Saturday, March 17, 2007

My Ex-Pat Manifesto

at the risk of sounding serious.............................

To be at odds with the society into which you were volunteered is to grasp an essential reality, namely- This world of my birth is not mine and not of my making, indeed I’ve had absolutely no opportunity to influence or arrange any of its myriad laws, rules, restrictions, beliefs, behaviors, codes or etiquette's. The society itself would have us believe that at the appropriate time of maturity we must, for it is our duty, take the reins and guide the course of our collective destiny, alongside our individual goals, into the direction that we (aren’t all societies collective and we) believe is fit: if you happen to have no opportunity to hold those reins then just don’t rock the buggy.
This is the seductive fallacy that not so gently forces us to get in line and exactly the point at which the Ex-pat mind rebels and stands mostly alone in its rebellion.
The truth, as most truths are, is infinitely more complex. The facts are certainly debatable but the objective evidence is clear; In our modern times the rules, laws etc. are almost always set up by the elite and almost always for the benefit of same with little real opportunity for the economically disadvantaged to effect any significant change except, perhaps, through force. Absent the use of force/violence the disadvantaged are left with few real choices- Get in line, hold out your hand, do as you’re told, follow our rules, believe what we order you to believe and maybe, just maybe you’ll get your chance to scratch out a living while we get fat and fine tune the system to our greater advantage. Very swell for a few, not so for many. Those who can pull off this chameleonic feat of assimilation may well get their shot at the brass ring, those that cannot (or will not) would do best to prepare for a long frustrating life of toil and setbacks, official and not so official. Subverting this system, or even attempting to, often has a heavy, heavy price that precious few courageous originals can afford to pay and even fewer consider worthwhile to pursue.
Then there is the ex-pat. Usually after an extended period of fight, he capitulates and opts for flight. Weary from the grind and aching from smashing his head into walls he flees the lopsided battle and chooses a different form of freedom wrapped in anonymity as he discards the weight of his past as carelessly as he would the favors of a treacherous love. Courageous? Doubtful. Strategic? Perhaps. Farsighted? Dubious. A man with no country is a man with no home and nowhere to which he can retreat and so with no going back he must move forward with little respite and less choice. He is a stranger who may or may not be welcome, an alien who may or may not be useful, an opportunist who may be appreciated or may be suspect given the circumstances of his new environment. He is a novelty, a mystery and will never completely fit. Never.
And therein lies the rub.
Because he has willingly thrown off one ill fitting uniform for this new cloak of camouflage, this wistful dream of the freshest of restarts and redemption, he is a curiosity wherever he may land and a smoky memory from wherever he departed. But this is precisely what he desires because there is no incongruity to being a misfit at home or a misfit away and, in fact, a misfit at home is constantly subjected to the punitive measures of the committed, co-opted and conformed and he must always wear his diminished status like a scarlet letter while as a foreigner, on the contrary, he is simply another oddity in an increasingly odd world. In short, he is water poured into a fresh container and this container will determine his form just as his essential properties remain exactly the same as they ever were and, for maybe the first time, as he sees fit. His spirit is thus voluntarily uprooted, unmoored and free to float through his new world as a ghost might, transient yet evocative. Congratulations and condolences.
What, therefore, is his role in this wide world? He must be a beacon.
He must even more fiercely love the land that he has abandoned and which has long forgotten him. He must be the shining example of his Long ago Nation in every face he meets and never shirk or tire of this manifest duty however long he may live.
He must embrace the Nation in which he lands and make no judgments upon it. His place calls only for openness of thought, heart and soul and should never descend into facile superiority or simplistic moralizing. His role calls for balance and appreciation with an always available helping hand. His opinions, on the other hand, about his fresh and forever temporary new home should, generally speaking, be kept to his own counsel.
He must abide by his hosts’ new laws and customs even though, ironically, this is exactly the kind of control he made great effort to escape. His very good news is this- In this new Nation he is a guest and like all guests anywhere his responsibilities are few, especially when compared to the responsibilities of his hosts, and his opportunities many. He will likely find that his only incumbent burden is to be, at least somewhat, a good, lively and generous addition to the party.
He may or may not love his new Land but respect is much more central to his status or any lack thereof. Respect must always be freely given with no thoughts of any return; it is non-conditional, unemotional and universally understood.

to be continued......................

1 comment:

Josie said...

You have given one of your readers a more thorough understanding. I applaud the candor and the sincerity. You are a wise man. This reader appreciates your viewpoint. I hope you receive the balance you are seeking, which I am certain you have. Your heart and soul shines like a fine diamond with many facets. I am glad you have found your sanctuary.