“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968


Friday, 22 February 2013

Is there life before death?

It's strange how certain phrases creep into the language and suddenly seem to be on everyone's lips. "Work Ethic" is one such phrase. It used to come with the prefix "protestant"; the "protestant work ethic". Hard work was supposedly, along with thrift and sobriety, the hallmark of the grim faced protestants. Quite unlike those lazy, drunken papists. These days the protestant bit is generally dropped but work ethic has become a kind of mantra for success in any field. Time was when an athlete might attribute a recent win to hard training. Now it would all be about having a "good work ethic". A recent study by the Institute Of Education suggests that our brightest maths students are lagging behind their Chinese counterparts by the time they are sixteen and high on the list of possible causes for this aberration is the well known "Chinese enhanced work ethic". Ah! I thought as much.
Do the Chinese have an enhanced work ethic and if so is it in any way connected to China's appalling suicide rate among it's workers?
Anyway, this failing on the part of our kids is  certainly something else for aspirational middle class parents to worry about. There is little that I can say that will alleviate their concerns about possible family disgrace and penury but the following anecdote may offer some small consolation. A few years back I was working on a film location for a costume drama. It was a complex job involving a number of small vessels, mock ups of sailing ships etc.and at one stage I had to consult one of the location scaffolders about some problem or other. Scaffolders are not a breed noted for being backward in coming foreword and this one was no exception. "Look mate," he said, " the Chinese have been cooking for fifty thousand years and they still haven't quite fucking mastered it. You can't expect me to be on top of this in a couple of days".  We grinned at each other and went our separate ways. Whatever problems the future might hold for us ,"enhanced work ethic" was unlikely to be one of them.

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