“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
People ask me, from time-to-time what led us to sell our primary residence and vehicle, divest ourselves of most of our possessions, leave our children and grandchildren behind, and move to an area most feel is more instable and dangerous than the one we left. Well, the short answer that I think we would both agree upon is simply “affordability.” Beyond that, the underlying reasons, at least for me, lie much deeper, and have to do with both politics and culture, and I’m going to be speaking only for myself here, my dear wife’s reasons are her own, and are not for me to reveal, at least not in this forum.
In Atlas Shrugged, the sociopathic authoress Ayn Rand created a dystopic, upside-down fantasy world where the heroes, the intrepid “captains of industry,” the men (and woman) “of brains,” were being victimized and systematically looted of all they possessed by the so-called “looters,” (read “Liberals”) who ran the country and the world. These “looters,” men with names like Kip Chalmers, Cuffy Meigs, Chick Morrison, and Wesley Mouch, knew full well what they were doing, and what the final results would inevitably be. They all had well-stocked, secure, private, hide-a-ways they could run too when the world had nothing left to loot. Our heroes, on the other hand, under the leadership of one John Galt, decided to rid the world of the looters by withholding their services, and bringing all commerce and industry to a halt.
When their efforts began to be successful, and the country became untenable for the looters, or anyone else, the “men (and woman) of brains” hid-out in a canyon in the Rocky Mountains most of them referred to as “Galt’s Gulch.” They waited there until no further activity was detected outside, then they would presumably return and recreate America as an Objectivist country, where free, unfettered capitalism would be allowed to flourish, and create a utopian society based upon the philosophy of “I’ve got mine, the hell with you!”
In reality, as many Americans are beginning to discover, the looters Rand described in her boring tome really do exist, but they aren’t at all the people she expected they would be. We have been systematically looted, all of us, but not by the “Liberals,” or by the Conservatives specifically either, for that matter, but by the very people who Rand chose as the victims in her narrative – the so-called “men of brains!” As Rand predicted, the entire government is indeed in thrall – but it’s to the corporations themselves, who also control the media and most means of communication, and not those who would redistribute their wealth. Oh, wealth is being redistributed alright, but upwards, to the top one or two percent, from what used to be the middle class, who have now joined the great American underclass. Just like Rand’s looters, these corporate CEO’s, upper management types, Wall Street fund managers, and the rest all have their secret walled hideaways, where they will be safe from the rest of us, and the ravages of climate change.
Make no mistake, whatever they are trying to tell us through their cable and print “news” outlets, they know damn well that global climate change is real, and imminent, and that there will be no escape for most of us from the widespread chaos of relocations and starvation. They know that the dollar will eventually collapse, and they have provided for their children and for their children’s children, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves.
This is not new information; some of our best remaining journalists, like Chris Hedges and others have been screaming it for quite some time, even before the 2008 election. I admit to have been completely taken-in by the slickly-packaged Obama brand, even before the primary season hit full swing in the late winter and early spring of 2008. I was an early volunteer for the Obama campaign, and spent countless hours both on the street and on the phone to help deliver North Carolina both during the primary and the general. I did this in the face of considerable personal abuse, as well, as I was a precinct captain in one of the reddest districts of the state.
Looking back, I think I so much wanted him to be what he said he was that I overlooked obvious clues to the truth that were hidden in plain sight, only like the religious, I saw only what I wanted to see, and ignored, or simply discounted the rest. Always a dangerous thing to do!
After the election, there was that bit of euphoria which lasted right up to the magic-man’s first important appointments. Larry Summers? Tim Geithner? They were two of the individuals who were part and parcel of the oligarchy, and were among those responsible for creating the situation that many of us had worked so damn hard to change. I knew then that it was over, and all my work and effort had been for nothing. There would be no major changes in Washington, the oligarchy would remain very much in charge, and “change you can believe in” would become change you would hardly notice. Even before the inauguration, Obama became the face of the looters, as most, if not all of his subsequent appointments were good “corporation” men, largely from the Clinton and, unbelievably, also the Bush administration! Men who had been responsible for the Glass-Steigall act which undid the banking reforms put in place during the great depression, and unleashed the forces which made the crash of 2008 possible; men who were not interested in pursuing the war crimes of the Bush administration, and certainly opposed to ending either one of the illegal and immoral, but extremely profitable wars we were currently fighting.
Obama’s lack of leadership, leading to the passage of a “stimulus” bill that had little chance of stimulating anything other than the income of Wall Street was the final straw for us. It was obvious that the United States was rapidly going to become a country that we couldn’t afford to live in. Our savings was pretty much gone, as we ended-up with three rental houses we couldn’t sell when the real estate market crashed, our investments and IRA’s had vanished, as had many other’s into the pockets of unregulated Wall Street speculators, and we had no health insurance, as I had a major heart attack in 1999, and was, for all practical purposes, un-insurable.
After investigating several areas in different countries, we visited Ajijic, Mexico in February of 2009, and absolutely fell in love with the place. Who wouldn’t? It has a perfect climate, friendly people, a huge expat community, low cost-of-living, and best of all, the area is nearly self-sustaining. We returned and put our home on the market in the midst of the biggest real estate downturn in the area’s history. While we waited, we watched the health-care debacle, beginning with the “no single payer” deal Obama cut with the oligarchy before negotiations even started in the Congress. I’m sick-and-tired of hearing from Obama supporters that what we ended-up with was the best he could get. That’s bullshit! After campaigning on single-payer, the man didn’t even try! He left Democratic Senators twisting in the wind while he knuckled-under to the insurance companies and big Pharma, who together, not only dictated the terms, they wrote the damn bill!
In spite of all Obama’s big words, and tough talk, the looters remained completely and utterly in control. They fostered, encouraged, and funded the teahadists, who performed just as they were supposed to, keeping the focus off the oligarchy, and on the administration. It didn’t take a crystal ball to see where the country was headed, as divided as it was, with so many distractions, all designed to keep us from discovering who was behind the curtain. I just wanted to sell and get the hell out while we could still afford to move, and finally, our house sold in the spring of 2010, and we moved as quickly as possible.
Why did we do it? I think the best way to answer that is to address some of the objections we heard from friends and family when they discovered that we were really serious about the move.
- “But it’s a dangerous third-world country!” Really? And just how do you define “third world?” Corruption? There is just as much corruption in the United States, in fact, quite a bit more than I have encountered here in the past year, and for a hell-of-a-lot more money. Distribution of wealth? Yes, there is greater disparity of wealth here between rich and poor, but estimates are the U.S. will catch-up within five years at the current rate of wealth transfer upwards. Danger? Yes, there is a drug war going on to determine who has the rights to satisfy the U.S. illegal drug habit, but it’s 98% confined to the border areas. Our area has a much lower crime rate than the area we left, and most other U.S. cities.
- “But your food and water supplies aren’t safe!” Nonsense! The U.S. FDA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the food and drug companies as evidenced by this recent survey, and do the consumer little if any good at all. In many areas, Fracking, the process of removing natural gas from buried shale deposits, will render local water tables unusable, and in other areas, unrestrained industrial waste is destroying many aquifers. Most of what we eat (98% or so) is grown, raised, or caught within 50 miles of where we live. Everything from chicken to fish to various meat products is absolutely fresh, and contains no additives, preservatives, or things to make it “pretty.” We treat fruits and vegetables for fifteen minutes with a disinfectant, as you perhaps should do in the U.S. as well, to kill any bacteria or harmful microbes. Our tap water is purified by our whole-house purification system, as it is in most of the dwellings here. The Mexicans drink it unpurified with no ill effects, we just aren’t accustomed to the same microbes they are.
- “Mexico is unstable, and on the brink of collapse!” This is really the most ridiculous of all! Mexico is unstable? The U.S. is already under the control of the corporate elite, and is on the brink of fascism. The U.S. dollar is hanging by a thread, the empire is crumbling, and the whole world knows it. It’s just a matter of time until the world switches the standard currency from the dollar to the currency of some country that isn’t trillions in debt that it can never repay. I am moving every dollar I can out of the U.S., and so are the majority of the other American expats living here. When (not if) the dollar collapses, our Social Security will be worth zilch, but we should have enough in Pesos by then to live for a bit until you up north finally wake-up and throw-off the yoke of the corporate oligarchy.
- “You will have no health care down there” Another big joke! I had no health insurance for the last three years I lived in the States. I had a heart attack in 1999 that made me uninsurable. It cost over $100 to see our family doctor, and forget about a specialist. A major health problem would have sent us directly into bankruptcy, like it has so many others, and cost us everything we owned. Here in Mexico, we each have a major medical policy that covers us for most everything, and costs about $1,000/year for each of us. That’s less than Medicare part B. There are two state-of-the-art hospitals in Guadalajara, less than 40 minutes away, and it costs us about $16 to see our U.S.-trained family doctor. That’s not a co-pay either, that’s the full price. Our insurance doesn’t cover doctor visits or drugs, both are so cheap we all self-insure for that kind of thing.
Our lives are full! I interact on a regular basis with people who have written books, textbooks, even, on subjects I’m interested in. I get to learn from people who have lived and worked all over the world, not just the United States. I play softball twice-a-week, and several of the guys I play with have advanced degrees. People who end-up living here are not, typically, the kinds of people I would regularly run into up north. As a self-educated individual who has never spend time in academia, I simply wouldn’t have access to the types of people I meet here, nor would I be accepted by them. Here, we evaluate one-another by different criteria, letters after your name – or lack of them, simply doesn’t matter.
In addition, I have the satisfaction of feeling that I’m no longer supporting, or contributing to the looter-driven consumerism that has made a walking corpse out of the America I so revered when I was younger. I didn’t vote, nor did I take part in the last election. My choices were between a blue-dog Democrat – a member of the C-Street Family who didn’t vote for a single Obama initiative, and a “Young-gun” teahadist regressive who, according to two members of his squad, murdered two innocent Iraqis while serving there.
In my view, to participate in current U.S. politics is to support the corporate looters who control the system at all levels, either directly or through their brainwashed minions, from the local school boards to the Congress, Presidency and Supreme Court. I refuse to do this! I refuse to participate in a system rigged to loot the country and the world for the short-term benefit of the few at the expense of the many. I am “on strike,” as were the “heroes” of Rand’s magnum opus.
Many of my fellow expats call our beautiful little valley a “field of dreams.” I prefer to think of it as “Pete’s Gulch” – just for the symmetry of the thing.