January 20th, 2022
So, as part of reacclimatizing myself to Canadian life, I’m still pondering as to whether what we have here is actually any better than what the average Mexican has. As I’ve mentioned before, people in less developed countries seem, on the whole, to be more satisfied with life than we are.
Why are people in less developed countries seemingly happier and more satisfied than in developed countries? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
- less junk
- More day to day freedom
- Bronze/ silver/ gold
The first two are quite straight forward. The third, I think, is an interesting concept.
The theory is that a bronze medal winner is happier than a silver medal winner even though, rationally, bronze is not as good as silver. To get a bronze medal you are happy not to have come in 4th and gotten nothing at all but to get a silver medal you are tantalizingly close to gold and are unhappy that you aren’t at the very top.
This can apply to socioeconomic status. As an average citizen of a not-so-wealthy country you are likely happy to have good food to eat, basic medical care, and a place to call home You appreciate it because you know that one step below that is misery. The gold medal lifestyle is so far out of reach that it’s not something very many people waste their time aspiring to. But as an average citizen of our society most of us see the gold medal just out of reach but don’t appreciate our silver medal status because we feel entitled to at least a social assistance bronze level existence (and I do think everyone deserves at least bronze; but social assistance is a mess). Those in the bronze medal position don’t appreciate it either because they are confident that 4th place (destitute) is not a possibility. It’s an ingrained entitlement that results from growing up in an affluent society.
I’ve often mused that the reason my Jamaican and Mexican crew are happy to show up for work every day, and work hard to better their place in this world, is because they’ve seen what can happen. It has never been lost on me that seeing abject poverty first hand on a regular basis is very healthy for ones appreciation of what one has. But I’ve never been able to break it down beyond that.
I have, however, thought on many occasions that it would do us all good to see how poor so many of our fellow humans are and then appreciate what we have. My belief is that this disconnect is the cause of a lot of things, including the ridiculous levels of regulation that are being rammed down everyones throats in the name of improving our lifestyle. Many of us travel to these less wealthy countries because our dollar goes much farther. And I don’t think we are hurting these countries by doing so. But you absolutely have to leave the resort to see reality; and even then, tour guides almost always manage to shelter us from the worst. At least we get a bit of a sense of how the average person lives. How badly the neighbourhood smells of sewage is usually a good indicator.
For our Jamaican and Mexican employees, life experience has taught them that a fourth place finish is a very real and possible scenario. So they come to work happy to know that, if they do their part, they are insulating themselves and their family from the possibility of being destitute and; there is now a very real possibility that they might actually attain some level of the silver existence most of us have. They generally aren’t tainted with the notion that somehow they might, or should, someday attain a gold medal existence.
Let me better define how happy they are to come to work every day and how much they appreciate their job and opportunity. With a crew of 24 guys for an average of 6-7 months each we probably lose the equivalent of a couple hours each for appointments, illness, etc. A total of a few days of lost time between 24 employees! My Canadian employees average more than a day a week! And, on top of that, they are always ‘looking over the fence for greener grass’. I wish I would have kept count of how many times I’ve heard some version of ‘This is the best place I have ever worked but….’ In 2017 we heard that statement five times in less than four weeks. We lost our mechanic, long time machinery operator, packing shed manager, preserves development and production person, and crew manager all inside of four weeks in late may and early June; just as we were getting properly busy. On top of that, Suzanne was scheduled for surgery to remove cancer on what is our busiest day of the year, the third Thursday in June. All of these employees knew about the surgery and left anyway. I’m sure that any of you who run a business are shivering at the thought. If they were all Jamaican or Mexican (ie. not feeling like silver medal losers) we would not have been in that predicament.
So is this the phenomenon that has led to the absolute lack of anyone to hire anywhere, or for any occupation, in this country of late. I think it is a very big part of it. Generally, as Canadians, we lack proper perspective.
On the way back from Mexico we met with baggage pandemonium, and then missed and the late flights to go with it. As it turns out the baggage handlers were purposely screwing things up as a protest against having to work too hard. Where to start…… I’ve watched planes being loaded on many occasions and I can categorically state that what they do cannot be classified as ‘working too hard’. As we waited an extra hour for four ‘overworked’ (that’s what the pilot called them in his announcement that we would depart late) baggage handlers to load the plane it was all I could do to sit still. I would have loved to show them what is humanly possible…and I agree, I’m not classified as normal. One of my Mexicans could easily have replaced all four of the guys loading the plane….and maybe even with one arm tied behind his back! From what I can surmise, the handlers feel overworked because they now have to do more than they used to. The reason for that is that too many Canadians are fully confident they will be given a bronze existence whether they make an effort or not. Those choosing not to work need to see the truly poor in other countries and realize that we all have to work together as a country or that will eventually be our reality as well. And yes, the people still on the job should step back and realize it’s not perfect but ‘it ain’t that bad’.
Another example. Our housecleaner (yep, definitely a silver lifestyle here) went to visit her mother in a local old folks home and found chaos. A resident had been diagnosed with Covid and the majority of the staff that worked that wing refused to come in to work! There were two employees working where there should have been eight. Seniors were sitting in their own filth for lack of enough people responsible enough to realize that we all have to do our part to maintain our ‘first world’ status. It isn’t owed to us!
I saw the results of a poll of nurses in the emergency and ICU departments of hospitals. Fully one third say they will likely quit nursing because of their experience with covid the last two years. Do nurses work hard? Most of them probably do. Can it be stressful? I’m sure it certainly can; especially when nurses start quitting because it’s stressful. That only compounds the problem for those who want to stick with it. Let me say, though, that the state health care must certainly take the shine off of what is unquestionable one of the most noble professions there is; caring for others.
Apparently professors at Acadia University are talking strike for want of more pay. Really? In the middle of this? I realize that a lot of profs are also my customers so I hesitated to mention it at all but I’m going to use it as an example. I would have to call this a major lack of perspective. Do they make a salary proportional to their effort compared to other occupations? I’ve heard that they make less than you might think. The missing perspective is that of the world picture.
So one last comment after having ‘stirred the pot’ a bit. It seems that a lack of perspective with relation to what a fourth place finish is really like, and a presumption that we will always magically be awarded at least a bronze, even as more and more people don’t contribute, seems to lead to the selfish ‘me’ culture that can slowly and surely undo our standard of living. I think we are all learning very quickly that, even with all the money in the world, we can easily see our standard of living go down for lack of those willing to work. All the stuff in the world won’t do us a bit of good if we don’t appreciate what we have and do our part even if sometimes it feels like our neighbour has greener grass.
Ok….just one more thought…..Over the last 30 years I have watched many, many employees come and go and have, on a dozen occasions or so, witnessed a real lightbulb moment in some of the teenagers. Quite often we hire teenagers that come from households where work is always considered as just a necessary evil, a drudgery. The boss and the ‘man’ are to be despised. Naturally these kids show up with no work ethic and a bad attitude to boot. But they are young enough to be open minded, listen to old people like me and form new, radial to them, views. After working for a few days or weeks they start to see the physical fruits of their labour and get the natural shot of dopamine that goes with it. So they work a bit harder and more conscientiously and start to take some pride in what they are doing. They instinctively know they are starting to pull their weight in this world and feel good about themselves. When they get to that point they become much better employees which naturally opens up more opportunities and better tasks on the farm. More fuel for the fire. These young people, assuming their parents don’t hammer it back out of them, tend to stick around for at least a few years and, I think, go on to lead much more productive and happier lives than they would have had they not had the ‘lightbulb’ moment. There’s more to remuneration than just dollars. How do we teach that to more young people; those who are older, or those higher up the socioeconomic ladder?
Food for thought….and hopefully maybe some ideas from you that lead to action.
Pot stirred. Remember, I’m not claiming to be above any of this either.
Keep eating your veggies.