In Praise of Idleness

Bernard Russell wrote a piece with this title in 1932 at the nadir of the world depression. Perhaps he was trying to put an optimistic spin on mass unemployment, but he was also making a valid point, namely that we work too hard.

More recently Rutger Bregman wrote ‘The Solution to Everything: Work Less’. In the same spirit, he notes that that our work-life balance is too unevenly positioned.

I wrote ‘Mind Reader’, inspired by the opening of Russell’s piece, as a reflection of the relationship between crime and savings.

MIND READER

Thirteen-year old James O’Brien walked with a limp. Passers-by ignored him.

Yet he had a rare gift, a sixth sense his mother called it right after he came home, and announced, ‘Mum, today, I saw a traveller regard twelve beggars lying in the sun. He offered a dollar to the laziest of them. I knew which one would get it even before it happened.’…

‘How come?’

‘Obviously I could read all their minds, and one was was thinking, whoa, slow down, don’t rush, I’m lazy. Eleven of them jumped up to claim the prize, but the one thinking: whoa – my guy – got the dollar.’

‘So?’

‘Well, it proves I can read minds.’

‘How?’

‘Dunno, but it worked.’

‘I always said you had a sixth sense, James.’

His mother hugged him.

A week later…

‘Mum,’

‘Yes…?’

‘Today, I saw an advertisement for the Government’s savings bonds. I can forsee they will commit a crime.’

‘How and what do you mean?’

‘Well, buying a bond is lending money to the Government. But the much of that money will go to repaying the national debt incurred by past wars and in spending on armed forces ready for the next war. Hence the man who buys a savings bond is lending his money to the Government for them to wage war just as in my story books bad men hire murderers.’

‘So what should we do? Stop buying savings bonds?’

‘Yes! Because I can see that the government is preparing to commit a crime, to wage a war somewhere, to bomb and kill people some place.’

‘But what can you do?’

‘Mum, what can anyone, who wants to right a wrong, do? But have a dream.’

‘Oh, you mean like that Luther King years ago?’

‘My sixth sense has warned me, now my dream is no more wars. There’s a lot to do, where do I start?’

 

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