Down with the Asian Work Ethic!

Americans are supposed to worry that many people from Asia work 12 hours a day and send their kids to school and study for even longer. This is supposed to scare us into changing our ways like the Sputnik satellite did in the 1950’s.

How can we compete with them globally? moan the angst-mongers.

Their obvious answer—obviously stupid—is that we need to send our kids to school six days a week, 250 days a year, and that we need to get used to 10 hour work days at the very least.

Without any consciously racist intentions, I say to hell with those “Asian” lifestyles! We do not need to live like them—ever! Humankind did not invent tools and wheels and technological wonders in order to force himself to work twelve hours a day. If that’s where technological society is headed—running ever faster on the gerbil-wheel of work and study—then it’s time to chew our way out of this plastic terrarium.

Hard work is fine, but extra hard work is cheating. It’s the exact same thing as product-dumping, where a county temporarily exports goods at an unsustainably low price just to eliminate the competing sellers from other nations.

People that work or study 12 hours day know that that’s not a sustainable lifestyle. Many will admit that they just do this for their kids, so that they will not have to work as hard or as often as they have—which is an admission that theirs is no way to live!

Unsustainability is not the only similarity between extra hard work & study and product-dumping. There is also the issue of deception and false outcomes. That cheap Chinese product isn’t really that inexpensive—it’s a deception. And we pay for that deception later when the honest competitors are eliminated.

A similar deception occurs in our education system. Studying hard allows students with no cultivatable aptitude for a particular subject to excel and “outperform” (in grades, never in classroom discussion) the student with a natural aptitude and love for a subject, but who only studies that knowledge on the whims of his/her love for it.

The economic deception of extra hard work is even worse than the educational deception of studying extra hard. The promised reward of extra drudgery is a deferred “good life” for the children. And yet, prior to age 14, what really makes kids’ lives better is leisure time shared with enthusiastic parents, not stuff purchased through hard work away from the home, especially work which leaves the parents in an unenthusiastic mood when they are briefly home.

(True, after age 14, the kids just want your money and wish you were at work more often, but that’s a digression…)

Enough human product dumping! When you sell your work you’re selling your life, so if you’re willing to work extra hard for less you are literally cheapening the value of human life, like a murderer.

Children should not be allowed to study more than two hours a day after school. Any child caught studying (or needing to study) more than two hours will be expelled into a remedial program designed to instill a genuine love and understanding of knowledge such that rote learning is not necessary at all. Oh wait, that’s what education is supposed to be! Well then, consider it extra intensive education or just a change of teachers…

The point is that the students who DON’T need that “extra education” (inadvertently paraphrasing Pink Floyd here!) are not penalized by the education system as they are now.

In the workplace, everyone should bust their ass for thirty-five hours and only thirty-five hours per week—it was good enough for President Reagan, so case closed. Anything after thirty-five hours better be overtime with a damn good excuse from the boss for keeping me home from my real life.

No more deferring lives for fictitious future good lives—given our levels of technology and productivity, the good life is either here and now or it simply cannot exist. Our parents and grandparents busted their ass and risked their necks so that we, their descendants, could enjoy the good life.

We owe it to them to show that their efforts were not in vain. We owe it to them to stop working extra hard.

(c) 2011, Alan Brech

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