“Laziness” is Context, not Content

Coming in early 2021!

I could have written this post yesterday. Instead, after reading an excellent article by Devon Price about how Laziness Does Not Exist, I chose not to. Instead, I decided to go play video games for nearly 3 hours, then have dinner, play video games with friends (Fall Guys) and then play more video games from 11 PM to nearly 3 AM (It’s Ghost of Tsushima , if you’re curious).

Am I lazy? Why didn’t I just write this article instead of slacking off? What does it say about my character that even though I had hours of opportunities to write this I didn’t?

According to Price? Nothing.

…[W\hen I see a student failing to complete assignments, missing deadlines, or not delivering results in other aspects of their life, I’m moved to ask: what are the situational factors holding this student back? What needs are currently not being met? And, when it comes to behavioral “laziness,” I’m especially moved to ask: what are the barriers to action that I can’t see?

Taking Price’s line of reasoning here what were my barriers to action that others may not see?

Well, I’d already done some organizing for a D&D session during my birthday in a couple of weeks. I read some other articles before that and generally didn’t feel like overwhelming myself. I felt a strong urge to do something to just relax and get lost in and I felt video games fit that need of mine better than writing did. I was also aware that this site is completely run by me (even if it’s just an unconscious recognition at this point) and that I make my own deadlines.

But do all these barriers say something about my character? Nope. They’re just circumstances I find myself in and I react however I feel best able to in the moment. My ability to “recognize those barriers—and viewing them as legitimate” is key in me still finding enjoyment in writing.

Consider an alternative scenario: I shame myself heavily for not writing. I tell myself I’m a failure and that this just further proves I can’t commit to anything without messing it up. What would that do for me? According to Price it would do the opposite of helping:

It has nothing to do with desire, motivation, or moral upstandingness. Procastinators can will themselves to work for hours; they can sit in front of a blank word document, doing nothing else, and torture themselves; they can pile on the guilt again and again — none of it makes initiating the task any easier. In fact, their desire to get the damn thing done may worsen their stress and make starting the task harder.

The solution, instead, is to look for what is holding the procrastinator back. If anxiety is the major barrier, the procrastinator actually needs to walk away from the computer/book/word document and engage in a relaxing activity. Being branded “lazy” by other people is likely to lead to the exact opposite behavior.

I can shout, hurl insults, negative self-talk and curse myself out for existing all I want but what good will it do me? And even if it got me to write the damn thing, what would it accomplish? I’d likely still see myself as a failure or that the article suffered because I guilt myself so feverishly. This would only keep the cycle of self-hatred going and affect my writing even more!

No, there’s no point in self-shaming yourself over what you can’t find in yourself to accomplish. Ask yourself this question: Even if shaming got you to where you needed to be: Would it be worth it? Would it be worth constantly denigrating, belittling and emotionally harming yourself just to check something off on a checklist for the day? How much is the assignment you’re berating yourself really worth? Is it worth your self-esteem or your sense of well-being? I doubt it.

Shame is a powerful social tool but it’s often too strong for what we think is necessary. Guilt isn’t necessarily a bad thing to feel. Feeling remorse for past wrongs isn’t a fault and telling yourself you should have and need to do better isn’t either! But shame doesn’t work like that, as we’ve been talking about in the last couple of articles. Shame builds secrecy, it makes people take out their anger on themselves instead of focusing that energy on progress for themselves.

So OK, you get it, self-shaming doesn’t work.

Well, Price thinks their so smart so what is the solution then?

The class & I talked about the unfair judgments people levy against those with mental illness; how depression is interpreted as laziness, how mood swings are framed as manipulative, how people with “severe” mental illnesses are assumed incompetent or dangerous.

The quiet, occasionally-class-skipping student watched this discussion with keen interest. After class, as people filtered out of the room, she hung back and asked to talk to me. And then she disclosed that she had a mental illness and was actively working to treat it. She was busy with therapy and switching medications, and all the side effects that entails. Sometimes, she was not able to leave the house or sit still in a classroom for hours. She didn’t dare tell her other professors that this was why she was missing classes and late, sometimes, on assignments; they’d think she was using her illness as an excuse. But she trusted me to understand.

Support! As I talked about in the previous article with regards to addiction (and of course mental health issues and addiction often go hand and hand), support from your peers is one of the most important things people can have. If I didn’t have my loving and supportive partner, my close friends or my online communities, I’m not sure what I’d be doing right now. I’d still probably be just as preoccupied with hating myself and wishing I could’ve done X or Y over again.

But just like with “laziness” these things don’t help me. They make me feel worse while helping no one around me. It makes me spiral into the pits of despair and self-hatred and eventually those emotions need to be let out somehow and often they’ll be on people I love and care about. I don’t want to be that person anymore and so I have to strive to do better, not wallow in self-pity.

And what happens when this kind of support is given?

Price explains:

These students all came to me willingly, and shared what was bothering them. Because I discussed mental illness, trauma, and stigma in my class, they knew I would be understanding. And with some accommodations, they blossomed academically. They gained confidence, made attempts at assignments that intimidated them, raised their grades, started considering graduate school and internships.

Success! Support leads to success! It’s almost like making folks feel ashamed of themselves by forcing them to go to work camps or go to prison is a bad idea! It’s almost like manipulatively hosting summer field picking jobs is a way to reinforce to people that they need to be productive or else they’re not leading a “full” life, even in retirement!

As Price says, y’all aren’t lazy. And even if you were, it’s OK to be lazy and take care of yourself when you need to do so. There’s a need that you feel isn’t being met at that time and that’s valid and so important to listen to. It should be better respective and legitimized in today’s society. But sadly, we live under a capitalist regime so that kind of legitimacy won’t be afforded anytime soon.

If I had one quibble with Price’s (excellent) piece, it’s that while laziness as a moral status doesn’t exist, I think it’s very much the case that laziness as a neutral status does. Yeah, maybe I was being lazy yesterday when I didn’t want to write immediately after reading an article that mentions mental health, sexual assault, and trauma, but you know what?

That’s OK, because I’m here now and I wrote it, didn’t I?

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Your Life Ends When Work Ends (And It Never Ends)

I’m not being paid to do this, but the book seems neat!

I get up just about noon
My head sends a message for me to reach for my shoes and then walk
Gotta go to work, gotta go to work, gotta have a job

Remember when folks used to retire? You know, that pesky thing that makes work finally end for maybe 10-20 years (the latter if you’re lucky) and then you die. Cool, right?

You’ve spent just about 3/4 of your life and now you can finally relax and enjoy your life! Except you’ve still got rent to pay, bills to pay and the retirement money isn’t as good as it used to be. But lucky for you there are opportunities out there for industrious seniors like yourself!

Does it suck that work has left you somewhat crippled or handicapped in your advanced age? Doesn’t it blow that you need ibuprofen all of the time, so much that you need to get a prescription from your doctor? You’ve likely lost the ability to safely drive due to some of your cells decaying and dying over the years, maybe faster due to work, so you’ll need to take the bus.

Or, maybe you’ll need to be reliant on Uber or a friends good graces. Maybe you’re lucky and only need to be partially taken care of and haven’t been left to rot in a nursing home like so many other people. You’re independent after all! No one can slow you down now that you’ve got more time to spend on yourself. But time isn’t money, not unless you’re working for that time. And even with social security finally doing something meaningful (however slight) you still feel pressured to be productive and a fully-engaged member of your larger community. How grand!

Thank goodness Amazon makes that easy:

They’ve got these warehouses, which they call “fulfillment centers,” which to me sounds like Orwellian jargon, all over the country. And when you place an order, it goes through to whichever one is near you and has it. And these warehouses are essentially just huge input/output machines. … Amazon markets this kind of work to old people as a positive thing, using language about freedom and flexibility. But why even worry about optics when they’re dealing with people who are kind of desperate?

The interviewer here (bold), Allie Conti is speaking with journalist Jessica Bruder who has written a book on the, “shocking number of seniors who travel the country working seasonal odd jobs at places like Amazon’s network of warehouses.” Bruder did the typical journalist thing, she went undercover and saw how these people’s lives were going now that they were in this line of work.

Predictably, it doesn’t go well for them. Amazon markets their wages, flexibility, etc. while ignoring the awful fact that this is necessary to begin with. Shouldn’t these people be spending their twilight years away from “flexibility and high wages”. They should be getting money for nothing even if you’re the most die-hard conservative? These people put decades into providing society value and their bodies only for society go, “Yeah, but about how a little more? You know, for fun?” And seniors often feel pressured into it due to the way shame and leisure intersect.

As Bruder writes,

So what I see out there is a lot of people don’t want to say to other people, “Yeah, I’m going to work at Amazon this winter because I’m broke, and I need money.” It’s a lot easier to say, “I’m going to stay active, I’m going to make friends, I’m going for some camaraderie, and, yeah, maybe I’ve gotta take a lot of ibuprofen, but that’s really a weight loss program, the 15 miles a day of walking I have to do.”

People don’t want to say to their friends or family, “Oh I still need a job because the economy sucks!” They want their families to know they’re still worthwhile and in this culture being “worthy” often means you’re producing something. Even for myself, someone who prides herself on being lazy and taking my time with things it’s hard to deny that writing these articles makes me feel good. Or that it gives me a positive boost in my mood, especially when I’m having a tough day.

Part of that is just me loving to write. It’s something I really enjoy because it gives me the chance to better formulate my opinions, emotions and preferences to a larger audience. Even if that audience is just one other person, that’s at least one more person I can connect with. But another part is the feeling that I need to write. I need to be productive or otherwise my day will be a waste! To be clear, the money I get from Patreon is appreciated but never makes me feel like I need to write. It’s the boss in my head that does that, not my lovely patrons.

One of my favorite sayings about writing comes from the anarchist Benjamin Tucker who once said, “[Liberty] will be edited to suit its editor, not its readers. He hopes that what suits him will suit them; but, if not, it will make no difference.” My hope is that when I write, it’ll both elevate myself and others around me, but ultimately as long as I get something out of it, I’m satisfied.

One of the most horrifying aspects of this articles come in here:

…So what do you replace this unskilled labor with that’s easier on the body?

Did I tell you what’s happening in Japan with exoskeletons? This is fucking crazy.


The population is aging in Japan, and there are some employers whose workers have heavy lifting jobs—and they’ve started giving them these exoskeletons so that they can lift heavier loads.


In a weird a way, I kind of think this hybridization is what we’re going to see in the immediate future. Some people look at it as positive, like, “Oh, it makes things easier on your body,” and maybe I’m a bit more cyclical because I think, Oh, wow, you can squeeze even more exertion out of this human piece of meat.

It’s not cynical (which I think is what was meant here?) at all! It’s 100% realistic to call out this capitalistic exploitation for what it is. It doesn’t matter, as Bruder points out, whether automation happens or not but who controls that automation. I’ve been saying this for a while and to see a normal(ish) website have something like that made me smile. Not that it’s a happy thing to reflect on but as I’ve stated before, it’s nice to see your opinion validated every now and then.

I told my partner about the exoskeleton while we were having dinner. She looked at me and went, “What?” I’m not sure she believed me at first, hell, I almost couldn’t believe it myself. There’s something so insidious and destructive about capitalism and I’ve only become more and more convinced about that as I get older, not less. Trying to draw as much labor time from human beings who are old and retired is especially cruel when they should be living their life.

And, as always, our lives are very different from work. The way we act, the things we do and say, I often think about all of the things I’d rather do than go to work. And by the way, I’ve got a pretty cushy overnight shift that doesn’t require much from me. Well, you know besides wrecking my sense of time more than 2020 has already done and my sleep schedule as well. Making my timing with friends and my partner more difficult than it would be otherwise, no big deal though, right?

One last thing on this:

I don’t think that universal basic income without something that allows for social mobility is a solution. If it creates a subsistence level where people are alive and sheltered and whatever, but there’s still no way to better their lot, then that’s not good enough.

I loved seeing this as well. Bruder seems to have a good head on her shoulder about the way capitalism works and the ways it has fundamentally failed our elderly. The same goes for Conti and her pointed questions and responses to what Bruder says.

It’s a great interview and comes highly recommended to my readers!

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