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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

The cost of social tolerance of laziness

Fri, 17 May 2019 13:45:00 +0000 Published in El Confidencial Digital

Welfare crises are usually attributed only to economic causes; the possible relationship with value crises, which entail social tolerance of different anti-values or vices, is not considered. For example, political corruption, alcohol consumption and chronic laziness.

 What is the cost of social tolerance of laziness on work? Let's think of the postponed or poorly finished tasks, the neglect of details, the succession of "bridges" that link one holiday to another, the unnecessary use of mobile, the lack of punctuality, the absence from work without sufficient reason, etc.

A Forges cartoon masterfully portrays this status: a group of veteran professionals euphorically go to the exit door of the office, saying goodbye to a young man who is still at his desk at work on which there is a mountain of folders, with these words: "We're going on a long weekend, scholarship recipient. Then don't say that we don't give you responsibilities".

The envious person tries not to let others discover his defect, because it is socially frowned upon. On the other hand, there are many lazy people who talk in public about their condition and even boast about being so: "Nobody is ashamed of getting up late and, on the contrary, it is ironized about the one who does it at eight in the "early morning," with the milkman (...). Tiredness is something so abhorred by the Spaniard that when someone suffers for an unrequited love, it is said of him that he suffers fatigue." (F. Diaz Plaja: El español y los siete pecados capitales).

While some lazy young people sit back and wait for an opportunity in life, others, more diligent, have already sought and found it. This has been true at least since Aesop published the fable of the cicada and the ant. The proud and lazy cicada ended up begging alms from the diligent and humble ant.

Chronic laziness is a wide road that leads to the well of losers. On the other hand, being lazy must be exhausting, because it requires always looking for ways not to do what needs to be done.

Laziness is one of the plagues of today's society. It especially affects those who spend "dead hours" amusing themselves on digital screens, which are incompatible with effort.

Laziness is an anti-value contrary to positive values, such as diligence and responsibility. If it is not corrected in time, it will always increase, with the risk of becoming an addiction. Which business would admit a candidate with laziness addiction syndrome?

It is surprising that books with these titles have been published: In Praise of Idleness; In Praise of Laziness; The Right to Laziness. Ironically, their authors praise "laziness" in order to - by contrast - criticize today's activism and hectic life. They propose more time for creative leisure and for the necessary rest.

Jacques Leclercq in his work In Praise of Laziness (2014) answers this rhetorical question: why praise laziness today?

This is his answer: "because our century boasts of being the century of intense life, and that intense life is nothing but a hectic life, because the sign of our century is the degree program, and the most beautiful discoveries of which it prides itself are not discoveries of wisdom, but of speed. Our life is only properly human if there is slowness in it, without this meaning that it must be completely idle; it can also be a praise of work, but the work, the effort, must start from a rest and lead to a rest. Great works and great joys are not savored in haste".

This hectic life is not what was expected after the technological revolution (working less and thus having more time for leisure). For this reason, we no longer speak of the dreamed-of "civilization of leisure", but only of "the culture of effort", understood not as a means, but as an end in itself (effort for effort's sake).

Against laziness, the most effective prevention remains to grow in diligence (from the Latin diligere, which means to love); it is a virtue that is part of charity.

It opposes carelessness, unpunctuality, idleness and reluctance.

Diligence is to do any task with enthusiasm, promptness of spirit, care, attention to detail and joy. Juan Ramón Jiménez included it in what he called "the work gustoso (as opposed to the work penoso), proper to any human being capable of giving his official document sufficient attention and desire.