Undercover as a low-wage worker

My very ability to work tirelessly hour after hour is a product of decades of better-than-average medical care, a high-protein diet, and workouts in gyms that charge $400 or $500 a year. If I am now a productive fake member of the working class, it’s because I haven’t been working, in any hard physical sense, long enough.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America

 

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Housework isn’t gymwork

“If you want to be fit, just fire your cleaning lady and do it yourself.” “Ho ho,” is all I say, since… I can’t explain that this form of exercise is totally asymmetrical, brutally repetitive, and as likely to destroy the musculoskeletal structure as to strengthen it.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America

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In other words, this is bullshit.

Making the consumers do the work

Wages for Facebook may seem outlandish, but companies increasingly reduce labor costs by transferring the labor costs to consumers in self-checkout grocery lines, as well as in the building of IKEA furniture, whereas the consumer does the work for free.

Nicole Shippen, Decolonizing Time

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Except the fucking machine in cvs MALFUNCTIONED the last time I bought condoms and tampons…

I would push back by saying that consumers want to do it themselves sometimes. The process of building your own furniture can be part of the thrill, like playing with Lego. Even for people who do not enjoy building furniture, they do so willingly – knowing that it is part of a trade-off for convenience or price.

As for self-checkout counters, we don’t really want to buy the service of a cashier anyway. We just want to buy the goods from the grocery store. It’s irrelevant to consumers whether they checked it out themselves or someone checked it out for them. The faster and more convenient one is preferred. And for those who prefer cashiers, there’s always the option of going to the cashier.

The strange thing is in Singapore where the “self-checkout” cashiers are accompanied by a store attendant to make sure you know how to use it and maybe not steal stuff. Perhaps its part of a teething process.

Creativity in Japanese schools

“It seems to me that juku are sending a message to kids that they really don’t have to pay attention at regular school because they’re going to learn the same thing at juku later. That’s one problem. Another is that Japanese children aren’t rewarded for independent thinking. I remember going to class one time and the teacher was saying, ” Okay, everyone, let’s be more creative. What are the things you need to do to be creative? Write them on the blackboard.

Ezra Vogel, “What happened to number one?” in Reimagining Japan

 

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Kumon means suffering btw. The face tells it all.

Juku is basically tuition centers, or cram schools for entrance examinations. These criticisms can be applied to the Singapore education system as well. It is hard to inculcate creativity though. There needs to be a deeper change in culture in order to encourage creativity.

More about how tuition centers are ridiculous some other time.

Should Japan accept more immigrants?

“The current system is cleverer than it seems. The thinking underlying the system is: “We don’t give a lot of work permits, so foreigners work illegally, and if they get in trouble we can send them home very easily.” So foreigners come over as students — fairly smart people come in — and they work illegally. They probably get lower pay because they are illegal; and if they do anything wrong, they get sent home. It’s unfair, and it’s illegal, but it’s a better system than people will acknowledge openly because they don’t like to admit that they are doing things illegally. Some say Japan must admit many more immigrants. I’m not persuaded that’s absolutely necessary.”

Ezra Vogel, “What happened to number one?” in Reimagining Japan

 

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JK that’s not Japan. Construction in most places (outside of Singapore and maybe Dubai) is still done by locals mostly. 

 

The problem of illegal immigrants is like prostitution — something that is outwardly deplorable, but something that law enforcement has to turn a blind eye to because they serve a need. Sometimes, the two overlap.

Wealth as a multiplier

Since wealth is a personality multiplier, it is also an experience multiplier. If you are miserable when you are middle class, you will likely be even more miserable when you are wealthy because all the mental states that cause you to be miserable, such as greed, cruelty, paranoia, and inner turmoil, get multiplied. Similarly, if you’re happy when you’re middle class, you’re likely to be even happier wealthy, for the same reason; mental states that brought you happiness – such as generosity, kindness, and inner peace – multiply, thereby multiplying happiness.

Chade Meng Tan, Joy on Demand

 

In other words, having a lot of money wouldn’t change your life — not the direction of it at least.

The fundamental problem of Japan

“To me the fundamental problem Japan faces now is not the aging population or anything like that; the country needs a political system with the capacity to respond to effectively to problems in a long-term way. I think there was an elite community of talented people who, through the 70s provided coherence in planning for the future. This coherence ended in the 90s, when there was a collapse of parties. Japan hasn’t built the right political system to put things back together again.”

Ezra F. Vogel, “What happened to number one?” in Reimagining Japan

 

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Ezra Vogel is a professor emiritus in Sociology at Harvard.

Reimagining Japan is a thick book (mainly because of its good quality glossy paper) edited by McKinsey, compiling articles from various influential figures.

I would also add that books written by huge consulting firms need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as they are often written with the intention of profiling their own clients and companies (and we often do not know who these clients are!). But since this is a compilation, I think each piece should be somewhat more credible.