Hot Air: Lazy

Ever since the wealth gap became a known thing (to me, at least), I’ve been tending to believe there no such thing as a lazy person.

Or, more precisely, truly lazy people are as rare as, say, insomniacs or kleptomaniacs or any other kind of -maniac. It’s my way of resisting the narrative advanced by lovers of unfettered capitalism that the poor are lumps. You hear it time and again from true believers in the free market and Randian objectivism and other phony-isms. Blaming poverty on the sloth of the poor is really only a self-aggrandizing conceit. “Hey, if you’re poor it’s because you’re a loafer! Look at me, I’m not poor; I worked hard all my life.”


All Of Us And None Of Us.

Sure, there probably are pathologically lazy people. If most spectra can be represented as bell curves, then the spectrum of industriousness includes the polar extremes of manic go-getters and inert, pathological couch potatoes. Each of those extremes is a tiny, nearly statistically negligible, minority of the overall population. The vast majority of us work hard, struggle to get out of bed in the morning, expend gobs of time and energy on making a living, wish we could escape to a private tropical island, and overall are as productive and cooperative in the workplace as any employer has a right to expect. Maybe you know a lazy person at your job. You probably commiserate about that person with your co-workers. But there may be dozens, even hundreds of people slogging away at your factory or office. There’s just that one guy whom the rest of you can’t stand because he’s a tortoise. So we’re talking about a ratio of hard workers to slackers of perhaps 50-1 or 100-1.

If you’re going to argue that your workplace is loaded with lazy people then either 1) you work in a bizarrely anomalous place or 2) you’re a curmudgeonly son of a bitch who complains about everybody and everything.

The powers that be are thrilled to pieces that scads of us bitch and moan about poor people being “lazy” because that distracts us from the real reason poverty exists — the deck is stacked. If the vast majority of us actually realized that truth, we’d rebel against the system and who at the top of the pyramid would want that? Better we should demonize poor people as takers and leeches rather than losers in the rigged lottery that is the economic system under which we toil.

Anyway, this all comes up today because I read a compelling essay on Medium written by a psychologist. It’s headline tells the tale: “Laziness Does Not Exist.”

This person, a professor named Devon Price, writes:

If a person can’t get out of bed, something is making them exhausted. If a student isn’t writing papers, there’s some aspect of the assignment that they can’t do without help. If an employee misses deadlines constantly, something is making organization and deadline-meeting difficult. Even if a person is actively choosing to self-sabotage, there’s a reason for it — some fear they’re working through, some need not being met, a lack of self-esteem being expressed.

People do not choose to fail or disappoint. No one wants to feel incapable, apathetic, or ineffective. If you look at a person’s action (or inaction) and see only laziness, you are missing key details. There is always an explanation, There are always barriers. Just because you can’t see them, or don’t view them as legitimate, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Look harder.

That’s an argument I buy from top to bottom.

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