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View Diary: The Value - and Devaluation - of the Work Ethic (192 comments)

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  •  As Someone Who Works With Japanese... (none)
    ...I can say that Japan is one nation where work is almost a religious calling. It isn't passionate or emotional, but it is tremendously important. In Japan, you are your job.

    Indeed, it can be so important that some men commit suicide if they lose their jobs, or if they screw up badly.

    That's all changing. In some ways, it's a shame, but in other ways, there's just something wrong when someone commits suicide over a job loss, and it is somehow accepted by society.

    Nevertheless, the Japanese Work Ethic is an awesome thing. They aren't necessarily superior beings, but I feel quite honored to have become so intimately involved with it. It does encourage me to become more involved in my own work.

    I wouldn't want to work their way, however. There are serious drawbacks to it (which is why I have my job).

    I do have to qualify my statements by saying that I am always in Tokyo, which is Japan's distilled essence of "Type A Personalities." The rest of the country may be far more relaxed.

    But I have to agree with you as to the values of the two parties. In Japan, the Democrats would not be socialist enough. Japan is a very social (I won't say socialist, as that is a loaded word) country. Everyone is always keenly aware of their place in Society. -Not caste, place. They have a "sort of" caste system, but it is not at all like India or England (me Mum's British, and I certainly learned a lot about "place" from her)-

    One thing that I get pretty disgusted with is the idea that we can't have a big government. Almost every other developed nation on Earth has a more intrusive government than ours. Sometimes it has its benefits, sometimes not. The British get pretty disgusted with their NHS, but I guarantee that they would rise up in arms if Blair tried to make it an American system.

    The Republicans can't handle government of any size at all. They are an unmitigated disaster. A bigger government under Republican rule is a bigger disaster, as we are so painfully finding out.

    No, the size of government has nothing to do with it. It has a lot more to do with the values and work ethics of those who run the government.

    Ah, I can pontificate about this crap for hours (which I don't have -back to the salt mines).

    Basically, I encourage everyone on Earth to "get out more." This is something Americans are notoriously bad at. In Europe, you have no choice, as every country is smaller than most American states, and in Japan, you have half the population of the US crammed into an area the size of California.

    "[T]hat I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake."

    by Heronymous Cowherd on Sat Feb 04, 2006 at 06:08:02 PM PST

    •  married to a Japanese woman for 20 yrs.... (none)
      and I still don't understand the culture as I think I should. That said (don't know why that phrase annoys me), I have learned some things that may be helpful to understanding nonamericans. First, the Japanese know who they are. They have a long rich culture that supports who they are. A job is something they do, not something exterior to their identity. Unlike Americans, who I think lack a personal identity, at least compared to more established cultures. It seems one of the most important identifiers is our job title. Usually the first question I am asked,when meeting someone new, is "what do you do". Not who I am. So a failed job in Japan is a personal failure. Wouldn't it be nice if our leaders felt the same? If they felt the way Japan's leaders do we wouldn't have anyone left to run the country.lol

      Another interesting philosophy Japan has, is the creation of the best bottom half. I don't know of any scholars here talking about that, nor have I heard anyone other than Japanese mention it. By the way, the export of American ingenuity often heard in scholarly circles as accounting for their success is, in my opinion, a total myth.

      The best bottom half means that their societal efforts are to constantly raise their bottom half, because if their bottom half is the best in the world, it is likely that the remaining top half will be the best in the world, as well. Imagine that! If you give more help to those who need it the most, the rest will rise with them. This is a very revealing philosophy. Not only do they know who they are, but they care about what they will become. The current Ameican philosophy is " I gotta get mine before anyone else does". Or, from a more Republican view, "create the best top 1% and screw the rest". Just look at the differences in ceo pay compared to Japan's ceo's.

      I think one of the important things that I have learned that distinguishes me as an American from  European and Asian cultures, is that they have both a sense of who they are historically, and who they are now. Culture is a big deal, really! Especially when the only one you know is what corporate America tells you. Our culture is postmodern consumerism, our history is the last newscast we watched. Look at our cities (usually reflective of a culture that occupies it), there's little history. Buidings are either in a state of decay or being rebuilt with a guaranteed lifespan of 40 years. So what does it matter if a leader fails us, in two weeks no one will remember, unless of course they write a book telling us how they lied, cheated and whatever. And then we go out and buy the book! Why then should anyone consider commiting suicide when their deeds are so rewarding?

      I didn't mean to rant, but we have so much to learn from others. America is still a very young country, trying to establish a lasting culture. If we are suceesful in establishing good human values that will carry us into the future, that is fortunate. If, however, I think what concerns many of us, is the current culture cannot be sustained into the future. It rewards our most greediest of values, and ignores our more generous ones.

      Thanks for mentioning Japan, and yes, Americans need to get out more.

      •  You Said It, Bud (none)
        Yeah, that "Best Bottom Half" is a really big thing.

        I remember seeing a show about education in the US, Germany and Japan. They pointed out that when a student excels in a US class, the teacher usually singles them out for more intensive learning. In Japan, they are put to helping the less capable students do better. Germany was sort of in between. The general consesus of the show seemed to indicate that Germany did the best job of producing a larger number of high achievers, the US was better at producing "stars," but that Japan tended to produce entire classes of fairly high achievers.

        The history thing is heavy-duty. I grew up overseas. I remember walking around Mikonos and Pompeii. I've been to temples (outside Tokyo, which was bombed flat) that are 2,000 years old, and the Japanese shrug them off as "fairly new."

        You are dead-on about the culture.

        "[T]hat I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake."

        by Heronymous Cowherd on Sun Feb 05, 2006 at 04:52:00 AM PST

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        •  Thanks... (none)
          I envy your growing up overseas.

          Also, your comments about the outcomes of education in the three countries referenced fits with my world view, as well.

          yasau!

          •  With a Login Like "Zorba"... (none)
            ...I'd a thunk you had grown up at least Hellenic.

            Unfortunately, I don't speak Greek, but I am familiar with "Yasau!", as I live in NY, and it seems as if every Greek around here has it on their bumper.

            "[T]hat I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake."

            by Heronymous Cowherd on Sun Feb 05, 2006 at 11:53:57 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Greek in spirit... (none)
              but an eclectic Hungarian. I spent several years in a Greek community (almost extinct now) in the Los Angeles area learning to play bouzouki, and other adventures. I feel most at home in Eurpoe, especially Greece. I grew up in a HUngarian neighborhood (also extinct) in Cleveland eons ago, and still long for that sense of belonging I felt there, and now in Europe.

              New York maintains many cultures, California seems to demolish them, with few exeptions.

              Thanks for the dialogue.

              "A city without history is like a person without memory."

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