Back in The USSA

— I’ve Temporarily Left My Adopted Land of the Free

I’ll leave it to the readers to decide the significance of that extra “S”—what it means and how it’s integrated into what I’m always talking about.

I arrived last night in San Francisco after a flight from Bangkok to Singapore, followed by a grueling 15-hour ordeal from Singapore to San Francisco. That journey is a story in itself, which I might share later, but right now it’s not important. You might be curious about why I traveled so suddenly. Well, it’s a family matter, and I’ll leave it at that.

I’m currently at my brother’s homestead in Placerville, California. My brother from Texas is here, and my brother from Southern California will be arriving tomorrow.

This was my first time flying on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In fact, both legs of the journey—Gulf Air from Bangkok to Singapore and then United Airlines from Singapore to San Francisco—were on that aircraft. The nearly 15-hour flight was made even more grueling by the fact that I was stuck in a middle seat. United screwed up my purchase of an aisle seat, but like I said, that’s another story.

In the middle section, which has three seats, I was sandwiched between two young men, both pleasant enough, but one was significantly overweight, leading to some spillover. Unable to resolve the issue with my aisle seat, I resigned myself to the situation rather than stewing in anger for 15 hours.

I struck up a conversation with the young man next to me—a big guy, 25 years old, a graduate from Berkeley now doing graduate work at MIT. He’s smart, nice, and I’m glad I chatted him up, dulling the sting. We had a good time despite my frequent need to get out of my seat not just to use the restroom, but also to stretch my legs. The 787 is quite a nice aircraft, I must say.

The overall making the best of shit was somewhat countered by an Aussie dude behind us who, before the flight even took off, slapped my hand when I stretched my arm rearward and clutched the rear side of my seat back…encroaching ever so slightly into his and his fat, undesirable, nobody-wants-to-fuck cunt he’s chained to for life. I let it slide, but 15 hours later, as we were deplaning, he made some impatient remarks about me zipping up my bag prior to proceeding down the isle—costing him an irretrievable 5 seconds of his very life on the planet.

I then necessarily informed him in my voice that everyone can hear unmistakably, that he’d been an asshole for over 15 hours, and that he could go fuck himself.

After landing, breezing through passport control and customs despite it being my first arrival in 4 years, I hopped on BART eastward for 2 more hours—my dad picked me up at Antioch Station—and then another two-hour drive to the homestead in Placerville. Like it had taken 10 seconds to switch back to left-handed driving mode when I arrived in Thailand 4 years ago (Japan for 5 years in a past life), it took 10 seconds to switch back to right-handed driving mode once behind the wheel.

… Now that I’m here, I’m determined to maintain my workout routine—chest, back, legs, shoulders, and arms over five consecutive days—no fucking lame-lazy-ass excuses because travelling / important matter to attend to. Sorted. The bright side is that with my current schedule, I can write blog posts without worrying about when to publish them to align with my primarily U.S. readership.

What do I mean when I say that I’ve left the “land of the free” ironically? Well, I could probably write a book on the subject, but let me try to distill it into a few brief sentences.

I’ve noticed a stark difference in culture, which seems to be, to some extent, shaped by religious-like belief systems. The Western world appears to live a sort of punitive-based, atone-for-sins existence compared to Thai Buddhist society. To put it succinctly, Westerners are surrounded by layers of judgement—other people, institutions, and imagined authorities constantly evaluating their lives according to standards of punishment here or beyond the grave. In contrast, within Buddhist culture, individuals are their own judges. They’re encouraged to self-reflect and judge themselves harshly, shaping their behavior accordingly.

I know which is more in accordance with the real and free nature of the human animal.

Let’s consider a couple of examples to illustrate this idea of punitive measures versus self-judgement. Take traffic laws, for instance. In the four years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen a traffic policeman stop anyone for an infraction, be it speeding or running red lights. Everyone runs red lights. When? You do it when there’s no oncoming traffic, and it’s safe to do so…you be the [your own] judge, and you’re not going to hurt anybody. Even if a cop is right there, they don’t intervene. It’s not about punishment; it’s about whether someone is actually causing harm.

Then there’s criminal policing. In America, I often see police shootings, and immediately gun enthusiasts—of which I am one—jump to declare it a ‘clean shoot’ or ‘valid shoot.’ As if the legality of the action is a cause for celebration. Recently, a tragedy occurred—a 15-year-old with a gun wreaked havoc in a shopping mall. I can’t recall the exact number of casualties—five or six deaths, maybe thirteen people injured. However, the police managed to stop him without taking his life. That contrasts starkly with what I typically see in America, where cops, decked out in their military gear, wait until the perpetrator runs out of ammunition before they rush in, often ending with the suspect dead, if he hasn’t already taken his own life.

Consider one more comparison: the self-employment rate. In the USA, roughly 5%—that’s one out of twenty people—work for themselves, with the rest being employees. In Thailand, it’s 12 out of 20 people who are their own bosses. Now, who’s more free?

I’ll let you answer that for yourselves.

… So there you have a quick update for public consumption. Now, I’m turning my attention to my members—you can join at this link if you’re ready.


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Richard Nikoley

I started writing Free The Animal in late 2003 as just a little thing to try. 20 years later, turns out I've written over 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from diet, health, lifestyle...to philosophy, politics, social antagonism, adventure travel, expat living, location and time independent—while you sleep— income by geoarbitrage, and food pics. I intended to travel the world "homeless," but the Covidiocy Panicdemic squashed that. I became an American expat living in Thailand. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. ... I leave the toilet seat up. Read More

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