The Palimpsest of Sawbones Surio

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will

The bare necessities, Calvinism and the “Anti-Work” movement …

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This post is inspired by ermine at Simple Living in Suffolk, who reminded me of his own post today. I am rather pleased to note (Schadenfreude, Surio? Tut Tut :-| !), ermine’s post was also inspired by Financial Samurai’s “gung-ho” (my post containing link to Sam’s original). What is nice about ermine’s write-up, is that unlike others who’ve restricted themselves to solely deconstruct Sam’s flawed arguments, Ermine takes a different stand and attacks the very core of the problem! Nice one, Guv. He points out that underlying all this angst and insecurity behind the (stale) arguments, is the brainwashed spirit of Calvinism, sometimes popularly referred to as The Protestant Work ethic (PWE). In a nutshell,

To put it succinctly, for me, the PWE means you have no worth (in society, your family and to yourself) unless you are productive each and every day and you get all your work done before you take time to play. The trouble is there never is any time to play because there is always more work to do.

I am willing to take a bet. EVERYONE OF YOU that read that piece were nodding silently in agreement, right? Especially the last line, right? :-P Ha Ha! Got you there, didn’t I? ;-) So, tell me, why do we persist with that pointless work ethic claptrap? No,seriously, Why?

The answer was of course my self-evident truth…BECAUSE IT IS. Everyone knows work is good, that you need to work to get ahead, to earn your rightful and esteemed place in society. No one likes a slacker or those free-loaders living off the sweat of others.

So, that’s why. Hmmm, that reminds me of an old Calvin and Hobbes strip:

Hobbes: How come we play war and not peace?
Calvin: Too few role models.
Calvin: I’ll be the fearless American defender of liberty and democracy… and you can be the loathsome godless communist oppressor. We’re at war, so if you get hit with a dart, you’re dead and the other side wins, OK?
Hobbes: Gotcha.
Calvin: GO! (WAP-WAP they shoot each other simultaneously) Kind of a stupid game,isn’t it?

Indeed, it is a stupid (and pointless) game. We work ourselves to the bone, lose out on everything life has to offer, then wonder while we are old, where did time fly? All because, we don’t know any other way. We’ve been told that, that’s the (right) thing to do. We were told to CHOOSE LIFE!. And we did too, because we simply don’t know of immediate role models for the other side

Solution: A Mascot, a spokesperson, a memorable figurehead is needed to defend the Down with the “Pointless Work Ethic” movement!

Which neatly brings me to the point of this post! Many will recognise from the blog post’s title the famous song(*) from The Jungle Book film, which was sung by the lovely endearing bear, Baloo…. Now, before we go further, I request you to watch the clip….. Go on…Go on….Go on….. (*) in which he tells Mowgli how, if you know the tricks, you can live off the land and still have a life of leisure. Now that’s a life! :-) Here’s part of the song. Tell me, aren’t those lines simply profound?


[..................]
[..................]
The bare necessities of life will come to you
They'll come to you!
So just try and relax, yeah cool it
Fall apart in my backyard
'Cause let me tell you something, little britches
If you act like that bee acts, uh uh 
You're working too hard

And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it

I'll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you


Show the video to the most hard-boiled “careerist” (as I have). You are guaranteed one of these two reactions:

  • A wistful smile comes up, followed by a gentle shake of the head, followed by a “I wish we all could do that” (you’ve planted the idea. They’re pliable in the next round of discussions :-) )
  • A violent, sputtering rejection of the video (on account of a core self-evident belief being challenged; carpet pulled underneath)

Nothing in between. Guaranteed! Through my own experience. So everytime you take time out, but feel guilty about not “doing something”, take a good look at the bear. Listen to his words carefully. You’ll realise why he’s wise and we are stupid. So, three cheers for Baloo! And a “Salut!” to all those that have decided to kiss “wage-slavery” goodbye, ASAP! You may not realise it now, But in the long run, you are the smart ones. So, my question to you is, what did you think of when watching the video? Let us know :-)

Historic Side note:

I was part of the generation that grew up collecting soft drink bottle caps for the “Gold Spot” Walt Disney Jungle book….:-) This post brought back Happy memories! And look here! The man responsible for the campaign is on the web too. Small World indeed :-)

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Written by Surio

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7 Responses

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  1. [...] keeping with the spirit of (the overratedness of) work that started with this earlier post, I present two interesting quotations for your reading pleasure: Whoever is not in the possession [...]

  2. [...] you sense the PWE sentiment that drives this kind of thought process? That’s the first objection I have! But it is not [...]

  3. [...] “won’t work”…etc… Is this a bias in the thinking of the Europeans (PWE — my favourite bugbear) that made the Europeans mistake a true life-of-leisure into all those [...]

  4. I think the Protestant work ethic springs from the Puritans in the Early days of the United States being very energetic people and finding themselves in an historically unparalleled position of freedom and equality. So this resulted in an explosion of entrepreneurial spirit.

    In newly democratic countries in Europe for example the situation was not the same, because there was too much left over class system baggage.

    In America there was a clean slate and New territory every year opening up on the Frontier to feed this spirit.

    to put it in a formula:

    Greed+Energy+the freedom to try and make as much money as you can in the shortest amount of time possible.

    I think this continued until the Robber Baron era. when there was no more frontier and Business become conglomerated and monopolized into the hands of a pretty well entrenched financial oligarchy. I think its pretty much dead for the most part. Its just a myth that continues on.

    The Robber Barons called this entrepreneurial spirit “over production” and took great measures to squelch it out, through policies in the public school system and a trend in entertainment designed to pacify and distract people, dumb everyone down basically, who exist outside the oligarchy.

    Ted

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    • Actually, I understand what you mean.

      I had wanted to talk about “Manifest Destiny” as a coincidental pivot point of a certain “golden period”, in much more greater detail in my trade series. I removed it in order to keep the posts from becoming overly long (they were long enough to begin with!)

      Surio

      - at ....

  5. Ironically, freedom and democracy can lead to environmental destruction, when free people choose to raise their material circumstances through industry and (over)exploiting local natural resources.

    The only places in Europe where you can see bears and wolves and lynx is places like Spain and Eastern Europe where people have been less free and under the grip of Feudalism for longer before jumping from that straight into various other forms of totalitarianism.

    The Protestant countries of Europe killed all the wolves off.

    Burma with its Military Dictatorship probably has the most intact Tiger habitat left in Indochina. If people there had been freer to engage in economic activity possibly they would have logged off all the forests by now.

    Is it possible to have people with the freedom to accumulate choose not to do so? It seems like human nature that when given the freedom to do so people will seek to raise their material circumstances by exploiting their environments resources.

    If you find yourself living as a peasant or even an aristocrat, in a rigid social structure where its not possible to change your circumstances you probably find more people dedicated to enjoying the simple pleasures in life.

    Ted

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    • I got to hand it out to you, for using environmentalism, Junta, totalitarian in the same paragraph and manage to convey a positive message. :-D ;-)

      It seems like human nature that when given the freedom to do so people will seek to raise their material circumstances by exploiting their environments resources.

      I got to hand the podium over to one “Monevator”, who wrote about this already!

      If you find yourself living as a peasant or even an aristocrat, in a rigid social structure where its not possible to change your circumstances you probably find more people dedicated to enjoying the simple pleasures in life.

      You may have a point here. One of the first things the Imperialists set about doing in their respective colonies was a game of active deconstruction of the “native ways of life” as something inferior and to be discarded forthwith. That they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams is testified by Chinese and Indian fixation towards gated communities and car ownership even today…. :-|

      Surio

      - at ....


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