Most people in North America will look at the title of this blog and think I'm talking about the USA when I speak about America. They would be wrong. I see America as those who live in North America. This was not my view when I left Canada, my home country, to live in China 17 years ago.
When you're an expatriate, perceptions of your country of birth change because you get to see it as an outsider. You also get to see, in a much clearer way, the influence it has on the rest of the world and the influence other countries have on it.
China taught me many things. It thrust me into a situation where I was a minority, and I experienced racism on an almost daily basis. China taught me how things could look so right and correct on the surface but be so very wrong behind the scenes. China taught me how they control 1.3B people. I learned how the "west" interacts with China and projects it's truths onto it; and just how risky this can be. It taught me the difference between information and propaganda.
In my 15 years being outside looking in, I've learned that America is not much different from China particularly in how they deal with propaganda and political information. I learned that Canada had become far more like the USA than we care to admit. Yes, we still have the cultural differences of assimilation versus diversity, but the way we deal with propaganda and information is the same. This was made clear during this pandemic. We also saw how our governments handled the information about the virus was very similar to how China handled the information in their country.
China has made education a prime directive to its people. They have made it cheap and accessible. They have also controlled every aspect of it. They advertised to the world how well-educated people are there and toted the strength of their universities to produce brilliant graduates. I have met many knowledgeable people from my experience working in the high-tech industries in China. I can also say that there are just as many who have degrees that cannot practice what they claim. Even those that are intelligent and capable seem to be unable to consider issues critically. They are also very reluctant to ask questions even when safety is at stake.
When the pandemic emerged, China spent great efforts to control the news coming from Wuhan. They underreported the severity, silenced doctors and hospitals and lied to the public about what was happening. America did the same thing, except they were not quite as good at the game. The US government denied that it was a problem and talked about it going away in the spring. They tried to silence the CDC and the medical leadership. The Canadian government has fumbled through because the leadership is completely inept and, for some reason, thought that it was a good idea to trust the Chinese. All of these acts cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
The disturbing reality is that these governments did this without being held accountable for their actions. In the case of the USA, their government has changed, hopefully for the better. The Chinese have a leader for life, so I see their situation worsening, not improving, in the future. Canada may soon have an opportunity to elect a more competent government with a better understanding of what it is to lead.
When dealing with any foreign culture, trust is a big issue. When we talk about the safety culture in the west, most of us understand the term. We understand that safety comes first. We understand that when dealing with safety issues, we do so in a scientific, methodical way.
But remember what the pandemic has taught us. In some people's minds, safety is not first. The preservation of their reality is, to them, the most important outcome. What happens to anyone else is not their concern because the rest of us cannot or will not hold them accountable.