Work Destroys Wisdom

Conservatives — caught up in trying to compete with the socially more popular Left — have forgotten their original position against “Progress,” or the thought that humans can improve upon the order of nature by using human intent. Conservatives prefer time-honored methods guided by eternal principles to a search for “new” methods which are designed to impose the human will upon what nature has done, without regard for the order of nature.

As part of the original drive against progress conservatives opposed the notion of modern work, or employment to a limited series of functions instead of the more holistic question of role and purpose. Work replaces purpose with satisfaction of the demands of employers, and so detaches task from result. From this, much neurosis arises.

While conservatives have shrugged off much of their anti-work outlook, the fact remains that in the modern time, work is seen as part of a Utopian vision of all workers of the world united in a classless society which is a “meritocracy” meaning that anyone can rise if they are willing to spend the time memorizing the right things, and spending their irreplaceable time on projects others define.

If this time has a sacred cow, it is competition, which is seen as the way that the best rise, but as all things in this time, it has been inverted. Where best once meant “most competent,” now it means “most obedient” first with competence defined solely in terms of precedent and the acts of others. This means that on an individual level, people compete for the proxy of the employer, not a goal or qualitative assessment.

This competition makes people unstable. They start out with nothing, and must jump through many hoops in order to get ahead, which rewards those who have nothing else to do with their time and penalizes the most creative, active and intelligent.

Work defined by competition expands to fit the needs of its workers to jump through those hoops instead of being limited to the amount of actual work that must be done. As a result, people invent new work in order to demonstrate competence and get ahead, effectively burying others under the non-necessary or “make-work.” This causes jobs to be miserable and makes people vicious, resulting in the “crab bucket” mentality of rising by pushing others down.

On the other hand, aristocracy saw work as what it was: a means to an end. They also recognized that ability was innate and did not need to be proven, but required shaping by those who were experienced in a field, or had been recognized over time as excellent. This meant that everyone had a place and these places were stable. The crab bucket was unnecessary.

In our time, we see vast incompetence just about everywhere. This is a consequence of telling people that they are equal, but that some are more equal because they earn more, so that to be accepted above the minimum, people must earn a bunch of money. This convinces those who should by ability be in much simpler roles to take on complex roles, which they “succeed” at through conformity, but do the minimum toward the actual task because they are judged less on that than obedience. This creates a wave of incompetence across our economies.

As a result, wisdom is lost; we forget why we do things, and how to do them well not just in the short-term for a singular goal, but in the long term according to principle. We devolve. Our civilization crumbles. And we work more, and love less, with every step.

In addition, people are existentially miserable. The time required to “compete” for obedience + minimal competence equals a greater amount every generation, it seems, and so people work more and delegate previous functions of the home to third-party labor like maids, daycare and entertainment. This detaches them from their lifestyle as connected to nation and land, and makes them into revengeful free agents who resent how much time they must spend, even if they will not admit this in surveys and cocktail hour conversation.

For the West to rise again, it must decide to reform itself not in defense of the current system, but so that it can reach for something greater, starting with the sense of existential pleasure that one finds in a stable society where competition is not needed and most of one’s time is spent on living, not working.

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