Escape from America
Nearly nine years in the making, the time has finally arrived:
Escape from America is now a reality!
This book actually features a story within a story. On the surface, it is the story of an American aspiring to change his life and plan a future in China, documenting the before and after experiences of his journey. Beneath the surface, however, this book features deep analysis from an experienced scholar, traveler, and businessperson of America and China that presents critical views on our likenesses, differences, and how we can improve. It is meant to educate and entertain readers who wish to learn more about two of the world’s dominant superpowers than is currently presented through news media and pop culture, as well as provide powerful insight from someone approaching the subject from both a local and global perspective.
Escape from America is intended for a broad audience that is not limited by age, gender, or class. Anyone with an interest to truly “know” America and better understand its people will learn something; anyone with an interest to truly “know” China as a potential destination for studying, relocating, or doing business will learn something; and for anyone who is not satisfied with the status quo and feels there are better ways forward, this book will be your guide.
So what is the “payoff” for Americans and international readers? Well, suffice to say, foreign expats and local Chinese have potentially the most to gain when we head to the homestretch and lift the lid off society’s ills. However, where individual behaviors and society are concerned, there are parallels of world scale. China, in spite of its long history is still a “young” country getting its wings. Development is slow and unsteady. So was America at one time, and nearly anywhere else we can point out on a map. Sure, we from the “West” can say we’ve arrived—but have we really? Thus, many of the later chapters highlight lessons learned and solid examples framed around China, yet can apply to anywhere that exist flawed human beings.
I shall also highlight the main premise of the book, to compare and contrast both countries, and as such, promote greater appreciation and mutual understanding. As our models, might these two perceptibly disparate nations even create a paradigm shift in the global community? In other words, if America and China, why not your country or someone else’s? Wishful thinking on my part, perhaps, but countries are comprised of people, and once we cut through all the clutter, anything’s possible. Consider: Many developing nations share commonalities with China; many developed nations aspire to be like America.
I believe my “story within a story” can encourage you, whatever your background, to take a closer look at your life. Take everything into account and simply do a self-assessment. Am I happy? Is this what I envisioned? Or consequently, are things really as bad as I thought?
And make no mistake, nothing’s come easy for me; none of these decisions I’ve made or results I’ve achieved have been simple or quick. I could easily say I’ve shaved years off my life during the process. While that may be true, I still wouldn’t change anything. So, you can see the great lengths I’ve gone to for my readers: My premature death to help preserve your quality of life! But seriously, everything has worked out as it should have. On the whole, I believe this book can serve as a catalyst for stepping outside your comfort zone and setting off on your future path, no matter how outlandish it may seem.
EFA is particularly well-suited for students and young professionals. Written as an educator to help educate, readers will gain direct experience for how to think analytically, express opinions, and present themselves by following my lead. Teachers may find the material useful in the classroom, specifically in subject areas of humanities, composition, and language arts.
Wait! Maybe you’re thinking: “I live in America,” “I’ve been to China,” “I can read the news or search the web for info.” That’s true, you can. But not like this. We must balance subjectivity with objectivity and refute bias. Perhaps you have American friends or Chinese friends living abroad who can share insights about life there. Terrific. But they won’t tell you what I’ll tell you.
▫ Is America dominated by drugs, crime, and gun violence? No.
▫ Is America such a wonderful place where freedom prevails? Not always.
▫ Are Americans elitist who look down on others? Yes, some of them.
▫ What do Americans and Chinese think of each other? Read on and find out…
Why should you care about America and China? Because you can’t afford not to.
Whether we like it or not, others look up to us as a model country. They want what we have: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But I am here to say the “real” America is not quite as you expected. Neither is China. I am here to bring you the truth; the honest truth that we don’t get from biased news outlets or returning tourists boasting about their blissful journey!
EFA was first conceived when America was experiencing a major struggle, politically and economically; at the same time, China was seen as a place of great progress. I wrote a large portion of this book in America then laid it to rest until I had relocated to China and gained enough insight to produce a complete work that could bring maximum value to readers.
Can you speak objectively about your country? Or is your judgement clouded by nationalistic bias? If your answer is “yes,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s normal. We are flooded with propaganda that’s purposed to influence our thinking. We are from America, so for no other reason, we should be patriotic. The bad comes with good, negative with positive. It’s the normal order of things so we should just accept it with a shrug and a smile. But I don’t think so.
Is your nation a pleasant, problem-free place where everyone lives in peace and harmony? It’s all to do with perspective. If yours is limited then so is your judgement. Without acknowledging our deficiencies, we are doomed to live a life of vague expectations and unfulfilled potential. Harmony, in fact, does exist in China, miraculously, in spite of intense overcrowding and materialistic tendencies. Theirs is a stellar example of tolerance we’d all do well to learn from while also working to keep ignorance and avoidance at arm’s length.
Many writers write to inform; I write to inform and incite.
Let me give you a brief example. Here’s a look at an excerpt from Chapter 11 on the topic of healthcare in China, and how incessant greed serves to further exploit its existing inadequacies:
“Ticket scalping is also a common occurrence in America for such things as concerts or sporting events. It’s illegal of course… However, I have never heard of such a thing as scalping tickets for patients in need of medical attention… In my opinion, anyone who would try to take advantage of sick people, particularly those who must travel a great distance just to see a doctor, should be strung up by their balls and whipped until they’re the ones who need medical treatment!”
Yes, I want to incite a reaction out of each and every one of you with this book. I want to change your perception and persuade you to think critically, not just about America, not just about China, but about the place you call “home” and your place in it. But let me point out, this book is not politically motivated. It is designed as a cultural exchange to help us all improve our understanding of one another while better understanding ourselves.
You may be thinking, “So who is this guy and why should I care?” Good question. That’s covered in Chapter 1, but if you’d prefer not to wait…
First off, I am an American with 15 years of experience in China altogether, with the last several spent living in China. I have gone through the same day to day struggles as the locals—I ride the crowded subways to work, routinely put in 50-60 hours a week, complain about the traffic, and lament lost weekends.
Yet I am different, not just from my culture or color of my skin, but because of my acquired knowledge and experience. My experience raised in America allows me to think independently. I ask questions, I observe, and I analyze. And if the situation calls for it, I criticize.
I look beyond surface truth and see things for how they really are. I also see things from the other person’s perspective. Does it matter? Well consider all of the problems that wouldn’t exist… or couldn’t exist, if only we could “walk a mile in the other man’s shoes.” If I couldn’t do that, I would have left China after my first week. But I stayed. I found a rewarding career as an educator. And I do it well because I practice the art of communication. Psst... Be a good listener.
My experience as an international traveler has broadened my perspective and permitted me to view things globally versus locally. Why does that matter? Because when we step outside of our community and view it from afar, suddenly things change. We’re able to see the forest for the trees; once we can take a good long look at ourselves the way others see us, can we find the wherewithal to reflect upon and then reevaluate our belief system. I recall an old saying: “You don’t really know your own country until you’ve viewed it from a distance.” I’ve done that, many times. That gives me objectivity. My opinions may be debatable, but they will matter.
On a superficial level, I grew up in New York, earned my degree from Columbia, began my writing career at Forbes, and held a variety of management, marketing, and public relations positions within corporate America. I guess I could say I understand human behavior because it’s typically been my job to. In reviewing my “qualifications” here, is any of this really important? Probably not. I’ll leave it for you to judge.
I first learned about doing business at the age of 12 when I held my first job delivering newspapers. Yes, believe it or not, if I needed money for something, I was told to get a job to pay for it. How’s that for American independence? So when you arrive at a chapter topic about the value of “customer service,” you’ll know I’ve had plenty of rich experience. I mean, hey, Sunday deliveries were brutal, and we had to work hard to earn those Christmastime tips!
But to be clear, I am not a certified psychologist, sociologist, or preacher… life coach, well maybe. I am, however, an astute observer and student of life who doesn’t settle for the status quo. That’s what drove me to complete this work after many failed attempts at quitting.
Americans are cynical and opinionated. So am I.
Let me explain…
Here’s a look at an excerpt from Chapter 13 on the topic of individualism:
“While Americans are brought up to become independent, becoming individualists is a completely different thing. Our general populace is just as self-righteous and narrow-minded in this regard as anywhere else in the world. Why? I can only surmise that we are less comfortable around those who are different, whether their thinking, their dress, their demeanor, we tend to gravitate more towards those who are the same—it vindicates us in a way.”
No, dear reader, I am not presenting you with a tour guide’s image of how great America is and all the lovely cities you should visit. On the contrary, we are a flawed country that has its faults. But I’m not saying America is bad and stay away either. I am presenting you with the truth as I see it, growing up in an environment that pushes us to ask questions and question authority. In the end, what you think or don’t think of America is entirely up to you. Just be objective.
Finally arriving in China was like a dream fulfilled. But there’s another old saying:
“Be careful what you wish for, it may come true.”
Since I’ve lived in China several years my perspective has changed. Life here is difficult. It’s significantly more difficult for me as a foreigner trying to assimilate into a community and follow guidelines that don’t always make sense. No, I won’t tell you only what you prefer or expect to hear. I’m very pointed in both my praise and criticism. I don’t mean to offend. But sometimes we have to ruffle some feathers to make people think; and then, to eventually make change happen, if change can lead the way toward a better future.
I looked deeply into the mirror when I set out to write this book and all during its creation. And with this work, I’m presenting you with your own mirror to look into. Look first at your country, then look at yourselves. Do you like what you see? If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten. For some of you that may be just fine. But for many of us, it’s not enough. It shouldn’t be enough. Satisfaction is good, but dissatisfaction is even better—that’s what helps propel us further in the things that are important to us.
In all, I believe I’m pretty well qualified to share informed opinions about China—the good, the bad, and the ugly. But indeed, my viewpoints are greatly, and often completely, influenced by the able assistance of my interview subjects who helped tackle some of the most pressing concerns facing Chinese society today and further shape my own “perspective” (there’s that word again).
So lest you think I’m some arrogant interloper who thinks he has all the answers, fear not. I’ve got it covered! Sorry… “We’ve” got it covered.
In its entirety, the book is divided into 3 phases spanning from 2008 to 2016:
Phase One: Circa 2008–2010. In the First Phase, this section reveals the “real” America. You will look closely at a nation facing crisis. Telling it like it was, our dominance went dormant, and we learned hard life lessons. But we Americans are a resilient bunch. There’s plenty of personal narrative interspersed with effectual advice to give greater insight into our complex country.
Phase Two: Circa 2010–2011. In the Second Phase, we transition by bringing China into the mix, then shifting to a comparative of both countries led by panel discussions and external opinions from Americans and Chinese, culminating with my personal observances as an experienced visitor, and researcher of the subjects. As such, China is presented from a BEFORE perspective:
a.) BEFORE = Author’s views on China before relocating there.
China is cast in a positive light inasmuch as I am drawing a partially autobiographical sketch of my “Chinese connection” signifying China as a favorable location for living and business, but from a non-resident point of view. From this angle, earlier analysis gives way to educated opinion shaped by real world experience and my own future goals. This section lays the groundwork for deeper discourse in Phase Three, which reveals profound shifts in thought.
Phase Three: Circa 2011–2016. In the Third Phase, we transition again, diving in with first-person accounts led by my own revelations as a resident of both countries and later shaped by the pointed opinions of a panel of Chinese locals. Both America and China are disseminated and discussed. By this time, I’m able to extract further insight that complements and critically offsets views from Phase Two. In so doing, China is presented from an AFTER perspective:
b.) AFTER = Author’s views on China after relocating there.
China is examined more objectively from my experience living like a local. My insights are less influenced by this “wondrous place” where my dream may be fulfilled, but instead take a more judicious turn toward societal issues. The content is driven by plenty of collective input from all contributors on a variety of subjects that will matter to most anyone regardless of background.
In all, Escape from America’s purpose is to double as both a feel-good story and cautionary tale that can appeal to a broad audience.
For those who have an open mind for new ideas and who seek to create long-lasting success, read this book cover to cover. You may be tempted to skim through pages or skip chapters, but don’t. Not everything will interest you, but nearly everything will affect you. The content within key sections of EFA will provide you with a virtual blueprint for how to live your lives better and more productively, to get more out of life and give back to others.
Success, my friends, doesn’t mean settling for second best. It means being our best selves.
Thank you so much for sampling this book. I’m pleased to say that a portion of sales proceeds will be donated to help support underprivileged children throughout America and China to provide them greater opportunities for a happy, healthy life, and realize their dreams for a brighter future.
I believe we are bound only by those limits we place upon ourselves. However you define “freedom,” for it to truly exist and impact our lives for the better, we must first condition ourselves to believe we have it within us to change. Release your mind, reprogram your thinking, and recognize the possibilities.
Tomorrow starts today…