The War on Rest and Fun

There seems to be today a very bigoted bias against rest and fun, even though said rest and fun is perfectly justifiable and rightfully earned.

Being idle (resting) or doing something for fun is such an easy target to pick on. Why, everyone must work and work hard! Anyone who unabashedly wants to rest or have fun is an open target.

This war starts young. While at a restaurant, I observed a young girl who had fallen asleep on an older girl’s lap. Her grandmother kept telling the young girl, “Don’t fall asleep! Don’t fall asleep! You have to stay awake!” Why can’t the girl just sleep? There seems to be a ubiquitous belief that everyone must be awake, alert, and working—rest and fun are simply not allowed.

A more pointed example demonstrating the war on rest and fun involves a machinist who, while on break at work, would do a cross word puzzle. A manager saw the machinist doing the cross word puzzle. Why, he is at work! He has to work! The manager complained to the powers that be and cross word puzzles were from then on banned at their work.

As it turns out, that manager waited until last minute to get some parts made. Needing the machinist, who was doing the cross word puzzle, he was outraged that the man would have the audacity to do a cross word puzzle on break.

Note in this example that it is the responsible, productive, needed machinist that was the victim of this war on rest and fun. This type of person rests in the open because they know they are justified in what they do. Those who aren’t justified in resting or having fun are always sneaky and are better at hiding it.

Another attack on rest and fun is the belief, seemingly across all of America, that good employees are willing to work any amount of unpaid overtime while only temperamental, lazy employees would demand payment or refuse the overtime outright.

It seems to be true that overtime is needed under one circumstance only: when a project has been mismanaged in some way and therefore is direly late. Needing to meet a deadline, managers need their best, most productive employees to scramble last minute. Or, another reason for scrambling is someone outright lied to a customer that something was working. Thus the manager needs his or her workers to make their lie become the truth. They see overtime as an inexhaustible piggy bank to make up for their gross errors.

The good employee is thus expected to continue to work, like a beast of burden being constantly whipped. They also have to deal with a project that is obviously late, mismanaged, and lacking in proper resources. They are expected to do a project half-assed and turn it around with the same results others have come to expect from them.

What happens when the employee says “No”? Laziness! Lack of devotion!

Contrary to popular belief, working long hours or overtime is not a sign of a strong work ethic. If anything, it is a glaring sign of inefficiency. I know many people who work short hours and produce a lot. I also know many people who work long hours (and always remind you of it) and produce little. Most people who work 12 hour days (and feel the need to brag about it) usually just coast through the day by talking or surfing the internet. They are often more avoiding going home than they are staying at work—having undesirable home lives. Or they are the type that work hard and not smart, having a completely disorganized method of pursuing tasks. I would contend their willingness to work unpaid tells you how much they think their work is worth.

 In my experience, if you are actually working at work—not schmoozing, talking about your personal life, or surfing the internet—after a certain amount of time, you are fatigued for the day. You need a rightfully earned break. If working long hours resulted in higher productivity, it would be standing operating procedure. It is not because people fatigue after awhile.

But when an employee asserts that they are not willing to work second or third shift, on weekends, or over holidays to save some extraordinarily late project, they are almost always the victim of insults against their work ethic. This is despite the fact that management is coming to them clearly because they are the most capable employee.

I believe this belief that workers are inexhaustible piggy banks is grounded in an evasion of the law of identity. The most clear example is when a manager lies and must make their lie become truth. Instead of coming to a conclusion based on evidence, they need the evidence to match the conclusion. It does not, so they must surpass all logic and fairness to make it happen. It will necessarily mean bypassing the way humans naturally work, and demanding more and more of them.

Dear frantic managers: Man’s mind has an identity and works in a specific way and must be allowed to work in the way it must, at the pace it must, and cannot be forced, prodded, or even paid to work any other way. Coincidentally, projects also have an identity. They also move at the pace they must. There is a famous quote that is very appropriate: nine women cannot make a baby in one month. Plan projects appropriately. To speed them up, the best you can do is remove road blocks, inefficiency and waste and let the producers on your team do what they do. Asking your producers to never rest is not an option.

In addition to this, the temperament of the person who so often gets jobs done successfully, which is joy, is so often under unspoken attack for being this way.

If you are someone who takes your profession seriously—by learning the skills necessary to do your job; and if you live by the motto: prepare, prepare, prepare; and if you know that the best way to get from one place to another is to put one foot in front of the other and start walking, you will do your job at a steady pace and with a sense of ease and joy.

If, on the other hand, you don’t take the time (yes, it takes time) to learn the necessary skills to do your job—instead trying to half guess and half know how to do things, just pressing buttons and pushing things to get things done; and if you are so arrogant as to believe you don’t need to prepare but you can simply rise to any occasion with no training or preparation; and if you skip over necessary steps and try to plough through projects, you will usually do things in a frantic frenzy and with a sense of panic and, naturally, always last minute.

And, too often, if you are this latter person, you are hailed by management as a hard worker who puts lots of hours in.

Work should be a joy. A well run project need not be regarded as drudgery. A sign of a well run organization is happy workers who are able and willing to take on challenges. A sign of a poor one is when employees are constantly scrambling to get work done. A good organization would let their best machinist enjoy a cross word puzzle while on break.

The biggest culprit of the war on rest and fun, however, is our current “progressive” governmental policies. The motive and philosophy is the same as frantic managers: that a person who can produce owes production to others solely because they can produce. The more a person makes, the more percentage of their income gets taxed. The argument is simply that a rich person can afford it so why not take from them? After all, they may simply be buying vacations or nice cars with that money. That’s not allowed! Indeed, it is a war on rest and fun.

Another attack on rest and fun is the bias against labor saving devices that many people have. My husband and I found a business that sells prepared but uncooked meals. The meals need only be baked in the oven or heated on the stove. It saves us a lot of time each week as we no longer have to plan meals, grocery shop, or cook. When we tell some people about this, we get a raised eyebrow as to suggest we are lazy and elitist. We are not lazy or elitist. Why do something yourself that someone else can do cheaper and better? The meals are cheaper than fast food. It freed up a lot more of our weekends—so we could rest and have fun!

The war on rest and fun extends to virtually all forms of fun as well. Anything that isn’t necessary is always in constant peril of being banned.

At the Rose-Hulman Institute for Technology, an engineering school, after a student got hurt with a firearm due to a mechanical failure of the firearm, the school shut down the gun club, the scuba team, and the rock climbing team. Why? Well, they are all dangerous, of course! Note that, while the student was injured and left with scars, it was not in any way due to the irresponsibility or mishandling of any person with a firearm. The firearm exploded in his hands. If anyone is at fault, it is the gun manufacturer. But, due to liability, the school shut down every single club that could be dangerous.

This line of thinking is so clearly grounded rooted in the don’t’ touch that you’ll break something mentality. The assumption is humans are incompetent, careless, and untrustworthy. Eventually, they will only be happy when all we do is sit in a chair all day, perhaps being allowed to drive to and from work.

How we should have fun is constantly being preached to us. For instance, I went to a hip-hop concert when I was younger. People in the audience would heckle each other that they had to sing and dance along with the concert. I was struck when I went to a rock concert later in life with my husband, and not one person cared what I did while there. Some people stood; some people sat. Some sang along; some didn’t. Some drank beer; others didn’t. No one cared. It struck me as a much more benevolent atmosphere.

I also believe that Americans are just a tad too prudish. If you mention to almost any American that you want to go out of the country and visit a nude or partially nude beach, you are almost always met with maniacal laughter, a raised eyebrow, or outright judgment. Are boobies really that evil? Of course, the response of maniacal laughter is usually curiosity masked as condescending judgment. I can understand covering up from the waist and below for sanitary reasons. But I don’t understand the taboo against female breasts. Even breastfeeding is considered socially impolite—one of the many social taboos that make mothers’ lives much more difficult than they have to be.

The war on rest and fun can be attributed to and summed up in one statement, “From each according to ability. To each according to need.” Anyone who is able is constantly asked to do more, more, more—with no personal reward for it. Those who get things don’t get them simply because they want them or it would bring joy into their lives (paying their own way of course) but only because they need them. It is such a pathetic philosophy—that we need to force and beg producers to help everyone simply get by. There is no room in their world view for luxuries, joy, or fun. This philosophy always stems from a position of weakness.

People should be allowed to pursue what makes them happy. Why? Because what else is the point?

Ultimately, if technology allowed it, it is possible that all people can work only so many hours of the week and have a lot of the week off to do whatever they want, be it learn a new skill, pursue a passion, or even just pillow fight with their loved one. If in a benevolent and liberal culture, they could do almost whatever they wanted in their time, provided they did not hurt anyone else. The requirement to achieve both this free time and the benevolent atmosphere is only one: liberty.

This was the very idea behind the founding of America. Each person has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A person should be able to produce and make money off of what they produced. They are not indentured servants. And they should be able to pursue whatever it is that makes them happy, be it shooting firearms, taking a luxury vacation, or laying on your older sister’s lap.

The motto should be, “You’ve earned it; enjoy it,” said with a gigantic,  happy smile.

Amber Pawlik
Update June 17, 2011

Objectivist Sexuality: An Outline for Happily Ever After
Amber Pawlik
Objectivist Sexuality discusses gender, dating, love, sex, and relationships from an Objectivist viewpoint. Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. This book discusses sexuality from a philosophical perspective but it also has a practical purpose: to give men and women the principles and values necessary to define, seek, and ultimately find the love of their life. The topics covered include masculinity, femininity, love, dating, sex, relationships, feminism, sexual evolutionary theory, homosexuality, and many others.