“The hatred of laziness,” they write, “is deeply embedded in the history of the United States” and consequently the rest of the world:
The value of hard work and the evils of sloth are baked into our national myths and our shared value system. Thanks to the legacies of imperialism and slavery, as well as the ongoing influence that the United States exerts on the rest of the world both in media and in military force, the Laziness Lie has managed to spread its tendrils into almost every country and culture on the planet.
Strong, most excellent stuff.
They go into the etymology of the word, which conflates weakness with evil, and then into the use of “laziness” to justify slavery in America and oppression during the Industrial Revolution.
It’s the kind of thing I touched on in my “How the West Was Won (by Work)” chapter in Escape Everything! and again in The Good Life for Wage Slaves but didn’t quite have the expertise or guts to go into very deeply.
Colonial America relied on the labor of enslaved people and indentured servants. It was very important to the colonies’ wealthy and enslaving class that they find a way to motivate enslaved people to work hard, despite the fact that enslaved people had absolutely nothing to gain from it. They also needed to find ways to ideologically justify the existence of slavery because many people of the period recognized (as we do today) that it was a morally abhorrent institution.
Importantly, this history forms the basis of the Operating System on which we run today:
Decades of exposure to the Laziness Lie has had a massive effect on our public consciousness. It’s made many of us critical of other people and quick to blame the victims of economic inequality for their own deprivation. It’s made us hate our own limitations, to see our tiredness or desire for a break as signs of failure. And it has created an intense internal pressure to keep working harder and harder, with no limits and no boundaries. This ideology was created to dehumanize those whom society had failed to care for, and with each passing year, the number of people who are excluded in these ways seems to only grow.
What a wonderful essay. I am yet to read Dr. Price’s book, but I recommend it all the same.