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Should Americans cut and run?

An anonymous guest poster at ClubOrlov makes the case that America isn't a place you want to live - and that Americans should get out of Dodge:

Americans, I have some bad news for you:

You have the worst quality of life in the developed world--by a wide margin.

If you had any idea of how people really lived in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many parts of Asia, you'd be rioting in the streets calling for a better life. In fact, the average Australian or Singaporean taxi driver has a much better standard of living than the typical American white-collar worker.

I know this because I am an American, and I escaped from the prison you call home.

I have lived all around the world, in wealthy countries and poor ones, and there is only one country I would never consider living in again: The United States of America. The mere thought of it fills me with dread.

Most of the listed reasons are true - we do have an appalling health care system, we do have an economic system that drives people into debt slavery, we are over medicated and fed food that is appalling in a lot of ways. So the question arises, why stay? In our case, we actually could leave - Eric is entitled to German citizenship, because his Grandmother lost her citizenship under the Nazis, so we could have an EU passport. Both of us are employable outside the US. Indeed, our plan, when we married was to move outside the US for part of our children's childhood, probably to somewhere in the Global South, so that our kids wouldn't grow up parochially American. So why haven't we done it?

Part of it is that America is home - my family lives here - my children's grandparents are here, their aunts and uncles, and all of them are tied here by further family ties. While the article notes at the end that many of us are descended from people who left their families to come here, that doesn't make it any easier - and I don't aspire to the lives that my ancestors who came without family lived.

It would be tough to take our stake as well - to give up the time we've put into this place, to get rid of the animals we couldn't import to another country, to sacrifice the half-grown trees and the time.

Part of it is that for better or worse, we are American. I say that without any of the flag waving stupidity that it often comes with, just the observation that this place has shaped me, and that I care for it. I'm not a patriot in the political sense, but I derive a great deal of attachment to the material reality of my country, to the literal earth in which I am embedded.

I'm also not sure that many of the places that we could most easily go will be all that stable - I think there's no question, for example, that the EU is a more enlightened place to live in many parts than the US is right now, and has better social supports. At the same time, however, the long term history of Europe is of a great deal of internal violence and warfare that has historically broken out at times of great stress. There's a case to be made that Europeans have resolved those internal tensions. There's a case to be made that they haven't. I certainly think, historically speaking, that Jews have often been better off in America than in the EU and in some other parts of the world. That said, however, it is a big world, and there are many places that aren't the EU, that don't have those tensions, and Europe itself isn't of a piece.

Honestly, the biggest reason for me that we don't go is simply this - I'm curious to see how things play out here. I don't disagree with Anonymous's assessment of my country in many respects, but it does leave out some positives, and it also leaves out the emergence of a shadow system of American-ness in which it might be possible to live in a positive and useful way. In response to the collapse of our system, I see the emergence of a shadow food system, and the nascent beginnings of a shadow economy and a shadow health care system. I'm genuinely and deeply curious about what will happen - will America repress its shadow system? Or will the shadow emerge from the shadows and become normative? I don't know, but I think the future is interesting here.

What about you? Would you live here? Would you leave? Where to?

Editorial Notes: This post resonates with some of the themes of the recent international Transitions: Diverse Routes to Belonging Conference that was held in Edinburgh recently. -KS

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