by Steve Bivans
Are humans inherently lazy?
If given something for free does the gift remove their incentive to work or create?
This seems to be the case sometimes. But is what we see actually laziness? Or is it a lethargy brought on by the despondency, boredom, depression, oppression, that comes from a loss of hope and a belief that hard work is rewarded with happiness and security?
For example, does 12 years of public funded, free education produce lazy young adults? If so, should we charge them for their education? Why not? If it will in fact give them an incentive to learn and achieve. If it does not produce lazy adults, then why do we charge them an exorbitant fee for post-secondary education? Why is there a different logic applied to the former and not the latter? It seems to me that we should either be in favor of educating people to the maximum of their abilities, to be productive, aware, engaged individuals in society, or we should require them all to pay for that education. Instead we have a conflicting system.
When systems defy logic, there’s something inherently wrong with them. They should be changed. But which is it? Are humans lazy by nature? Does a gift make them more lazy? If we give them free education all the way through college or trade school, will they squander it, will they become do-nothings? I say no, and fuck no.
This can be demonstrated easily enough, but the premise has some really sticky staying power, for some reason. I’m not sure why that is. It’s possible that it comes from something that IS human nature: self-centeredness, and a lack of compassion for others that comes from a fear that if we don’t look out for ourselves, someone else will take away the things that make us feel secure. Fear is a bitch. There’s nothing particularly good about it, unless it keeps you from kissing cobras, or wrestling crocodiles.
Gifts do not directly result in laziness. That’s not to say they ‘can’t’ have that effect. Anyone with a child knows this, and possibly that’s where the idea originates. Yes, if you give a child everything they want, never make them accountable for anything, don’t discipline them when they break shit, then you will create a Franken-child who will grow up spoiled rotten and ruin everything he or she touches. They will be lazy and entitled. But gifts don’t have to result in lumbering, teenage monsters, not if the discipline and responsibility is part of their ‘up-bringin’ as my mama used to say. Not, if you make them accountable for their actions and teach them the value of hard work, and the dangers of sloth.
Let’s think about the question in this way. Are YOU lazy? Be honest. Maybe you’re like me. Some days I don’t feel like doing a fuckin’ thing. I’m exhausted, depressed, discouraged, etc., so I sit around arguing with friends on Facebook, retweeting negative memes on Twitter, watching YouTube, Buffy, or playing computer games. But I know that I can’t do that every day, and I don’t. Personally I don’t think humans are inherently lazy AT ALL! Just look around you. Could an inherently lazy species create and do all the things that ours has—both good and bad mind ya—if we were naturally lazy? Answer: fuck no. It takes a lot of energy, both mental and physical, to create the world that we have today and to maintain it. Most of us work our asses off every day, or nearly every day just to survive.
“But that’s ME and YOU” you say. “There are those lazy poor people over there on welfare! They’re living off of my hard work, and they do nothing for it!” Are you sure about that? Have you ever been in their position? How much do we know about it? I’ve been close. I’ve certainly gone hungry for more than a day or more at times in my life, but I’ve never been truly hungry. I’ve been unemployed for long stretches, but didn’t starve. Why? Because someone helped me out: family and friends mainly. And that’s where the gift-equals-laziness argument falls on it’s ass.
Everyone. EVERY.ONE. on this planet survives on the generosity of others. Yes, YOU TOO. If you don’t think so, stop reading and start thinking, for once. When our sorry asses were birthed into this world, did we feed ourselves? Did we change our own shitty diapers? How long were we ‘gifted’ a place to sleep, food to eat, clothes to wear? I don’t know about you, but I’m still getting gifts of those things from my parents, and I’m almost 50! Am I lazy? I dare you to say so. I’ll kick your ass into your esophagus, and enjoy the process. I’m betting that you aren’t lazy either. Hell, you took the time to read this. Reading isn’t being lazy. For half of the last year, 2014, I was technically unemployed, or more accurately ‘under’ employed. I tell people all the time that I have a job, but my boss doesn’t pay me, because he’s broke. I’m my boss. But during that year of unemployment I wrote a book of over 500 pages, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, volunteered for a couple of non-profits, and kept my house from falling apart from the inevitable chaos that is home-ownership.
If we were to actually look in detail at most of the ‘lazy’ people’s lives that we see, I think we’d find that they are usually working their ass off just to survive every day. That doesn’t mean that some of them aren’t hanging out on the corner doing nothing constructive; some of them are. But they are the minority. There are a lot of unemployed and underemployed people in America. If they were all standing on corners doing nothing, there’d be no corners left.
I suspect that mostly what we’re seeing when we see laziness, in those cases, is more likely the symptoms of despair, depression, anger, and disillusionment that results when one hits the bottom and no longer holds out any hope of ever climbing out. I’ve been there for brief periods of time in my life. It’s demoralizing and debilitating. Some days it’s hard to even get out of bed. But I did, and quite frankly, so did those lazy guys on the corner. They’re not in bed. Maybe they’re pushing crack or weed on that corner, but they’re not being lazy. If you’re a lazy drug-pusher, you’re going to starve or get ‘capped’ in an alley. If you think about it, is there a more stressful job on the planet? Maybe, if you’re a combat soldier.
No, if you’re pushing drugs on the corner, you’re at the bottom of the food chain, and that’s a nasty, competitive, deadly place to be. It’s a pack of fuckin’ wolves, all fighting over one dead gazelle. Turn your back, another wolf takes your dinner. Pay too much attention to the meat, some other wolf rips your throat out, and you end up a spreadsheet-statistic, stretched out that corner, blood running into the storm drain, while some CSI lady spray paints an outline around your cold corpse. Lazy drug dealers–hell, all drug dealers–end up in one of two places: jail, or Shady Grove Cemetery. No, the guys on the corner—whether they’re dealing drugs or not—aren’t lazy. They have an inherent restlessness, which I think is our real human nature: not laziness.
It seems to me that our true nature is to be moving, to be doing things, to be creating things, both physical and mental things. We want to use our minds, and our hands to make the world around us better. For some, the incentives are more selfish than altruistic, maybe, but I’ve seen entirely too many so-called ‘lazy’ people working hard to do things for those around them to believe that it’s all self-centered action.
Does that make me a Utopian, Kum-by-yahian, 420ing hippie tree-hugger? Hell no. I’m not that ‘huggy-wuggy’ though I do love a good hug occasionally, especially from a tree, and I fuckin’ hate that damned, cheesy-assed song. No, I just think that people WANT to be doing something constructive. The evidence bears me out. The modern world wasn’t built by lazy humans. I don’t think there are very many of those, and quite frankly, I suspect the ones that do exist are on the other end of the financial spectrum: at the top. That’s where you’re going to find the spoiled, entitled brats more often than not. That doesn’t mean they don’t have company in the middle and lower classes. They’re are some lazy people, but they don’t really matter.
Let’s return to the second question. Does giving something to a human make them more lazy? Find me one ‘self-made’ human, who did it without ANY help, and we’ll talk. Good luck with that, by the way. There isn’t one in history. Every one of them had a mother, a father, or someone who fed them, wiped their ass, and kept the wolves at bay. Most of us get a lot more ‘gifts’ than that, like primary and secondary education. So if you think that these gifts make people lazy, maybe that says more about your own self-image than it does about some inherent human quality. Maybe you think ‘you’re’ lazy. I think that about myself sometimes, but it’s bullshit. Laziness doesn’t come from giving people the basic tools they need to survive; it comes from giving them everything they want, all the time, like tax breaks for multi-billion dollar corporations and their shareholders. It doesn’t come from investing in free education for our citizens, whether that be pre-school, graduate school, or some school in between.