FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We Ain’t Germans

by

Although the premise seems perfectly reasonable, attempting to solve our social and economic problems by copying the demonstrably successful techniques used by other countries probably isn’t going to work.  Why?  Because, as simplistic as this sounds, there is such a thing as a “national identity,” a national consciousness, a national ethos, and what works in, say, Estonia or Luxembourg, is going to have a slim chance of working in America.

Consider:  An American businessman who spent two decades in Japan observed that the reason Japanese citizens—including Japanese businesses—file so few lawsuits is because they’re “embarrassed” to sue people.  For want of a better word, filing a lawsuit in Japan is considered “undignified.”  Not to pass judgment on which perception is right or wrong, but clearly, that outlook is alien to most Americans.  In this rights-oriented country, we file a lawsuit to get our rights.  Simple as that.

Yet, I’ve heard people suggest that one way for us to clean up and reform our deplorable judicial system is to adopt a “Japanese approach” to jurisprudence.  I’ve heard people gush over Japan’s hyper-streamlined criminal justice system, and sagely urge us to model our system on theirs.  Indeed, most Japanese trials take an astonishingly short time, the overwhelming majority of people charged with a criminal act are found guilty, and the docket is amazingly sparse.

But how could a Japanese approach ever be expected to work here?  The reason that the “Japanese approach” works in Japan is because it’s being done by and for the Japanese.  The same goes for education reform.   People point to the test results of students in Singapore and boldly declare that we should adopt the “Singaporean approach,” as if something as deeply entrenched, multi-faceted and complex as national education policy is nonetheless readily portable.

As a former labor union rep, I used to have people lecture me on the futility (and stupidity) of maintaining our adversarial “us vs. them” mentality when it came to labor-management relations, and the country they always pointed to as a shining example of working “cooperatively” with management was Germany.  Be like Germany, they would say.  Follow Germany’s example.  I heard it a dozen times.  German trade unionists sit on the board of directors of German companies.  German labor unions are management’s partners, not management’s foes.

While it’s true that Germany has a pretty remarkable record when it comes to labor-management relations (it’s not as “utopian” as some people present it, but it’s impressive), they have one profound advantage we Americans don’t have.  They’re all Germans, every last one of them.  German workers, German bosses, German factories, German equipment, German standards and a distinctly German world view.  As well-meaning as it may be, telling American union leaders that all they need to do is adopt the “German approach” is silly.

When I returned to the U.S. after spending two years in rural India, I recall seeing a 103-year old woman guest on the Jay Leno show.  Leno asked her how she most liked to spend her time, and the old woman said she liked “making whoopee” with her boyfriend.  The audience greeted her answer with applause, cheers and stomping feet.  Wow!  A 103-year old woman refusing to quit, still living the life of a younger gal, still getting it on.  Outstanding.

Had this been a 103-year old Hindu woman, and the audience composed of Indians, the response would have been decidedly different.  An elderly woman (or man) still at the mercy of the demands and temptations of the phenomenal world would have been seen as humiliating.  Old people in India wore white clothing—the antithesis of fashion.  They had replaced youthful yearning with mature wisdom.  Why did they consider that a virtue?  Because they’re Indians.

David Macaray is a playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition).  He can be reached at damacaray@yahoo.com

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail