6 Jun 07
Occasionally I am overcome by the desire to share my views on the concept and practice of idling with others. I refer, in particular, not to the more passive communiqués of this blog, but to an online forum which I frequent, whose name I shall not mention, but which may be discernible to those who are familiar with my work. Upon the divulgement of my views, I often find myself confronted with resistance, ire and resentment, which are the branches of a tree upon whose roots are carved a phrase which, although not directly spoken, carries a sentiment which is very much in evidence. That phrase being…
The world doesn’t owe you a living, you know.
Well no doubt that is true, but I would counter it with the suggestion that neither do I owe the world a living. I should, it is inferred, be more grateful for the position I find myself in, and should be willing to give of myself – my hard work, my labour; my blood, sweat and tears – in the service of the great and good who have enabled me to live in such relative luxury and comfort. Well first of all, who are these “great” and “good”? And secondly, would I necessarily be so much worse off if I was not in possession of all these things which “they” have so generously “given” to me?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly aware that, in a material sense, I am a highly fortunate person, especially when compared with those in more underprivileged parts of the world. I have a roof over my head, shoes on my feet and food in my belly, and access to opportunities, education, healthcare, leisure, amenities and material comforts which many could only dream of. I would not want to live in a mud hut in Africa. But who’s to say – I mean, how can one be absolutely sure – that if I was dumped in a mud hut in Africa, after a period of adaptation and adjustment, I wouldn’t be happy? Perhaps even happier than I am now?
I didn’t ask for the things I was given – all these material comforts and so on. But that’s not to say that I would want them to be taken away. Recently, on British TV, there was a series which fell under that generally most deplorable and detestable of umbrellas known as Reality TV. The show was called Castaway, details of which can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/castaway/. Now you can keep your Big Brother‘s, your Celebrity Love Island‘s and whatnot, but Castaway, in my defence, was a little different to the general rabble of nonsense which this particular genre of televisual “entertainment” is known for. Granted, there was the occasional buxom female running around in a bikini, squealing in delight at some matter of very little importance, and there were arguments about the apportionment of porridge and blankets, but aside from these inevitable staples of Reality TV, its participants were not all wannabe models and soap stars, and its underlying premise was a little less, shall we say, trivial, than that of Average Joe. To get back round to the point I was making at the beginning of this paragraph, the partakers of the “Castaway experience” had opted to spend 3 months in relative poverty, on a deserted part of the Great Barrier Island in New Zealand, where they slept and ate in a couple of ramshackle huts, and were expected to supplement their very basic provisions with fish they had fished for and whatever other edible substances they could find. They didn’t starve, but they experienced hunger the likes of which none of them had probably experienced before. They learned to work together and be creative with their resources, and almost universally expressed how happy their time on the island had been, and what better people they had become because of it. So again, back to the point… who’s to say that the material comforts and opportunities of a Modern Western Lifestyle make us happier than we would otherwise be?
The world doesn’t owe me a living. But… should we be grateful for being in receipt of things which we never asked for, which are provided by people who are probably not even aware of our existence, and which, in all possibility, actually reduce our level of happiness – and furthermore, leave our souls undernourished and unfulfilled? What do we owe the world for giving us all that we want, but little that we really need?