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The myth of busyness

By Bruce Walker
web posted August 6, 2001

We are daily bombarded with suggestions that modern life is hopelessly busy. We hustle about in stores with cellular phones on our ears, whining about work and soccer practices. We drive though freeways, venting our anger at traffic jams with road rage. There is a powerful Myth of Busyness, as if people have never had more to do than we do today.

The myth of busyness
Dubya: No time to complain

What narcissism! What humbug! Contrast the approach of President Bush and ex-President Clinton. President Bush is leaving for a month back home, much like President Reagan, relaxing and enjoying himself. Contrast that with Clinton's whining about "Never having worked so hard to do [fill in the blank]." Has our new president ever complained about all the work he has to do? No, because President Bush respects those who went before us.

Our grandparents know what "busy" meant. Housework was real, arduous, tedious "work" rather than loading our clothes and dishes into finely tuned robots. The cubicle of the modern office is ease and delight compared to the coal mines deep in the bowels of the Earth or long hours behind farming equipment or mind-numbing work on assembly lines.

People left the farms for the factories and the factories for the office as soon as they could. Housewives filled their homes with all the wonderful inventions that liberated them from endless chores as soon as they could. Indeed, "Feminism" was the product not of oppressed women stuck behind a hot stove, but bored and affluent women who saw no more useful purpose in their lives than sharpening their claws for hapless men who go off to work each day.

While we expect liberals to fall for any silliness -- indeed, the sillier the better -- that condemns prosperity and freedom, but do not some conservatives pine for the "Good Old Days"? Yes, some of us do. We feel "pressed" by round the clock news, online everything, constant change -- we are all so, so busy!

No, we are not. The work required to feed, clothe, house, and provide excellent medical care to our population is ridiculously small -- the per capita income, in real dollars adjusted for inflation, is almost 300 per cent of the level in 1960. Theoretically, we should be able to maintain the same standard of living, and work only a third as much. Even that understates the lightness of our burdens today, because in 1960 a substantial percent of our GNP -- and most of the federal budget -- went to national defense.

We do not have to be constantly engaged in productive activity, and most of us do not spend much time in truly productive work. What do we do instead? Deal with paperwork, avoid litigation, comply with regulations, parry ideological thrusts, and all the other rot that serve no purpose other than to keep us busy.

Why? Liberals need us busy! Go beyond just our basic needs, and look at other productive activity -- what do we work on with our free time? Entertainment! We are not busy, but many of us are terribly bored with our lives. Liberals want us bored as well, because busyness and boredom are not inconsistent or incompatible -- they are the common traits of slaves.

Liberals intuitively understand that if we do not "feel" busy and if we find our own joys, then we will think independent and evolve into individuals. So they devise ways to gobble up time, and eat away the very years of our life.

Public schooling is an excellent example. The puny knowledge most high school students receive today would make our grandparents laugh (if you don't believe me, then look at an Eighth Grade textbook from seventy years ago -- I have -- and compare its language, its thoughtfulness, and its rigor to the silly textbooks of High School seniors today). Add onto that vast wasteful, heap of secondary education the ever more leaden period of "Higher Education" -- perhaps the best oxymoron in these days of Orwell's nightmares -- and the true purpose is clear: while away as much time as possible.

Grain threshing in 1908. Probably a good deal busier then picking up the kids after soccer practice
Grain threshing in 1908. Probably a good deal busier then picking up the kids after soccer practice

How much "work" today is nothing more than compliance with governmental or ideological mandates utterly disconnected with any living and good purpose? Half our time? More? Can we even judge clearly any longer? The material needs of every person on Earth could easily be satisfied by a dozen hours of unrestricted work each week. On that point, perversely, the old-style Marxists have a point. But it is not the "capitalists" who are suppressing our bountiful utopia, but the utopians themselves!

Capitalists are artists of wealth. The very term "capitalist" or phrase "the wealthy" are absurdities. Thomas Edison had a passion for invention. Bill Gates has a love of electronic information. Rock groups and concert pianists may earn big bucks, but the work itself is their purpose. Even financiers enjoy the game, the guess, the gambits -- not so much the money. What none of these groups or peoples do is force subjects to do them homage.

Liberals, like druids of other ages, need human sacrifices. Nazis, communists, fascists, socialists, and other liberals need the rest of us to kneel before their altars, to toil and to die building their temples, and to surrender our minds and hearts to those insatiable gods and goddesses who are ever separated from us common folk by the priestly castes of the Left.

Progress is the champion of the human condition, and conservatives are its stout troops. The liberals have persuaded us with this last and fatal lie: we are too busy right now. No, we are not. Shred the mountains of regulations and legal minutia, and restore the sensible and modest legal system which created our nation, and fifty pounds which we have borne on our shoulders since we first walked is gone -- and we can leap ten feet into the air!

Next end the conditioning which public schools and other instruments of manipulation, and instead of the desperate dullness that many people see -- an emptiness that drives them to drug abuse, oblivion of unpleasant sexuality, mindless music and movies, and random violence -- will be replaced by the very real hopefulness of modern life.

We are artists all, though blizzards of liberal static keep us from our beloved and undiscovered work. We have minds and hearts with purpose yet undiscovered by the vast majority of us. Given time, given reflection, given breathing room, we would sense and then perceive our dreams. So just as once thugs ruled the "Evil Empire" in the name of the people, and had to build around the Soviet territories and protectorates layers of minefields and barbed wire and concrete to crush hope of freedom, the thugs of the left today seek to crush our lives under the malicious and false notion of "busyness."

What is more horrifying to the left, if we found our hopes, then we would find each other as well. Race, gender, age, religion, and all the other characteristics of humanity are artificial, but visible, barriers. We can walk right through these walls of division once we find a person who loves Frank Lloyd Wright or Emily Dickinson or Louie Armstrong or Moliere. We can play chess, write songs, and dream dreams with our brethren around the globe in a brotherhood that is as real as our differences. Then who would need liberals?

We are not overworked, but empty. We are not stressed, through the dull sameness of social correctness, but we are also pampered and insulated. Life -- the grandest challenge and greatest adventure we can imagine -- has been drowned in a vat of useless and meaningless drivel. No, we are about as busy as a convict serving a life sentence.

Why do liberals need so fiercely to keep us busy, unbalanced, and unhappy? Because they are such wretched and dysfunctional creatures themselves, of course! Why else do they recoil from the Stars and Stripes and the Statute of Liberty -- those very symbols toward which serious people throughout the world have stretched out their arms and wept tears of joy -- with the same dread that Dracula had for sunlight?

Because liberty, and the inevitable natural consequence of liberty over time -- leisure and pleasure -- provide that life worth living which no liberal has yet found himself. They lust for that simple blessing of honest life which we conservatives accept as our birthright. They lust; they hate; and they rob us with "busyness" that is not real. ESR

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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