By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
TLE editor Jack Peat talks to adventurer, inventor and entrepreneur Jaimie Mantzel about why he gave up his green card and left the US.
Jaimie Mantzel’s antics range from the strange to the extraordinary.
As a business and politics newspaper, securing a suitable feature on a man who once resided in the wilderness of Vermont in a four-story-high geodesic dome with DIY central heating, plumbing connections and a giant six-legged robot in the garden has been difficult. In August we featured his Kickstarter, but it wasn’t until things took a political turn that we could follow up.
The entrepreneur come adventurer is an unwitting prisoner of the 21st century. Its augmented reality, social interconnectivity and unrelenting global economic growth has formed a Matrix of office drones plugged into a system as apocalyptic as the aforementioned film and as inescapable as Orwell’s prophecies. For those trying to break free it’s an uphill battle against a system which isn’t designed for escapees, but that’s precisely the challenge Mantzel has decided to take on.
Anarchy in the USA
“I handed in my US green card because I no longer want to live in, or pay taxes to a country that uses the money to terrorise the rest of the world while creating massive propaganda that calls everyone else the terrorists,” Mantzel says. As a child, he recalls ‘the world against us’ mantra and questioned even then why other nations could operate with such resentment towards the US. For many, the realisation that it’s actually ‘the US against the world’ is a tough pill to swallow, but the evidence is there for all to see.
The US, under the guise of global enforcers of peace, has raged more wars and caused more bloodshed than any other nation in the world. Since 1950 the country has been involved in no less than 40 conflicts, but unlike wars pre-dating the 50s, the sinister and futile nature of war has never been more in the public eye.
“The US still has military bases in Japan several generations after WW2! Why is this? Why does the US need military bases all over the world? Why do the US have to have such an enormous military? I surmise that the only reason you’d have to have guns aimed at everyone else is because you’re bullying them into something,” Mantzel says.
War has become a financial weapon. Like the capitalist structures that govern most parts of society, the wider implications of pillaging foreign countries for financial gain has created a very cynical culture within the US. All of a sudden, the lines between right and wrong become worryingly blurred.
War and morality
Bradley Manning was a byproduct of this confused interpretation of morality. Convicted in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, he has been condemned for leaking nothing less than the truth. Mantzel, who describes Manning as a hero, felt similarly imprisoned by a country where freedom of speech is more censored than free. As a man who is clearly morally aware, it was enough to drive him out of the country.
“It’s a scary thing to leave everything I know and venture into the unknown, but when standing in a fire, the unknown starts sounding pretty good,” he says.
Turning in a green card is tricky. The easiest way to do it is to leave the US, go to a US embassy and provide an I-407, which Mantzel did in Santiago, Chile.
“There is very little information on official websites about legally abandoning a green card, but here’s what I understand. Its better to do so officially to avoid risk of being banned from the country. Also, there are some funny rules regarding taxes, and financial penalties of leaving. For instance, if I spend more than two months in the US in 2014, I’ll be considered a “resident” and have to pay taxes even if I have no home there, and have moved to another country. I’ll have to keep visits to relatives short. Also, when I turned in my I-407, they didn’t give me a receipt. I had to ask for it, and from what I understand this receipt is important to have in order to enter the US as a visitor in the future.”
A little pocket of paradise
Chile appealed to Mantzel because of its emphasis on freedom and personal property rights. There will undoubtedly be a period of testing the water, but Latin America is likely to be the destination of choice.
“Chile is financially poor but culturally rich,” Mantzel says. “The people are incredibly friendly. We’ve been invited into people’s homes that we just met. I can’t tell how surprising it is to ask someone for directions, and have them literally jump up out of their chair to help.”
Unfortunately there is also a part of the population that finds it fashionable to emulate western culture. The plastic wrapped American brands are still widely on display and some people seem to value flashy marketing over actual valuable content, paying 10USD for a pesticide covered, GMO produced watermelon over a 2USD watermelon that was grown down the street and being sold direct from the farmer.
It is increasingly evident to Mantzel is that no place is perfect, but he considers that a challenge to promote change, rather than accept his fate and become a product of the system.
“It is frustrating to look for a place in this world where the long arms of controlling tyrants can’t get me, but I’m not giving up, and I’m not giving in. This world should be an amazing place where people can live their adventures and dreams, and I’m going to do anything I can I to help make that a reality. Just imagine what the world would look like if we stopped destroying it, and instead spend that energy on being great to each other.
“Maybe I can help create a little pocket of paradise somewhere.”