Sunday, November 07, 2004

Due to the election results, more than a few people have written, with varying straightness of face, about moving to another country. Since I actually live in another country (and, until recently, lived in an other other country), I figured I'd toss a few ideas out for those who may actually be considering this.

First off, I can see where you're coming from with the idea. It isn't what motivated me, but I can dig it. But, you probably shouldn't go anywhere where you don't already know someone, unless you are a real self-starter. Contacts make everything easier, and all sorts of things can be really daunting when you are a foreigner.

Also, consider your options carefully. If you are moving primarily due to your political principles, then you don't want to step in a big pile of hypocrisy.

Since the world is huge, I'll limit my comments to the countries I've recently seen mentioned, and since your average native born American is linguistically challenged, let's start with the English-speaking countries.

The UK -- is a member of the Coalition of the Willing. Don't forget that. Brits haven't, and they don't seem too thrilled by it, but it is true. Also, although the Queen and her recent ancestors have graciously chosen symbolic power, there is the whole monarchy business, compounded in this case by the (still a bit powerful) House of Lords.

Australia -- has most of the above-listed features, but more indirectly. Also, they've not actually sent very many troops to Iraq (indeed, no one has except the US and UK). However, the Conservative government just won reelection, and while they don't seem near as wild-eyed as the Bushies, they ain't exactly the cast of Les Miserables.

NZ -- ditto, I think (although they did pull their dozen or so troops out recently). I understand that they are still nuts about the Lord of the Rings, too, so if you find that offputting you'll want to avoid it. Also, the tv showed a skinhead march the other day. I don't know how big that is down there, but worth considering.

Ireland -- you can't smoke in pubs, but not a member of the Coalition.

Canada -- I can't think of anything negative about Canada, except the royalty thing.

And then there's . . .

The Netherlands -- Coalition member, royal family haver. Otherwise a pretty cool place. A bit flat, though.

France -- Funny thing about France: French foreign policy has always been pretty damned agressive and not dissimilar to US policy. French governments, like the US, are quite fond of getting up in the business of other countries and buying from and selling to pretty nasty regimes. France, you may have noticed, helped the US overthrow the legitimately elected Aristide government in Haiti not long ago. Inside France, however, things can be pretty sweet. I think the official attitude that immigrants are there primarily to become French is a bit misguided, and I question the wisdom (but not the spirit) of the recent headscarf/yarmulke/crucifix ban, but otherwise not bad.

And last, but not least . . .

Mexico -- which is excellent. Loved. It. However, there really is a spectacular degree of corruption there, as well as gnawing poverty which seems closely linked to racism (the darker one is, the poorer one is likely to be). But there are ways to get involved that can at least make you feel like you aren't reinforcing the problems (like through schools). Foreign-policy wise, Mexico has a pretty clean record. They fought a small war with Guatemala in the 19th century, but have otherwise been victims since independence (of the US and . . . France!). The Mexican military tradition is a result of their several and bloody civil wars and revolutions. There probably won't be another one of those soon, so Mexico may be a good bet. There will be a presidential election in 2006, and it is already looking like there may be shenanigans involving the conservatives and PRI trying to block the Socialist-lite mayor of Mexico City from running. Worth keeping an eye on.

So there's the popular countries.

One I've not seen mentioned is Germany. Like Mexico (and before France), the German government refused to back the US in the Security Council discussions before the Iraq War. Because of how the Holocaust and Second World War have been processed over the past two or three decades, furthermore, German public opinion has become almost pacifist (and I love that). This hasn't stopped the government from allowing and encouraging massive weapons exports (which I'm against, in pretty much all circumstances), but that's mostly a capitalism thing (which I'm also against). This means that, for example, if you run afoul of the Turkish government, there's a decent chance that you will be looking down the barrel of a German-made tank. That would be the worst foreign policy mark on Germany (and it is a bad one). Internally, they've done a poor job connecting parts of the former East Germany to the rest, and especially the southeast has massive and entrenched unemployment and an increasingly vocal neoNazi movement to deal with. Their actions and rhetoric, so far, are pretty similar to what you'd find in the anti "illegal alien" movements in the US, but it bears watching. Unlike the US, they don't have mainstream politicians on their side, though. From what I can tell, non Germans get along relatively well in most of Germany (outside of parts of the East) otherwise.

And in 2006 there will be World Cup Soccer action!

I ended up writing more than I intended, and it isn't as coherent as I'd hoped. It really isn't worth all these words, anyway, since almost no one is going to pack up any time soon and flee the US. But if you do think you might want to, I'd advise you go visit somewhere first for an extended period, especially if you've never been there before. The rest of the world can be quite a shock (mostly in a good way). Know also that, for the moment, it is laughably easy for a US citizen to go live in most of Europe, Canada, and Mexico, and you can even find work if you have any sort of marketable skills. Changing citizenship is harder, of course, unless you've got tons of money, but people with tons of money will probably want to stay in the US anyway, so fuck them.


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