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Asians almost spiritual with their work ethic

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Dear Editor,

This letter pertains to a recent Sunday Observer news item, "J'can workers laud Chinese work ethic." Many years ago when I was in the United States military, I had the opportunity to spend some time on the island of Okinawa, one of the main Japanese islands.

On entering the base, one of the first things I noticed was Japanese men working on a roof. I could tell from just a few minutes' observation that these men were disciplined and coordinated and I was immediately filled with admiration.

I stayed in Japan for an entire year and was able to learn a few things about their culture, and also about the Asian culture in general. Asians, specifically those from the Far East, take their work so seriously that one could compare it to a spiritual experience. It is reasonable to conclude that with this kind of attitude, success is inevitable.

When I was growing up it was commonplace to display this kind of dedication to our work, and there are many who still do, but unfortunately not enough. What went wrong? How could we have deteriorated to this state where we are so filled with admiration observing others who are committed to their work? My explanation is that we have traded in values for votes and contacts. Corrupt politicians, in their lust for votes and money, have granted political favours and failed to uphold high standards (work, moral, ethical, etc.).

When I was growing up it was commonplace to display this kind of dedication to our work, and there are many who still do, but unfortunately not enough. What went wrong? How could we have deteriorated to this state where we are so filled with admiration observing others who are committed to their work? My explanation is that we have traded in values for votes and contacts. Corrupt politicians, in their lust for votes and money, have granted political favours and failed to uphold high standards (work, moral, ethical, etc.).

There are too many men in positions of power in corporations who have traded in sexual favours for positions and promotions. I will give you an example. Many years ago I had a conversation with this guy who had worked for an airline. He told me that one of the problems the airline had was hiring people because of who they knew rather than what they knew. He told me that he had witnessed an incident where a supervisor had asked a worker to perform a task which she refused to do and then threatened the supervisor that she would let the big boss know about it. One could infer that she was sleeping with the big boss and that in effect placed her in a position of power where she could do just about anything and get away with it.

The same goes with corrupt politicians. I have often heard of workmen on job sites who got their job because of political connections and when told to do their work, they refused and threatened the foreman. Often the foreman would count his blessings that he was still alive and resigned himself to the fact that he could do absolutely nothing about these hoodlums who were essentially in control of the job site.

The point of the matter is that we didn't get to this place of ineffectiveness and inefficiency by mere coincidence. This has been caused by years of engaging in all sorts of destructive behaviour leading us to where we are today. But it is not too late. In reality, what we have been learning from the Chinese is nothing new; it is just a reminder of who we once were.

Norman Edmonson

bigupja2@hotmail.com



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