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November 13, 2010 6:29 AM   Subscribe

America: The Grim Truth

Why would anyone put up with this? Ask any American and you’ll get the same answer: because America is the freest country on earth. If you believe this, I’ve got some more bad news for you: America is actually among the least free countries on earth. Your piss is tested, your emails and phone calls are monitored, your medical records are gathered, and you are never more than one stray comment away from writhing on the ground with two Taser prongs in your ass.

And that’s just physical freedom. Mentally, you are truly imprisoned. You don’t even know the degree to which you are tormented by fears of medical bankruptcy, job loss, homelessness and violent crime because you’ve never lived in a country where there is no need to worry about such things.
posted by knz (126 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Grumpy ex-pat is grumpy.
posted by Thistledown at 6:37 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, when you put it that way...
posted by MrVisible at 6:37 AM on November 13, 2010


Needs less spittle.
posted by applemeat at 6:40 AM on November 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


Buries whatever validity his points my carry in a mountain of overwrought purple prose.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:46 AM on November 13, 2010


I’ve got some more bad news for you: America is actually among the least free countries on earth. Your piss is tested, your emails and phone calls are monitored, your medical records are gathered, and you are never more than one stray comment away from writhing on the ground with two Taser prongs in your ass.

I'm all for U.S. critiques, but what a bunch of fucking straw men.

First, MY piss is not tested.

My calls and emails may be monitored, but as I'm not associated with any terrorist movements, it doesn't affect me in the least.

My medical records may be gathered, but it's not like it matters to me in the slightest, i.e., no outcomes will likely follow from it.

One stray comment away from being tasered. Uh, no. There is the bullshit with tasers in Philly, there was the bullshit of the "don't tase me bro" guy, so this shit does exist to some degree.

But the likelihood that somebody will taser me, an obviously physically handicapped woman, is near zil in the day to day of my life.


It really annoys me when more nuanced critiques of the Evil Empire are undone by this hyperbolic, spittle-flecked outpouring. It gives more meat for the American Exceptionalist/ I want my country back/ crowd.
posted by angrycat at 6:47 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


check the stats on average annual vacation days by country:

Finland: 44
Italy: 42
France: 39
Germany: 35
UK: 25
Japan: 18
USA: 12

posted by The Lady is a designer at 6:51 AM on November 13, 2010 [19 favorites]



My calls and emails may be monitored, but as I'm not associated with any terrorist movements, it doesn't affect me in the least.


LOL
posted by fire&wings at 6:54 AM on November 13, 2010 [78 favorites]


Well, there's always Manitoba.
posted by carsonb at 6:58 AM on November 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


My calls and emails may be monitored, but as I'm not associated with any terrorist movements, it doesn't affect me in the least.

If you're not guilty you've got nothing to fear, right? Nobody's ever abused these powers to go after protestors or organizers, after all. That's never happened.

But the likelihood that somebody will taser me, an obviously physically handicapped woman, is near zil in the day to day of my life.

So since you're personally relatively safe from it, no problem, right?

There's more than a whiff of I'VE GOT MINE to what you're saying: since the issues don't affect you personally, or at least since you're under the impression they don't, they're therefore "straw men." Might want to think about that.

(I'm with you as far as this being a spittle-flecked rant, though.)
posted by ook at 6:59 AM on November 13, 2010 [22 favorites]


With all the pro-USA hyperbole saturating the U.S. media, something like this reads true to my weary eyes, especially given that I grew up outside the States, came back at 16 and chose my American citizenship at 18 (I had dual citizenship with a south american country), and have spent the last thirty years watching what has happened inside of this country, sometimes traveling overseas and pretending not to be American, in order to get a better understanding of how we're seen by the rest of the world. Earlier this year, facing the prospect of losing my health insurance, I was seriously considering the idea of emigrating to Israel. Those of you who are quick to shit on this essay, I'm guessing that you've most likely not had to think about making a decision like that, once you've been through that particular thought process, reading a piece like that feels more cathartic than anything else. The prose is a bit purple, but the reality is a dark shade, indeed.
posted by dbiedny at 7:02 AM on November 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


Yes. Let us all move to another country immediately. I suggest that everybody west of the Mississippi pop over to Japan, and everybody east can go fill up all that open space in the UK. Then the Canadians and Mexicans can flood in towards the Mason Dixon and have it out over our fast-crumbling deserted infrastructure, like Mad Max with a lot of weird accents. I'm sure the other countries would be happy to have us.
posted by Mizu at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the upside, in order to keep the American Sheeple opiated, the Illuminati run a huge cultural production facility in Hollywood, California, with a franchise in New York City, to ensure that no one ever notices the 12-days-a-year-no-health-care-too-much-beef-in-the-diet-drugs-and-piss-tested statist gulag being built up all around the country. And people outside the US of A can watch that stuff too, often for free. (Though not on Hulu. Stingy bastards.)
posted by chavenet at 7:07 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's more than a whiff of I'VE GOT MINE to what you're saying: since the issues don't affect you personally, or at least since you're under the impression they don't, they're therefore "straw men." Might want to think about that.

FUCK

Reread this part of my comment:

It really annoys me when more nuanced critiques of the Evil Empire are undone by this hyperbolic, spittle-flecked outpouring. It gives more meat for the American Exceptionalist/ I want my country back/ crowd.

What I am saying is that this critiques are not going to move this center-Rightish/ increasingly paranoid country in the least. Because any member of the Tea Party can apply the analysis that I did to their own circumstances, and their response will probably be what a bunch of bullshit, and then write off this and OTHER BETTER CRITQUES OF THE U.S.

I apologize if I didn't articulate myself well, but I think there should be a bit of holding back on the part of mefites before they start lashing out with the I'VE GOT MINE bullshit.

I'm really really tired of articulating my leftist bonafides in these conversations.
posted by angrycat at 7:09 AM on November 13, 2010


Pretty much just a frothily-written SLOE, meh.

Oh wait, "By Lance Freeman." Geddit? FREE MAN? Snap!
posted by Gator at 7:16 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The author makes some interesting points but others are either terribly overwrought or incorrect.
Consider this: you are the only people in the developed world without a single-payer health system.
Oh really. Interestingly, the Swiss system was widely regarded as a possible model for US reform efforts, and I've always suspected that the eventual endgame in the US probably looks something like it.
the average American is poorer than the poorest ghetto dweller in Manila, because at least they have no debts.
Given the probable reluctance of many middle-class Americans to swap places with Manilan ghetto-dwellers relative to the opposite, I'm not sure this signifies what the author thinks it does. The ability to get credit on favorable terms is clearly a form of wealth, or at least power. Americans — until recently — have had it, those in the slums in Manila probably don't. The fact that a lot of Americans have made what were in retrospect poor choices doesn't necessarily mean that access to cheap credit isn't an attractive thing.
Fully 70% of your tax dollars go to the Pentagon
Um, "citation needed"? In FY07 it was around 20%. Even if you drop Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc., and look only at the general income tax (which I think is dishonest; try not paying FICA/OASDI and tell me it's not a tax), the highest you can get to is around 54%. His general point may still hold with 20% or 54%, but the point is that he's intentionally misrepresenting.

All that said, I actually tend to agree with his general conclusions about the trouble the U.S. is in. And on some animal level, I think a whole lot of people are on to it, too. But people don't stay here in the U.S. because of some hogwash about being "the freest country on earth" (although I can imagine someone saying that to an obnoxious expat who won't shut up about how brown the grass is); people stay here because their lives are here. Because their friends and their families are here, and because they understand the culture and only speak English and the rest of the English-speaking countries aren't exactly rolling out the red carpet. Most people can't leave even if they wanted to, so why want to?

The more interesting question the author could have addressed, and would be in a position to as an expat, is why the U.S. is like it, compared to other countries he has lived in? Clearly there is something going on to produce the different outcomes, some rather fundamental disagreements by rather large parts of the populations. That would be somewhat more productive, since — if your goal is to make the U.S. more like Western Europe, or whatever part of the world he thinks the grass is greenest in — that's really what you have to change.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:16 AM on November 13, 2010 [18 favorites]


Yeah, the vacation thing... it's been bumming me out since the mid-1980s, which was when I first found out about how little time off we get in the U.S.
posted by smcdow at 7:17 AM on November 13, 2010


I'm really really tired of articulating my leftist bonafides in these conversations.

I think you probably shouldn't be, then. Your first comment in this thread begged for objection, and this one is just plain ugly, and that's unfortunate, since it seems like you're actually trying to contribute in good faith. It really looks like you may be too close to this topic to comfortably engage in discourse on it. Maybe try taking a deep breath and letting people be wrong on the internet?
posted by longtime_lurker at 7:24 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Angrycat, your comment was, literally, "these issues don't affect me personally, therefore they are straw men." Quite directly an I'VE GOT MINE attitude.

From your followup it sounds like your intent was to ascribe that attitude to people other than you who might read the same essay, but there was nothing in your original comment to indicate that.
posted by ook at 7:25 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I heard that in Turkey it's illegal to wear a fez. Here in America, anybody can wear a fez.
posted by newdaddy at 7:25 AM on November 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


Maybe try taking a deep breath and letting people be wrong on the internet?

Ah, another working definition of irony. And here I thought I was almost out.
posted by Etrigan at 7:28 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I apologize if I didn't articulate myself well, but I think there should be a bit of holding back on the part of mefites before they start lashing out with the I'VE GOT MINE bullshit.

Your entire first comment does come across as I've Got Mine. On preview, what longtime_lurker said.

But people don't stay here in the U.S. because of some hogwash about being "the freest country on earth"

Is this a joke? "America is the freest country on earth" is an American talking point--both sides say it countless times during elections and non-Americans laughed every single time.
posted by dobbs at 7:30 AM on November 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


but there was nothing in your original comment to indicate that.

except for the last part of my comment, which I've now repeated. So it's either lazy articulation on my part (which I've already apologized for), or lazy reading on your part, take your pick.
posted by angrycat at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2010


[Couple comments removed, please cool it or take it elsewhere.]
posted by cortex at 7:36 AM on November 13, 2010


also, bullshit like this makes me mad because it is worthless but for whipping people up into a partisan froth. Some on the left who want this (i.e., the article) to bolster their beliefs will try to silence any critical analysis, whether said analysis comes from those who agree with their world view or not. Many on the right will wave this as a flag to talk about how the socialists are taking over. It's more than a fucking waste of time, it's not good for anybody.
posted by angrycat at 7:37 AM on November 13, 2010


Yes, the prose might be a tad overwrought, but I've read worse. Sadly, the points he makes about the overall state of affairs in the US are not exaggerated -- as many people of low and middle class status have learned. All it takes is one layoff, one injury, a crippling illness or the death of an adult wage-earner for the house of cards to come tumbling down even for those with little or no debt, high savings rates, modest standards of living and legitimate, marketable skills. We are quickly approaching the point at which, to have a decent shot at a "middle class" life, one has to come from a wealthy family or at least an extraordinarily lucky one.

But as long as the great unwashed (sorry for the sarcasm) is able in large enough numbers to dismiss the misfortune of their neighbors as, well, you know, their just deserts for "their choices," it is hard to see how things might change for the better. This was a problem during the Depression in the 1930s when those lucky enough to have jobs looked down on the 25% of the population that didn't as lazy and shiftless. It took the carnage of war to kill that malaise (sorry again); I've been around too many blocks to be terribly optimistic now.

I apologize for the depressing tone; I'll stop now.
posted by cool breeze at 7:38 AM on November 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


Now I know what Glenn Beck would sound like if the lesion were in the other lobe.
posted by condour75 at 7:45 AM on November 13, 2010 [17 favorites]


I'm sure the other countries would be happy to have us.

We could treat you like Mexicans...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:45 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


HIS PROSE IS OVERWROUGHT THEREFORE HE IS WRONG AMIRITE?
posted by unSane at 7:49 AM on November 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


This falls into the category of "so bad that it's good." The guy who wrote it should make movies, because "so bad that it's good" is one of my favorite genres.
posted by MarshallPoe at 7:54 AM on November 13, 2010


Pro tip: everyone is going to die someday.
(also, instead of working to make it better, he took the manly route and ran away)
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:56 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the author misses a very important point. When you live as an expat in say Costa Rica you aren't treated the same way as someone born in Costa Rica. You may in fact have more personal freedom than you would living in the U.S.A. but a lot of the opportunities that you have as an expat come from the fact that you are American and, theoretically, have a bit of a bankroll(earned in America) to get you started in your new home country. Furthermore any of the freedoms or advantages you would have in Costa Rica probably don't "trickle down" to your average Costa Rican or Nicaraguan who is working in Costa Rica.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:01 AM on November 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


America sucks? That's crazy talk!
posted by swift at 8:07 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


He has more valid points than invalid ones, but the invalid ones are so off the mark it impairs the overall credibility of his argument.
posted by Xoebe at 8:25 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here in America, anybody can wear a fez.

Ain't never gonna do it without the fez on. Oh no.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:40 AM on November 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


"America is the freest country on earth" is an American talking point--both sides say it countless times during elections and non-Americans laughed every single time.

The fact that people say it on TV during campaigns does not indicate that it necessarily is behind any degree of action or inaction on the part of the population.

Most people — people who are getting screwed by the way the U.S. is set up (which is a sort of aristocracy-by-lottery at the best of times) — don't leave because they can't. Either because no other country would let them in, or because they're too rooted here and don't want to leave their entire life behind, or because they're too risk-averse, or for any of a million other reasons.

It should come as no surprise that politicians gain currency with the public for validating a "choice" that most people really didn't have any hand in.

("You were born chained to the oar, so row well and live!" is not exactly an election-winner.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:40 AM on November 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


I agree with the post title: refreshingly blunt.

It comes as no surprise that a number of comments here express the opinion that, since the author's tone is perceived as hyperbolic, the entire substance of his message is unworthy of consideration, is invalid. This, of course, is a bug at Metafilter, not a feature.

Personally speaking, as a US expat who in all likelihood will never again reside in the US (for many of the reasons that this author expresses) the article had resonance for me. Thanks for posting, knz.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:49 AM on November 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


What I'd really like to see is an article like this, but that also points out the advantages of living in America and the disadvantages of living in Western Europe so the reader can weigh them. Seeing an outside voice is nice and syncs with some of the facts about America today, but Germany and France can't be perfect socialist utopias - there's got to be some downside. Anyone seen something like that?
posted by Tehhund at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


i'm sure that in a global depression that foreign countries will be welcoming americans with open arms to take jobs from their own people and drive up their rents

no, pal, the huge flaw in your whole screed is that if the u s is going to hell, the rest of the world's going to get dragged along with it - if we have a slow decline, then there's going to be a period in which the rest of the world is going to muddle through until the next economic upturn comes along, and that could be years - if we collapse, a good part of the developed world is going to collapse too - those other countries that you think are so free, generous and civil will turn to fascism and civil chaos, too - it's happened before - and i certainly see no reason why it couldn't happen again - if you think it can happen in the u s, fine, but explain to me why you think it couldn't happen elsewhere - have you looked at greece and france lately?

there's one advantage i have over you, mr ex pat - when the shit hits the fan, no one in uniform is going to show up to kick my ass out of the country because i should go home, because i already am home

it'll be a bitch if they ever put you on a plane to l a or new york and MAKE you live here whether you want to or not

what you've written here is the flip side of american exceptionalism - that our country's going to fall apart and the rest of the world can just happily ignore it and not participate in the sorrows to come

history doesn't work like that
posted by pyramid termite at 9:19 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


if you want a place for your "fuck America" rant, might I suggest MetaTalk? Seriously, it's like you don't even like MetaFilter.
posted by meehawl at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I too am often puzzled at how the usually-(mostly)-balanced MeFi is turned quite black and white by this sort of thing. Is it overwrought? Yes. Are truthful points made? Yes. These things can and do coexist.

As for the "also, instead of working to make it better, he took the manly route and ran away" sort of comment, you have know way of knowing that. Most countries let you keep your original citizenship if/when you request theirs, and as a US citizen, you can still vote in Congressional, Senatorial and Presidential elections. As well as write your representatives.

Here's my rep, singlehandedly rebuilding the US government following "the deadliest midterm election in the nation's history", for example. Yes, it's an Onion article and I'm posting tongue-in-cheek, except for the truthful bits: I've voted for him in every single election since I've had the right to vote. I write him several times a year, and his team always responds. DeFazio kicks ass. I also vote for senators and US presidents. And I live in France.

I got pretty ill earlier this year and needed to take three and a half months off work. All of it fully reimbursed. Fully as in 100%. Doctors, meds, time off, all of it. I got ill again (something else) a month ago and needed some expensive meds — fully reimbursed. As in I did not spend one euro penny.

I went back to school for a Masters degree in comparative literature this year. Total tuition for the year: 241.37 euros. No missing numbers: two hundred forty-one euros and thirty-seven euro cents. And I'm able to continue working full time while doing it.

I haven't had a car in 6 years. I spend 15 euros a month on the bus that takes me to and from the office every day. 20 euros a month on Nice city tram tickets to hop around the city and go shopping. I'll be going to Paris in a week for work; my company got me first-class round-trip TGV tickets for 200 euros. It would have been 120 if they'd got second-class ones, but they were sweet and spoiled me. The trip takes 5 hours from Nice, and covers 1000km (about 620 miles).

This year I paid 800 euros (eight hundred) in income taxes, and 1000 in property and "habitation" taxes. Here are France's tax brackets. Note that most people are in the 0-5.5-14% one, very few hit the 40% bracket (and it's 40% of earnings beyond that top income).

I have a mentally ill neighbor, who's threatened to poison my cats, but I never have to worry that she'll get her hands on a gun. The police took care of her with a stern talking-to a year ago and she hasn't bothered me since. That's the worst thing that's happened to me here, and I sometimes walk home alone on dark streets at 2am. (I'm a woman.)
posted by fraula at 9:27 AM on November 13, 2010 [43 favorites]


While some of the ideas ring true, he loses a whole bunch of credibility by making up facts to suit his argument.
Everyone in Western Europe...has a single-payer system.
Germany doesn't. But who cares about them? They're only the most populous country in the EU.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:35 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the double-post, but on non-preview and in response to Tehhund: What I'd really like to see is an article like this, but that also points out the advantages of living in America and the disadvantages of living in Western Europe so the reader can weigh them.

Thing is, the disadvantages are pretty similar to living in the US. We're having budget troubles in France for financing retirement, just as in the US. We have extreme right and left groups, like in the US. Abortion is legal and doctors don't get murdered for performing one. I can go to a pharmacy and ask for birth control without it even occurring to me that it might be refused. Ack, sorry. Downsides of France. Um. Public school quality has been going downhill, but they're still ranked higher than US schools.

Sorry, I'm honestly trying because I have loved ones in the US and I worry terribly for them and want to believe things are comparable, but... they're just not... Collapsing empire watch gives several pertinent stats that all rank the US far behind Western European countries in key areas.

For the record, I disagree with the guy's recommendation to "get out". I didn't leave to make any sort of statement, I came for a year as an exchange student and then stayed for personal reasons.
posted by fraula at 9:37 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, in many parts of the world, emigrating is just something that well-educated and/or ambitious people DO. It's not controversial, and nobody (probably) in, say, the Philippines or my partner's home country of Trinidad would think to write this sort of essay about it. They KNOW there is better, for what they value, out there.

The US is different. Not only is the emigration rate there minuscule, but when people do depart, it's almost never (I'm basing this on my own anecdotal experiences but it's what I've observed consistently) permanent. Americans abroad almost always hold on to the given that they'll move back to the US after they've sown their wild oats or whatever. I'm not saying that the same sentiment isn't present with immigrants to the US (or Canada or anywhere else), but among Americans it's common almost to a person. They're always Americans living abroad, they're "expats," not emigrants.

I am an emigrant. I never intend to return to the US, though given the outrageous difficulty and penalty associated with renunciation of one's US citizenship (that's another discussion, but if you have family you still want to visit in the US, don't renounce until they're all dead or out of the country) I haven't taken that step. And the very idea that I lay claim to that identity is simply too much for most Americans to wrap their heads around. To my family I'm "living in Canada," not "Canadian," because to acknowledge that I'd have given up (again, symbolically, because I haven't actually renounced) my American-ness isn't just immoral but unfathomable.

I like to read essays like this , I do. It takes me back to the experience that started my journey which was a foreign language study program that took me to Krefeld, (West) Germany in 1981, when I was 17, for two months of that summer. I lived with a German family, spoke only German on an honour system, took German classes and travelled around Europe a fair bit. The quality of their life was outrageously better than my family even though we were both what might broadly be called working class, better in too many ways to list here.

When I got back home to the cardboard pre-fab in ugly, polluted, crime-ridden Hammond, Indiana that I grew up in, a very evident reminder of how far my 8th-grade dropout dad had come from anything approaching the American Dream, he said to me, "now you know how good you have it in America."

Sometimes it takes spittle-soaked hyperbole and inelegant prose like this to wake people the fuck up.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2010 [42 favorites]


Every time some essay or news piece points out the disaster that America has become, everyone in here gets all huffy and defensive. Face it, America is headed straight for economic and social disaster.... it's more than half way there. I'm not happy about it, but I'm not going to deny it just to save face. Perhaps this guy has a point - if you haven't thought of leaving the sinking ship before, maybe you should consider it now.
posted by weezy at 9:57 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I were young, unattached, and courageous, I would expatriate.

If I had children, I would encourage them to expatriate.

I wonder what those who retain some hope for America expect is going to happen that will reverse the concentration of wealth among the top 1% and the advancing tentacles of the police state.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I lived in Nicaragua for two years as an expat. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I worked about 30 hours a week, sometimes less, and lived like a king. I also contracted Dengue fever while I was there and had to spend a week in the hospital. Guess how much I had to pay? Zero. I had no insurance and I wasn't even a resident of Nicaragua. Not saying Nicaragua isn't without it's problems or claiming that my position wasn't 20 times better than your average Nicaraguan but life is better outside the U.S. in my opinion. But as I stated before that probably has a lot to do with my being an American citizen.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:11 AM on November 13, 2010


The tone of the piece was a touch indelicate, but the times call for it.

I'm an American whose been living and raising small children in the UK for the past 4 years. The standard of living that I'm fortunate enough to enjoy is superior to what I had back home.

I come back about once a year, and everytime it's a little worse. It's heartbreaking.
posted by Hickeystudio at 10:19 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every time some essay or news piece points out the disaster that America has become, everyone in here gets all huffy and defensive. Face it, America is headed straight for economic and social disaster.... it's more than half way there. I'm not happy about it, but I'm not going to deny it just to save face. Perhaps this guy has a point - if you haven't thought of leaving the sinking ship before, maybe you should consider it now.

I really contributed to any raging and I"m sorry about that. I actually agree with everything you've said above. Expatriation is definitely on my mind. I agree that this country is fucked up, and I am very sad about it.

But my family is here, one. One of my family members is really sick and is not leaving the country anytime soon. This is my major barrier to becoming an expat. Hemmingway is somebody I idolize, as stupid as that may be, so obviously I respect the concept of expat.

Maybe this is the reason the post annoys me to the extreme. It doesn't help the ongoing discussion. I am stuck in this country, and I am stuck sharing citizenship with people I just want to shake awake. This post, because it is so poorly argued, makes me angry. Poor arguments do not help the leftist cause, do not help the people who, for better or worse, are stuck in the U.S. of A.
posted by angrycat at 10:24 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like the part where he compares Singapore favorably to the U.S. after talking about how little freedom we have in America. Probably, in any of the other countries that he mentions, you can find things that they do better than America does, but that doesn't mean that there's a country called "Overseas" that you can get all of those things in.

Canada is in the grip of the same kind of conservative politicians that we've seen in the U.S. Britain is carpeted with spy cameras. France is trying to at least partially push back the generous retirement benefits that "Freeman" touts. The conservative media machine that he describes is run by an Australian. Corruption? How about Italy? &c., &c.

I've had the expat fantasy myself; I took a serious look at moving to Toronto after the '04 election. That city, of course, now has Rob Ford as a mayor. Cutting and running is not only gutless, but in the long run a losing strategy, as adapting to a new country, getting your papers, etc. gets harder and harder as you get older. I find it telling that Freeman doesn't say which country he's actually living in.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:51 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Long-form trolling.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:51 AM on November 13, 2010


Poor arguments do not help the leftist cause

At this point we are beyond any help. The people who own this country are unaccountable and I don't see anything short of violent insurrection changing that.

But as often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match. So it was with the Republic at its height. Like the greatest of trees, able to withstand any external attack, the Republic rotted from within.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:54 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I really feel that people are entirely overlooking the fez issue here.
posted by newdaddy at 11:09 AM on November 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


100% agritprop, but like most agitprop, there are some uncomfortable truths in there.

In my experience, most US citizens are too tired and worn down to notice that, yes, other countries do some things better.

However, the march of unfettered neo-liberal globalism is starting to make most of these other places shit-holes, too. Of course, a case could be made for US-led initiatives in intellectual property and global capital to bring the rest of the world down to their sad level.

But I can certainly agree that many of the things Americans hold near to their hearts as something they do best, health, education, democracy, are in a pretty sad state when you compare against a global average.

Gone are the days of the global North and West leading the way for the rest of the world.

Then again, all hegemonies end eventually.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2010


Freedom? Whatever that is, there isn't much of it anywhere. And the more of us there are in the world, the less freedom and quality of life each will enjoy.

While I often regret having grown up in an isolated, wildneress-type area (luckily me and nature are tight), when I see and hear about all the shit going on across this nation today, I feel lucky I grew up hanging out with people who knew how to survive damn near anything ... and who managed to laugh and live a good life without much. Stayed close to the Earth.

Not, I think, that things are worse than they ever were. No, I think mostly what we're feeling is our growing awareness of the world we were always living in before and just didn't see and hear. Alas, as that awareness spreads, many of us fail to compare the situation now with the past and realize how much has changed for the better in the US in 50 years.

I'm not talking about money or material well-being, because that's always been the least of my concerns. For people who make a big deal out of stuffing as much as they can, I'm sure its terrifying. I find that hilarious.

Two days ago was the 76th anniversary of Ed Ruess leaving home to wander in the desert wilderness. Ed didn't make it back. When I put myself in his shoes, or Rimbaud's, or Whitman's, or Rumi's, I get a very existential experience of what the real world is about. It's not about all the crazy shit we usually fleck spittle about. We're all two seconds away from oblivion, all the time, and instead of marveling at life and devouring it to the marrow we let ourselves so down that we get lost in all the picayune horseshit like discussing which country is better, or actually believing that politics or religion or our stupid fucking 'jobs' matter in any way, shape or form.

We put ourselves into these crazy straitjackets, then we forget we did it. Quick: you've got 5 minutes to live: which party do you support? What kind of nylons look the most attractive?
posted by Twang at 11:36 AM on November 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


Let's take this as a first draft, and make it good.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:45 AM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I like the part where he compares Singapore favorably to the U.S. after talking about how little freedom we have in America.

Ha, yeah, if you think drug laws in the US are harsh, don't ever travel to Singapore.
posted by kmz at 12:06 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


My calls and emails may be monitored, but as I'm not associated with any terrorist movements, it doesn't affect me in the least.

Until you tell your friend what the lyrics are to the track three on "Give 'Em Enough Rope".
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:11 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh wait, "By Lance Freeman." Geddit? FREE MAN? Snap!

Because "Freeman" is a very uncommon family name for an American.
posted by pi3832 at 12:16 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Probably, in any of the other countries that he mentions, you can find things that they do better than America does, but that doesn't mean that there's a country called "Overseas" that you can get all of those things in.

Indeed. The article was in my view too long on easy caricature and invites criticism by omitting key details (for example, what country is he in?) that would permit readers to determine how complete and unbiased these observations were and therefore what weight to give them. Just as ethnomethodologist's Hammond, Indiana is too small a sample upon which to define life in America, it's hard not to wonder what details this author may have overlooked.

HIS PROSE IS OVERWROUGHT THEREFORE HE IS WRONG AMIRITE?

His points could be perfectly valid, but that isn't worth much if his goal is to convince.
posted by applemeat at 12:21 PM on November 13, 2010


If you show any sign of life when you’re young, they’ll put you on Ritalin. Then, when you get old enough to take a good look around, you’ll get depressed, so they’ll give you Prozac.

What is this guy, 16? What a twit.
posted by Scoo at 12:25 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a young English speaking only American with no savings or college degree, where should I plan to emigrate to?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:36 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is this guy, 16? What a twit.

And with all the reasoned nuance of his stateside twin, Ed Anger.

posted by applemeat at 12:47 PM on November 13, 2010


your medical records are gathered

Yeah. Here's the thing.

Medical records in the US are appallingly archaic. Every other industry on the planet computerized 15 or 20 years ago and saw the benefit, and doctors are today still having the debate as to whether it's a good idea for medical practices and hospitals to do this. Meanwhile, there are storage facilities filled with 300-page patient charts, written in near-illegible handwriting, being chewed on by rats as we speak.

Meanwhile, as many as 100,000 people every year are killed or injured in the US by medical errors. This often happens at points of transitions of care. They mostly happen because of shitty handwritten records.

That's more people than are killed in car crashes, by the way. Our highways are safer than our hospitals.

The government is trying to fix this by, yes, "gathering" records into databases and giving doctors and hospitals financial incentives to make the expensive transition to computerized clinical systems that can exchange data. That way we can reduce those errors, improve our preventive care numbers, and track disease epidemics earlier and better. We can, in short, save lives.

The GOP is doing a stunning enough job spreading paranoia about this throughout the land like so much cholera-ridden waste. Please don't help them. You hurt good people when you do.

You also make my job harder, which makes me want to punch you.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Every time some essay or news piece points out the disaster that America has become, everyone in here gets all huffy and defensive

There's really no better way to put it than this.

For some reason, the subject of American decline is something that otherwise rational people seem to get ridiculously emotional about. I love how people are deriding this guy for being angry. Oh, he's so ANGRY - and then they proceed to take sarcastic potshots at him over the Web. Irony much? Let's face it: there is a lot that's wrong with this country. The USS American Empire is taking on water, the middle class is vanishing, infrastructure is crumbling, and the few liberties we have left are being destroyed as people shuffle through pornoscanners, too apathetic or too afraid to give a shit.

There are tons of young people out there who now think that there's no future in this country and who are considering becoming expats. A decade ago, you might have seen a few disgruntled people leaving, but as things get worse, I think it's going to become a flood.

Why are these types US expats the subject of so much ire here? They're voting with their feet, something that's worth a hell of a lot more than voting in our irredeemably corrupt political system.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 2:09 PM on November 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


At least the US still has kick ass American made guitars...
posted by priested at 2:13 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, if I may assert, the GOP, Tea Party, Rove, Cheney et all are circus acts compared to the gang at the top of the Inside Job.
posted by yoga at 2:17 PM on November 13, 2010


Per my previous comment [Inside Job] See also.
posted by yoga at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really feel that people are entirely overlooking the fez issue here

umm, please just don't assume that because people are not commenting on the fez issue, that it is being overlooked. maybe people did not want to do it without their fez on, which is why i got up to get my fez before i commented.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 2:24 PM on November 13, 2010


Let's take this as a first draft, and make it good.
Are you talking about the article, or the country?
posted by Bokononist at 3:22 PM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why are these types US expats the subject of so much ire here? They're voting with their feet, something that's worth a hell of a lot more than voting in our irredeemably corrupt political system.

American exceptionalism is a hell of a drug.

Truly, there is no intellectual poison in which we are are more invisibly, omnipresently steeped - or from whose blinders it is harder to escape. Racism doesn't even come close.

You see it most frequently in political discussions, of course. "What are you asking for? That an American president be imprisoned for life as a war criminal?" That an American president could commit war crimes and be the subjected to the same prosecution and punishment for them as, say, a Milosevic is literally inconceivable to 99% of Americans. Even if you try to help them past the mental block by inviting them to imagine that it is hated country X rather than ours causing so much misery and death, they will refuse the analogy because... it's just not the same!

Likewise, as much as they may be willing to listen to and even participate in criticism of certain aspects of American life, they will refuse to go on to the logical conclusion. The example of the permanent expatriate tells them two psychologically insupportable things: that America is not the greatest country in the world, and that its myriad problems are not going to get any better. But since they can't argue these positions on the facts, their irritation must express itself as hostility towards the idea of expatriation itself.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:28 PM on November 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


I should add that while I am willing to do it without the fez on should the need arise, I hope it never comes to that.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:30 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Finally, to middleclasstool, please do not punch me.

I am not fearful of the government computerizing medical records because the GOP told me to be. I am fearful of it because I have made my own observations and concluded that:

1. The government is not motivated by a desire to improve medical care.
2. The government, while fiercely protective of its own privacy, is happy to invade ours.
3. The government is a wholly owned subsidiary of the medical corporations that sponsor it.

In summary: it is not if insurance companies will abuse centralized medical records to fuck us over, it is when.

I am sorry if your work is made more difficult by my resistance to this. But as the movie said, this is the business you have chosen.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:44 PM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Tehhund: Germany and France can't be perfect socialist utopias - there's got to be some downside. Anyone seen something like that?

I was going to go over this article point-by-point, but that turned out to be an abusively long comment that I'll save for a blog somewhere. In a nutshell: Germany's alright, but I don't think that a typical German has a "much better standard of living than the typical American." In my experience it's been about the same, some things better, some things worse (e.g., there is 90% less Mexican racism and 90% more Turkish/Russian racism).

Being an expat is not for everyone, contra the author.
posted by moonbiter at 3:47 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I actually have ~90 days/year of vacation and an incredibly stable, unionized government job. Suck it, Finland!

And if you're worried about people listening to your phone calls, go get a TracPhone for $10. What, they don't show The Wire in Europe?

There are some valid points in there, but they're hidden pretty well.
posted by Huck500 at 3:54 PM on November 13, 2010


Coincidentally enough, there is a column in the Japan Times this morning by Roger Pulvers, who who explains why he decided to emigrate from the US.

"I had an all-American upbringing, and as a kid dreamt of being a senator from California. But as I grew up, I became disillusioned with my country."
posted by woodblock100 at 3:55 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


some things better, some things worse

For example! Pretty damned good intra- and international rail service. But! You have to pay to take a piss at a train station. But! You can also drink beer on the goddam platform. But! That's just their way of extracting even more piss money out of you.
posted by cortex at 3:56 PM on November 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


cortex just made me realize that my eventual blog post of things I love/hate about Germany is going to have to be a whole lot longer.
posted by moonbiter at 4:16 PM on November 13, 2010


National Greatness Agenda - "We now need a movement transcendent of partisan cliques and organized around a broad revitalization agenda and love of country."

The Psychological Seesaw of God and Country - "New research suggests that when faith in government decreases, belief in an all-powerful deity rises."

Why is America so rich? - "I am going to go pretty conventional on this one and say a combination of three big factors: 1) The Common Law 2) Massive Immigration 3) The Great Scientific Exodus during WWII."

America's 21st-Century Business Model - "There is clearly something in the immigrant experience that encourages innovation--one can call it the advantage of non-acceptance."

America's Future: The Heartland Versus The Coasts - "Two visions of America: a mega-tropolis nation of high density and clean energy; or a suburban expansion marching through the Great Plains." [1,2,3]

America Has Lost Its Innovation Mojo? - "America has bifurcated more than ever, with some parts of the country leading the world in being innovative and outward-looking, while the visible innovation gap to other parts of the country grows larger. Debt no longer creates the illusion of parallel tracks to wealth across regions, so the disparity grows more stark and painful."

A Few Election Thoughts - "What I see happening is this: the public is aware, rather inchoately, that things are going badly wrong and that the life they are accustomed to is under threat, but they have no idea what to do. The parties, by and large, have failed to diagnose the roots of the problem, and instead are reflexively proposing to relive their greatest hits of the past. Since the problems of the past are not the problems of the present, these approaches are not working. This is leading both parties into a cycle of over-promising what they can deliver, thus leading to bitter disappointment. The country faces massive threats to its comfortable lifestyle..."Joseph A. Tainter: The Collapse of Complex Societies - "Political disintegration is a persistent feature of world history."

We'll Need The Courage Of Our Forefathers - "Gordon Long has an interesting graphic on what he describes as the New Economic Cycle." [1,2,3]

Keynes on prosperity and the Great Depression - "For the moment the very rapidity of these changes is hurting us and bringing difficult problems to solve. Those countries are suffering relatively which are not in the vanguard of progress. We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come--namely, technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour." [1,2,3]

Look on the Bright Side - "Things are better than they seem. Honest."
posted by kliuless at 4:19 PM on November 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


I've come to hate this country over the last year with the rise of the tea party. I no longer even want to call myself an American.
posted by mike3k at 4:47 PM on November 13, 2010


I'm with Flapjax (no, really, we're like 20 miles apart), and I agree with Ethnomethodologist. For whatever reason, a large number of Americans never leave their country, not even for a vacation. I used to feel the same way, to be honest. I thought America was big enough for me, and that I didn't really need to see anywhere else. I didn't believe that the world outside was worth checking out, but luckily that all changed.

I went to China, then came to Japan on a bit of a lark. I thought I'd pay off my student loans, then go back and get into grad school. It's just that every time a contract was up, I had another reason to stay longer. Recently, though, the reasons haven't been so much "hey, great country, here's another reason to stay," as they've been "woah, America's turning to shit, and to go back there, I'd have to give up X*."

For all of the guy's overwrought writing, he has a lot of solid points. Just because you were, by a fluke of genetics and a couple minutes of thrusting and moaning, born in a certain geographic location doesn't mean you have to stay there for the rest of your life. And it certainly doesn't mean that where you were born is the best place on earth. Move around a bit. Comparison shop before you decide where to live. I'm sorry, folks, but there are places just as good as America, or even better, if you're willing to give it a try.

The guy is just plain wrong, though, about teaching English. If he's so certain the dollar is going to collapse, why doesn't he understand that English might not want to be the career you want to get into? I'd modify his advice and say teaching English is a good way to get a visa, and your foot in the door, but after that, you need to find some way to make yourself marketable so that you can get out of (in Japan, anyway) a dying field.
/sad English teacher

X, in recent years, has been affordable health insurance, efficient public transportation, carless lifestyle, a complete feeling of safety, and freedom from fear of physical danger, being able, as a teacher, to secure a mortgage on a house, being able to drink alcohol on a beach, while watching the sunset, living in a country that embraces my language deficiency with good cheer, rather than having my wife's poor English be the target of scorn back home, and, of course, yakitori.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:08 PM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's really the health care system that sets the US apart, more than any other factor. As a non-American first-worlder I find it just incomprehensibly barbaric that somebody could be left destitute by a medical emergency, or that your very survival might be considered less important than the marginal profits of a private insurance company. Even America were best in every other aspect (which it isn't), this one factor would still define it for me as a non-civilized country.
posted by moorooka at 5:14 PM on November 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


The conservative media machine that he describes is run by an Australian.

Actually no. Rupert Murdoch loved America so much he emigrated, in 1985. He is not an Australian citizen, he is American. Yours. For good.

See, rich people aren't afraid to change countries to get where the going's good!

More generally, a friend of mine recently came back from a few months in the US. He had a great time, met lots of lovely people, but he was shocked at the poverty, the crumbling infrastructure, the general sense of ruin compared to back home in Australia. Just one observation...
posted by wilful at 5:20 PM on November 13, 2010


I've lived in other countries. They all kind of suck, except maybe Canada and Canada doesn't want me.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:34 PM on November 13, 2010


I stopped reading the comments at:

My calls and emails may be monitored, but as I'm not associated with any terrorist movements, it doesn't affect me in the least.

becauseseriouslylol
posted by DU at 5:55 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am not fearful of the government computerizing medical records because the GOP told me to be. I am fearful of it because I have made my own observations and concluded that

I would respectfully suggest that you need to do more research. Your conclusions pretty clearly reveal that you don't have much knowledge of the culture of the medical community or the laws surrounding this push. I almost don't know where to start.

I suppose I could point out that the government is very much motivated to improve medical care. It directly insures millions of citizens. Improving public health saves it money. Diabetes alone is on track to become a 1-out-of-3 condition in a few decades, and will cost this country billions all by itself. Also, there are human beings working for the government, not a bunch of Snidely Whiplashes tying patients to train tracks.

I would go on to point out that while I share your suspicion and fear of corporations, there are patient protections built directly into laws like HIPAA and its successor, HITECH. For instance, HITECH requires that if a patient does not bill an insurance company for a service and wishes to keep that service secret from their insurer, the healthcare provider is now bound by law to comply with that request, or face potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. HITECH alone is one of the best things that ever happened to patient privacy in the history of this nation, and the government created it.

I would also point out that your insurance company already has access to your medical information. I don't know what more you think they can do with it in electronic form that they can't do with it in paper form (which they can load into their own DBs and computerize themselves, btw).

I could then go on to point out that the medical corporations? The ones that the government is a "wholly-owned subsidiary of?" Are resisting EHR adoption like crazy. They don't want the expense. They view the software vendors and associated up-front costs with loathing. They're suspicious of the whole enterprise. The government had to come up with a financial incentive program just to get them to think about it, and in many pockets there is still hardcore resistance. Nearly none of the push to adopt computerized clinical systems, build statewide health information exchanges, or build the national health information network has come from the medical community.

But at bottom (and again, respectfully), if pointing out as I did in my last comment that we're still using a 19th century system that is actively killing 100,000 people a year doesn't motivate you to support change, well, I'll be surprised if any of what I just wrote in this comment will either.

I am sorry if your work is made more difficult by my resistance to this. But as the movie said, this is the business you have chosen.

I chose a great business. I'm proud of the non-profit I work for. We're trying to save lives. I'm sorry that people want to stand in the way of that.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:05 PM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]



I stopped reading the comments at:

My calls and emails may be monitored, but as I'm not associated with any terrorist movements, it doesn't affect me in the least.

becauseseriouslylol


Jesus Fucking Christ on a cross then, maybe you should read some more fucking comments because I explained myself three fucking more times.

But enjoy your smug fucking humor. Enjoy your fucking agitprop. Because this article is good for maybe one thing: Amusing you and other people who are not serious about having a discussion. So fucking have at it.
posted by angrycat at 6:39 PM on November 13, 2010


America is going down the drain, but there are lingering positives:

Where in the world am I going to get a breakfast that includes a giant helping of greasy hashbrowns, slab of ham, 6 egg omelette, blueberry pancakes, bottomless cup of coffee, and a warm smile from an elderly waitress? Probably not the UK

Where in the world can I drive my piece of shit car with a cracked windshield and not need an entire book of maintenance records to register it, or be forced to trade it in for a new model? Probably not Germany or Japan

Where in the world can a pay a couple hundred bucks for a business license to start a new legal and legimate business from the ground up without the hinderance of a shit ton of bureaucratic red tape? Probably not many places

Where in the world can I walk into a restaurant and take a massive dump without being required to purchase something? Probably not France

Where in the world world can I grab my arsenal of semi-auto rifles and my 12 gauge shot gun, head to a shooting range, and blow off some steam? Probably just Cambodia

Sure, I recently paid $300 to have wax removed from my ears, but there are things about the good old U.S. of A. that would be hard for me to leave behind.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 6:47 PM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


we're still using a 19th century system that is actively killing 100,000 people a year

Where exactly are you getting that number?
posted by mittens at 7:03 PM on November 13, 2010


Where exactly are you getting that number?

That's the number that people in the field just "know" - it comes originally from a study in JAMA about ten? years ago or so, but that estimate has been circulating ever since. (I think that wasn't even the high estimate.) Presumably, it's changed in the ten years since, but "100,000" is pretty memorable.

Ah, here's a bit of the study the number came from:

Starfield in JAMA on iatrogenic disease

I'm not at work and don't have access to the whole article, but I recall that her high estimate was twice that.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:47 PM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]



Why are these types US expats the subject of so much ire here? They're voting with their feet, something that's worth a hell of a lot more than voting in our irredeemably corrupt political system.

American exceptionalism is a hell of a drug.


I'm not seeing the ire directed at expats, although it's possible that I missed it. What I am seeing is 'Finally somebody has said the way it is re: the U.S.' v. 'This article may have good intentions but really fumbles the job by going so far over the top.'

And then I see a bunch of people saying, 'Oh ho you people annoyed with the article are blinded by your jingoistic consumption of pro-U.S. pablum' and that is maybe a secret embedded in the heart of some but I am not seeing it articulated here.

Again, sorry if I missed it, especially as I just shat all over D.U. for not being bothered to read the discussion.
posted by angrycat at 7:55 PM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


The first appearance of that statistic is here (PDF link), an Institute of Medicine report from 1999 citing the broad range of 44,000-98,000 people per year. There have been subsequent studies that suggest that the IOM report may have been too conservative. And it should be noted that, IIRC, that IOM figure doesn't include those who are permanently disabled by errors, nor does it include deaths caused by hospital-acquired infections.

It's hard to pinpoint an exact figure. Part of the problem is that the medical system is pretty much built to discourage accurate reporting of errors. There's a culture of coverup and blame in the medical community that's spurred on in no small part by fear of malpractice suits. One of the whispered concerns about EHR software adoption is that it will, if anything, uncover more errors and drive those numbers up.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:56 PM on November 13, 2010


Ah, AsYouKnowBob beat me to it.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:57 PM on November 13, 2010


I've lived in other countries. They all kind of suck, except maybe Canada and Canada doesn't want me.

Have you tried shaving your back?
posted by dobbs at 7:59 PM on November 13, 2010


America's an awesome place to live if you're rich.
posted by bardic at 8:01 PM on November 13, 2010


It's a bit frothy and may be off-base on one or two points, but as a US expat and now (dual) citizen of Canada who has seen the realities first hand, I agree with the author wholeheartedly. The US is no longer an enviable place to live, work or raise a family.

You cannot with any honesty positively compare US systems of health care, banking, political, justice, employment or media to any other first world country. The US fails every comparative test. Except military: the US can kick anyone else's ass. Which, frankly, is not a net positive given all the other negatives.

The US is little more than a bully coasting on its own propaganda and once the rest of the world turns its back -- as is inevitable and properly what should be done to all bullies -- will have nothing to do with all its self righteous anger, indignation and hate but rend itself into a bunch of very well armed feudal fiefdoms.

So, as the author says in a position statement I completely endorse: if you're in, get the fuck out.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:10 PM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've lived in other countries. They all kind of suck, except maybe Canada and Canada doesn't want me.

Oh... we Canadians can and do suck, often. And our current government is trying to make suck fashionable. But on the whole, I'm lucky to be here.

By the way, I LIKE just about all the Americans I've gotten to know. I wish you well.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:11 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh... we Canadians can and do suck, often. And our current government is trying to make suck fashionable. But on the whole, I'm lucky to be here.

Please don't destroy my Fantasy of Canada - it's all I have left. Oh, to live in a place with trees and health care! It rained every day when I visited Vancouver, and it was the best kind of rain: light enough to make raincoats unnecessary, yet heavy enough to dance appealingly over the roof. And I'm sure the rest of the country is just as wonderful. [Note: this assessment is based on a week in Montreal and the films of Guy Maddin]

Anyway, the "refreshingly blunt" opinions in the article are the kind of thing that can be heard in any expat bar where Americans and the people who like to drink with them gather. They think every town in the US is like the (shitty) one they're from, then they go overseas and a whole new world of privilege opens up to their American (white, rich, male) selves, privilege they don't even see because they've convinced themselves that that is just how Country X is.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:16 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rupert Murdoch moved to the US because federal law required him to have citizenship if he wanted to own TV stations here. He apparently was not eligible for dual citizenship. It was money, not love, that brought him to the States.
posted by raysmj at 9:49 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


betweenthebars: As someone who probably falls into your (mis)perceived category of "they", allow me to respond to some of your points...

the "refreshingly blunt" opinions in the article are the kind of thing that can be heard in any expat bar where Americans and the people who like to drink with them gather.

I personally very rarely hang out in expat bars, but when I do conversations tend to cover a broad range of topics. When talk does turn toward America, it's usually far more in the direction of "god, I wish there was some decent mexican food in this town", or complaining about the inscrutable* ways of the natives. That kind of thing.

They think every town in the US is like the (shitty) one they're from,

I don't think that. I've visited and lived in lots of different towns and cities in the US, and am quite aware that there are notable difference. I'd venture to say that many or most Americans living abroad have also travelled fairly extensively within the US.

then they go overseas and a whole new world of privilege opens up...

No such whole new world of privilege opened up for me. A lot of things are different, sure: it's a different place, but I seem to have missed the whole new world of privilege thing.

...to their American (white, rich, male) selves,

Guilty on three counts. Sorry. Not rich, by a long shot, though. But anyway, you should keep in mind that plenty of males and females from different classes and races choose to take up residence in other countries, for all sorts of reasons. Your blanket summary and condemnation is ill-informed and ill-considered.

*of course
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:04 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone who probably falls into your (mis)perceived category of "they", allow me to respond to some of your points...

The "they" I am talking about is the author of the article and people who run around with equally disingenuous rants. He, assuming it is not a pseudonym, is comparing the United States with some imaginary Foreignland, a place made up of all of the best bits of other countries and where you can make a good living teaching English. And then there was the suggestion that people just retire to Costa Rica or the Philippines. There are colonizing undertones to comments like that, and that's what I don't like.

I'd venture to say that many or most Americans living abroad have also travelled fairly extensively within the US.

I think it varies by age. The young ones, the ones most prone to ranting about how happy they are to be out of the US, they usually haven't been anywhere. If the country they move to is brown and poor, then it really is a whole new world of privilege compared to their hometown. Also, different countries have different opinions regarding the place of women, which means that women who have been raised in the US might have problems adjusting that men don't have to worry about.

But anyway, you should keep in mind that plenty of males and females from different classes and races choose to take up residence in other countries, for all sorts of reasons.
Of course different people have different reasons. But for the author of the article, the reason is US = bad, Foreignland = good. And that's just silly.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:04 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


"If you show any sign of life when you’re young, they’ll put you on Ritalin. Then, when you get old enough to take a good look around, you’ll get depressed, so they’ll give you Prozac."

Fuck you. Someone with a mental illness is already stigmatized, on top of all the extra effort they expend doing day to day things that are a breeze for the neurotypical.

If someone is currently taking medication, they don't need to put up with those who say they can deal without medication cause those who do to feel ashamed or less than whole. If you’re not on medication, don’t shame those who desperately need it, directly or indirectly. And in general, for fuck's sake, people shouldn't judge those who manage things differently. Everyone should have agency over their own bodies AND their own minds.

I’m a strong person. There is no “I’m not strong enough to manage my illness without medication” because I know that needing medication has nothing to do with strength,
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:40 PM on November 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm tremendously socially immature, it's something I've been struggling with for some time and I've been considering posting an AskMe to help me make sense of American politics and social structure for some time but couldn't come up with a way of framing it so as to discourage a snark-fest. This article feels is basically what I might've come up with (written from an outsider's perspective of course) if I abandoned those concerns and just wrote what I'm thinking.

The reason it worries me is that I'm in the UK and there seems to be a constant import/export of social idiocy between the UK and US. I'm semi-seriously looking at upping sticks to New Zealand.

Would the fact that as far as I can see, a complete lack of separation between state, church and (critically) corporations is the root of the US' problem be fair?
posted by NeonSurge at 3:04 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised he didn't mention the ability to have sex with children in Europe. Hell if you're rich and famous enough, the government will celebrate your actions and protect you as a national treasure.

See how easy hyperbole is? And equally as useful as the article.


The US is little more than a bully coasting on its own propaganda and once the rest of the world turns its back -- as is inevitable and properly what should be done to all bullies -- will have nothing to do with all its self righteous anger, indignation and hate but rend itself into a bunch of very well armed feudal fiefdoms.


And here's the number one amusing falsehood that expats embrace. That if America collapses the rest of the world won't be affected, and that most importantly their little slice of expat heaven won't be touched. They assume with a blase elitism hat with a world economic collapse that they will still be a place for them as "El Gringo". and not another white colonist taking jobs away from locals. Good luck with that.

So, as the author says in a position statement I completely endorse: if you're in, get the fuck out.

That's just great; go ahead and be yet another white neocolonist like 18th century Britons if you want. But face facts- you DON'T want a mass emigration, you don't want a hundred thousand or so Americans competing for your privileged position. And neither goes your host country. Right now you're a privileged guest- but increase the number of expats hundredfold, and you'll be regarded more like Turks are in Germany. Increase the numbers a thousandfold, and you'll be considered as much of a colonizing pestilence as the English in India.

So enjoy your position of superiority. For now. But don't hope the U.S. collapses, because if it does, your glass house won't last long.
posted by happyroach at 3:37 AM on November 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh... we Canadians can and do suck, often. And our current government is trying to make suck fashionable. But on the whole, I'm lucky to be here.

Agree with the first sentence, but I'll add my qualifier the second: although the current Conservative government's policies are distressingly driven by their right-wing ideology, in Canada you don't get the feeling that half your countrymen overwhelmingly agree with them. They could very well be resoundingly voted out in the next election were the Liberals to offer any kind of palatable alternative.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:27 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


"If you show any sign of life when you’re young, they’ll put you on Ritalin. Then, when you get old enough to take a good look around, you’ll get depressed, so they’ll give you Prozac."

Fuck you. Someone with a mental illness is already stigmatized, on top of all the extra effort they expend doing day to day things that are a breeze for the neurotypical.


Yep. Goddamn, I wish someone had "put me on Ritalin" when I was young. Instead I had to spend most of my life scrambling and wondering why things that looked easy for everyone else were hard for me and fucking up things that I knew better than to fuck up. Then when I finally got diagnosed (thanks to Metafilter!), basically everything in my life got better. Seriously, this guy is a nitwit.
posted by lunasol at 7:47 AM on November 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


An interview with labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan, author of Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?

Why Germany Has It So Good - and Why America Is Going Down the Drain: "Germans have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, and nursing care. Why the US pales in comparison. "
posted by Auden at 9:01 AM on November 14, 2010


Now, this is where the FPP starts getting prescient (it was written in April) if I start thread twining again,

As we speak, the economic system that sustained the country during the post-war years is collapsing. The United States maxed out its “credit card” sometime in 2008 and now its lenders, starting with China, are in the process of laying the foundations for a new monetary system to replace the Anglo-American “petro-dollar” system. As soon as there is a viable alternative to the US dollar, the greenback will sink like a stone.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 9:22 AM on November 14, 2010


As soon as there is a viable alternative to the US dollar, the greenback will sink like a stone.

didn't include it here, but...

Visa in clash over China payments
Visa has told banks they must stop using the payment system of Chinese state-backed China UnionPay to process international transactions for co-branded Visa and UnionPay credit cards.

The move comes as credit card companies are becoming increasingly frustrated in China, where transactions must be conducted through the monopoly UnionPay, which is aggressively expanding beyond China’s borders...

Visa’s move to block UnionPay outside China comes after US trade officials held talks in late March with Visa, American Express and MasterCard over the possibility of taking action against China for shutting them out of its growing payment processing market.

China does not allow foreign groups to issue their own credit cards, build networks to support such cards or process interbank point-of-sale transactions. Companies such as Visa are required to “co-brand” with Chinese partners to provide any of these services.

China’s banks generally charge fewer and lower fees than international competitors, and UnionPay has been offering cardholders better exchange rates on certain currencies than Visa and its peers normally charge...

While US card groups complain they are blocked from doing business in China, UnionPay-branded cards can be used in more than 90 countries and regions and the company is strongly promoting its cards abroad.

China issued around 50m credit cards in 2008, according to McKinsey . It forecasts that by 2013 the number of credit cards in China will surpass 300m.
Visa blocked in China after Unionpay dispute
Visa has been blocked from starting any new business in China for almost one year, after a disagreement with China Unionpay, the country’s state-backed bank card monopoly, according to people familiar with the matter.
The problems facing Visa and other global payment companies prompted the United States Trade Representative to file a case with the World Trade Organization against China...

In its WTO case, which comes amid rising Sino-US trade tensions, the US government alleges China is breaking commitments it made to trade partners to open its bank card market to international competition by 2006.

The year-long virtual ban on new business in China for Visa, the world’s largest payments company, appears to be a major factor in the decision to file a case with the WTO now.

But MasterCard, Visa’s arch-rival, seems to have adopted a less confrontational strategy in China... MasterCard said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Unionpay aimed at “mutually beneficial business development”.
U.S. Firm Strikes China Card Deal
Global Payments' Asia-based joint venture with Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp., a unit of HSBC Holdings PLC, will be allowed to process cards backed by China UnionPay Co.—a government-owned company that has a monopoly over bank cards issued in Chinese yuan. The deal initially involves only transactions in Beijing, but Atlanta-based Global Payments hopes to be able to expand it to Shanghai, and eventually other locations, company executives said in an interview.

China UnionPay will keep its card-issuance monopoly under the deal, but the agreement opens a crack in the business of processing credit-card transactions on the back end... The lack of access to China's bank-card market has frustrated major Western card-payment companies. Until now, foreign firms have been able to tap China's consumers only when they use their Chinese bank cards overseas. That's an increasingly lucrative market as more Chinese travel abroad for business and tourism.

But with Beijing stressing the need to restructure the economy to focus more on domestic consumption, the real growth in Chinese bank cards and consumer credit will be inside China. A China-based executive for MasterCard Inc. forecast last week that China would have 1.1 billion credit cards by 2025, with spending amounting to $2.5 trillion. At the end of last year, there were 186 million China-issued credit cards, according to central-bank data.

Global Payments will be able to process payments in Beijing using both international and domestically issued cards. In a twist, that will also bring it into direct competition with China UnionPay... Global Payments Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Garcia said the company has played a role in helping China UnionPay expand overseas, which in turn helped his firm now achieve entry into China's domestic market. Originally it was necessary for the Chinese company to team up with foreign firms such as Visa Inc. and MasterCard to enable its customers to use their cards outside of China. Global Payments now provides a service in countries including Canada, Malaysia and the Philippines so that stores can accept China UnionPay cards without them being co-branded.
China to Tighten Control on Inflows of Overseas Funds - "China will force banks to hold more foreign exchange and strengthen auditing of overseas fund raising, stepping up efforts to curb hot-money inflows that may inflate asset bubbles and add pressure for a stronger yuan... The government will also regulate Chinese special-purpose vehicles overseas and tighten controls on equity investments by foreign companies in China."

Chinese Credit Rater Downgrades U.S. - "Dagong Global Credit Rating Co., the Chinese rating company that was recently rejected in its bid to be an officially recognized bond rater in the U.S., just downgraded the entire U.S."
Dagong Global on Tuesday downgraded the local and foreign currency long-term sovereign credit rating of the U.S. by one level to A+ from previous AA with “negative” outlook.

The Chinese rating agency said the downgrade reflected the U.S.’s deteriorating debt repayment capability and drastic decline of the U.S. government’s intention of debt repayment.

“The serious defects in the U.S. economy will lead to long-term recession and fundamentally lower the national solvency,” Dagong said in a report.

The Chinese rating agency said the Federal Reserve’s new round of quantitative easing would further depreciate the U.S. dollar and was entirely counter to the interest of the creditors.
Is America Catching the 'British Disease?' - "The country failed to develop a coherent policy response to the financial crisis of the 1930's. Its political parties, rather than working together to address pressing economic problems, remained at each other's throats. The country turned inward. Its politics grew fractious, its policies erratic, and its finances increasingly unstable." [1,2,3,4,5]
posted by kliuless at 10:41 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


The dollar dropping relative to other currencies would allow us to put all those unemployed people back to work.
posted by humanfont at 10:45 AM on November 14, 2010


Losing the Battle, Winning the War? Or, the Economic Implications of the G-20 Meeting's Aftermath - "[T]he US has, either intentionally or unintentionally, 'pulled the trigger' (after all, it's not clear Bernanke was thinking about the dollar, as opposed to domestic economic activity); we are now using our special position as a key reserve currency to depreciate our currency at exactly the time when other key countries (the BRICs) are not fully able to counter, since their output gaps are positive, and stronger currencies would help them counter inflationary pressures."
posted by kliuless at 11:01 AM on November 14, 2010


kliuless, imho, this screed is a digression, but I could, of course, be wrong... the whole is based on the assumption that the carpet will remain underfoot regardless or rather, irregardless ;p
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:28 AM on November 14, 2010


screed seems a little strong, but yea the caveat of course is that USD remains a reserve currency (and inflation expectations remain 'well anchored' ;)

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 12:48 PM on November 14, 2010


screed seems a little strong

my lazy bad, substitute essay there
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:01 PM on November 14, 2010


Hey, look. If someone finds another country besides the one of their birth that they like so much better, that's fine. If there's something about the US that's just an absolute deal-killer for them, that's fine. If they enjoy moving around the world for the stimulus of new settings, languages, customs, etc.--say it with me people--that's fine.

If they want to lecture the stay-at-homes about how they're suckers because they didn't cut and run, well, fuck that commotion. All those things about other countries that Freeman touts? Who does he think were the ones who buckled down and worked to create those quality of life enhancements? Here's a clue: not the expats.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:13 PM on November 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


All those things about other countries that Freeman touts? Who does he think were the ones who buckled down and worked to create those quality of life enhancements? Here's a clue: not the expats

For the sake of argument, it could be said, also, that some enhancements have been literally built on the back of migrant labour in some nations but vice versa in the former colonies.

The key is not so much who as what and why - buckled down and worked to create speaking from the perspective of a life long "expat", and one who has experienced quality of life on three continents
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:38 PM on November 14, 2010


I think the deficit commissions plan is the austerity proposal that we will be forced to drink during the inevitable cut back. It makes sense that it would come out during the G-20 summit. We will have a devaluation of the dollar as the fed buys treasuries from China and others. If the market panics as the dollar falls, we will do a massive cutback in spending with the pre-arranged deficit commission proposal. It is like the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. The only hope is that the ecnomy kicks in this winter and we get a soft landing for the dollar.
posted by humanfont at 5:49 PM on November 14, 2010


angrycat says:
First, MY piss is not tested.
Maybe you don't get drug-tested, that's nice. But you have no idea what's become common in this country. In the past 5 years I've had 4 different short-term computer programming jobs in NC. Two of those required the candidate to submit to a urine drug test to gain employment. It's very very common, and not negotiable.
My calls and emails may be monitored, but as I'm not associated with any terrorist movements, it doesn't affect me in the least.
Unbelievable that anyone can seriously make statements like this. That any amount of surveillance is just fine, thanks. Ridiculous.

But I'm glad you said it here. This lazy "they won't come for me, I'm one of the good ones" nonsense needs to be exposed as the bullshit that it is.
posted by dno at 4:38 AM on November 15, 2010


dno, please do read my later comments, which fell maybe four or five comments later after my first. My intent is not what you describe it is.

This is probably a combination of my lazy writing, for which I apologized, and your lazy writing, because you seem to not have read the rest of the discussion before you ate my head off.
posted by angrycat at 8:30 AM on November 15, 2010


your lazy reading, I mean
posted by angrycat at 8:31 AM on November 15, 2010


As a final thing before I leave this thread altogether, because I really would rather that people not associate angrycat with some "I've got mine" agitator:

Please please do read the discussion a bit more before telling me how shitty of a person I am. I plead guilty for not explaining myself well; I think that I've said this before, but this thread pissed me off so much I'm not sure how well I've explained it.

When my fellow Americans are threatened with tasers, piss tests, and unwarranted scrutiny, I see that as a bad thing, bad for my fellow countrymen and woman, bad for the Republic.

What I was trying to do in my first comment was analyze how a non-leftist would respond to the post's argument. MY argument was that the article does a really shitty job communicating anything, because a very large Americans would be all, what, I haven't be tased recently, and I'm not a loudmoth, so what the fuck is this guy going on about.

Finally, I'm pretty cheesed off that my one act of lazy writing would lead to a continuing pile on, despite my repeated efforts to explain myself. I get some satisfaction myself by contributing a snarky one liner to something that I think is objectionable.

But come the fuck on. If you're really wanting to go there and call somebody a shitty stupid person, at least read the discussion.
posted by angrycat at 12:55 PM on November 15, 2010


I read your original post and I still haven't got the faintest idea what you were trying to say.
posted by unSane at 12:57 PM on November 15, 2010


Does it matter what she said? Focusing on angrycat is a classic diversion, designed to move awareness away from the problematic aspects of the article, to whit; yet again we have another bunch of privileged white assholes colonizing foreign countries, using resources that could go to natives, and bragging about it to the people at home. the real title to the piece might as well be "We're tired of screwing up our home country, so we're going to other places to fuck them up as well."
posted by happyroach at 1:44 PM on November 15, 2010


What, you mean like moving over the border to Canada? I see.
posted by unSane at 1:49 PM on November 15, 2010


happyroach, WTF? The article is talking about moving to other developed countries. Trust me, your ability to colonise Australia, or Singapore, or any European country, is severely limited.

Though I agree, if you bring classic American prejudices to our country, you're not welcome.
posted by wilful at 2:11 PM on November 15, 2010


wilful: WTF? The article is talking about moving to other developed countries.

Not sure that's accurate. The article contrasts America's dismal health care system, etc. with that of other developed nations, but the author also plugs expat opportunities in Thailand, Nepal, the Philippines, "many parts of Asia" and "most other countries of the globe." I think happyroach is right to question how much of the author's rosy, cozy experiences were afforded by privileges not available to natives or women, and I think it's telling that the author does not disclose where he lives.
posted by applemeat at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2010


...is right to question whether/how much of the author's...
posted by applemeat at 4:09 PM on November 15, 2010


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