A Better Life

Well, this week’s post was going to be a service piece about organizing an international move.  But after I read a recent blog post by “internationally known author, consultant, and futurist” Ian Morrison, that plan went into the bin.  I have to respond.

You’ll find his post here: http://ianmorrison.com/french-lessons/

Initially I was pleased by the “just ask them” statement in the first paragraph because it foretold a sense of irony and led me to believe that the author was not going to take this thing too seriously.  Ah, not so.

The remainder of Mr. Morrison’s post seems to be a mixed bag of the, oh so tired “France good/America bad” screed, and thinly veiled quips and backhand generalizations about the French.  Witness the stinky cheese comments, and the fact that everyone is named “Jean Claude” and “Madame”.  Why not just get it over with and bitch about all the berets and “zee snooty Franch accents” while you’re at it?

But the thing that gets under my skin most is his Morrison’s so veiled assertion that ANY one country “does it best”.  For someone who seems to disdain most things U.S., he seems to have a firm grasp of that pain in the ass American predilection for competing with everyone about everything.

As I’ve said here before I/we did not move to Ireland to escape from anything.  We were very definitely running toward something.  But I will say that the one thing that was really starting to piss me off living in the United States was the subtext behind the notion that “America is the greatest nation on Earth”.  How do you even begin to quantify such a statement?  Don’t get me wrong.

America is a great place where amazing things do happen for millions of people on a daily basis.  But to bandy it about like it’s some competition is to miss the point of greatness.Yes, it’s a great place, so America is (and should be) expected to do great things with all it has, and not wave its greatness in people’s faces in some post-Super bowl,  “woo hoo, we won”, “it’s good to be the king, now peel me a grape” bacchanal.

Living well is not a race that you win.  That’s how wars get started, every time, plain and simple.  When you make living well a competition, nations (specifically the politicians and corporate executives who have all the power) start prioritizing resources, and pretty soon there aren’t enough of them to go around and some jackass lobs a nuke on Brussels so he can secure all the Twinkies and cheap blue jeans for his spawn.

To take up Mr. Morrison’s post again, he’s fallen victim to the “this country does it right, and that country does it wrong” mentality.  Instead, Mr. Morrison, please show us what both countries do well. There are lots of things that France does well, and lots of things the U.S. does well.  Stop competing and allow yourself to learn from the other guy without letting your self-esteem get in the way. That, Mr. Morrison, can, should, ought, and could be the future

I know it’s not great television, and likely doesn’t sell books or contribute to calling yourself an “internationally acclaimed futurist”, but as a Scotsman, who (I believe) has emigrated to the United States (I don’t know for sure that he lives in the U.S. full time, but at several points he refers to the “United States” as “we”) I’d like to think that the rhetoric of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty would have found its way into his worldview. Is he in the U.S. to plunder the economic advantages made available to him and his, or because this is the right place for them to build a better life?

I know this smacks of the, “if you don’t like it here, go home” argument with which I’ve been hit.  But that’s really not what I’m saying. I challenge Mr. Morrison to find a plaque with the words “people came seeking the best life…”

It’s about finding a better life, not the best life.  Let’s not start that kind of comparison. It leads us all to something less than a better life. As a futurist Mr. Morrison, you should know this.

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

  • Planning & Executing An International Move

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
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5 Responses to A Better Life

  1. memaymamo says:

    Would love to hear your take on the World Cup as I’d imagine it’s a sport with which very few americans have taken a shine to.

  2. Kay Connelly says:

    @memaymamo: don’t make assumptions. In our small indiana town, we spent quite a bit of time constructing our own version of a beer garden in a friend’s back yard and had upwards of 30-40 people at most evening games (and a half dozen at most other games) during the last world cup. And we certainly weren’t the only ones in town watching (just, perhaps, the most organized). I’m living in France now, and one of my favorite things is that we can watch soccer every single day!

    Glenn: I have to say, “zee snooty French accent” is fab! Love this post. Had me laughing out loud. Keep it up!

  3. Marisol says:

    Nice post Glen. 100% behind you. I don’t know why but American that travel either fall in the “America is best and I can’t wait to end my vacation and go home and tell all of family and friends how everything was horrible in X country” or “I want to experience this country to the fullest and don’t complain too much because things are different” or a combination of the two since we are all humans. But, I really did not appreciate the sarcastic and left-handed compliments in Ian Morrison post. What is with the stinky cheese comments? I mean if he doesn’t like cheese, then don’t it or smell it. I love French cheese or any kind of cheese for that matter, so I felt that was kind of idiotic from him. These comments took away for some of the most interesting aspect of the post and make you wonder if the whole thing was a satire against the French. Oh well, great response. I am looking forward for the next installment!

  4. Dan Price says:

    I think you’re being too hard on Morrison. I think he really is making a tong-in-cheek comment on France; his comments are similar to your comments about the hot and cold taps in Ireland. Many people, myself included, have made similarly disparaging comments about American foibles, but from the perspective of one who loves the place. Consider political scandals, reality television, or the Dixie Chicks and then try to say something positive about America. Yet there is much that is positive and worth saying, and neither Rick Perry, Bernie Madoff, nor Lindsay Lohan is going to drive me away. And I’d much rather eat smelly cheese than hot dogs.

  5. David Wild says:

    Nice insight, Glenn. I found this with moving to America from Britain, where we swing between proudly defending our identity as Brits but at the same time being very self-critical relative to other countries. It was interesting that what I picked up in the US wasn’t really pride or even cerebral, but some sense of emotional gratitude for living in “the best place on earth” (e.g. on Oprah I think it was — “in what other country could someone of color become a leading doctor?” … errr maybe about 100 other countries?) The gratitude is good, but the “best place on earth” idea is a bit silly as you say. I think it’s partly that the US is as a whole quite adolescent culture, which has great positives (strength, enthusiasm, energy, positive attitude, etc) but also negatives (naive outlook, black & white views on some things, fragile identity, easily threatened). I think the underlying script of “best country on earth” is primarily identity/fear-based (“if we’re not, why do we exist?”). Hopefully this will mature over time as we in the US start to feel more settled in our identity as a country (give it another 200 years or so…). Oddly too I find that amongst US academics, intellectuals etc there is often an over-reaction against this kind of emotional self-love leading them to be over critical of America in my view. Maybe this leads to the British nature ultimately…

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