Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Quote From Pico Iyer:
The Dark Side of Expat Life

From Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer (pictured):

Expatriation in any place is a shortcut to upward mobility, but in Hong Kong, where the British held symbolic sway yet the law of the commercial jungle obtained, the dice were even more loaded. Hong Kong had the jitters of an arriviste.

"I know this Welsh architect. He left a dull job in some grimy town and came over here. Suddenly he had maids, cars, an oceanfront villa in Repulse Bay. The firm paid for his children's schooling and for his private clubs. When his time was up, after thirty-six months, he was willing to do anything -- anything at all -- to extend his stay. Anything. He was almost begging."

One of the appeals of expatriation, I had always thought, was that it allowed one to treat real life as romantic; abroad, one could credit the lies one saw through at home. But one of the dangers of expatriation, I came to see, was that it tempted one to live the lies that would be seen through at home. Expatriation was often just evasion disguising itself as election. Expatriation permitted every John to become a sahib, and every girl to turn herself into le Carre's Lizzie Worthington, and both of them to flourish their new identities before people who could do nothing but defer.

"So this policeman comes here -- just a regular British bobby -- and all of a sudden here he is, with sixty men at his beck and call, two thousand subordinates in all. You can imagine the exploitation that follows."

Thus the trappings of expatriation become traps, and a freedom from attachments never did quite amount to detachment. Many Brits, I gathered, longed not so much to flee snobbery as to exercise it in a system in which they could at last be on the giving, rather than the receiving, end. Expatriation allowed them to get their revenge on Britain, even as they became more and more British the farther they got from home. Expatriation encouraged them to define themselves by their distance from the world around them, to make their very separation their identity and their exile their home. It did not seem a happy exchange.

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Anonymous Hater said...

This guy thinks too much. He's also a jackass.

9:35 AM  

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