Uncle Paul The Official Website

The globalization of incompetence

By Paul Peczon


Everyone laughs and says I'll get frustrated trying to work here in the Philippines. "You know, things have a way of, uh, reverting back. A lot of Americans have a hard time dealing with the quality of Filipino work, and of course everybody and every thing is late." Well I have news for you; slipshod, late work is a new international phenomenon.

Yesterday I got a big packet from DHL filled with my US mail from the last three months. It took that long because the Post Office in Culver City (LA) was incompetent about forwarding my mail to my partner's house, despite numerous written requests. A lot of the mail was bills sent to the wrong address, despite reflecting payments made that I know for a fact included letters with my new address stapled to the checks. Some of course didn't reflect the payments that according to my bank statement had been deposited a full two weeks before. My bank statement itself had made my overdraft protection account shrink in half (to $12.50) for no reason. I of course rapidly sent out a torrent of stern letters consisting of a dry restatement of the facts and a dry insult or two.

Even Japan, that clean, productive anthill of hard working responsible citizens is fraying a little around the edges. When the "bubble economy" popped, people returned home from work a little early and found that their children had turned into aliens. They call the new MTV generation kids "UFOs," for Unidentified Flying Objects. these videogame playing, skatepunk cyberkids have little interest in computers that don't come equipped with joysticks, and time will tell if they buy into the overworked lifestyle of their parents. That overworked lifestyle is what kept the parents from spending enough time with their kids to ingrain their work ethic.

The US and Japan are suffering from the opposite extreme that we do. The employees that have managed to weather the recession that started almost a decade ago now are doing the work of their fellow workers that were let go. One brilliant way to increase the efficiency of a company is to overwork the employees. These burned out drones then go into a trance, removing carefully typed out sheets of important information stapled to checks so that they can stick them into the slot in the machine.

The results approach that of indolent third world workers who know that their employers will never pay then enough, whether they do good or bad work. We're all in trouble. We're all doing shoddy work and meanwhile we destroy the environment, stockpile radioactive slag, and let economic inequities get more severe. Our cousins in Bosnia slaughter each other and in Tel Aviv bombs go off in malls. It's sad and I try to laugh, because at a certain level, that's all anyone can do. But I'll do more. I'll be patient, to some degree, and draw the line when enough is enough. I'll roll up my sleeves and do my best. Maybe somehow I'll help a few other people open their eyes enough to see that every effort that's worth doing is worth doing is worth doing right. I'm not ever going to let creeping incompetence become anything I contributed to, whether here as a Filipino or abroad as a foreigner.©1996 Peczon

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since October 1, 1997
mildly updated Dec 09.

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