Alan Sakowitz, a whistleblower of a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme masterminded by Scott Rothstein, fraudster extraordinaire, tells the story of his decision to turn in Rothstein regardless of the possible dangerous ramifications of such a decision. The saga of Rothstein’s rise and fall which included a Warren Yacht, two Bugattis, Governor Crist, the former Versace mansion, The Eagles, and even the murder of a law partner, is the stuff that Hollywood movies are made from.
Instead of the mere accounting of such a scandal, Sakowitz uses the Rothstein scheme as a cautionary tale in stark contrast to the stories of humble, ethical individuals living within Sakowitz’s neighborhood in North Miami Beach, Florida. Sakowitz’s neighbors are people who have spent their lives trying to assist others, not line their pockets, and through these stories Sakowitz creates a sharp dichotomy between the greed, of a Rothstein and its mainstream culture of consumption and the charity, kindness and selflessness of a principle-oriented community. Indeed, Sakowitz speaks to the symptoms of a culture that could create a Scott Rothstein, and, though acknowledging that the easy way out is not simple to dismiss, offers remedies to the growing ills of our entitlement society. The answer, Sakowitz says, lies in thinking first of others, and how one’s actions should benefit the lives of friends, not one’s short-term gratifications.
Review: Before I begin, I guess I better post two things. 1) Most of you who follow my reviews, or read my reviews every now and again, know that I post spoilers and give my opinion. 2) You also know that I usually only read fiction.
So this review is going to be a bit different. First, the book is non-fiction. Second, I’m not posting spoilers – I’m urging you to get out there, get the book, and read it! It’s very possible that I would probably have never read this book, because it is non-fiction. I haven’t read non-fiction since I graduated high school over 15 years ago. With that said, I will forever thank Alan Sakowitz for asking me if I’d like a copy to read and review. This book will hit the heart of you – “on the right side.”
The title, “Miles Away … Worlds Apart” fits the book exactly. I don’t think Alan could’ve have given it a better title. Not only do you get the selfish, egotiscical, greedy, manipulative world of Scott Rothstein, you get the mirror opposite of Alan’s world – filled with heartfelt stories of the selfless, decent, compassionate people who are his family, his friends, and his community.
After reading the book, the one saying that keeps coming to mind is: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I sincerely sort-of feel bad for the investors that got sucked in by Rothstein’s image. And the reason I state “sort-of” is because, like Alan, those red flags should have been setting off alarms by the dozen. If they chose to ignore the warnings completely, then they kind of deserve to be in the position they are now. They had the choice to walk away. They didn’t.
Alan, I commend you. Not only did you take those red flag warnings to heart, you chose not to brush it aside like I’ll bet others did; out of sight, out of mind. No, you chose to do the selfless, decent thing: you chose to blow Rothstein’s scheme right out of the water. You protected countless others who might have been sucked in if Rothstein had a chance at them. I’ll bet there are hundreds of people out there who are proud of you. I know I am. And there’s another reason for that as well…
Those of you who know me personally know that I have a hard time reading anything that includes religion. I am Roman Catholic. That will never change, no matter if anyone argued until they were blue in the face. I have a hard time reading books that push other religions; as if stating that I’m completely in the wrong and this is the way it should be. But Alan didn’t do that. Not one iota. With the wonderful stories that he included in his book, he didn’t press upon his religion. Any mention of it was more like for the benefit of the reader, so that the reader better understands his religion. What he did press upon, was humanity; on kindness, selflessness, compassion, decency. Plain and simple. No matter the religion, people all over the world should be like this. Acts of kindness, of decency, should be done because a person is in need. There shouldn’t be an ulterior motive. It shouldn’t be because it makes you feel good. It should be all about the person who needs it. Any acts of kindness I’ve done, any that I know I’ll do in the future, have nothing to do with me and how I feel. If someone asked, would I admit that those acts made me feel good? Of course I’ll admit it – I’m not a liar. But I didn’t do it for me. To know that, whatever help I gave, was appreciated, to know that person will be okay, that’s more than enough for me. I don’t need anything in return. I don’t even need a smile, or a thank you. Because, in my heart, I know I did the right thing, the decent thing, and that’s all I need.
When my children are older (as we are French, my children haven’t started taking English classes as of yet) I will have them read Alan’s book. I know they will learn from it. I know I did.