Monday, 15 June 2009

The Importance Of Being Lazy

We live in a world where we’re urged get up and then hit turbo charge and attack each day as if it is the last day of our lives. From the moment my crusty eyes open after a night’s sleep I am on the bloody move. I look at my clock and think “Crap! I’m going to be late!!”

So I get up, rush to get to the bathroom before Mrs PM, race downstairs, get hassled by the cats, prepare their breakfast, make my lunch, rush out, hit the rush hour, curse because I’ve forgotten to eat breakfast myself, curse again because I’m in such a rush that I forgot my lunch and finally after seemingly eons in the car I get to work,

When I arrive, I am urged to fall into line and spend an adrenalin-fuelled day meeting deadlines and being virtually ordered to be a dynamic robot, seeking excellence in everything I do. My entire day is usually a tiring stress-filled period of trauma where I have several people bothering me constantly:

“Have you done this?”

“Have you done that?”

Emails fly in, the phone rings, I’m asked question after question. I attend meeting after meeting. I barely have time to breath.

At the end of the day, I am a shredded nervous wreck. The greatest feeling in the world is driving out through the gates at the end of the day knowing that I can relax at least a little. But then there’s the drive home through the rush hour traffic to rekindle the stress-monster within.

When I finally arrive home I am shattered and want nothing more than to vegetate in front of the TV. My brain is quite literally fried, drained of all emotion and thought. My imagination is a distant memory and I find myself trying to fill the void with inane garbage on the TV. I sit there like a dribbling half-wit as boring drivel somehow gets past my mental firewall filling my mind with utter nonsense. Eventually my firewall somehow reboots and I am able to focus on more interesting stuff but then I realise that it is time to go to bed. My final thought before sleep claims me is:“Oh no! Back to work tomorrow!”

The cycle is inexorable and all-consuming, mentally draining and physically sickening.

And it doesn’t matter what you do or who you work for. I speak to friends and colleagues from all walks of life with all sorts of careers. It is the same for them.

Recently I’ve been asking myself, who the bloody hell decided that I should spend my entire life racing through days like a rocket powered Formula One car? What elite group of psychotic arses decided that everybody should run around like blue-arsed flies for their entire working lives? I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole world is run by a bunch of these people. I would like to call them "agitators”.

So, what is an agitator? It is a person who is driven to work, work, work until they are fit to drop and expects everybody else to fall in line. Such is their devotion to life in the fast lane that they drag the rest of us along with them. They regard idleness as a sin; they regard relaxation as a crime; they have no imagination; they want to rise as quickly as possible up the corporate ladder and will do anything to achieve their goals.

Agitators seem to think that it is somehow good for the rest of us to be overly productive, mentally alert, and run ourselves into the ground day in day out for the best years of our lives. We have been told that we must “GO, GO, GO!” constantly and inexorably. And if we do “GO GO GO” they tell us that we should “GO FASTER FASTER FASTER ”. We are not allowed to stop. We are expected to put in supreme effort and drain ourselves almost to an oblivious void. These people have somehow brainwashed everybody into thinking that we have to drive ourselves into the ground every single day.

We are good, they ask to be better.

We improve and become better, they ask to reach excellence.

We achieve excellence, we are asked to become perfect.

We reach perfection and that is still not enough. We have to become super-perfect. These are the kind of people who, when told “I will give you 100%”, dismiss that with a wave of their hands and say “100%? I WANT 200%!!!”

There’s no time even to be ill. If you ARE ill you have to personally phone up work; it’s as if nobody believes that you can be so ill that work is impossible. There are commercials on the TV for maximum über-strength cold and flu remedies that enable you to get to work and do your job even though you are in the grip of the worst flu imaginable. The agitators tell us “Life doesn’t stop just because you are sick and dying”.

I have an ambition to write a novel or at least some kind of book. I know that I will never do that unless something changes. When I arrive home from yet another day’s hard work, together with millions of people worldwide, my brain is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. My vivid imagination has been replaced by a nebulous cloud. I could not stimulate my mind if I applied a million volt electric shock (you may actually struggle to believe I hadn’t already done that if you’ve ever seen my hair on a bad day).

My mind becomes a void that can only be filled with trash.

If you read the job pages of a British broadsheet, you see that the demands on people are phenomenal. The job commercials demand qualities that even Superman would struggle to fulfil. Here are some examples I picked up recently from a broadsheet:

“Capable of thriving under pressure”

“Must be deadline oriented”

“Must be absolutely flexible”

“Must be able to solve any problem”

We are expected to hit the ground running and to stay there, burning ourselves out. Friends and colleagues in all walks of life and in many careers feel exactly the same. We are driven to dedicate our entire lives to this unending mind-destroying rat race.

We can’t relax, even at home or on holiday. Some people are driven to work all the hours they can and are not satisfied even when they achieve great things. I am astounded that people can go on holiday and take their work with them. They have to “GO GO GO GO GO” all of the time and if they are go-go-going at their fastest rate they are urged to slip into overdrive by the agitators.

I think we have forgotten about life and are gradually leaving it behind. In my twenty five years in the rat race, things have become far worse and I can only see things deteriorating rapidly. Stress is causing illness amongst the population of the world; demands are made through the management chain and by the time it reaches the bottom, everybody in the chain has suffered varying degrees of pressure. Even if you are not an agitator yet have some degree of success, the agitators will pile even more work and burdens upon you to make sure your stress levels are so high that you can be even more productive.

Okay, so we need to work to be able to live comfortably, but the agitators, the drivers of this fast paced life, have us by the short and curlies. We have to work and they know it, so their demands become greater while resources and time becomes scarcer. Even agitators have demands thrust upon them by competitors, customers and über-agitators higher up the food chain, whose requirements are becoming more absurd as time progresses. It’s a vicious circle of mayhem; we are all part of it and cannot escape.

Why should agitators ruin it for those who wish to be creative? Agitators are driven by a work ethic that is becoming increasingly all-consuming in all walks of life. Ultimately I see the human race becoming almost robotic. Longer working hours will mean that we have less free time to become relaxed and ponder the beauty of the world; we should be working shorter hours and using spare time to expand our minds. Agitators, who seem to be in charge, have forgotten how to do this and are driven solely by a meaningless ambition. They pat themselves on the back for their success.

Except they don’t have success do they, if we’re honest about it?

A large proportion of them set themselves and others increasingly absurd and unachievable deadlines and targets that they and the people who work for them can’t even dream of reaching. Just take a look at the crazy rush to build the new Wembley Stadium as a prime example of the failure of agitators. Look at the panic that ensues when other large building contracts and projects finish way over budget and years too late. It is a worldwide phenomenon and yet we sit there and continue to let the agitators dictate to us.

I ask myself whether it is time to fight back. Should we improve our quality of life by spending more time relaxing?

Agitators pour scorn on such rebellious thoughts by making out that this leads to idleness and sloth. You are lazy and therefore a total burden to society.

But I ask myself, what the hell is wrong with being idle?

My mind is normally active and, when not under pressure at work, I am constantly thinking about new stuff. My imagination tends to run amok if I am relaxed, particularly if fuelled by something strange I see in the news, or something weird I read in newspapers and magazines. Even something as mundane as watching a film can trigger a bizarre journey into the sick, sordid and wacky universe that is my imagination.

Yet the work ethic that is forced upon me by agitators is slowly killing that world. Even if I change my job to do something else I will be at the mercy of these people. Agitators call us lazy and the rest of society frowns upon us as a result. I can just imagine an agitator watching me at the moment and the thoughts that may go through his head.

“Why are you sitting there at a computer typing a blog post when you could be working? Your blog is meaningless. You don’t get paid for it – why bother? You may as well knuckle down and start thinking about how you are going to tackle your next week’s work.”

It shouldn’t have to be that way.

Staying in bed for an extra hour at the weekend is frowned upon and criticised by agitators.

Well, maybe it is time for me to make a stand. Maybe I shouldn’t allow agitators to dictate the roads I take. Okay, I have to work, but outside that work I should not be pushed around and accused of being unproductive just because I am refusing to tow society’s line of constantly running and living on an adrenalin-fuelled rollercoaster.

I think I will embrace idleness. Laziness will be my guide. Indolence will fuel my imagination and help me fuel my ambitions.

No more burning the midnight oil for me; no more worrying about work when I am at home. I will no longer allow agitators to accuse me of idleness just because I decide to spend my days strolling through the park, allowing my imagination to run free.

There is a world out there and being idle occasionally allows us to focus on it. Ignore the agitators; join me and we can derail this obsession with fast-paced, stress-inducing, agitator-driven rat race that we all have to endure.

Life is good – relax and enjoy it.


Pia K said...

hear hear! i really learnt this the hard way through stress related sick leave some years back - the sad thing though is that most people around you still can't see that economic growth is far from necessarily the best thing for us as individuals or the human race and other beings and the planet. to be able to relax and enjoy the little things in life is also so very much a good and healthy way to be productive and creative when needed.

word verification - hotoom. that's me:)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pia,

Glad you agree. If you free your mind, you free your spirit.



Andy Duggan said...

Couldn't agree more with this.

It's one reason why I wanted to work for myself. Once a contract's finished, it's up to me if I want to extend it. And at the moment I don't because I want to concentrate on work outside the IT industry. Work I want to do rather than work I have to do. Work that won't earn me any money in the short term, though it might in the long term.

OK, there's no job security, but I have got a certain amount of freedom.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Andy,

Yes - I'm quite envious of you (as I have said before) - as you have freedom and you are doing something you really enjoy.

BTW I'm still reading "Scars ..." and I am impressed.