A kid today, if he aspires to anything other than slack itself, aspires to one of three “crafts”: acting, sports, or rock ’n’ roll.  He wants either to play a part, to play a game, or to play guitar.  He wants to be a player.  The work ethic has been replaced by the shirk-and-perks ethic: “I’d rather be [insert doing anything but my job here].”  Girls just wanna have fun, the kids are alright, life’s a beach, and thank God it’s Friday in America!

Actress Helena Bonham Carter recalls in an interview,

I kept thinking I was somebody out of a film.  All my career choices were based on films, like Born Free—I was going to be a gamekeeper.  There was Charlie’s Angels, I was going to be a secret agent.  Then My Brilliant Career, and I was going to be a writer.  Then I sort of figured, “Well, no, it’s probably the acting which is what I want to do.”

Actors are still at pains to stress, at least to interviewers, how hard they “work” and how seriously they take their “work.”  They recount how they have trained for months to learn to ride cutting horses or studied for weeks to be able to deliver lines of dialogue in a foreign tongue.  So it sounds unusual to hear actress Yancy Butler’s admission: “People keep asking me where I learned the martial arts with my vicious kicks [for her new TV show].  The truth is that I fake it.  I don’t have a clue about that stuff.”

Films are made about the making of films, and soon there may be films made about the making of films about the making of films.  Why not?  In the film about the making of Apocalypse Now (Hearts of Darkness), we see Francis Ford Coppola fighting the Philippine government over the disposition of its helicopters: He needs them for the napalm scene, and the government needs them to fight a guerrilla insurgency in the south.  Coppola indignantly decries the “ludicrousness” of the Filipinos’ demands.

Fewer and fewer people want to do anything at all, much less anything difficult.  This should make us very nervous.  Census data reveal the creation of a dangerously unstable and unsustainable “two-tier” society.  In California, median family income is 12 percent higher than in the country as a whole, but the state has much higher levels of poverty than the national average.  California’s middle class is the second smallest in the United States.  The Western Center on Law and Poverty points out, “We have very wealthy communities on one hand and then people living in poverty on the other.”  Mexican immigration to California is (officially) 300,000 people a year.  “While [immigrants] fill an insatiable demand for low-skilled labor in California, they also create enormous burdens for education, health care and social service systems,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

As the Slack Society evolves, we will need to import several million lowly laborers each year just to keep the streets swept and the crops picked.  Either our current First World population will be replaced by a distinctly Third World one over a fairly short amount of time, or a moratorium on immigration will allow existing immigrants to “take up slack” themselves through entitlement politics.  It requires only one generation (less than 20 years) for immigrants to shed their work ethic in modern America.  (Ask the foreign-born parents of Americanized Asian teens.)  Even the middle-class Cubans who fled Castro now have hordes of children in the handout crowd; the Cuban-Americans’ current turn away from the GOP is a clear indication.  In other words, all those people who now so nobly do “work Americans won’t do,” as George W. Bush put it, will not be doing it for long.  What do we do with them then?

Of course, the average American wants his kids to go to college and not have to perform manual labor; it’s called upward mobility, realizing the American Dream.  As a truck-driving cousin of mine observes, though, “Everybody can’t be sitting at a desk.  You still need people who do and make and fix things.”  (But please, Lord, not my kids!)

Gradually, the horror of manual labor seems to have become a horror of labor in general.  The great divide between red and blue on that famous electoral map of America is essentially between those who do, and know how to do, things and those who don’t, can’t, or won’t.  The blue regions regard the red with much the same mix of dread and dependency as the
Eloi felt toward the Morlocks in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.  Election 2000 proved that there are already more blue parasites in this country than red providers—many of the blues were too lazy even to get off their duffs and vote, despite legions of Democratic enablers.

Speaking of Democrats, Bill Clinton was and is (in the fullest meaning of the word “is”) a world-class slacker, which is another way of acknowledging his prow-
ess as an actor (read: liar).  Bill had this knack for impersonating a “quick study,” which distracted attention from his fecklessness.  When he used to bite his lip and drawl, “Ah’ve worked harder on this bill than Ah’ve ever worked in mah lahf,” you could just tell that work is something he has avoided like the plague all his days.  Bill and Hillary, like the rest of the lawyer caste, don’t—and can’t—do anything.  Look at their record in Arkansas, where, without hardly trying, they actually managed to leave things worse than they had found them, especially in those areas—such as education—where they “worked” the hardest.

Not only do lawyers rack up golden billable hours for doing nothing, their overall effect on the economy is to extract something for nothing on a grand scale and to encourage mass fantasies of a windfall at others’ expense.  As lawyers are undeniably smart, perhaps we must add to the famous “seven kinds of intelligence” an eighth: the legalistic, defined as “a flair for splitting hairs and rationalizing mutually exclusive propositions, an obsession with the letter as opposed to the spirit of a thing, a keen eye for loopholes, a genius for weasel words, and an instinctive aversion to productive labor in any form.”

Two important forms of productive labor that carried man to the top of the food chain are hunting and fishing.  Since these require “weapons” and “violence,” they are shunned in the new “Look, Ma, no hands” America.

On the distaff side, to use an archaic term from the old world of work, the trade of housewife and mother is now considered the lowest of the low, the ultimate hands-on horror.  “Supermom” Madonna revealed to Britain’s Sunday Mirror, “I don’t have any problems with nappies because I have never changed one.”

Childlessness is now a full-fledged social movement with slogans and bumper stickers and T-shirts and all, and one of its biggest boasts is that having no children means never having to descend into the nightmare region of diapers, colic, vomit, chickenpox, smelly socks in the hamper, sticky fingerprints on the wall, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.  Now we have choice, and we choose to stay clean.  The mania for long, long fingernails, which render the hands purely ornamental and useless, is another symptom of the growing popular aversion to handiwork.  The less prestigious your occupation, the longer the nails.  Hear them clickety-clacking disdainfully on the keys of the computer or cash register as if to say, “I’m only stuck here between breaks, girl.”

Man has rightly been called Homo faber—Man the maker.  We make wonderful things that work and are useful and beautiful, and the more advanced our culture, the more wonderful the things we make (which is why the term “Afghan engineering” lacks the same cachet as “German engineering”).  People still instinctively know this and are uneasy about the increasingly hands-off economy.  The Oshkosh clothing company stopped making genuine farmers’ overalls some years ago because of a lack of demand, but it still makes them (though not in America) for toddlers, teenagers, and suburban matrons.  Denim, the fabric par excellence of men at work, is now the international uniform of the New World Order, an unsubtle homage to the noble proletariat; denim is safer even than black as a fashion statement.  This is not new—Marie-Antoinette had a little model farm at Versailles where she and her ladies could play dairymaid—but it is now far more widespread, mass democratized.

In the Theme World future, after all the relentlessly programmed globalist intermarriage has taken place, the only remnants of diversity that will survive will be the displays in “ethnic theme parks” located on territory once occupied by formerly distinct (and now extinct) peoples.  People will roam the globe, hungry to pay real laborers to be allowed to watch.  There are now almost as many interactive exhibits on the Amish way of life in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as there are actual farms run by Plain People.  Groundbreaking has already begun in the backward Balkans.  As broadcast by the media and school system, multiculturalism—actually, anticulturalism, since genuine cultures are always idiosyncratic, esoteric, xenophobic, labyrinthine, and untranslatable—amounts to: In Italy, they stomp grapes!  In Japan, they wade in rice paddies!  In Africa, they herd cattle with long staves!  In Ireland, they knit sweaters and gather seaweed!

And in America, they eat pizza and watch TV.  A couple of decades of the slacker ethic have spawned the headphone generation, nourished on the empty, predigested calories of the spectacle, stale repackagings, regurgitations, endlessly recycled retreads, reruns, remakes, replays, revivals, covers, send-ups, put-ons, takeoffs, rip-offs, knockoffs, parodies of parodies, pastiches, simulations, spoofs, satires, “irony,” docudrama, voyeurism, and virtual realities.  The poverty of these poor children’s “so-o-o bo-o-ored” minds is mindboggling.  Here’s the latest teen tennis phenom, Andy Roddick, as described by a pal: “Andy’s a goofball.  Big time.  He loves South Park.  He’s always imitating cartoon characters.  He knows every line from American Pie.  Off the court he’s one of the funniest guys I know.”  At least he’s good at playing tennis.

A diet of 100-percent-recycled culture makes Jack a very dull writer, as well.  The power of most great novels lies in their stirring depiction of man at his life’s work.  The big hole in the heart of modern fiction is that the characters do nothing from dawn to dusk and back again.  Living a life as a passive mass-cultural spectator leads to paler and paler imitations of an imitation.  Check out contemporary punk bands trying to be the Sex Pistols.  Listen to the angry nonsense parroted by youths at the second attempted Woodstock repetition (which ended, not surprisingly, in a spasm of nihilistic violence).

The average person is not to blame for the New Worthlessness.  Work has been radically de-incentivized.  People have gone slack because they have too little freedom and too little control over their lives.  They have been made to see that they have only the most negligible impact on the human enterprise—six billion little people without a stake in the game.  The little man has been reduced to playing the lottery in hopes of registering, if only for an instant, as a player in his own life story.

The masses today are worse than proletarianized: They are palestinianized, far more alienated than the worker alienated merely from the product of his own labor.  They have almost no identity left at all.  They are neither children of (the abolished) God, nor citizens of a nation, nor authority figures, however petty.  Plied with endless goods and services, yet denied the only wealth that nourishes the soul—a good name—many, especially among the young, are enraged like spoiled but neglected children, as the riots in Seattle and Genoa and at Woodstock III demonstrate.

At the root, then, of all these degenerations—the play ethic, work aversion, litigiousness, psychic vegetarianism,
militant childlessness, Theme World tourism, passive spectation, nihilism—we find government, the tax-fatted calf, working overtime and lying awake at night to plot ways to wreck the private economy: medicine, farming, trucking, the firearms industry, insurance, you name it.  Government attacks the real economy not because it is eager to take over and perform all those jobs better or cheaper than the private sector.  No, actually doing the jobs is the last thing on the minds of the G-men.  Government is the employer of last resort.  Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, work for the state.  Control is what these meddling idlers are instinctively after.  With control, they get to tell you what to do.

What happens when the real economy is finally destroyed?  The average bureaucrat has not thought that far ahead, but the foreordained denouement is clear from previous adventures in socialism on this planet: Government, with its usual compassion and competence, will then be forced—forced!—to reconstitute some sort of economy with compulsory labor and central planning.  The more globalized the wrecking process, the more desperately people feel control being sucked away from them.

The September terrorist attack taught us two lessons about work in America: First, in such supreme moments, those who emerge as heroes are those who can do things: the firefighters, the policemen, the rescue workers, the medical technicians.  Just as startling as hearing the name of the Lord suddenly burst forth from the lips of hardened reporters was hearing those white-collar sophisticates rhapsodize over the know-how of the welders and steelworkers who were indeed, in the aftermath of the destruction, “just doing their jobs.”

Second, failing to do your job can have disastrous results.  From the top to the bottom of the economic hierarchy, from the superterrestrial heights of national security to the humble checkpoints of airport security, people failed to do their jobs.  Here is one woman’s description of her training as a Dulles Airport security worker:

Argenbright employees falsified diplomas and test scores, and hired at least 14 airport security workers with criminal convictions. . . . [T]he company provided little or no training and no semblance of background checks.  The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she was able to work for Argenbright although she had been convicted of felony drug charges.  She said many of the security personnel hired by Argenbright were not trained and some spoke only limited English.  “It was mainly foreigners,” said the former employee.  “They couldn’t carry on a conversation with you.  Some of them couldn’t say much more than hello or good day.”

We have paid our experts billions over the decades precisely to think the unthinkable and plan for the unimaginable.  We may have been in denial, but they were paid not to be.  The sudden, massive short-selling of airline and insurance stock right before September 11 was apparently not noticed, nor were the comings and goings and suspicious contacts and training among known associates of Muslim terrorist groups.  We can have all the “procedures in place” (as Janet Reno loved to say) and all the monitors and guidelines and high-tech systems in the world, but if no one is paying attention and interpreting the data competently, all of these will come to naught.

We must hope, given the war in which our nation now finds itself, that we will relearn these lessons: that a job well done is of central importance to human society; that labor ennobles, while idleness degrades; and that a people is only as strong as the good work it does.  The days of the “service” and “information” economy that neither served nor informed are over.