Time to flee?
In the early months of the year 1678, a grim spectre loomed over the city of Vienna.
Its deathly gaze first set its sights on the district of Leopoldstadt, outside Vienna’s main walled city. Before long, rampant illness had beset those who dwelled there, and the burning of diseased bodies became an increasingly common sight.
At first, the authorities of the ruling Habsburg family downplayed any concerns by the citizenry. They attempted to hide any evidence of a plague, and circulated news that everything was fine. But the charade wouldn’t last, and by the next year it was impossible to hide–after breaching Vienna’s fortified walls, disease roamed freely to devastate the city.
Carried by common vermin like rats and mice, the bubonic plague ravaged Vienna. So common was the site of rodents in the city at the time, it was said the pests were equal in volume to the mounds of trash that littered the streets.
However, not all citizens of Vienna were affected by the Great Plague equally. As one might expect, those of more substantial financial means were able to flee the plague-ridden capital to protect themselves and their families.
However, the vast majority of Vienna’s residents could not afford to take such action. This resulted in a severe disparity in the death rate between wealthy and poor Viennese—by some estimates, for each thousand of Vienna’s poorer residents that died, barely ten of the wealthy lost their lives. This would lead to the plague’s informal moniker being named the “Beggar’s Disease.”
Throughout history, the ability of the rich to flee catastrophe has been commonplace. In early modern England, the general advice during plagues was to “flie far, flie speedily, and return slowly.” A nice idea in practice, but something that was out of the realm of possibility for most peasants and low-income city dwellers.
Although our world’s cities and culture may have changed since a plague ravaged Vienna three and a half centuries ago, the fleeing of those with the means to escape trauma and misfortune definitely hasn’t.
Take Russia, for example.
Since the beginning of 2022, almost four million Russians have thus far fled their home country. At the time of this writing, a number that’s nearing 3% of the nation’s total population.
The reasons for this are obvious. The war in Ukraine has caused Russia’s economy to tank, and made life difficult for a huge chunk of Russia’s population, especially in relation to those who participate in any kind of cross-border business, or international trade.
However, it seems as if the problem is about to become much worse.
Only a few short days ago, Putin announced Russia’s efforts in Ukraine will ramp up. Russia will formally move to annex parts of eastern Ukraine, and will increase military mobilisation as an effort to “defend Russia”. Obviously forgetting who it was that invaded another sovereign nation in the first place. However, possibly most concerning for Russian citizens, is the fact that this will also include wartime conscription to bolster Russia’s troop numbers, meaning an untold number of Russians may now be forced to fight in Putin’s war.
This news has caused Russians to flee in droves.
Flights out of Russia began to sell out completely almost immediately after Putin’s announcement, and lines at border crossings to Mongolia, Finland, and Georgia are already up to 35km long. And Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are refusing entry to Russian citizens trying to enter their nations.
But of course, it’s primarily the wealthiest portion of the population who generally have the means to leave.
Russia has an estimated 100,000 millionaires today. And already, it’s estimated that 15% will leave the country in 2022 alone—a much larger segment than the 3% of the total population who have fled so far. And as it’s those with the most assets, and who are responsible for the creation of most of the nation’s value who are leaving, it likely only means a further downward trend for Russia’s economy.
What I think is important to remember here is that only a little over nine months ago, living in Russia was a much different story than it is today. Sure, the nation’s economy had its issues with inflation and rising prices (as basically the entire post-‘VID world did), but life wasn’t anywhere near as turbulent as it is now.
To me, this is the perfect example of how quickly a country can devolve, but for the decisions of a single man at the very top of the nation’s power ladder.
Russia aside, we all know personally just how quickly our world can change. Since the beginning of 2020, we’ve all experienced at least one or more of these situations: been forced to stay in our homes, had our free travel limited, been made redundant at our job, our business destroyed, coerced into taking a medical therapy we maybe didn’t want to take, or possibly even thrown into a quarantine camp by our own government, as was the case in places like New Zealand, China, and Australia.
Many of these examples are things that only a few years before may have been difficult—or even impossible—for many of us to imagine. But today, we accept as possibilities that could happen again, because we’ve already lived through them once.
Thankfully, however, the ‘VID-demic caused many of us to rethink the way our lives are structured. And many of us have taken action to make changes.
Many people took action to acquire residency in a more free nation, or to trace their lineage to see if there was an easy way to claim a second citizenship and passport. And for some, it was the simple act of diversifying cash and assets across multiple nations, to prepare for the possible unfortunate event of an economic calamity in their home nation.
And the great news is that unlike most of prior human history, many of these actions aren’t only exclusive to the richest segments of society. Almost anyone can get another residency, citizenship, or set up a digital bank account to store assets around the globe.
However, many of us haven’t paid attention to the signs. Or at least once the stress of the ‘demic subsided, just reverted back to their old patterns as soon as life began to return to normal.
As always, much of humanity has a very short memory. Or, for some reason believes there will never be another event that will shut down the globe, that a crisis like what currently exists in Russia could ever happen to them, or that their own nation won’t take away freedoms that they hold dear.
Those people are obviously not paying attention to recent history.
Last year in Canada, mostly peaceful protestors had their bank accounts and access to money frozen, simply because they disagreed with their government’s mandates on medical freedom. In Australia, unprecedented anti-encryption laws were recently passed that will force manufacturers who sell devices in the country to make it possible for the government to access any citizen’s data at any time, possibly without warrants. And in the United States, the right of women to have autonomy over their own bodies is being eroded, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Nations once thought of as bastions of freedom are quickly becoming anything but. To me, illustrating just how essential it is to have an escape plan.
The good news is, you don’t need to be ultra-wealthy, or a millionaire, to consider where you might go, or what you might do, if your country devolves to make it unliveable by your standards.
Some nations—like Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, or Croatia—will enable you to move there providing you can show as little as €700 in personal income per month. Most people can diversify their income via foreign digital bank accounts in Europe, South America, or elsewhere and open bank accounts to store their savings in sometimes under a day, with a minimum of fuss. And for those who have the option, it could take as little as three to six months to acquire a passport if you have a descendent that allows you to do so.
It doesn’t matter what you do to create a backup plan. Just do something.
Because as I’ve illustrated here, you never know how quickly the situation in your country could change. In 17th Century Vienna, it only took a year for a plague to ravage the city. Today, it’s only taken eight months for Russia to fall on the verge of economic collapse, and is now threatening its people with military conscription.
And we all remember how quickly 2020 went from “two weeks to flatten the curve”, to almost two years of medical-based oppression.
What’s next? I sure as hell don’t know.
But what I do know is that it’s better to create a backup plan that you never need, instead of waiting until it’s too late when you may not have the option to do anything at all.
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