Saturday, September 12, 2009

Like Omar Khayyam...

Yep, Chen's in prizzin. Fer life. But he'll probably get pardoned some KMT hack President (or a desperate Ma) who wants to curry favor with the greens or some newly-elected DPP President, I don't know, but it'll get done.

Other bloggers have said plenty about that, so I'll share something not-quite-Taiwan related that I saw on the Washington Post website. Except it is Taiwan-related, because Taiwanese people (and Japanese, and Chinese, and Korean, and American) people work too damn much. I don't know what the answer is, but it has to involve a massive cultural shift. One person saying "no more" is not one of the drops that fills an ocean, it's just another person who will probably lose their job in the next round of layoffs. The entire overworked world (hey, Europe, you don't count, and neither do you, Australia) needs to stand up at once and say "No! It's 6pm and I am going home to be with my loved ones." If we had a world where people could and did refuse to take on the work of others at the expense of their personal lives, we might have fewer layoffs as companies realized that laying off A and increasing the workloads of B, C and D was no longer a viable option.

Of course, I am not an economist and even I know that that would wreak havoc in a free-market system...and since non-free-market systems don't seem to work, I don't know what to say.

But it has to happen. As Hax says - we're fat, we're sedentary, we're linear-thinking. We drive angry, we think angry, we're touchier than ever. We have no communities and our kids are screwed up. People travel less (unless they're European, natch) and so horizons are narrow. It's a problem even in prosperous times. And it's got to stop.

Unless, of course, you love your job or the long hours have definite benefits (like 3-month vacations or something). If you love what you do, 60 hours a week is nothing. I happen to love most of what I do - I could live without the reports and paperwork - but I wouldn't want to do it for 60 hours a week...and let's face it, most people either dislike, barely tolerate or outright hate their jobs.

From the column:

Bay Area: How do people work so much? Seriously. Maybe I'm being a big baby, because I've only been working at a real job for 2.5 years and before that (in school) I did summer camp and restaurant jobs, but I am baffled by people who work two jobs, or 60-80 hours per week. I work hard and I'm good at my job, even though I hate it, because it's getting me somewhere I want to go. But even 50 hours per week means I don't work out or cook or see my boyfriend. I consider these things essential elements of a life worth living, and I guess I'm just wondering how people make it all fit (with KIDS!?!?! HOW?) or if really most of people's lives is work. I feel like such a wimp because I'm so overwhelmed working hours that seem like they should be reasonable. Is it an age thing? My friends seem similarly overwhelmed, we're 24-25ish.

Carolyn Hax: I don't think it's an age thing to find so much work unappealing. Maybe being new to it means you aren't in the habit the way others are, but you can be in the habit and still feel that it's wrong.

I, for one, find it appalling/discouraging/soul-sucking the amount of time people spend at work these days. It's bad for health, bad for relationships, bad for kids, bad for pets, bad for communities, bad for homes and gardens and arts and other expressions of our less linear selves. And it has only gotten worse as the people with jobs--the fortunate ones--have been asked to do the work of the people who've lost their jobs.

We're fat and sedentary, we drive angry, our kids watch too much tv, we don't read enough, or nurture our emotional connections enough? No kidding.

I'm sorry to sound so pessimistic and angry. There are plenty of people who have resisted these forces, who make conscious decisions to choose flexible careers, forgo income, live within their means, invest in their own priorities, like their kids and communities, to the benefit of all. But just anecdotally, it seems as if resisting the work-work-work trend isn't just a simple choice--it takes people who have more than the average amount of certain things: focus, options, willpower, independent wealth even.

I don't know what the answer is, except for each person to fight for quality-of-life priorities, and hope that, culturally, we come to our senses.

On another note, I wonder if my Grandma L. would pop a gasket if I didn't wear white for the wedding. I like this dress color scheme:

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