An American Overseas
Answering the Right Questions, Dodging the Right Bullet
This is an excerpt from the book Reincarnation Through Common Sense. All profits from book sales sponsor Wisdom Professionals, beginning with Tibetan Nuns and Monks. The imaginary name “Honoria” is used for the country where this story happens. No sense picking on any individual country. Similar things happen in most places around the world. More at http://www.fearlesspuppy.info
I’m incredibly lucid and savvy for a lunatic, but I also have to be one of the biggest fools in the galaxy. I came to Asia with the same foundationless hopes and lack of information that many people bring to their lives. Romancing a reality without knowing what that reality actually is has led us all to some painful surprises. The disasters resulting from my surprises have been at least partially my fault, and are now totally my problem.
All the money consciousness and take-take attitude of the economically minded USA seems to be even more severe among the materialist wannabes here. The racism seems more severe too. Fact is, it was easier to be happy in America. That’s not the way this move was supposed to work out. It’s no wonder I’m depressed!
For decades I’ve rattled on about being a planetary citizen as opposed to being an American. This is not a slur against America. Any nationalism hides the deeper truth that we are all one people on one planet. Not treating the planet like a nation has too easily and often become a rationalization for not treating people like people. This has caused a lot of suffering.
A few folks here used a blanket bad opinion of white foreigners to justify taking advantage of me. It could have been worse. What I went through was like a pleasant day at the beach compared to so many brutal examples that history offers.
The same type of trouble that found me here has found many others around the world. It can happen anywhere there are more have-nots than haves, which is almost everywhere. Wherever we find the belief that possession of more material stuff is the road to happiness, humanity’s odds of overcoming the ugly extremes of self-interest decrease drastically.
Many people have bought into the very unfortunate human attitude of entitlement. Honorians are no exception. A person with this mindset thinks that they deserve better, regardless of whether or not that betterment comes at the expense of another, or even at the expense of many others. This attitude accounts for how a lot of rich folks became rich. Many poor folks also picture this entitlement and material gain thing as the road to happiness. Some feel they just haven’t been lucky enough to get into a position where they can profit by screwing others. I’m tired of watching it. I’m tired of people acting like nasty jackasses from one end of Earth to the other!
Many empires have embodied this attitude of entitlement over the years. America has been the standard-bearer for several decades. This goes a long way toward explaining the increasing disrespect and danger suffered by American tourists in recent years. Karma can be painful. People remember bombing raids for a much longer time than they remember relief efforts. A relief effort won’t bring anyone’s family back once they have been disintegrated. We thought ourselves entitled to trash a few places. Now they feel entitled to mess with us.
This happens at home as well as abroad. Our intra-national violations of the golden rule have resulted in us being nervous tourists in parts of our own country too. Many poor folks are so indiscriminately angry that it is not safe to walk through their neighborhoods.
Industrialists, banksters, corporations, government shills and the greedier portion of our populace have brutally cornholed America’s growing poor and homeless populations, as well as our shrinking middle class. Many disproportionately rich yet peculiarly unsatisfied people still feel entitled to make obscene profits regardless of the consequences to others. Foreign wars that kill our poorest teenagers, poison chemical dumping, substandard production methods using substandard materials, and mortgage fiascos that fall short of theft and fraud in only the most technical definitions of the law are just the tip of the iceberg.
Pardon the rant, but the point is that many developing nations throughout the world now cause and suffer the same problems as their Western economic and political role models. Nearly everything mentioned above as a westernism is happening here and now in Southeast Asia.
No one seems able to learn a lesson.
There are certainly other considerations besides my government’s actions and policies that influence how our foreign neighbors view us, how they treat us when we visit their countries, and how I have been mistreated here.
Having enough money to afford the plane ticket to your third world destination qualifies you as rich on most of the planet, even if you consider yourself among the scrimp-and-save backpacker set. Couple this with the often held point of view that your wealth has resulted from your nation’s exploitation of the rest of the world, and it gets easier for someone to rationalize kicking your ass when they think you’ve been kicking theirs first.
The TV imaging of our Western lifestyle also helped to set me up as a mark. It sets up many of our traveling compatriots as marks throughout much of the world. Television often portrays us as wealthy, selfish, arrogant, violent, and apathetic. Evidence of that arrogance and apathy is too often presented on a silver platter to natives of the countries we tour. Many vacationers are demanding, drunk, or hung over more often than not. A handful become nasty, and even the nicest Western tourists are spending enough money in a week to feed a third world family for a year.
I have to both sympathize with and be the victim of this international attitude problem! It is hard to take either side when both seem wrong. I’ve been picked on here for being an evil exploitative person, just because of my skin color and place of birth. But I’ve also been seated near some arrogant tourists whose behavior made me embarrassed to be American. I’m also aware of some history that is even more embarrassing than those tourists.
Honorian folks are very polite as a rule but as is true anywhere, there are some impolite bastards here who use inbred, bigoted notions to rationalize getting what they want by inappropriate or even criminally inconsiderate means. These people will never be able to see me as an individual because it fits their purpose or ignorance, or both, to view me as part of an evil machine.
The cultural introversion and occasional bigotry here may seem intense to a clever but mentally ill foreigner such as myself, who is counting on the kindness of strangers to stay alive—but as mentioned before, similar indecencies happen everywhere and are often much more severe. Most people in any country will go with the cultural flow of the status quo no matter how twisted popular attitudes may be. No matter how polluted the waters are, whether they include bigotry, slavery, theft, or even murder, people don’t usually consider bucking the current to swim ashore.
People surely act like severe jackasses sometimes!
Come to think of it, I’m a people. I must be a jackass sometimes too.
I’m the fool wearing the Mean People Suck t-shirt who doesn’t realize how mean-spirited that message is.
I better start dealing with how I am reacting to the situation here! It isn’t possible to take out anyone else’s mental garbage or change anyone else’s shitty attitude—and there’s no one else to blame if I keep wallowing in my own. Being trapped in this country doesn’t have to include being trapped in my own toxic psychological sewerage.
It is time to figure out how to be nicer to myself and everyone else.
It is time to become less of a jackass.
The confusion of not wanting to stay here or go back to America is multiplied by not having the resources to do either. There is not enough money in my pocket to buy a beer at the local store, much less a plane ticket to America. I’m in the awkward position of having nowhere to go and no way to get there.
The life that I knew is over.
But everything is now a fresh possibility! The world is suddenly strange and different. There are no limits, no borders around what can happen next. Every experience is intensified. Life is vivid. Flowers scream out their color. Fragrances are powerfully defined. The air seems electrically charged and freshly invented, as if I’m the first one to breathe it.
The excitement of having no country and no money is electrifying.
The total freedom is magical.
It is also scarier than death.
I’m almost obliged to stay alive, just to see what happens next.
From the point of view of a man without a country or a dollar, it seems that the old saying is true. “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.”
I can’t really blame my ragged situation on anyone, anywhere, or anything else but myself. I angrily blamed this country, the people in it, the climate, then my childhood, home country, and finally all of humanity. None of it helped. Blaming external sources for one’s own bullshit is about as senseless as shooting oneself and blaming the bullet.
Not admitting that I had built my own life and its troubles robbed me of the ability to repair either—and it almost killed me.
This is an excerpt from the book Reincarnation Through Common Sense. All profits from book sales sponsor Wisdom Professionals, beginning with Tibetan Nuns and Monks. More at http://www.fearlesspuppy.info