggestions for a cheap & effective way to study it? I want Europe to be an option for them.

I am an immigrant -- Ms. ExPat is absolutely right when she said it is economics & opportunity. I thought that's what I would find here. :( I'm too old to move, probably, but I hope the kids get the chance.

Submitted by lambert on

Immersion. In fact, send them up to Quebec this summer, but make sure they learn the Parisian version!

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

LOL. Though Quebec would be awesome to visit.

Submitted by lambert on

Also, Quebec has a lot of state schools and the provincial government sponsors French training.

Even for US citizens, I bet if you check them out you'll find something in your budget.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

It means people are fed up with the whole shit sausage.

We had a debate about what we need to do moving forward several days ago and I mentioned that there is massive anti-Versailles sentiment. The time is ripe to start making some real changes and to get ready to beat Obama/GOP in 2012. It can be done.

Historically, the country has always been in the throes of collapse and full of despair. Carter's malaise, Vietnam, communist witch hunts, WWII and the depression, etc. Vietnam was a long time ago and perhaps not being around gives me the perspective of detachment and romanticized memories. The opposition to Vietnam, despite the protests and fond memories of sit-ins and shit was pretty damn ineffective for a long time--how long did the war go on? We reach a certain breaking point and finally things change.

Maybe its my youthful ignorance or the fact that I just got out of CPR training, but I'm with jumpjet. What does expatriation really accomplish that isn't selfish gain (or perceived gain)? When I see a person in trouble, my first instinct isn't to run away. Its to help. No wonder American liberalism sucks so fucking much. We run and hide (expatriation) or begin incorporating ourselves into the problem (progressives/Dems). I'm an American liberal who understands that the country has a long history of being fucked up on so many things. (Same with other countries, btw.) But, as the recent research has shown, even infants know "evil".

Throughout history one thing remains pretty constant. Over long periods of time, liberalism always wins out. Fortunately, not ever liberal in history runs and hides.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

I think of migration as a kind of human globalization. Corporations can expand and offshore, cutting my wages and making my life miserable and untenable. I do not have the resources to offshore my capital or my business, but I can offshore myself.

Our corpo-nations are threatened by human migration, because it is an economic behavior that defies their control. And so they whip up xenophobia and try to put up fences to prevent it. Or, they set up all sorts of ways to add "rent" to the process of migration (worldwide taxes by the US, huge bank fees for money transfers, etc.)

As for the idea that I'm abandoning the struggle...well, I don't think that the UK would be a different or better place if my grandfather had not left. Indeed, it is arguable that, in terms of human resouces and development, the world is a much better place because of the outward migrations from Europe to the US, Canada and Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries.

cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

to provide a child the chance to grow up in a place where no means no (more than it does here, anyway)? I have a friend who spent a year in Germany, and she said that for the first time in her life she experienced a culture in which if she said no to a guy she felt like it meant something, was taken seriously, and got an immediate positive response.

I think labeling someone's exiting from the USA as cowardly is a mistake. Staying to fight until the end isn't the only defining example of what is honorable. Why should I defend a system which seems more and more designed to make me unhealthy, penalize me for my gender and/or age, and prevent my daughter from exercising what I consider to be inalienable human rights?

I think this is a personal decision, with personal as well as broader consequences. Perhaps we will go, and perhaps we won't. We'll keep doing what we can to contribute to the expansion of justice and equity no matter which country we live in. But, to use another example, would you blame hispanics living in AZ for leaving that state in order to spare their children and themselves the consequences of the recent abrogation of justice signed into law by the Governor?