My first brush with the third world was in Mexico and it was one of those random sort of things that remind foreigners they are no longer on familiar ground. I was getting some food and I could not help but notice that there were far more people working than the task required. In fact, they were banging into one another. In order to make up for it, they were frenetically jostling with one another, trying to get food to the customers. This was my first brush with the Latin Way.
In most of South America, and big chunks of North America now, activity is mistaken for work. Employees are always rushing about in a chaotic manner as they want to look busy. You see it in government bureaucracies as well as with the private business. Everyone always wants to look busy, which means working harder, not smarter. In fact, they may very well work dumber as that creates more work, which makes it easier to look busy. There’s a strange logic to it.
With open borders and a flood of third world people into America, I’m seeing this sort of thing locally. I had to get my prescription refilled the other day and the pharmacy I use is staffed by H1B’s from Lord knows where. Rite Aid is known for abusing the H1B program to hire cheap labor in their pharmacy. Every time I go in there, I see sub-Saharan Africans scurrying about, looking busy, getting nothing done. Invariably they screw up my prescription and it requires lots of hand gestures and mangled English to get it resolved.
That’s the other thing about the third world. The dimwits you deal with at the retail level are both the cause of and cure of the inevitable foul ups. At the pharmacy, they usually lose my prescription, but sometimes they just forget to fill it. That means huddling around a terminal, walking around with their serious face on and then they finally figure it out. They are so proud of themselves and they expect me to be grateful for their help. I play along. It’s the way it works. They waste my time and I thank them for it. Welcome to America.
Of course, things don’t always work out for the best. I was in Texas last fall and when I returned my rental car at the airport, a surly, dimwitted mestizo scanned the car, mumbled something in Spanglish and then handed me the printout. The bill was $1100 for five days. I protested and he insisted it was right because the machine said it was right. I tried to explain the impossibility of it, but he just kept saying, “I’m sorry, I can do nothing for you. It’s what the computer says.”
Luckily I was in a sporting mood at that point, having dealt with some third world zaniness on the way into the airport. An Amerind flag man was waving cars into what looked like a detour. It was a dead end. So, about ten cars were stacked up, needing to back out. I heard some irritated guy demand to know why the flag man was waving people into a dead end. He just shrugged and said his boss told him to do it. He had that stupid smile suggesting you should be happy that he answered the question correctly.
Anyway, I eventually tracked down a pleasant young woman who was happy to fix the billing problem. That’s the big difference between a Western culture and the third world. In the West, we expect even the front-line employee to solve problems. The girl that helped me was happy to help and felt good about doing her job. Jose with the scanner was happy to do only that which he was trained to do and he felt good about staying out of my trouble. One is motivated to find problems to solve, the other is motivated to avoid problems.
That’s the other thing about the non-West. There’s a narrowness, a practiced obtuseness, that you see even in the professions. South Asians are hilarious with this. They are creative with quick fixes, often coming up with a solution that is both comical and practical. This seems to be a way to avoid anything resembling a confrontation. They call this “Jugaad.” This love of the quick fix means systemic problems never get solved. They just carry on forever with an elaborate array of cheap fixes and workarounds.
Here in the ghetto, we get to experience local blacks dealing with the third world customer service reps. Blacks are trained from conception to assume everyone is here to wait on them. The sense of entitlement is bone deep. Watching a welfare queen play the race card against a Kenyan pharmacy clerk is hilarious. Africans really dislike American blacks so I suspect there’s some deliberate trouble making, but it is a good time nonetheless.
Anyway, I suspect the valued social skill in the future will be the ability to manipulate people in a multi-cultural society in order to get anything done. The person who can finesses these people into doing useful work will have a high value, while the red-faced Texan I saw screaming at the flag guy will live a life of perpetual frustration. Or, maybe it reaches a tipping point and it ends in a tribal bloodbath.