4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 28, 2001
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1 owET OF
CRM'PY SYORTS -
-T M = .
Dancing on the grave of the Protestant Work Ethic
NICK WOOMER BACK TO THE WOOM
is Wednesday, a week
after the start of
and (thankfully) politeness
doesn't require you to ask
everyone you have a con-
versation with "so how was
Every year, the respons-
es are similar: "Pretty bad,
I've got a bunch of work to do for this one class
of mine and I'm still working on my personal
statement for law school...." "It was great, I
saw a lot of my old high school friends at the
bar and basically just chilled for a few days
before things get real stressful again..."
Generally, the lousy breaks aren't really
"breaks" at all - just lulls in the school year
that allow you to catch up on work. The good
breaks tend to be the exact opposite - some
quality time spent with friends and/or family,
good conversation, good food, and reading.
material of one's choosing.
The lesson here is hardly a profound one:
For most people, work = bad, and leisure =
good. It's a simple, almost universally acknowl-
edged truth and yet most Americans now regard
the traditional 40-hour workweek as a luxury.
The average American today works longer,
harder and for less real income than ever before.
In the same way that the health care industry
has convinced most Americans that any single-
payer health care system will be a dystopian
bureaucratic disaster ("Ever been to Canada?
Talk about hell on earth..."), Americans have
somehow been convinced - although I suspect
the so-called "Protestant Work Ethic" shares a
big part of the blame - that work is some sort
Apparently it's harder to convince the
French that obvious facts are, in fact, not true.
Not only does everyone in France have access
to health care (even those lazy poor people),
but they also have a 35-hour workweek. And
no, the country isn't on the verge of collapse;
in fact, things over there are going just fine
By almost all accounts, the 35-hour work
week (or, rather, the 1,600-hour work year),
which was adopted in 1998 by Lionel Jospin's
government and now affects almost 50 percent
of France's work force, is changing life there -
dramatically. The legislation has caused affect-
ed employees to have between 11 and 16 extra
days off per year. Now, more French people
have more leisure time, and they're using it to
go on more vacations (2000 saw an 18 percent
jump in camper van purchases) and - this
should please all you "family values" people -
they're spending more time socializing with
their friends and family. More people are work-
ing too, in June France's state planing commis-
sion estimated that the 35-hour workweek was
responsible for creating one in six new jobs.
French employers have also seen the bene-
fits of a reduced workweek - well-rested,
happy workers are much more productive work-
ers who make fewer mistakes and are less likely
to mouth-off to customers. On the other hand,
French employers (especially in capital-inten-
sive industries) are trying to compensate for
higher overhead costs - you lose money when
you invest in machines that aren't being worked
by someone - by cutting breaks and pushing
employees to work at an uncomfortable pace.
As a result, French labor ministry research indi-
cates that only about 59 percent of those affect-
ed by the reduced workweek think it has made
their lives better.
So, given it's not-quite-overwhelming suc-
cess, should we just give up on the reduced
workweek? There's evidence that the problem
isn't that 35 hours a week is too little, but that
it's too much. An 8/8/01 column in the Ottawa
Citizen cited an experiment in Finland where
the traditional 8-hour workday is divided into
two six-hour shifts. Even though they're
required to pay workers for working eight hours
a day, Finnish employers aren't losing money
because the increased service hours, productivi-
ty and reduced overhead costs offset the cost of
paying workers for two extra hours of work.
Similar experiments are being conducted all
According to Bruce O'Hara, the Citizen
column's author, "the.work-time issue has
had so much attention in Europe that my
guess is that some time in the next five years,
at least one city or region will pilot'test a 28-
hour work-week built around two communi-
ty-wide shifts. I further predict that the model
is so practical that it will quickly become the
norm across Europe."
What the European and hypothetical experi-
ments in shorter workweeks indicate (at the
very least) is that it may be more than possible
to significantly improve people's social lives at
little or no economic cost. It's time to take a
critical look at America's fabled "Protestant
Work Ethic," do an economic cost- social bene-
'fit analysis, and start enjoying life.
Nick Woomer can be reached
via e-mail at email@example.com.
Y UNDER THE FLAK
PART V: ON THE HOMEFRONT
BY WAJ SYED
Ignorance on the Union steps
6yI r. Syed, what do you feel about
being picked out of a crowd?
Do you mind being profiled by
the FBI? What's your take on being a foreigner
in this country?" Some of the questions put forth
around 5:45 p.m. this Monday by a UPN-50
reporter. Right outside the Union. Perfect set-
ting. Not a bad interview either, if anyone
caught the 10 o'clock news.
Soon after the reporter left, a friend and I
remained outside the Union, smoking and catch-
Then a man approached. He started to speak
Does anyone see a pattern?
I was hoping to make an impressive polit-
ical analysis in this column. But right now,
I'm biased. Intrinsically and overtly biased. I
don't know whether to defend or attack. Just
Forget the kangaroo courts. Forget the 550
men in federal custody not being allowed bail.
Forget the ominous interviewing and question-
ing. I'm in no mood to debate legalities.
What about the ground reality of prejudice?
What about the terribly limited information peo-
ple receive in this part of the world that add to
in gibberish, trying to mimic my
friend and me speaking in Urdu and
without reason, started to lash out.
Thus came a salad of assault and
intimidation. He called us Muslim
pigs, throwing in the anti-Islamic
aspect. He called us incestuous and
gay, among other things, throwing
in the sexual content. He kicked
and punched us when we tried to
walk away, thus adding physical-
So ... the
the day for
that prejudice? But more than any-
thing, what about ignorance?
America is ignorant. So are
most Americans. And that too in a
very important way: culturally.
Till now, I've made it seem
that I'm upset about being attacked
by a wino. I'm not. I'm upset about
the entire evening. I'm upset about
events that started a little earlier
that night, and lasted till even after
the wino episode
The reporter, one Meg Oliver
assault salt and pepper to the mix.,
And then he topped it all of with
some real, non-fat nationalist dressing, saying
that we didn't belong: "Get out of my country,
you fucking Iranians," he said, amusingly so
since one of his targets was a Pakistani, the other
The man is being investigated for assault and
ethnic intimidation. I wasn't interested to pursue
someone with fresh vomit on his parka and
more of the same stuff in his mind. All that kept
ringing in my head, even after punches, was the
quaint timing of it all. I had just been inter-
viewed about my views on racial profiling and
racism. And I had just been subjected to them.
Ten minutes had segregated reason from reality.
The FBI's announcement last week that
agents would be questioning more than 70 Arab
Americans in the Ann Arbor area has stirred
some opinion around town. Muslim students at
the University, especially Arab males, fear they
might be singled out as terrorists based on their
ethnicity, gender and age. Meanwhile, the Uni-
versity does not seem to be on top of its game.
Until yesterday, University officials said they
were unaware of any students being sent letters
by the U.S. Attorney to students on visas com-
ing toward Angell Hall, this one guy who had
testified (he had a been a bystander) to the cops
about what had happened caught up with me.
Dude. You OK? That was some guy. Why
was he hitting you?
I'm fine, thanks. He thought I was Iranian.
Really? Well, you kinda look the part, you
know. Where're you from?
Dude, he wasn't even close with that one.
It's good that you're OK.
Strike Three: Ignorance Strikes Back with a
Vengeance. Nice-bystander-guy thinks that a)
it's understandable that I was targeted because I
look Iranian, b) that looking Iranian means one
should expect to be attacked, and c) that Pak-
istan is far, far away from Iran.
Time and space.
So then, what's it going to be? Maybe I
should have stuck to the analytic guns and pon-
dered more over the increasingly praetorian atti-
tude towards undesirable foreigners (and
undesirable foreigner look-alikes) by the FBI.
Maybe I should have mentioned General "Now
I'm a real Commander-in-Chief' Bushaparte
and his kangaroo courts, or his "You're with us
or the terrorists" dichotomy of world politics
that is upsetting to nations that don't want to be
pulled into the quagmire. Or maybe I should
have picked on the sheer inappropriateness of
Donald Rumsfeld for saying "he's wanted dead
or alive, but I have my preferences," when talk-
ing to soldiers, men of discipline and honor,
about Osama bin Laden last week. Or maybe I
should have considered the political about-face
by Colin Powell, who is now urging the global
community to help Afghans with food and
money. Good for Colin. It must be nice to
become a multi-lateralist overnight now that the
Taliban are nearly gone, especially after two
months of running a uni-lateral diplomatic cam-
paign that was threatening to isolate potential
allies if they didn't put out (domestic problems
or not) and a misinformed military campaign
that was bombing, successively, Red Cross
buildings and civilian apartments.
But I wanted to make this one personal:
Racist winos, obtuse reporters, dim cops, idi-
otic bystanders - they all make for a mean
combo with some quasi-global community
Coke and not-all-foreigners-are-bad fries, but
from UPN-50, had arranged for us to meet out-
side the Union. When I arrived and the camera
started rolling, she shot the first question.
Where are you from?
How does it feel to be an Arab student from
the Middle East right now?
Strike One: The Coming of Ignorance. Pret-
ty reporter girl thought Pakistan was in the Mid-
dle East, which for her then meant that I was an
I replied: Pakistan is in South Asia, not the
Middle East, and by the way, being from the
Middle East does not mean that you have to be
an Arab. You guys should know that. That's
something which is really badly reported very
They never aired that comment. But let's go
on. After the interview and the wino, the cops
came. An officer, one Joe Anderson, tried to
calm me down, and asked me what the wino
had called me.
Motherfucker. Muslim Pig. Iranian.
What did you say back?
That he was a motherfucker too. And that I