Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What would the world be like.....

... if we could all choose where to live, regardless of national borders?

After reading Julie's post today, I started thinking about that.

I know my view is unusual when it comes to national identity. I can't conceptualize one nation as being "better than" or "over" another. The world is one big tossed salad with all kinds of cultures, ways of life and priorities. Anyone should be able to go or live wherever he or she chooses, based on individual preferences. The only rule in this should be the Wiccan Rede. "As it harm none, do as ye will."

Our citizenship in any nation is an accident of birth. The idea of choosing one's citizenship appeals to me a great deal. Example: I never felt "at home" here, yet I feel "at home" in Thailand. Who would have known? I couldn't have found it on the map 10 years earlier! The only reason I am not there today is because of government restrictions. If it had been possible, I would have just stayed but it wasn't allowed.

There was no legitimate reason. It was just a rule established by the Thai government, ostensibly to keep the country from being "taken over" by farang who would pollute the local culture and take jobs from Thai nationals.


If someone has a preference for that way of life, they will contribute to the well-being of the nation, not detract from it. In my own opinion, if someone is exploiting the land, they can be asked to leave at that point.

The same can be said for people who choose to move to the US. How can they possibly detract from the nation or its culture when they have come by choice? There should be a legitimate reason for asking them to leave, if it comes to that.

I wonder how the global population would shift if borders were open and everyone freely and responsibly chose where to live. (By "responsibly", I mean learning the language, embracing the culture and customs, and contributing positively in some way. )

The geopolitical reasons borders are not always free are understood. Perhaps I am being a bit utopian ~ but it is an interesting idea to ponder.

What do you think? :)




caroline said...

Hi Thailand Gal,

You are such a fearless writer! I like the way you approached this sensitive subject.

You make a nice distinction between culture and legal identity. I really value cultural traditions like music, food, jokes, clothing, supersitions, games, poetry.

It scares me to think that world cultures will dissolve under the tide of globalism (commercialism). I see it happening in France, Turkey, and Mexico to name a few countries.

The European Union illustrates that free travel does not necessarily cause dissolution of culture.

At the same time, ,I have lived as a foreigner in three countries. My husband is a resident alien here. I continue to believe for many reasons that regulated immigration is the best policy.

flutter said...

our borders are so arbitrary. Says alot about the internal walls we build, no?

Anonymous said...

I say if you are so uncomfortable here, dislike the government so much, long to live elsewhere -- then GO!! I'm so sick and tired of people living here and griping the whole time. Or worse, moving here and bringing their own culture and not blending into the American way. It wasn't like that when people came to this country early-on. They WANTED to be Americans! You, obviously, do not. So I say GO! Enjoy! And when you are tired of it and miss here, too bad~ Karen K.

thailandchani said...

Caroline, it would be interesting to hear more from you on this. As you can tell, I'm pretty open about this kind of thing. Wherever someone wants to live is totally okay with me.

It is an interesting topic though. You know, people seem to feel strongly about it, one way or another.


Flutter, yes.. it does. Wow.. that's another post, isn't it? :)


Karen, I don't even know how to respond to something like this. There's so much hostility in what you say. You might find FreeRepublic.com more satisfying than this site.

Thanks for coming by though ~ and thank you for stating your opinion.




jen said...

it's an interesting idea, wide open land. it's been built upon such a different foundation though...so much divided by class, by money, by resources.

i'd suppose if all the people were free to roam the resources would naturally redistribute too, a fascinating thought.

Z said...

It's a question that really exercises our minds in Britain. Many of us instinctively want the country to be open to all, but it's a small island and already overcrowded. And the fact is, a great many people come here for the benefits of our welfare state. Poor people, who cannot get housing, really resent the fact that new immigrants may get preferential treatment.

If everyone really did behave 'responsibly' by your definition, that would be fine but most people are governed ultimately by self-interest, whether they are refugees or economic migrants (coming with strengths or weaknesses), or whether they want to live the life of an ex-pat, enjoying the culture on their own terms.

But then, reading Karen K's comment, she seems to be quite inflexible. I've never visited America, but you live there and have every right to criticise what you see as being wrong. Why should one not, in a democracy, dislike the current government? Free speech is one of the basic tenets, surely, of the 'American way', and that must include the freedom to disagree, respectfully, with each other.

We must not be complacent about our way of life, but be ready to consider criticism, see if it's well founded - even if not from our point of view, from that of another person - and try to do better.

Cecilieaux said...

What Karen K. and similarly minded conservatives don't understand is that the other part of free trade, which they supposedly love, is the free movement of labor.

PS: does everyone else get an error trying to see Julie's site, or is it on All-But-Me mode?

Snoskred said...

To Karen K - if you want us to respect your comment, you might want to show a little bit of respect please. That is the first time I've ever seen someone speak to others like that here. We all try to understand and appreciate each other. As in, I'd be a lot more sympathetic to your point if you weren't so damn bitchy about it.

And good on ya going anonymous so nobody can find out where your blog is, and then come and crap all over the comments section like a flock of rabid seagulls. There's a lot I could say but I'm taking the high road - and it's a shame because sometimes the high road is no fun at all. Like right now, when I'd really like to rip you a new one. :) Enough said on that matter.

I once heard a statistic that only 49% of Americans had a passport. That was fairly eye-opening to me. Many of the Americans I spoke to before finding you enlightened types would say "Oh, America is such a big country, there's no need to travel outside it, there's so much to see here at home". This is probably true, but it is so alien to us Australians who generally travel to Europe (at least) before we are 25 - many students go for summers, they backpack, they work in pubs throughout the UK and other countries. I'd been to the UK and Europe three times before I was 25. I'd also travelled to Hawaii and the Middle-East. And, Australia is also quite a large country, I'd seen quite a lot of it also.

Yes, America is a big country but there's a whole other world out there, and taking a look at it can really help with your perspective on where you live.

I think I wandered from the topic there a little. Yes, I think borders should be easier to cross.

Anonymous said...

I see this as God's earth, not mine. Drawing lines in the dirt and telling people they can't cross it just seems kind of juvenile to me.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I always assumed it would be pretty easy for me to live where ever I wanted, but I realize I was counting on having enough money either saved or coming in from the US to sustain me. Obviously, I never considered such a move deeply or seriously.

I am not sure that I would want to fully adopt the local culture if I did transplant myself. I would certainly try to be respectful, but I don't expect immigrants or visitors to the US to give up their culture any more than I would want to give up mine - my tastes, my religion.

Christine said...

Chani, I too, wish borders across this world were more open. That the right to live beyond our borders was easier.

I was going to simply ignore Karen k.'s comment but I absolutely can't. It is filled with hate and bitterness. What is this so-called "American way?" Is it giving up cultural heritage, assimilation, voting conservative? All i know is that those coming to the US now and in the past are only enhancing the cultural beauty of this place.

It is odd to me how people can look back to the past and romanticize it so. "It wasn't like that when people came to this country early-on. They WANTED to be Americans!" Really? You mean like the African slaves? Or are you referring to the 17th century mid-Atlantic colonists who wanted to make a buck or two and head right on back? The reasons why people come to the US now and in the past are so amazingly diverse and complicated. Simplifying it is wrong.

This struck a cord with me, and I do apologize if this sounds too angry. Snoskred is right--I want this blog world to be a safe place for all types of dialog. And I really hope my words allow for that rather that offend. i could go on and on about the the distortion of our past for an agenda, but I'll spare you. ;-p

slouching mom said...

Regarding Karen K.'s comment, I think we all would do well to follow Chani's lead in this (as shown in her response to the comment).

Getting angry with someone like that is just what that person is after.

And arguing with someone whose views are that entrenched is bound to be fruitless.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that immigrants have much "choice". They usually leave their country and beloved culture to make a living elsewhere. I could see that a lot in eastern Europe countries, that mainly women have to leave ( and leave their children too) to make a living elsewhere. Choice is a privilege for whealthy poeple in healthy countries.

Julie Pippert said...

Chani, I've had some time to think about this since you put it in my comments yesterday, and I have pondered.

I don't know how to NOT sound pessimistic and judgmental but here goes my best effort LOL.

I don't think man---the kind of man we are now---can.

Our entire history is fraught with land grabs, territorial battles, and territory staking.

The main battles fought are for culture and land.

I am the descendant of (at least half) involuntary immigrants. It makes a big difference. They were forced here for their (a) labor, (b) conquest and (c) in a land grab of their land.

Most animal species are territorial. At heart, at times, it is a matter of survival.

It's just almost impossible for me to conceptualize man---us as we are now---able to have open borders, with freedom to follow where the inclination leads.

Plus, I find often that few people do actually feel out of place.

What I do think---and my husband and I discussed this at length the other day---is that we shouldn't (we meaning all major countries, not simply US) be so xenophobic, and ought to have much improved immigration policies. For example, he makes an excellent argument that it ought to be FREE.

I will try too persuade him to join in the discussion, but he's pretty busy (working on site today so, not reachable today).

Julie Pippert said...

Cecilieaux...I hope my site isn't being bothersome. The post Chani was referring to (and you should check her comments...interesting) is The divine right of kings

Bob said...

I have found that my understanding and appreciation of the United States and what it has to offer has been enhanced by my travels overseas.

It seems to me that the only way people will ever live in peace will be to get to know and understand each other. You cannot do that 3000 miles away.

thailandchani said...

Jen, that's all true and resources would have to be shared. No doubt about that! If we were free to choose without restrictions, it would be a real challenge to get beyond that. Think oil. :)


Z, many interesting thoughts. One of the things to keep in mind though is that as more people come, some would be leaving. This is ideal world, right? :)

The propaganda wars coming from countries that want to draw people would be unbelievable!

As for America, Thailand, etc... I am simply not a binary thinker. It's hard for me to conceptualize that being pro-Thailand automatically means anti-American. Why can't I be pro-Thailand and pro-American? It's no different than liking a variety of climates. Or a variety of foods. That is what people like Karen K. miss.. and it's unfortunate.. for her more than me.

It's not true ultimately that we can say anything we choose here. We can rant and rave about what we believe. The trouble comes when we might suggest a solution. There's such a thing as sedition laws.


C, that's how it's supposed to be, yes. People really should be able to choose the way of life that works best for them, the way of life they choose to live.

I fixed the link to Julie's site. It was a typo on my part.


Snos, it's also part of the propaganda campaign here. We are taught from the time we're barely old enough to sit up that every place in the world is dangerous ~ except for here. That's the root of it.

There are other aspects as well... and that would require another post. :)

I'm not well-traveled by any means. I've been to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. There are many more places I'd like to visit and will probably do so from Thailand.

As for Karen K, I'm really not angry at her. I'm just glad I don't think that way.. and the people who surround me don't think that way. I wouldn't like carrying around that much venom.. or that much concern for other people's opinions.


Thomas.. bottom line ~ exactly! National borders are far more elusive than most would think.


De, I don't think there are any countries that have open immigration policies.. and money usually comes into it. Even Thailand has a requirement that someone have a certain amount of money to put into a Thai bank before they'll issue a residence visa. One also has to have a guaranteed income.

Maybe a better way of saying what I meant to say is "respecting the culture". Not everyone will adopt another culture. Even I haven't done that completely.. and I'm pretty far over on the Thai continuum. LOL


Christine, all excellent points. It's unfortunate that the multiple cultures are really watered down after too much time here. Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone were free to live their own cultural standards?

The other side of that is that many people might be leaving their cultures of origin because they want to adopt the culture here.

(sat down hard on a snarky comment about culture here. I'm not going to do that.. not.. going.. um... :)

Excellent point about the slaves. Let's not forget the people who got here under false pretenses because of the relentless propaganda in other countries through Radio Liberty and such.


SM, I think that's true. Karen is not going to change her opinions because of anything any of us say.

But then.. she might. It's always hard to tell.

At the same time, I just couldn't respond to that onslaught of hostility.

I don't know why I am supposed to hate America to love Thailand.

I'll never work that one out. I don't want to hate any place.. or any one.


G, Christine already made that excellent point.. that not all immigration is voluntary. I am only talking about voluntary here because it's obviously immoral to bring people to any country against their will, especially when the intent is to exploit them.

As for poverty... there's poverty and there's poverty. I am low income.. and can honestly say that it's probably easier for me to move than it is for someone who is completely entrenched.


Julie, I agree that it should be free. As long as someone is doing absolutely no harm to a land, they should be able to take root.

Xenophobia. I know where it comes from but it still doesn't make any sense.

I've had some lively conversations with some Thai people who truly believe.. honestly believe ~ they're not being hostile ~ that no one outside of racially Thai people can be "Thai" or at least Asian. They are terrified of foreign influence.

My belief is that any of us can be anything we choose.. because it's more about belief systems and customs than about race. So the ultimate answer is that I can be Thai, someone else can be American, someone can be German or French.

Even history can't trump intellect and choice.

By the way, it's impossible for me to imagine it right now, too. We have a long way to go, far beyond my lifetime, before anything like this could truly happen.




The Atavist said...

In a perfect world, anyone should be able to live anywhere they want. Our world is far from perfect, so there are a number of things that need be considered. First of all, if all borders were dropped tomorrow, there would be a huge influx of people to the United States, Canada, the Western European countries, Australia, New Zealand, etc., as people swarm to where they perceive there to be more opportunities than at home. In short order, everything would be a bigger mess than it is at present, because in most or all of the countries mentioned, there is almost immediate access to welfare and health care and the systems would collapse under the load.

Very few people would go anywhere that is not perceived as being safe or stable, or having some degree of opportunity for advancement. Such countries would experience a net loss of inhabitants.

I believe in free movement of people for both libertarian and practical reasons. In order for free movement to become a possibility, tax-funded services would have to be off limits to immigrants for a reasonable period, say 5 years or so. It would then be sink or swim, the way it was when the swarms of immigrants hit north American shores in the early and mid 1900's. Some people would stay where they are, those that can't be bothered to work to advance themselves and their families. To most immigrants, though, this would not be an impediment. They would still be moving to a place that is infinitely better than the place they are leaving. AND... because of this approach, there would be far less resentment towards immigrants by the citizenry.

The reality is that in order to support the mammoth responsibilities of our governments to social services, we need a larger, younger, working population. It is not going to come from our internal birth rates.

One more consideration is that criminals should stay where they are. We don't need them. And any immigrant who commits a serious crime should be sent back home.

Carla said...

A very thought provoking post. You are right, it is just luck of the draw that we end up where we do. And then there are those like me who should be a nomad. I love travel, different cultures and the experience that comes with it all.

To show the craziness of national identity, I have a friend who is Australian, his mother is Australian and he spent his whole life there with the exception of one small portion...and that was his birth. His mother was a nurse in Papua New Guinea at the time. The country was divided into two sections...one part was a colony to Australia and the other part not. She happened to be in the part that was not when she gave birth. So this fellow lives his whole life in Australia and in his early twenties decides that he wants to travel so he goes to apply for his passport only to discover that the government does not consider him an Australian citizen. He is essentially a person without a country. In the end, he had to take a series of courses as do all immigrants to Australia. Life is bizarre sometimes.

meno said...

hi chani, i was listening to a story about the Berlin Wall this morning on the radio. It made me think about all the walls and fences that we humans build to try and define "our" space. And it's such an arbitrary concept, ownership of the land.

Anyway, i don't know where i would live if i could choose. Somewhere warm and where they don't treat women like chattel. I'll have to think about it.

QT said...

Chani - I have to agree with the atavist, that is the vision I have of what would happen if borders were open.

It is interesting, growing up in a family of immigrants. Some love this country. Others can't wait to go back to a simpler life. I guess I never considered the fact that they were lucky to have the choice.

patches said...

I think the idea is rather optimistic and utopian, as you mentioned. Your openness exhibits a superior level of cultural toleration than many have. I think many of the pros and cons have already been covered in the comments....so I will thank you for such a thought provoking post, and for sharing your open mind with us.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

All my life, I have been uncomfortable with national boundaries, long before the phrase "citizen of the world" became so overused. It seems an artificial concept that the very same land mass is for example, American on one side of a line and Canadian or Mexican on the other.

I wish that we lived in a world without terrorism, and that people were free to travel and live wherever they liked. Since we do not, I recognize that there must be immigration laws.

I agree completely that loving one country does not necessarily connote hatred of another. I do love America despite my dislike of our present government and certain aspects of our culture, but I also love too many other land masses to name here.

As Whitman said, "I contain multitudes." There is a whole world going on out there, and I want to experience all of it. I wish I could.

crazymumma said...

I was thinking about something like that.... why....just today. There is a marvelous part of Toronto called Kensington Market, a hodge podge of vintage stores, food markets, china town and everyone else in just for good measure

and funny...when I got off the streetcar, in the distance, a woman, white, dark hair like me, but dressed how you describe yourself dressing, carrying an umbrella to sheild herself from the sun...and I thought of you. Yes I did.

I was in a Sudanese store, and I was thinking about how they had adopted our culture as the proprieter and I were talking about cable tv and how his children wanted it.

and I wondered, if I were in the Susdan, how would I become part of their culture? Or would I remain detached?

sort of what you are talking about but not really.

I think the world might be a more understanding place maybe.....

thailandchani said...

Bob, I haven't traveled enough to say that my world is truly a big one. On the other hand, knowing that other people live differently and there is a world of choices is something that has made my world richer.


Atavist, I like your reply. Thank you. :) I hadn't considered the migration of criminals but that would be a major concern. If the borders are truly open, there would be no way to stop them from going wherever they choose.

I do know this situation is far more complex than I've considered here today.

After reading your reply, I agree that all of those things have to be taken into account. Criminality being the main one.


Carla, that is just craziness.. the guy without a country. That's the utter stupidity of most governments and their immigration policies.

I think I'm nomadic by nature too.. but also like being rooted in Thai custom.


Meno, the divisions are all an illusion really. It's only concentration of power that allows it to stay this way.

As for choosing a place to live, I'm not entirely convinced that we choose completely. Sometimes the places choose us. Even with all its problems, sometimes it seems Thailand chose me.

Is there a place on the planet that doesn't treat women like chattel? :)

I think wherever you deal with patriarchal religion, women will be treated like chattel.


QT, oh, yes.. they were totally lucky to have the choice. I believe everyone should have the same choices.


Patches, thanks. :) I do believe honestly that everyone should choose the way of life that works best for him or her. So, yes, I would say that my cultural tolerance is very high. I chose mine. How could I deny anyone else the same choice?

Utopian, absolutely! I know... but it is still interesting to think about. Maybe after 2012. Isn't that when the consciousness is supposed to shift, according to the Mayan calendar? :)


Susan, given what you mention, I agree that there must be some sort of monitoring, some immigration laws. It should be based totally on a background check though. What the Thai government is doing is just plain stupid! :)

There are many things I like about many countries. I can't choose just one and say, "this is the best one". They all offer something to the world as a whole.

When people accuse me of being anti-American, it just baffles me. All I've said is that the marketcentric way of life is not for me. For those who find it good, challenging and a positive force in their lives, God be with them! You know?


CM, I agree totally. One of the things that surprised me (although it wouldn't be this way for everyone, I'm sure) is that when I was in Thailand, I adapted so quickly. It was like a natural fit. Somehow, it worked.

If I was in Sudan, it's hard to say. Really.

The white woman you saw... I'll bet she gets many compliments. For some reason, I do. I've never had a negative reaction from anyone.

The world would be a far more understanding place if everyone could just choose and that choices were considered non-threatening.




MsLittlePea said...

I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments here. My parents are building a home in the Philippines for their retirement. My father proudly spent 20 years in the military and I dare anyone to call him anti-American to his face. Karen K's comments made me feel sorry for her. She obviously doesn't know what it means to be an American. These comments are for her:Loving one country/culture doesn't mean you hate the other. Ever heard of having two ideas at the same time? Or is that too hard? It's possible to criticize a part of our culture or our government without hating it-remember the founding fathers? They did that too. Without free speech you wouldn't be able to anonymously spread your anger on the internet. Embrace it.

I agree completely with you Chani, citizenship is completely accidental. I wish it were easier to move place to place.

Anonymous said...

Woah. Talk about venom! I'm not filled-with-hate here. I'm simply saying that complaining about the U.S., not blending into the culture and longing to live elsewhere all point a person OUTTA HERE! As for "peace" throughout the world? It will never happen because we (human beings) aren't made that way. And for hoping everyone can express their opinions? The only one who even comes close to "tolerance" here is Chani and she's on her way to Thialand! It just hasn't changed in all the years since high school. You gotta agree with and go along with what's being said, or you're the enemy. And you even dubbed me a conservative (like you'd know?) which is amazing! And so predictible. I still enjoy your blog, Chani. Oh, my favorite was the gal who accused me of hiding behind an anonymous comment...huge assumtion that "we ALL have blogs". Amazing. Karen K.

thailandchani said...

Hi Karen :)

Glad you came back to see your responses.

I'm sorry if it seemed to you like you were getting dogpiled. That isn't and wasn't the intention. So many of us get defensive when we're accused of being "anti-American" when we differ with the culture or the government. That is generally a conservative viewpoint (and I am, by the way, a social conservative) and you did sound a bit like Bill O'Reilly. :)

I am going to Thailand not because I hate America. I am going because I love Thailand. My spirit thrives there. I fit in. Truthfully, I have never fit in here. My values, my way of life, my approach to things just doesn't fit in a marketcentric culture. Thailand is not heaven. It has its problems, too. It just happens that my inclination and its turn out to be a good match.

I'm not condemning American culture totally. Well, sometimes I do. :) I do see the negative side of it more than the positive. That is probably a result of my own experience of alienation.

Tolerance is not in large supply over the past 40 years or so. It is something that is needed, must be encouraged and embraced, for this to ever be the America I grew up in.

Regardless of all of this, please know that your comments and your opinions are valued here, even if I or anyone else happens to disagree.