Western work ethic is wanting

In his July 11 letter, “Abnormal way to run a workday,” Grant Piper raises a philosophical doctrine that is very Western: We live not to work, but we work to live. Indeed, this supports the utilitarian theories of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, two British philosophers of capitalism who promoted selfishness and greed, which cannot be on God’s side.

As Buddhism grew out of Hinduism and Japanese psychology came under the influence of Buddhism over the past 17 centuries, self-sacrifice from “overtime” or voluntary work was accepted by the Japanese people as virtuous. One could find a pleasure in work that could not be found elsewhere.

From primary school on, Japanese society encourages community spirit and voluntary service, such as when children clean their schools and help junior students. Individualism is discouraged. In school sports, group competition is the rule. Stronger children compensate for the performance of weaker ones.

In the workplace, there are regular consultations on how to improve company performance. Organizations try to create a community of workers of one for all and all for one. There is no separate staff canteen for workers and executives. In this environment, “overtime” becomes a duty toward fellow workers.

The result is a unique society with very little crime, where women can walk home from work at midnight without being molested, where 5-year-old children can go to school alone.

What will happen if Japan adopts Western ways?

Expect millions more homeless, uneducated, unemployed people. The Western system and its philosophy aren’t even attractive to many Westerners. Wasn’t that the reason for the Occupation movement against Wall Street?

dipak basu
nagasaki

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • tomado

    Yeah, it must be just horrible living in Sweden, Norway and Denmark where men and women can equally share family life and family vacations. Why do fathers need to see their children anyway? I’m sure they would just get in the way of their dutiful housewives. All for one and one for all! That’s how people feel as they toil away on the line! Yes, Japan is unique. Other countries are just all the same. And Japan can thank the “psychology” of Hinduism, after all. Individual human freedom is such a corrosive and western idea. Down with the west!

  • Cecilia Flynn

    The trouble with the west is Mothers also must work full time if you don’t want to live in virtual poverty, Germany being the exception where stay at home Mothers are encouraged but for how long as things are changing even there. You were originally criticising Japanese fathers for not having enough family time while chauvinistically calling their wives dutiful housewives and holding up the West as the fairer option Sweden in particular.
    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2012/02/27/sweden-is-discovering-the-cost-of-pushing-mothers-back-into-work/
    in the West children are denied not only fathers but Mothers also as they are farmed out to strangers in day-care how you see this as an improvement, I can’t begin to imagine!
    I agree with Basu Japan has little crime, woman and children are safe on the streets, that
    In the workplace, there are regular consultations on how to improve company performance. Organizations try to create a community of workers of one for all and all for one. There is no separate staff canteen for workers and executives. Whereas in the West greed is all, the elites exploit the workers, profit before people.
    As for being embarrassed about touting the place where I come from as superior, I only wish I could. Unfortunately I am one of the Westerners of whom he speaks who find it’s system and philosophy unattractive.