There was an element of shock/horror in the news following the Pope’s departure from the Philippines—“he is carrying his own bag!,” “he is wearing old shoes!,” how can this be? why doesn’t he get some minion to carry his bag for him “like normal people!!”
Well I’m sorry to say but in my world it is perfectly normal to carry your own satchel/briefcase/backpack and is not worthy of any comment at all. It’s what people do normally. I have noticed though that there is a proclivity for Koreans and Japanese to get underlings to carry their golf clubs for them. It must be a demonstration of power over people and demonstrates a cultural gulf between East and West.
I find it difficult to appreciate the sort of fawning behavior that seems to be expected around here. It just highlights the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. But then in places where there are not enough jobs, getting a job as a flunky is better than no job at all. This may be the justification behind having lots of minion type jobs in the Philippines but it doesn’t justify the Japanese and Koreans for having to get a junior to carry the golf clubs. It’s a more of a power thing I believe.
Overt display of power over one’s fellow men is considered rather bad form in developed Europe. It is considered to demean others. In more egalitarian societies it is not the way things are done. In Scandinavia you lug your suitcases up to your hotel room by yourself and in almost all of Europe you serve yourself at the gas pump and at lots of other places. Much of this aside from reflecting egalitarianism, is also a product of the cost of labor.
In Europe businesses just cannot afford to pay for too many minions. But in the Philippines businesses can afford to pay for them and it sustains an expectation that there will always be somebody to carry your bag, pass you the toothpicks from the other end of the dining table, open the car door, fetch a glass of water from the machine which is easily within your reach, or direct you to a vacant gas pump at the filling station. It engenders an unhealthy dependency as well as looking rather feudalistic.
Now of course if people did get into the habit of doing things for themselves there would be a lot less jobs around and the Philippines cannot afford that given that full time jobs here in-country are only available for about 30 percent of the working population.
There are jobs that make real contributions to the economy, there are jobs abroad contributing to the economic development of other nations and fuelling the Philippines’ consumption driven economic growth, there are jobs that exist because the government cannot adequately protect its citizens, and then there are jobs that exist purely because people don’t expect to have to do things which they are perfectly capable of doing themselves.
It was reported that the response of the Pope to the question why he was carrying his own bag, was that “this is normal.” It is. He probably thought it was a bit of an odd question. Good job nobody asked him why he was wearing old shoes.
The Maharajas of old in India used to employ literally thousands of servants including in one notable case a man (plus a replacement if the main man became sick) whose sole purpose in life was to crack walnuts for the Maharaja. Presumably the rest of the time when the walnut cracker was not actually cracking, he just lounged around on his charpoy and chatted with his back up cracker.
But we are now in the 21st century and the prospect of employing somebody just to crack walnuts seems a bit old fashioned, as should the idea of employing people to carry bags, fetch toothpicks and glasses of water. The advance of technology has decimated the worldwide job market and thus it becomes increasingly difficult to actually find enough useful things for people to do and the divisive consequences of capitalism together with a worldwide inability to bring about a just distribution of the wealth created (in a world where the top 1 percent have as much or more than the other 99 percent) sustains the problem.
Perhaps whether we like it or not there may soon be plenty of career openings for walnut crackers and bag carriers!
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org