I miss our wonderful home in San Francisco — but San Francisco has become unliveable — a typical Mafia-run town, like Chicago when I left it in 1927 — for the same reason. Just think — forty years and I never have made a true friend in San Francisco…
— Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) 1969 age 63
American poet, radical public intellectual, outdoorsman, professor diary entry upon moving from San Francisco, where he had lived from age 21 to 63
1976 February Rexroth
Yes, you are right about the USA. After living in Japan, the culture shock of living here again is too much. This is the greatest military despotism since Assyria, governed by fools & feared and hated by every nation on earth…there is no escaping homo homini lupus [man is wolf to man]. I don’t want to be part of the collective guilt. I do not have a male friend in Santa Barbara who is not a foreigner! I don’t know what American men are talking about and I have nothing to say to them. On that score—as on most others—Tocqueville was certainly right. …I wish I was 35 years younger. I would change my citizenship…What a country!”
— Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), 1976, age 70
letter, 1 February 1976
Besides friends from all over the US and around the world, anonymous visitors to this blog-site have shown up from the following locations around the planet (in roughly-alphabetical order): Belgium, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Russia, Taiwan, and the UK.
An interesting collection. Everyone is invited to say hello, post responses to what they read here. When writing blog posts, I am often aware of various known friends living around the globe, but otherwise I write mostly with a kind of “local”, “regional” or “mostly-national” scope of focus. Not deliberately, just by habit (for this kind of writing). It is somewhat-quickening to realize that what gets posted here may be read by unknown visitors from all over the world. And of course by various NSA workers busy collecting everyone’s data. (Hello NSA workers! Do you read the data you collect on each other? How boring—and creepy—is that? There are better jobs to have. Give it some thought….).
I don’t “believe in” the over-all supposed benefits/supposed necessary and/or benign-nature of modern nation-states (Can you tell?). Of course, if a people who share some strong degree of unique communal self-identity (whether ethnic, regional, linguistic, cultural, religious, genetic, etc.) and haven’t been able to self-determine their collective political/economic (etc) destiny, then of course, they may very well wish to assert their “national” sovereignty. I totally understand that. No group of people wishes to be subject to some other group!
But asserting/attaining operational recognition of a particular people’s shared unique nation-state sovereign status also involves (eventually, if not always also immediately) various kinds of subjugation of individuals and minority groups within that population group, however small and seemingly-uniform the newly sovereign group as a whole seems to be at first. There are definite distinct advantages to modern nation-states, of course. There are also incredible disadvantages, not all of which are quite so obvious to many who have been programmed to assume the modern nation-state system is wonderful and/or inevitable/necessary. We have options.
Yes, as a stage of social-evolutionary growth or development, there is certainly preferability for any population who have not yet enjoyed (or are not now presently enjoying) sovereignty. Of course I totally get that. But I also dream/work/live toward the day when we can peacefully agree to allow ourselves to grow beyond such childishly limited models as nationalism- &/or-empires for living together in our world, on our shared single planet. It is such an ignorant and brutal form of structuring our shared experience of mutual existence.
Big clusters of fish gobbling up small clusters of fish and then the big clusters breaking up into smaller clusters of fish who keep gobbling up other smaller fish and then becoming big fish clusters who gobble up smaller fish, repeating ad nauseum, ad absurdum. We can do better than that. We must do better than that. Or we will all go down the drain of evolutionary history. The current model is all genocide, all murder and enviro-murder, all mass “suicide-by-cop” where some of us are cops and most of us are suicides-by-cops (our cop-selves). But what happens when all the non-cops among us have committed this suicide and only the cops among us are left? Of course, they (those few of us left alive) will all kill themselves (those few left among ourselves) killing themselves (ourselves) by killing each other. That’s how the modern nation-state system works.
And it’s not such a modern system. Man being “wolf” to man is a very old model. But it’s come to the edge of its lemming rush to follow its own herd-instinct to the fatal precipice of extinction (redundant? yes, but no more). We are quite literally murdering ourselves and our planet. So tragically unnecessary. So stupid and horrid and wrong. It would be/should be/could be so easy and wonderful to live together in peace and mutual love and joy and co-operative harmony and freedom. Help each other out instead of doing each other in.
As to national politics here in the US, various friends are beginning to write to me about considering
leaving this nation-state to relocate their residence to another. Somewhat jocularly (dark humour!), somewhat seriously.
Actually, there are tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of U.S. Americans who DO leave this nation-state to go live in another location every year, especially right after a new presidential administration is “elected”/selected/comes to power. But the numbers seem to be just about equal between those who leave rather than stay under what they perceive as an unconscionably evil new or continuing regime because it looks “too” liberal/progressive/leftist (what the right fears as a Stalinist lesbian intellectual police-state!), and conversely because it looks “too” crazy-rightwing/fascist/racist/white-supremacist/ homophobic/misogynist/theocratic/police-statist.
Yep, we’ve got both right here in River City, folks. And with each wave of Americans fleeing to other countries, I’m afraid you’re still gonna be surrounded in many locations by other expat Americans (as well as locals) who just happen to be gun-toting paranoid ignoramuses/schizoids. There are plenty of local homegrown ringwing neo-Nazi type nativist thug factions throughout Scandinavia and France and UK, and does anyone really feel safe in China or Mexico? Yes, with Canada once again pulling away from the effects of its recently replaced rightist regime, it is once again a friendlier place in many ways than the US, and of course it has never been as brutal as the US (with the clear exception of policies/practices of genocide against “its” First Nations peoples).
Meanwhile, I feel, personally, that this is still the nation-state within which I can continue, for now, to do the most good. It’s a reasoned assumption, but difficult to know such things for sure. And of course, as much as anyone, I also sometimes daydream about the possibility of enjoying a better existence by returning to an expat residency…some where….
2009 Bill Porter
“…Mountain Dave was making his first trip to China after being deported from Taiwan for overstaying his two-month tourist visa by thirteen years. That demolished the old record of seven years set by Bob Bensen, another friend who couldn’t deal with the bureaucratic requirements of visa extensions and residency permits. For people like Bob and Dave and myself, Taiwan was a welcome refuge and a hard place to leave. We never heard very good news from fellow Americans who went back home. Just the opposite.
“Someone once asked a Tibetan yogi the easiest way to attain Enlightenment. He said, “Leave your country.” Living as a foreigner, one had the opportunity to reconsider the attractions of one’s own culture and to choose new, less debilitating ones with which to outfit one’s life. I chose Chinese poetry and Buddhist sutras, oolong tea, and the afternoon nap—ostensibly harmless stuff.
“…During the winter I took a couple of baths a day to keep my fingers flexible enough to work my typewriter keys. A bath was good for a few hours, which usually allowed me to translate a Cold Mountain poem or a Stonehouse gatha, and the bathhouse was never closed. Lounging in the steaming water by candlelight, it was hard to imagine ever going back to the States.”
— Bill Porter (b.1943) 2009 age 66 American translator, Buddhist pilgrim in China and Taiwan
Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China (2009)