Is the word "expat" an oxymoron?

Created at: 30 Apr 2024 Last updated: 30 Apr 2024

What's the difference between an "expat" and an "immigrant"? In Japanese I don't know of any commonly used word in daily speech for for expats, or even immigrants more generally for that matter. There is only gaijin ("ε€–δΊΊ" or foreigner). Japan had about 2.5% immigrants in 2022. It was nearly 14% in the US for comparison.

I guess an expat is immigrant who is said to have the privilege of going elsewhere or home. But this seems like a bit of a oxymoronic term to me. It's an etiological appeal to authority. Because regardless of being able to leave again or not, living abroad and promoting the ideas that got you there means that your life and the lives of those you touch can be less and less said to have been caused by where anyone is within any jurisdiction involved.

This explains why multi-jurisdictional terms like "The West" may be more useful as progress continues globally and perhaps why those who think of the world through etiological terms will use it to construct the world as some form of great bifurcation (e.g. "The West vs. The Rest").

In reality, though, there is no bifurcation. There are all us people who's lives are mistakenly taken as evidence for this battle between the ideas we have created. We are using the ideas, not being used by them. The framing obfuscates the advantage of being able to create ideas at all: so they that we don't have to battle each other, the ideas can be removed from this world instead of us.

For jurisdictional authorities that lean into their power, their aim will always be in part to deny this and to take credit for removing an idea that, in fact, some person actually removed/created. There is no "group think," Athens and it's conditions at the time did not invent democracy, Cleisthenes did.Β 

Where someone was born can't be said to have determined their destiny or what ideas they can or did create. If that mistake is disproven an authority won't be able to say "Ah, yes, you are successful and you are welcome, because we did that for you. Abide by our rule so that success continues." If that bordered set of rules isn't justified by the evidence of it's inhabitant's success, those rules will have to answer to outside criticism, outside error correction. The border is revealed to be porous to ideas, even if it is not porous to people. Success will no longer be determined by the rules within those borders, but by ongoing criticism of them, of which ALL jurisdictions will be taking part in.

More succinctly, institutions can be said to be authoritarian to the extent that their rules are resistant to criticism or error correction. It's an infinite scale, but some are better, and getting better, at error correction than others. Those that recognise all the others we call "The West". But, the idea that there is a "The Rest" is a lie that self-perpetuates itself. It's an infinite recursion, an infinite underdog.Β 

I mention etiology in the second paragraph, because this is the same style of refutations as the one which refutes trauma in Adlerian psychology. The idea of trauma is that our actions can be determined by, or blamed on, some prior experience. But, people are not defined by their experiences. People overcome bad experiences all the time, and solve the problems that lead to the bad experiences by explaining them so that others don't have to experience them. So, just as we are not defined by our bad experiences, so too we are not defined by where we are born or what set of traditions or rules we are born into and so on.

So, what is the use of this word "expat" if we already have the word immigrant and we know it carries contradictions to the purity of ideas of patriotism or nationalism? Perhaps expats are part of a measure of progress because just by being there they are a form of criticism and contradiction to any singular jurisdictional authority.

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