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Hard-working Idleness

Here’s a letter I wrote to Harper’s about an article in their Nov. 04 issue:
Mark Slouka (“Quitting the Paint Factory” Nov. 04) did an inspiring “job” of demonstrating the value of hard-working idleness”¦ his ruminations on our overworked culture and the religion of The Economy led serendipitously through the Futurists to the Future”¦er um, the present, personified by the visibly-rushing-busily-“working hard“-towards-psychosis George W. Bush. Maybe our new fascists will be defeated by the time this letter arrives in the Harper’s mailbox, but the larger logic that has dominated my life, that is The Greatest Speedup in Human History, clearly will keep gaining momentum.
There are plenty of dissidents tilting against this logic, most of them having difficulty finding time for idleness in the face of the planetary work machine. Thousands more are too busy creating the social and technological foundations for a life after capitalism to hold a steady job. Ironies abound.
My only frustration with Slouka’s piece is that it reinforces a false opposition between working frenetically and idleness. The real opposition that most of us are balanced on is between doing stupid work that serves no purpose (though it does pay wages) versus the important work that we do outside of the logic of remuneration because we enjoy it and it’s worth doing. Thanks to Slouka, though, for eloquently going public in favor of slowing down and making time and space for human life, not work.
–Chris Carlsson
The Committee for Full Enjoyment (not full employment!)

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