Saturday, July 15, 2006

People are people

Today one of the Peruvians I work with, Rosario, came to me with a problem: everyone is mad at her because she is working too hard.

A little background: there are 10 promotores working as both door-to-door and in-bank salespeople. Rosario is a very outspoken young woman, has a good rapport with the clients, and is one of the only promotores that consistently meets the goals laid out by their supervisor. She also happens to be one of the oldest promotores and the only one with a young child at home.

So what else is new, you might say. Don’t the lazy kids always resent the straight-A student? Yes that is true. What really struck me was this comment that Rosario made: “Daniel, mejor que me voy a los Estados Unidos. A lo menos allá ellos respetan a personas que trabajan duros.”

I nearly laughed out loud when she said that. But since that would have been fairly inappropriate (and a George Bush joke might have been misunderstood), I stifled a giggle and imparted what little wisdom I could lend to the conversation: “Gente son gente.”

New York, Lima, Shanghai, or Nairobi. It doesn’t matter where you are, there will always be slackers and overachievers. As someone who has at times been in the former but, more recently, in the latter group I can relate to both sides. Many slackers actually do have a strong desire to succeed. But they often face structural problems and typically put up mental blocks that prevent them from ever starting down a fruitful road. In reality, this is just a fear of failure that acts like a mild form of depression and can lead to a downward spiral. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as the saying goes. But to a depressed mind, “Nothing ventured, nothing lost,” weighs much heavier in the balance.

If you get enough slackers in a group together, they’ll often recognize that it is easier to bring the overachiever down a notch (through ridicule) than to actually buckle down and improve their own prospects. Call it whatever you want. Jealousy. Self-loathing. Mean-spirited. It is a constant feature of group social interactions, perhaps best demonstrated by the American high school cafeteria scene.
So Rosario, I hope you keep working hard. I’m sure your husband appreciates it and you’re setting a great example for your daughter. In my book, you’d be a welcome addition to the United States, but please don’t expect people to act rationally when you work harder than they do. I hate those people ;)


At 7:53 AM, Blogger mn said...

"A lo menos alla ellos respetan a personas que trabajan duros"

Even though some people respect those who work hard, it is suggested by Judge Becker and almost supported by Posner along with many others not to continue this behavior. [See and]

It has been suggested by them, and the idea has been around for quite a while now, that affirmative action for african american/hispanic males exist, but the effects on the females of the same background would be very damaging. It would be as if keeping the hard-working females from getting in college.

You're right, "people are people", and people will always act in there self-interest, so best wishes to Rosario!

At 5:13 PM, Blogger ishmaelabroad said...

Thanks. It has been great to experience (more in-depth) a new culture and new lifestyle in a foreign country. While we (Americans) often have a horribly mishapen idea of what the rest of the world looks like, it seems that most people worldwide are equally ignorant of the high (and low) points of the United States...


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