tyrannical ethic

Art is so wonderfully irrational, exuberantly pointless, but necessary all the same. Pointless and yet necessary, that’s hard for a puritan to understand.

Gunter Grass

The pure tyrannical ethic is the puritanical ethos promulgated by The Puritans. The Puritans are one of numerous sub-sects of Christianity, equally skewed and biased, with an emphasis on ‘good works’ using the Biblical statement ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop’ (Proverbs 16:27) as the basis of their tyranny over ‘moral rigor.’ Idleness was considered one of the great sins.

Puritanism had a more significant persistence in American life than as the religion of black-frocked caricatures. It survived, perhaps most conspicuously, in the secular form of self-reliance, moral rigor and political localism that became ….virtually the definition of Americanism. (history.com)

This aversion to idleness is one of the major foundations of a social dynamic in which work is paramount, and ‘lazy’ (which is just the slang version of ‘leisure’) kin to sin. Although the Puritans did recognize a need for a day of rest, labor laws, which prevented child labor and limited the number of hours worked during a day, emerged as a counter measure to the bedrock of the pure tyrannical ethic of work is good, leisure is bad. Even today, many find leisure time very disturbing if they are not being productive, during leisure time. Leisure conjures up disturbing cognitions and emotions of uselessness, failure and the fear of hell for idle leisure is a serious sin.

If work and leisure are soon to be subordinated to this one utopian principle – absolute busyness – then utopia and melancholy will come to coincide: an age without conflict will dawn, perpetually busy – and without consciousness.

-Gunter Grass

Even an inquisition into the tyrannical nature of ‘work’ in the modern world, is delving into details. And, that is where the devil resides as depicted in the common phrase ‘the devil is in the details.’ Science is often distrusted because it represents details, produced by those with idle hands and without ‘real’ work. It is one of the typically paradoxical dynamics in the human mind in which the benefits of science are of the devil, and yet quite welcome.

What makes work tyrannical is the embedded command of ‘have to’ or ‘must.’ Worse yet is the implicit ‘or else’ which accompanies the commands must or have to, if even internal and subconscious. For example, ‘I have to go to work, or else…..’ ‘I have to (fill in the blank____), or else ____. I must and I have to are the most ubiquitous examples of the pure tyrannical ethic of a bully in the mind. Worse yet is the imperialistic drive to enforce the ‘work ethic’ upon others. ‘You have to, or else.’ The ‘or else’ factor can be any number of ‘punishments’ available, but the most commonly used one is going to hell. It would appear that heaven is filled with workers, and hell with lazies. It may well be more true that leisure is heavenly and work is hellish. Work need not be hellish; labor can be joyous collaboration. But, having fun while engaged in labor is suspect as devilish.

Work is an important feature of one’s personal and social life; but, work is as much if not more a psyche-logical construct than it is physical effort or labor. An athlete in training for competition ‘works’ as much as does a scientist in a lab, or a plumber under the sink. Physical exertion of effort or force is not any more or less worthy than the mental exertion of effort or force. It could even be posited that mental exertion of force is causal. That is, without the psychelogical force of intention, there is no physical force in action. Effort, force and exertion is only hampered when contaminated with ‘must’ or ‘have to.’ For example, consider the work you do that you must or else vs. the work you do that is fun. The former is restricted by resistance and the latter flows with joy.

Resistance to and capacity for work as fun is learned. The intense training of social conditioning when predicated on a pure tyrannical puritanical bully system in which leisure and fun is mutually exclusive from work and labor is a recipe for eventual exhaustion. As exhaustion increases, so does exhaust, i.e., pollution. As pollution increases, so does dullness of mind, lethargy and illness. It is, perhaps, ironic that the puritanical work ethic has produced exhaust and pollution, which is far from pure.

To resist tyranny when imposed from the outside is noble. To resist tyranny which has been internalized as ‘ I must’ or ‘I have to’ with an implied or actual ‘or else’ factor, is an imperative if one sincerely aims for the target of ‘freedom.’ Freedom and leisure go together like a sailboat and its sails.

To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization.

-Arnold J. Toynbee


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