“But what if I want to get away from U.S. culture?”

This question came after I had commented in response to an ad on Facebook. The advertiser was some “international retirement living” promotion company, touting some quaint rural French village where the culture is supposedly unspoiled, the restaurants are cheap and authentic, the locals haven’t sold out to tourism or the super-wealthy, etc.

I commented: “Hey fellow Americans, retire to France and spoil the unspoiled culture!”

And then: “First thing, we need to widen these streets. And let’s get all these grimy old buildings pressure-washed. And what about these village stores, the selection is really limited and the hours are terrible. We need a 24-hour CostcoSamsWalmart. …”

Then someone asked in response to my comment: “What if I want to get away from U.S. culture?”

To which I replied:

I mean… Without knowing you, I’m not qualified to say what kind of influence you’d be.

All I can say is that many many fellow Americans I know have had the same sentiment about wanting to get away from American culture, and yet we go to these other places with our norms of giant houses and big cars and roads and so on and we end up buying huge amounts of land, using more than our share of resources and spoiling those places physically and culturally. We end up jacking up land prices for the native residents, displacing people who were born there. Why should we get to go trash someone else’s country instead of fixing up our own?

There is a lot about our culture that I don’t like, but I’m hoping there are enough of us who care, that we can be a beneficial influence and turn things around.

A final thought: if there’s anything USA culture needs right now it’s elders. Our wisdom, stabilizing influence, experience, perspective. Even though our culture treats elders like crap, the fact is that we are needed.

And actually we have an obligation! Those of us who are of a certain age grew up in cushy times. If we think life is hard for us, think how very much harder it is for pretty much everybody else.

In my mind we have an obligation to stick around and fix the mess that has been largely caused by our own complacency.

Also, haven’t we Anglo/Euro’s done enough damage already by colonizing the entire planet? Are we going to re-colonize it now?

I have friends who were crowing about how cheap land is in Mexico. We have to think about why the land is so cheap. What farmers got driven off their land? What misery is underwriting our cheap retirement aspirations?

Further Exploration:

• Get on TikTok and search for Native Hawaiian, Puerto Rico, Mexico, other countries where people from the global north like to “escape” to for their retirement. And search gentrification. Lots of people talking about this.

• Read The Divide, book by Jason Hickel (who is also author of one of the most popular books on Degrowth). I’m still in the middle of reading the book. It’s horrifying how much misery the policies of “developed” nations have wrought worldwide.