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Generation Y-ny Isn't Busy, They're Lazy

Posted: 07/05/2012 7:35 am

So, according to Facebook, everyone and their mother has seen this New York Times editorial, The Busy Trap, by Tim Kreider. Never has an article so polluted my newsfeed, prefaced with user statements like, "So true," "Gotta get here," or a simple thumbs-up 'like'.

Of course everyone is lauding the article as some intellectual, sociological masterpiece of paradigm-shifting proportions. Of course they are. The Busy Trap is a justification for a generational sense of entitlement. A rationale underlying the newfound idea that we, Generation Y, are somehow not only entitled to a fulfilling career at the ripe old age of 22, we are also entitled to plenty of rest and relaxation.

"The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play," reiterates Krieder, quoting Arthur C. Clarke, a British author and inventor.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, Gen Y, but no one is -- nor ever has been -- entitled to a playful life of rest and relaxation. That's something you strive for. That's something you earn. Work -- work to survive, no less -- is an eternal human condition.

Work is a constant necessity throughout generations and cultures. Like taxes, few can escape it. The "few" being our dear author, Kreider, who evidently has the means to hop off to the south of France when the going gets tough.

The Busy Trap and its popularity stand as a testament to a generational epidemic: a devastatingly widespread sense of entitlement that is, in part, contributing to those devastating post-grad employment levels.

My generation, Gen Y, has been so inundated with notions of a "fulfilling career" that we have all but discarded reality. See, the thing about work is, it's not always fun and fulfilling. It's work. And, in this economy, you have to work to get a job and keep a job.

Yes, the economy is rough. One of the roughest since the Great Depression. And yes, one in three Americans has a college degree (and 31 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 44 have a university degree), making your degree markedly less valuable. But, all this talk of "work-life balance" and a "fulfilling career" on failed job interview number 20 isn't doing you any favours.

Not to quote my dad, but, you know what's hard? Getting drafted. That's hard. Thankfully, our society has advanced beyond merciless drafting of citizens, but still, an iota of perspective would be nice. An inbox "full of emails asking [you] to do things" is hardly a hardship. It is an inescapable reality that comes with living and working in the 21st century. With the past century's myriad advancements, from computers to video conferencing, we have moved from the fields and factories to the glass-plated downtown office buildings and laptops. That means a whole new cast of stressors to which we have to accommodate. That's modernization, people.

Until the technological revolution of the modern era, when the sweat poured, the fields were sowed, and the factory doors closed, the workday was over. You simply could not work from home. "Work-life balance" was not a cherished circumstance, but rather, a mere product of the system.

Now, as a third-tier service economy, the workday is never really over.

And therein lies the single prevailing truth of The Busy Trap: our society so values maximum productivity that we nearly prohibit "resolute idleness." And, as much as I would like to operate at maximum efficiency, I'm neither a machine nor a sadist. We are all human. We need some downtime, to which -- I reiterate -- we are to aspire, not de facto expect. But, well-deserved vacations have become no more than "time away from the desk," during which most people are still readily accessible via a handful of social media channels. Of course that breeds anxiety.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in ten Americans suffer from mood disorders, 40 million of whom are plagued with "anxiety."

We worry. We worry that if we put down our phones for an hour, even when on the beach, we will miss a catastrophically, earth-shattering event that just happened not to reach the shores of St. John. We worry that the moment we are utterly inaccessible, a loved one will be hit by a car, or... we'll miss the UPS man.

What to do, what to do? J. Bryan Lowder of Slate suggests that we "need changes in both policy and cultural attitudes in order to make our working lives more humane." But, even if some overarching authority mandated that all offices closed at noon for a Spanish-like siesta, people could and would still work. They could go home and work there. They could keep abreast of the news on their phones. They could, oh, I don't know, read some infuriating article and be compelled to write something on their day off and never really "rest" (which is defined how, exactly?). What conceivable democratic authority has the capacity to institutionalize "relaxation policy?"

Krieder blames the "present politico-economic system" for the hysteria, but that's just too clichéd for me to stomach. If anyone or anything is to blame, it's modernity. The fact that we're busy is a product of modern advancements, imposing conditions to which we have to adjust. So, given that no one is advocating for a two-decade regression, is relaxation simply a case of human will power? Just put down the phone? Just ignore the 'new email' bing? De-busy? We can't. We won't. The technology is there. In a matter of a decade we have been trained to expect, to need, to crave a constant stream of stimulating data points.

But whining about the barrage of emails and offering an escape to the south of France is hardly a solution. It is utterly laughable and disgustingly entitled.

 

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