Mark Slouka wrote an essay capturing an unusual perspective of the virtues of idleness and how it relates to the norms in our modern society. While ‘idleness’ means inactivity, it typically carries a negative connotation that defines it as laziness. Society frowns upon idleness and claims it to form no productivity, but Slouka disagrees, claiming that it is essential to the completion of a human being. He reveals that the practice of idleness is dying in a society where business and work controls the people’s time and their lives.
Slouka emphasizes that this free time that idleness provides, allows people time to ponder and meditate and progress in thought, allowing us to “figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it,” ultimately “giving the inner life… its due” (Slouka 58). The issue at hand is how idleness relates to business and to the power controlling the operation of our society. Slouka states that “if we have no time to think, … then we are less citizens than cursors, easily manipulated, vulnerable to the currents of power” (Slouka 58). As discussed in class and in previous class readings, in order for power to exist, there needs to be a dominant group with power over a subordinate group; without a group to dominant, there is no power. So, did the dominant group of the past consciously create this society of work and business in order to create a weak subordinate group that easily complies to the System? Who ultimately has the power if both the dominant and subordinate group are stuck in this routine of constant work and exhaustion? If we changed this system and allowed more time and norms for individuals to idle, would it challenge the power dynamic?
This passage made me think of a recent conversation with a friend who revealed to me that he was sad and uncomfortable, but everyone motivated him by advising that he keep moving forward. Our society has this fixed idea of forced movement, where we always need to be progressing and acting, but what would happen if we could stop working in order to take time to actually feel those emotions, to analyze ourselves as individuals, to familiarize ourselves with these avoided states we consider ‘uncomfortable’?
Prior to this essay, I have thought of this fixed path that the System has created for us to become educated, go to work, then make money. I assume there are many others like Mark Slouka and me who have thought of these fixed norms society expects of us and we recognize that it may not be the right path to take, so why haven’t we challenged the System in this aspect? I also assume that our professor did not assign this reading for us to conclude that we should drop out of school and idle for a living, so how can we adjust the norms to include both idleness and work?