FREE PSYCHOTHERAPY THURSDAY: Rice Patties, math and hard work

Posted: May 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

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I’m reading another Malcolm Gladwell. This one is about success and it’s called “Outliers.”

A large part of the book looks at cultures and how people made their livings. In Southern China, the main way the working class made money was through growing rice.

Rice patties are small, about the size of a small apartment. They need constant, thoughtful care and the harvest is largely dependent on the care the patty receives. Rice patties can be tended to 365 days a year for long hours every day.

In America farmers specialize in things like wheat and corn. There’s a principle within farming that dictates that the soil has to rested for a few months or it will lose its nutrients. Therefore American farming has ebbs and flows in activity. Days can and are long but in different parts of the year there are ebbs and flows to the level of activity.

Chinese schools run 243 days a year. American schools about 180.

The Chinese work long hours at school and work and excel in mathematically based lines of work. Gladwell suggests that this is because of the culture of the rice patty and how it required strategy, time on task and hard work. Throughout history working rice patties didn’t lend itself to feudal systems or slavery because the farming was too intricate. if there was a profit incentive for the farmer it would be too easy to screw up the crop. The rich people had to instill a profit motive. That isn’t the case when it comes to other types of farm work.

Gladwell speaks about how uncomfortable it is to write about nationalities in this fashion.

Should it be?

  1. BD says:

    ‘Outliers’ is likely the most fascinating book I’ve read in 10 years.

    To answer the “should it be” question – no.

    Lots of us are too scared to state facts, to communicate in a simpler way or to describe (I didn’t say define) a person or group by physical characteristics or nationality.

    p.s. I chose to qualify with “I didn’t say define” because…I’m unsure who may read this and I’m scared of being judged. Even anonymously, apparently.

    Gladwell doesn’t say that being “Chinese,” “Vietnamese,” “Japanese,” etc is the direct cause of certain proclivities. Though, having the mind set of a rice farmer may.
    Nothing wrong with observing that.

    Gladwell doesn’t say that being Jewish is the direct cause of certain proclivities, either.
    But, historically being shut out of the ‘respectable’ trades or prestigious schools so your family is ‘forced’ to become resourceful and creative in making a living may. Having few options but to choose garment-making may instill a learned work-ethic and learned people-skills, too.
    Nothing wrong with seeing that pattern through the study of many families through multiple generations.

    Just as there’s nothing wrong with seeing a trend that people born early in the calendar year tend to be bigger, stronger & more mature than their classmates …or that people who put in the hours of practice and immersion in a field tend to excel in that field.

    Is it offensive to say “bigger, more mature kids are picked first, entrusted with more responsibility and given greater opportunity”?
    Is it offensive to say “people who work their asses off are better at what they do than we civilians are”?
    Not usually, but when “race” or nationality is injected– look out because the PC Polizei bigot-radar-gun may be pointed right at you.

    There’re not many things more ridiculous than hearing a fight announcer maneuver and go through asinine machinations to describe fighters as “the man with the beige stripe on his (black) shorts” (as opposed to the other guy who has a white stripe on his (black) shorts) when one dude is white and the other is black.
    [Happens more in the MMA world as the same-shorts-color-prohibition thing isn’t in place or enforced.]

    There’s nothing wrong with talking about someone’s nationality or skin color in disinterested, factual terms but damn, it can be uncomfortable when you’re unsure of your audience.
    Which is why, when I have to describe someone and say “white guy” it comes right out but if I say “black guy” my volume drops 14Db for those two words.

    Chicken s*it. They got to me & I let them.

    • tjs9261 says:

      You nailed Gladwell…much better than i did.

      Love the boxing announcer bit…so true.

    • D. B. Dean says:

      the race thing is an adult hang up.

      little kids can say – that black kid over there…that white kid…etc and just be describing something.

      my eldest came home with hair colored by a marker. Only tow head blonde in class…the other kids thought i accidentallyy washed allt he color out and they had tried to put it back in…nothing wrong about it…nothing wrong with being different.

      with kids…your all different…it dont matte…your all friends. Ever notice kids make friends on vacation instantly…

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