It’s easy to look down on the Greeks for wanting early retirement and lots of government benefits. Can we blame them for wanting to vote down corrective austerity measures? Isn’t the best remedy for cultural malaise always some form of denial? Isn’t Western culture now overripe?
The viral video “Land of the Freebies, Home of the Enslaved” argues that Americans and Europeans have somehow lost what was once known as a work ethic. Being part of the “leisure class” is the hands-down goal at every level of society, not just the welfare-incentivized unemployed.
The rich have usually preferred working as little as possible, unless you think of lavish spending and planning vacations as a form of labor. The middle-class now realizes that you just need to work long enough to make a seed-type pot of money, which then almost effortlessly replicates itself. “Only fools work if they don’t have to,” they seem to say. After all, the term “labor saving” has been a defining impetus for technological innovation for decades, if not centuries.
Sociologist Charles Murray’s argument that “European socialist states are doomed” was aimed at the upper middle classes, the comfortable, respectable folk: “Europe’s short workweeks and frequent vacations are one symptom of the syndrome. The idea of work as a means of self-actualization has faded. The view of work as a necessary evil, interfering with the higher good of leisure, dominates. To have to go out to look for a job or to have to risk being fired from a job are seen as terrible impositions.”
Perhaps they spent too much time reading Harvard-graduate Henry David Thoreau, whose lucrative career was guaranteed in mid-19th-century America, but who chose instead to reverse the work-vacation formula, laboring in his bean field just long enough to vacation most of the year.
Being nonworking and affluent, however, has an unsavory attached stigma. Lettuce-picking union agitator Cesar Chavez inadvertently provided a solution: Since no one in society actually wants to pay more for lettuce at the grocery store, it is still possible to become champions of liberal causes to deflect attention away.
But we must ask if multiculturalism is just another form of indentured servitude, luring immigrants from down-and-out countries to do the dirty work of comfortable Westerners? And most work is “dirty work” isn’t it? Murray says the “the upper class is showing signs of becoming an elite that is hollow at the core.”
Dirt-poor immigrants are on the march around the globe, as nightly news makes witness. We look to China even to relieve us of our factory jobs, while providing us with maximum material goods, cheaply and for the least amount of personal effort. Meanwhile, Europeans and Americans have the nerve to act surprised about how much immigration is undoing their very identities.