There Goes the Neighbourhood

There Goes the Neighbourhood

Throughout history, there have been periods when people who were otherwise quite settled in their towns and villages, pulled up stakes and headed elsewhere.

During the decline of Rome, many of those who had been the net producers chose to move north and live amongst the barbarians, as life amongst them, although less sophisticated than in Rome, offered more freedom and opportunity. Certainly, it must have been a difficult decision, but for many, it proved to be for the best.

In the 17th century, the Pilgrims also sought greater freedom. Initially, they attempted a socialistic approach to farming (from each according to his ability; to each according to his need), and most died as a result of this faulty logic. In desperation, those remaining opted for a change to a free-market system. The following year, the resultant productivity led them to hold the first Thanksgiving.

The Amish, too, sought greater freedom and found it in America. In the 19th century, many other Europeans moved across the ocean to America in search of a more fruitful way of life.

Since that time, many Americans have moved within the US. Farmers from Oklahoma went west out of desperation when their crops failed due to a prolonged drought. By contrast, millions of Americans moved out to suburbia in the 1950s, following the dream of a house with a white picket fence, away from the crime, smog, and crowding that had taken over the cities.

Some of these people travelled a long way; some travelled less than fifty miles. Some went out of desperation; some relocated due to the promise of upward mobility. What they had in common is that they all made their moves because the grass appeared greener elsewhere.

Historically, such people have always been praised for their gumption. But history is hindsight. At the time when they made their moves, there were many, many people who remained behind, urging those exiting not to go. Again historically, those who remained behind have always ended up as the forgotten ones, as they did not have the fortitude to make the change. They did not go forth to build the next new neighbourhood or new country.

It should be said that the majority rarely leave a neighbourhood (both in the village sense and the country sense). Most remain behind and become casualties of the decline. A dying city (Detroit in the US? Bradford in the UK?) never completely empties out. Many people remain behind, clinging to whatever scraps are tossed to them.

Today, the new exodus is an uncommon one. It resembles the Roman exodus: those who had once been able to live fairly well but realise that the end of their way of life is near. It’s also an international exodus, primarily taking place in the EU and the US, but also encompassing other First-World countries.

The governments of many major countries have, in recent decades, gone on a spending spree of unprecedented proportions and in the foreseeable future will pay the price. Many citizens hang their heads and say, “What can you do? It’s the same all over.” And this thought makes it easy for them to remain behind, doing nothing to save themselves.

Others, however, who are making the effort to look up at the horizon, admit to themselves that, like the Romans, the wiser decision is to move to “the land of the barbarians,” as life there, whilst possibly less sophisticated, is also freer and promises a greater future.

For every individual who considers making an exit to a better way of life, there are countless others decrying such a move. A good example of such an individual is an associate of mine who is American. A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, whose forebears have fought in every American war, beginning with the Revolution, she’s always thought of herself as a patriot.

By every standard, she’s a “loyal American.” However, she’s not by any means stupid. Recently, she’s come to realise that her loyalty is not to the government of her country, but to the concept that her country was founded on. She’s leaving for what people always leave for: better opportunities, greater freedom, and an escape from the fear that her home country’s direction will not end well.

And yet, she’ll be going alone, with few of her peers believing she is making the right choice.

For anyone who is questioning whether to make an exit, the question should not be, “Can I survive this if I remain here?” It should be, “Is there a better future elsewhere?”

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Tags: expat, economic collapse,