On living in America in 2022

March 20, 2022

Hello. On February 14, 2022, I moved to America to work for Stripe . I’m super pleased to be working with Stripe’s excellent technical documentation team at a critical time for the company.

Why America? in 2022?

I struggled with my own answer to this for a long time.

America is a country with a complex history and impact on the world. After September 11, 2001, it is increasingly a country in profound moral and spiritual crisis. After the election of Donald Trump and the many geopolitical events occurring within and without during the COVID-19 pandemic, America is at an active inflection point which will define its next 100 years as a country.

Without diving too much my personal relationship with the many forces currently at play in America, the best answer I have is that while America is deeply flawed, it is the single best option. The alternatives are unbearable.

Let me break this down a bit:

  • Globally, America is the best option, and the alternatives are unbearable: If America falls as a great world power, the next successors, Russia or China, will be at a high level the same. Most of the power will be concentrated in the hands of a greedy, capricious few. However, on a low-level - the level that you and I live our lives on - we will experience markedly less freedom of expression. We will notice it. Our children will not.
  • Personally, America is the best option, though the alternatives are still on the table: Europe was too far away from my mom for me. I needed a cultural change from Vancouver. And finally, I needed access to the world’s best companies and to stop being wildly underpaid because of lines on a map. The US fits the bill for all of these things, for now.

Observances on living in America in 2022

In no particular order:

  • The military-grade helicopters circling points of interest are truly bizarre. In no other country I’ve lived in has the citizenry in general had so much continued exposure to active military equipment and personnel. I had the pleasure (?) of visiting San Francisco last year during Fleet Week, which was also truly bizarre.

  • People aren’t as rude or different as Canadians think they are: My former colleague and friend Nathan Waddington pointed this out to me, after he returned from a long sojourn in San Francisco over the pandemic. Canadians are truly so similar to Americans that it’s easy to assimilate. Our legal systems stem from the same British precedent, our banking and credit systems are near identical, culturally we are one and the same.

  • Anti-poor and racist sentiment is so subtle that you hear “nice” people say things constantly: the kinds of things my (“nice”) asian friends would whisper about in private - the idea of calling someone “urban” or “hiphop inspired” - are done more or less in the open. People do not seem to realize that they are being nearly as racist or anti-poor as they are. Google reviews of apartment buildings criticize those that have “rent stabilized” units as increasing crime in the building, etc.

  • Social/racial stratification are far more obvious here than in other parts of the world: it is no accident that most fast food workers are Black and Latina, and no accident that most patrons of the arts are white.