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The perspective from the other side... - Elf M. Sternberg
The perspective from the other side...
Frothy, with grains of truth:

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

Everyone in Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand has a single-payer system. If they get sick, they can devote all their energies to getting well. If you get sick, you have to battle two things at once, your illness and the fear of financial ruin.

Much of the beef you eat has been exposed to fecal matter in processing. Your chicken is contaminated with salmonella. Your stock animals and poultry are pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics. In most other countries, the government would act to protect consumers from this sort of thing; in the United States, the government is bought off by industry to prevent any effective regulations or inspections. In a few years, the majority of all the produce for sale in the United States will be from genetically modified crops, thanks to the cozy relationship between Monsanto Corporation and the United States government. Worse still, due to the vast quantities of high-fructose corn syrup Americans consume, fully one-third of children born in the United States today will be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives.

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. If you’re a man, this will render you chemically impotent, so you’ll need Viagra to get it up. Meanwhile, your steady diet of trans-fat-laden food is guaranteed to give you high cholesterol, so you’ll get a prescription for Lipitor. Finally, at the end of the day, you’ll lay awake at night worrying about losing your health plan, so you’ll need Lunesta to go to sleep.

With a diet guaranteed to make you sick and a health system designed to make sure you stay that way, what you really need is a long vacation somewhere. Unfortunately, you probably can’t take one. I’ll let you in on little secret: if you go to the beaches of Thailand, the mountains of Nepal, or the coral reefs of Australia, you’ll probably be the only American in sight. And you’ll be surrounded crowds of happy Germans, French, Italians, Israelis, Scandinavians and wealthy Asians. Why? Because they’re paid well enough to afford to visit these places AND they can take vacations long enough to do so.

The fact is, they work you like dogs in the United States. This should come as no surprise: the United States never got away from the plantation/sweat shop labor model and any real labor movement was brutally suppressed.

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.

Let’s face it: the United States is like the former Yugoslavia – a collection of mutually antagonistic cultures united in name only. You’ve got your own version of the Taliban: right-wing Christian fundamentalists who actively loathe the idea of secular Constitutional government. You’ve got a vast intellectual underclass that has spent the last few decades soaking up Fox News and talk radio propaganda, eager to blame the collapse on Democrats, gays and immigrants. You’ve got a ruthless ownership class that will use all the means at its disposal to protect its wealth from the starving masses.

On top of all that you’ve got vast factory farms, sprawling suburbs and a truck-based shipping system, all of it entirely dependent on oil that is about to become completely unaffordable. And you’ve got guns. Lots of guns. In short: the United States is about to become a very unwholesome place to be.

You should leave.

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

19 comments or Leave a comment
mikstera From: mikstera Date: June 5th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
There is a depressing amount of truth in the above... But one can live a good life despite those obstacles. I don't know that leaving is the right response, but I can certainly understand why someone might come to that conclusion. Here in California, our state economic woes show no signs of abating any time soon, and the Initiative process has made a hash of our State government. We have the dubious distinction of being a State which voted, by a bare majority, to use the State Constitution to take away rather than protect the rights of some of our citizens.

But, for now, I'm still hopeful, despite all the problems.
(Deleted comment)
areitu From: areitu Date: June 5th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I forget who, but I recall a TED talk where someone mentioned that humans have been genetically modifying food since humans have been farming. Just the way we go about modifying crops and animals is different.
_candide_ From: _candide_ Date: June 5th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
The problem isn't the modification, it's the method.

When humans tinkered with breeding different strains of food, they didn't burn all of the other variants. So, if the new breed of grain/livestock/whatever wasn't nutritious enough, you had the others to fall back on. And, since they were selectively breeding, any cross-breeding was just spreading around existing genes. So you weren't so much creating new, unknown traits as magnifying existing ones.

With genetically engineered food, we are now introducing changes not seen in the wild. We are introducing them all at once via an industrialized agribusiness system. Nature doesn't respect Monsanto's patents, so these untested, unknown genes can now spread into the few other variants. If there are side-effects to these designer-genes, we'll have a hell of a time getting them out of the food system.

And do you really trust agricorps to put human health before profits?
memegarden From: memegarden Date: June 5th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I used to think so too.

Some problems with GMO foods:
unexpected allergies (when a protein from a different organism is inserted, unadvertised)
effects on wildlife (GMO corn pollen kills monarch butterflies)
increased pesticide residue (a lot of GMO crops are pesticide-hardy so you can use Roundup more freely with them)
reduced nutrition, flavor, texture, as size, yield, uniformity, & hardiness in transport are the qualities being aimed for--this one has been true for traditional propagation techniques for some time as well.
unexpected other health effects from uncontrolled changes to food plants/animals, as in
Hamsters became sterile and had hair growing in their mouths, after 3 generations on GMO soy.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 6th, 2010 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Depends on the purpose of the tinkering.

And Monanto's tinkering is dubious.
Their first GM resistant product was purely to sell glyphosate herbicide (Roundup). Except the yields are worse, and it isn't clear if the tinkering to make the plants round up resistant did not add enzymes that don't play nice with mammals. And sadly because of weeds developing glyphosate resistance, farmers are back to using huge quantities of 2,4D (Which when the ester form is used has a tendency to kill broadleaf plants downwind of a freshly sprayed but now dry field). Glyphosate resistance has also increased the use of other herbicides with toxicity issues in humans.
Then there are the BT enhanced crops. BT can be very effective for insect control but there are a few headaches. 1) The cry-proteins are very selective which limits which insects are controlled. 2) There are lots of different cry-proteins, some of which are bad news for mammals. No one is systematically testing the GM crops as to which cry-proteins are appearing.
As for the GM work that's gone into drought tolerance. They appear to have not screwed that one up.

For added joy Monsanto, along with other chemical and biotech companies, has taken to purchasing small seed breeding houses. Seed appropriate to home gardeners and smaller truck farmers tends to be discontinued. Should the seed not be discontinued, misguided activists declare that any seed retailer that offers any seed owned by Monsanto as being a Monsanto company. This can make it a complete and utter pain in the ass to obtain non-GM seed that performs well, has good nutrition, and leads to produce that sells well.

aelfie From: aelfie Date: June 5th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I want to leave...my husband refuses to give up.
areitu From: areitu Date: June 5th, 2010 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Definitely heavy on the froth content.

The nuggets I found are about vacation days and healthcare, but I want to stick my finger into the froth a little bit.

I have to wonder what happened to the writer that left him so disillusioned. Just about every generation views the previous generation through rose-colored glasses and likes to reminisce about how times were better, even if they weren't. Every country and culture has its dark seedy underbelly, but ours is very visible and easy to jab at. Finland, for example, has a high rate of alcoholism and depression. Japan, a culture often admired by the west, suffers from corruption at many levels and invisible social pressures can be crushing on individuals. Many of these countries also have fairly homogenous populations, and others are xenophobic.

With regard to his bit on tourism, there's some cherry, like "Wealthy asian. For example, London is 2000-3000 miles closer to Bangkok than Los Angeles and New York, and I assume that translates into cheaper flights. Also neglected is mentioning that the US, and north america in general, is more geographically diverse than say, France. Why spend thousands to fly to Thailand, Nepal or the coral reefs when you can go to North Carolina, Colorado or an Alaskan cruise?
gromm From: gromm Date: June 5th, 2010 07:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Why spend thousands to fly to Thailand, Nepal or the coral reefs when you can go to North Carolina, Colorado or an Alaskan cruise?


That sounds exactly like someone who has never been outside of the US. And it sounds that way precisely because that attitude comes from not being outside the US.

Perhaps you can see different *terrain* that way, but you will never experience another culture that way. And while you can claim that Louisiana has a different culture from New York and Los Angeles, those cultures really aren't *that* different. You will never see people in the US driving TukTuks or Quadricycles, or on the left side of the road. You will never see real castles that date back a thousand years. You will never have to worry about whether you're using the word "Baiser" in the right context, or wonder if those two men kissing are gay or if that's just how you say hello. And you will never yourself be offended by a question that was far too blunt for your liking, or completely fail to understand the gesture the angry pedestrian just gave you.

Travel, as Sam Clemens once pointed out, has a funny way of destroying prejudices.
areitu From: areitu Date: June 7th, 2010 01:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't disagree with the author's point that quality of life in another country can be vastly better. One of my disagreements with the article, which now realize I did not convey very well, was the use of tourism as an example to prove his point.

I've travelled outside of the US...to various parts of Taiwan and a few different parts of China on numerous occasions. I have not yet been to a country where people drive on the left side of the road, but hopefully that will change some time next year. Following that, In the next few years, I plan on traveling to Europe, Central America and parts of Africa.

To prove a point, one the author made that I agree with, I'll have to budget my scant 10 vacation days a year carefully to do these things. Finding a travel companion will be even tougher...many of my friends can neither get the time off nor afford to go!
gromm From: gromm Date: June 5th, 2010 07:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I have to wonder what happened to the writer that left him so disillusioned.

Travel, apparently. In the full article, he goes into that in depth. I especially liked this quote:

"There are millions of Americans just like me living outside the United States. Living lives much more fulfilling, peaceful, free and abundant than we ever could have attained back home."
patcat From: patcat Date: June 5th, 2010 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this America.
gromm From: gromm Date: June 5th, 2010 07:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Having read the original source, I found this line to be egregiously missing from your post, and stunningly true:

"Your jobs aren’t secure. Your company has no loyalty to you. They’ll play you off against your coworkers for as long as it suits them, then they’ll get rid of you."

Do you know any Canadian expats? Ask them about this. They'll tell you all about America's culture of competition. As much as Canadian and American cultures are alike, it is this that is most jarring to Canadians who emigrate there. It's like everyone wants to stab everyone else in the back to get ahead, including your employer, who's using that culture against you. So that he can stab you in the back.
tagryn From: tagryn Date: June 5th, 2010 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
* Switzerland is worse re: competition at work. Very, very cutthroat, to an extent that even competitive Americans find uncomfortable. Ditto for freedoms: if the fellow considers America one of the least-free countries, he needs to try living under Swiss laws for a while.

* One thing the writer doesn't touch on, presumably because it isn't an issue for them, is that racial prejudice can be pretty extreme elsewhere (and moreover, treated as acceptable) compared to the USA. Not saying we Yankees don't have problems, but Europe for someone who is dark-skinned can be a much different experience than for a Caucasian.

* Elf cut out the middle-bottom part of the essay, which gets conspiracy-theory heavy. I can see why the writer left if he thinks all that is true, but I think he underestimates the value of transparency. He also lost a lot of credibility when he states that the USA is one of the most corrupt countries on Earth - I think he needs to travel more in developing countries before drawing that conclusion.

* Comparing countries is more a matter of tradeoffs, than of one place being better than another on all things. Those of us in the West who are middle-class and up, with education and personal resources and have transferable skills, have the option to migrate if we wish, and we should be thankful for that: most of the world's population don't have that as a realistic option.
lucky_otter From: lucky_otter Date: June 5th, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
There is no conflict between Switzerland being less free than the US and the US being one of the least free countries.
tagryn From: tagryn Date: June 5th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Only if we're comparing free Western democracies to one another, not compared to the rest of the world. According to the Freedom House "levels of freedom" metrics for 2009, the U.S. ranks among the top 50 out of ~200 ranked countries, and was categorized in the top "Free" category with the highest 1.0 rating. Putting the U.S. in the same category as a Zimbabwe, Iran, or Libya, not to mention places like North Korea or Myanmar/Burma, as "one of the least free" would just be an ignorant assertion to make.
lucky_otter From: lucky_otter Date: June 5th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now that's actually an argument. "Switzerland is less free" is not.
tagryn From: tagryn Date: June 5th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the mystery is why the USA isn't more like Switzerland: both have the melting-pot phenomena of being a mix of different cultures, and in that situation it makes sense to have laws which cover all areas of conduct, since leaving behavior to societal mores may not work as well as it would in more homogeneous nations (e.g. Scandinavia) where everyone "knows" how to act through acculturation while growing up.
ionotter From: ionotter Date: June 5th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yyyyeaah, I don't think so. This guy is full of beans with a health side-order of crap and a tall, steamy glass of piss and vinegar.

Let's see where I've been, hmmm?

Vancouver BC, Thailand, Singapore, Bahrain, Dubai UAE, Fiji, Australia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Chile (several cities, including Easter Island), Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, Philippines, Guam, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, the Suez Canal and Djibouti.

I've been to all of these places, for longer than most tourists get to enjoy. I've spent weeks in some of those places, talking with the locals at great length and detail. Cab drivers, bus drivers, food stall owners, coffee shop workers, street vendors...the salt of the earth. I've shared beer and "meat on a stick" with laborers in Olongapo, and tea with cab drivers in Dubai. I've haggled with Thais silversmiths, Peruvian Indians and discussed mana and aumakua with a shamaness on Easter Island.

I lived in Scotland for five months, from the depths of winter to the wonders of spring, and I've enjoyed two weeks in the Netherlands during a lovely spate of good weather with good folk and wonderfully good fun.

I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I've seen orphans beaten to make them cry so the tourists will give them money. I've seen my fellow sailors get sliced because they thought they were tough enough to walk through the wrong part of town. I've seen homeless beggars on the streets of Phuket, their feet blown off by landmines when they tried to escape Burma. I've experienced the price of "local sanitation", and left more parts of my body behind than I'd care to think about.


Speaking from personal experience, this guy has got salt and ground-up glass in his pussy, and should get some fracking perspective.

The United States is NOT perfect, and we have a very long way to go before we're better than we are now. But compared to the REST of the world, we are the best there is at the moment.

Edited at 2010-06-05 04:06 pm (UTC)
tagryn From: tagryn Date: June 5th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
My guess is that, despite what he says, most of the essay author's expat experience has been in Western European countries.

I also suspect the author hasn't driven the length of the U.S. Its hard to maintain the idea that the United States is on the brink of imminent collapse after seeing exactly how vast the country is, and how extensive our resources (natural as well as human) really are.
19 comments or Leave a comment