Myth of the ‘virtuous’ worker

Professor Dipak Basu is a shining example of someone who expresses his views on a variety of topics seemingly from his soul, and I respect him for that. He brings his faith into his arguments while casting the odd aspersion on “Western Christianity.” He does so again in his July 18 letter, “Western work ethic is wanting.”

I disagree with him that British philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill “promoted selfishness and greed” and that both were not on “God’s side.” (Does the Almighty have a side on which to be?) Nor should Basu use his overly large brush strokes to so wantonly condemn capitalism.

Pointing out to us the historical facts that Buddhism grew out of Hinduism, that Japanese psychology came under the influence of that Buddhism over the past 17 centuries and that self-sacrifice from overtime or voluntary work was accepted by the Japanese as “virtuous” is hardly relevant to modern Japanese society.

Just ask some overworked and “abused” workers if they feel that their “sacrifice” and that of their long-suffering families are in any way “virtuous.” We all know the answer to that. Basu also asserts that Japanese people came to realize that they could find “a pleasure in work that could not be found elsewhere.”

Really? They can’t find it in the bars, in the “pink world” or in their addiction to food and drink, inane television programs or baseball, etc.? Is Basu living in and observing the real Japan?

He does make some relevant points. Japan does encourage a community spirit and voluntary service. It does discourage individualism with all of its concomitant ills for society, but I’m not sure I agree when he says “organizations try to create a community of workers of one for all and all for one.” Could he tell us of such an organization in an urban setting? Having taught and counseled Japanese business people for 16 years, I have never met any man or woman who could fit Basu’s ideal image of a “virtuous” worker.

Yes, Japanese society is relatively safe but it is hardly “unique”! The points Basu raises accurately illustrate that safety. But if all he says is true and Japan is so wonderful, why does it have the third-largest suicide rate in the world?

Basu shows us by his opinions that he believes the naked king to be dressed in fine clothes. Is this lack of vision perhaps a result of a religious belief that reality is an illusion?

paul gaysford
tokyo

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.