23 March 2010

The Little Red Hen & a cultural critique

The Little Red Hen is a children's story book, that if you haven't read, then you need to!
In New Zealand we respect the Little Red Hen.  She is hard working despite others not helping her and is a model citizen.  We also buy into the philosophy that if you don't work, then you don't deserve to eat.  Most people in NZ who have got ahead have done so through hard work, initiative and carrying on despite the odds. Other people who want to get there but not work are generally looked down on, and deep down they also know that they don't deserve it.  Hard work is expected and handouts are for the lazy. Although, often people take this to the extreme and work too hard which also causes other problems.

On the other hand, where we are living now is a complete different perspective.  "The Red Hens" have most likely not got to where they are through hard work, but probably from stealing from the 'true red hen' and taking their bread. (Of course this is a generalisation and not always true) Why then would you bother to work hard, and why would you respect this as a way to get things in life?   You hope that the person who has the bread will also give you some, in fact they owe it to you that they do, just to help them feel better about taking it in the first palce.  Handouts here are expected, and accepted.  You do just enough work to pay the bills and eat a little. (which is not always a bad idea)  Forward planning and saving is not part of the mentality. You expect to 'get ahead' through no plan of your own.      

It begs the question, why the difference?  Does the fact that NZ is a relativity rich prosperous society have anything to do with this philosophy?  Does democracy have anything to do with it?  What about the freedom to show initiative, try and fail, and give things a go?  Or the education system that is based on problem solving skills and lifelong learning?
I don't propose that I have all the answers, but I find it interesting how cultures are developed and what values produce different types of societies.

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