Archive for the ‘nomad’ Category

on being an alien

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

“For the first time in history, across much of the world, to be foreign is a perfectly normal condition. It is no more distinctive than being tall, fat or left-handed. Nobody raises an eyebrow at a Frenchman in Berlin, a Zimbabwean in London, a Russian in Paris, a Chinese in New York.

The desire of so many people, given the chance, to live in countries other than their own makes nonsense of a long-established consensus in politics and philosophy that the human animal is best off at home.


And yes, no doubt many people do feel most at ease with a home and a homeland. But what about the others, who find home oppressive and foreignness liberating? Theirs is a choice that gets both easier and more difficult to exercise with every passing year. Easier, because the globalisation of industry and education tramples national borders. More difficult, because there are ever fewer places left in this globalised world where you can go and feel utterly foreign when you get there. […]To get a strong sense of what it means to be foreign, you have to go to Africa, or the Middle East, or parts of Asia.[…]

[…]foreignness is intrinsically stimulating. Like a good game of bridge, the condition of being foreign engages the mind constantly without ever tiring it. John Lechte, an Australian professor of social theory, characterises foreignness as “an escape from the boredom and banality of the everyday”. The mundane becomes “super-real”, and experienced “with an intensity evocative of the events of a true biography”.


Nowadays, you might rather say that the more you know of other countries, the more inclusive of all humanity your values will become. You educate yourself, beginning with anthropology.

Every foreigner of inquiring mind becomes a part-time anthropologist, wondering and smiling at the new social rituals of his adoptive country.[…]

[…]His enjoyment of life is intensified, not undermined, by the absence of a homeland. And the homeland is a place to which he could return at any time.


But we cannot expect to have it all ways. Life is full of choices, and to choose one thing is to forgo another. The dilemma of foreignness comes down to one of liberty versus fraternity—the pleasures of freedom versus the pleasures of belonging. The homebody chooses the pleasures of belonging. The foreigner chooses the pleasures of freedom, and the pains that go with them.”

and freedom i choose. text by the economist.