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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

ethical work ethic

I was recently attending a presentation of some research done by undergraduates in the IM-SURE (Integrated Micro/Nano Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) program, an NSF REU here at UCI (how's that for acronyms and abbreviations?). at one point, Said Shokair, the director of the program, was expounding on his admiration for the drive of these undergrads. I didn't write it down at the time, so this is a paraphrase, but he said something like "Some of these students were in the lab at 9:00 on Saturday. Now that's a good work ethic."

I don't understand. why is having no social life synonymous with a good work ethic? why is having a one-track mind that does nothing but research a good work ethic? why is not having the desire to broaden one's horizons with other pursuits a good work ethic?

now, I'm not saying I haven't had my share of late Friday and Saturday nights plugging away at the code, but I try not to make a habit of it. I also recognize that these kids were in a summer program in a town where they knew only the other kids in the program, probably didn't have a car, and had nothing to do other than work. however, the problem remains that most people see an excess of hours and a sacrifice of other interests as a good work ethic.

it's pretty common knowledge that in other countries like Australia and France, they think Americans work way too much. in Australia, a good employee is one who clocks his 8 hours, goes home to spend the evening with his family, and goes to the beach to surf on the weekends. in France, the standard work day is 7 hours, with a 2-hour break for lunch, making an absolutely full week 35 hours of work. they think Americans work way too much. then again, on the other side, in Japan the work week is 6 days, 10 hours a day. so, a large part of that is cultural, which I guess is what I'm questioning. I'm questioning a culture that encourages the sacrifice of sanity maintaining pasttimes and social relationships for the purpose of work. and how important is this work? why is it being pursued with such fervor? personal gain? betterment of man? Pirsig comes to mind...

"Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle."

this is a little extreme for me, and maybe it's not related but is just on my mind since I came across the quote last night. however, in a round-about way it gets at what I'm saying. why the hardcore, burnout, work-til-you-drop mentality? I'm all for going all out, but I'm also for not losing one's sanity in the process.


  • The reason why is expounded upon immensly in Ishmael, in that hard work of that nature has become a virtue since life is viewed as a struggle to our culture, just to a lesser degree to the French and Austrailans. Speaking of which, I'm totally going to live in Australia at some point, because it's totally awesome. I'd also love to try living in France, but then I'd be French.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, October 06, 2005 12:23:00 AM  

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