My Self-Created Privilege
I live on an island, on the far side of the world from the USA.
Happy to say I’m not coming back. Y’all have gotten really screwed up there since I left in 2011. The USA is looking from afar like a slow-motion train wreck just as it’s pulling into Banana Republicville.
Currently, there are sixteen Covid-19 cases on this rather large island of 4 million people (one of the larger of 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines!) We’re under quarantine, with masks and social distancing rigorously enforced. (Well, at least more rigorously than motorcycle helmet laws). Filipinos have the common sense to know that the way to keep the case count low is to do what the scientists say to do (DUH!) No one thinks the Coronavirus is the fantasy creation of a political party, or a nasty ole Chinese plot to thin out the world’s population, or any of the 92 other silly-ass Coronavirus conspiracy theories going viral (nyuk-nyuk) in the USA. Sure, everyone here is getting bored with quarantine and friggin masks after 4 months. But they care about each other — so yeah, masks.
The Filipino people are about the kindest and gentlest people anywhere — in how they relate to one another, and also to foreigners (can you imagine that, Americans?) Meanwhile, the hatred and division in the USA is off the hook. I get outraged just reading the headlines about what’s going on there. So, I usually don’t — unless I need a reminder of how fortunate I am to have had the sense to leave.
As an aside — do any Americans still believe that the USA is a democratic nation, when there’s been so much election interference and corruption by foreign and domestic actors alike? (Not to mention gerrymandering and the electoral college where electors need not follow the majority vote in their host state).
My Social Security check meets all the needs of my Filipina partner and me, plus some occasional travel to exotic locations — in the Philippines and other places in SE Asia. We rent a furnished, modern 2 bedroom, 1–1/2 bath condo for about the same as my car payment before I left the USA. We eat fresh, local fruits and vegetables all month long for less than your one-week produce budget. I bought a 12-year-old Toyota Corolla for cash, that’s about as comfortable and reliable as a new one.
I’ve gone simplified, baby! Everything I own would fit in a minivan. Every time I buy something new I find something to give away to someone — so my stuff doesn’t accumulate. If I don’t wear a shirt or shorts or shoes for 6 months it’s outta here.
I subscribe to PhilHealth — universal healthcare — for about (hold your breath here): six (6) bucks a month. It has paid 50% of my expenses on the two occasions I’ve used it. (Question for American conservatives: Should I feel like a communist for subscribing to universal healthcare? Not that I do, you know. I kinda think everyone deserves access to affordable health care).
I’m not thrilled about the hospitals in the Philippines — they’re OK for trauma, but surgery? Not so much. So two years ago when I had some chest pains I flew to Bangkok. Bumrungrad Hospital is rated as one of the world’s top 20. I had a full day of diagnostics, 2 stents installed in arteries, and 2 nights in what looked to me like a five-star hotel room. About $14 grand, inclusive of airfare and a couple of days of sightseeing.
I have plenty of free time (24x7x365) to do whatever appeals to me. I walk 3+ miles/day. Went to a gym 3x/week pre-quarantine. I take afternoon naps. Meditate, journal, write, read, and study Indian and Thai cooking. Watch movies. Climb mountains. Zoom with friends all over the world.
The thought that I’ll never see snow again puts a smile on my face and warms my little puddin’ heart.
So yeah, I feel privileged far beyond most Americans. I don’t have to work to supplement my Social Security income, or worry if I can get health insurance with a pre-existing condition (or afford it!), or get death threats from my neighbors because my socio/political beliefs differ from theirs, or stress about getting Covid-19 from being coughed on by an asymptomatic science-denier in the grocery store, or hope I don’t become a random victim of some right-wing wacko with a small penis and a big assault rifle, or wonder whether my vote really matters. Oh did I mention — no more freakin’ snow?
I’ve adopted the phrase “One of the few, living the dreams of the many” to kind of frame my life.
It totally baffles me why more unhappy, fed-up Americans don’t leave and find their peaceful place in some other country.
Perhaps it’s because only 42% of Americans own a passport, yet less than half of those use it for overseas pleasure travel, because they live in the “greatest country in the world”? (Happiness obviously isn’t their primary measure of greatness).
(Fergodsake, even Israel is happier? A war zone?)
Or maybe it’s because Americans are too indebted to either banks or servitude (AKA jobs) to even think about a lifestyle different than the same-old-same-old.
I’m an ordinary man living an extraordinary, privileged life.
And, I earned it. I worked hard and maxed out Social Security for a lot of years (and ruined more than one relationship doing so). I’ve done a ton of personal growth work to remove layers of cultural conditioning and childhood wounding. I’ve lived many expressions of my life’s purpose in service to others, for years — surely that’s been worth some karma points?
And, truthfully — it’s all a matter of the choices I made. I could have remained in the USA and worked till I dropped, or retired and still had to work to supplement Social Security. Staying in the USA would have been much more familiar and comfortable.
Fuck familiar and comfortable. Make mine adventure and carefree living, please.
And you? What do you choose?
And now for a couple of gratuitous photos of palm groves from my home.
(Not gloating too much. I refrained from posting my drone shots of white sand beaches and clear blue water).