The leisure imperative


Conservatives in the 1980s struck me as somewhat terrifying. They answered just about any question with “just work hard and get ahead.” Three decades on, I can see that they answered this way because they saw no solutions on the political front. The general idea was that society had gone to hell, so all we could do was enrich ourselves and live moral lives on our own.

With the advantage of looking back over that gap in time, we can now say firmly that these conservatives were wrong. Working hard and getting ahead makes it easier for the left to surge in, take over all levels of politics, and run the country into the ground. Then they’ll take whatever you have and repurpose it to serve the victims-of-the-day: poor, minority, gay, foreign.

Keeping that in mind, it’s time for conservatives to re-visit the mania for “hard work.” Specifically: time. From reading the biographies of not just great authors but greats of all stripes, I ascertained a common theme along the lines that six hours of solid work a day is about what most humans can do. The rest is peripheral time, doing repetitive simple tasks, but not anything too essential.

I don’t think it makes sense to give all of those hours to a career alone. People should always have interests outside of a job. After all, a job is a means to an end. You work to keep society alive and to sustain your family. If work replaces life, people become bitter, distracted, envious, petty and mean.

People around the internet seem confused about why others in their country do not feel any unity or commitment to improving society. The answer is that it’s every man for himself out there. Any obligations you make to others are a loss for you, and take time out of your already overburdened day. The best control mechanism ever may be keeping everyone busy.

The average office worker around here has no time to think much less rest. They wake up, get ready, and get to work; this takes an hour at minimum. They work eight to ten hours, sometimes more, usually because he who sits at the desk longest gets promoted. Then they go to the gym, dinner at a restaurant, and then maybe get a drink. Then it’s to home for a couple hours of TV before bed.

Nowhere during this day did this person experience a thought of their own creation. Their brain filled itself with reactions entirely. At work, they are given work to focus on; at the gym, they are listening to headphones; at the bar, talking to others; watching TV, their brains are awash in the visions of others. Are we even individuals if we have no individual thoughts?

This is not asking people for profundity, but familiarity. People need to learn who they are and to think about what they really value. They need to contemplate their use of their own time and their role in the universe. Right now they lack even the moment for this. In addition, they need more quality time with family, hobbies, friends and community.

“Work hard” defines not a plan, but a compromise. The unstated bargain allows us to tolerate the insanity around us instead of pushing back. Even worse, it makes us into people who are too busy to think and thus are without depth or insight. We need to slow this society down, spend more time on life itself instead of means to that end, and rediscover what our real values are.

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13 Responses to “The leisure imperative”

  1. Hauer says:

    So much of “working hard” in my experiences in offices is just an effort to keep up the appearance of looking busy. It’s a way to cover your ass without having any actual competence. It’s a poisonous mentality. It doesn’t care if things work or get done, as long as it looks like your trying.

    The sane approach to work is to set goals and measure performance if those are set. Anything short of that will always have people gaining the system.

    • So much of “working hard” in my experiences in offices is just an effort to keep up the appearance of looking busy.

      The best way to stay employed is to appear essential but unique. There are thus incentives to invent busy-work and to make your work idiosyncratic, both of which are disasters for actual productivity but create an appearance of profound effort.

  2. Hank says:

    Reclaiming lives from chaos and reaction is a worthwhile repurposing.

    When people start thinking again and making decisions based on positive values, we’ll begin to have a society.

    • The “positive values” bit will be a big change for most. Not acquisition (quantitative), and not defensive, but aiming toward qualitative improvement.

  3. People no longer know what they value. A great deal of effort has been undertaken over the last half century in particular and the last century less particularly to make it nearly impossible to sit still long enough to critically think about anything. And many conservative subcultures double down on this with insane standards not based in historical precedent that make it even more difficult to favor leisure than is the case with more mainstream people.

    • The worst aspect of this seems to me the modern habit of, upon encountering a place where someone might have a single coherent thought, placing a TV in it and turning the volume up to 11.

  4. Peter Connor says:

    The noble horse Boxer in Animal Farm worked extremely hard…and it got him the knacker’s wagon so Napolean could buy more whiskey.


    How would civilization veer away from certain collapse to third world status change if people had more quality time with family, hobbies, friends and community??

  6. Kyometaxao says:

    Many people in my office have fallen victim to this mindset.
    The Herculean tussle of who can work longest (not neccesaryily be the most productive) is met with glowing approval by myopic middle managers.

    You can usually spot this type of person a mile away – their conversation usually redlines at banal entertainment like football and seem to possess no capacity for creativity or using their initiative.

  7. PeterPan says:

    This is by design!

    Tax people (families) so much, that in order for them to keep somewhat decent standard of living both man and wife must earn a salary. Then they shove kids to government re-education camps (aka public school system) for the whole day. Then when they return home in the evening they turn on another propaganda – TV.

    Result is no time for family, no time for real entertainment, no time for independent thinking AND no time or desire to get involved in community matters, politics etc.

    That’s how contemporary ruling “elite” perfected the ancient “bread and games”.

    With the above and “it only matters WHO counts the votes” scheme they have achieved almost total control of populace.

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