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The Art of Not Working Yourself to Death

June 03, 2013

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The Art of Not Working Yourself to Death

Though it’s medically possible to work oneself to death—especially among the Japanese—I know more people who are digging their own graves by not working at all.

Day after day, more and more people around me seem to be turning off, tuning out, popping pills, and joining the Anomie Army. The ranks of the gumption-deficient seem to swell with every passing minute.

I was reminded of this by the saga of Michael Cole, an on-the-dole British alcoholic in his 50s who recently murdered his wife then botched a suicide attempt due to an all-consuming sense of hopelessness. With no jobs, no children, no future, and no apparent motivation, Cole said the only bright spots in the couple’s bleak and barren lives were when they found something worth watching on TV.

“The ranks of the gumption-deficient seem to swell with every passing minute.”

I’ve known far too many people like the Coles: those who painted themselves into depressingly numb and comfortable corners and allowed their spines to disintegrate while basking in unearned income, intoxicants, and endless television.

There was a writer I knew who exploited the well-intentioned but ultimately misguided kindness of a wealthy benefactor who essentially wiped his middle-aged anus for him whenever he made a poop on the floor, which was often. He had a roaring Xanax addiction—up to four bars, AKA 16 doses, in one swallow—and would fritter away most of his days playing video games on a computer while a TV perched right above the computer blared in his face. His benefactor paid for his multiple stints in rehab as well as all his medical bills. Her generosity was rewarded with a searing and repugnant ingratitude—if she didn’t cover his bills quickly enough for his liking, he’d call her an asshole—but never to her face, since that might have jeopardized his free ride.

There was a girl whose father had allegedly been the West Coast’s wealthiest pimp until he died and left her a sizable inheritance, enabling her to essentially act disabled. Her house was a dusty, cobwebbed, cluttered amalgam of Miss Havisham’s abandoned wedding feast and an episode of Hoarders. Her dietary regimen consisted of two packs of cigarettes and two six-packs of beer a day. This was supplemented with tomato juice that she’d pour into a morning glass of beer next to her night table. As a large-screen TV continued droning by the foot of the bed, she’d sip the vile concoction while puffing on the day’s first cigarette, often falling asleep and adding another hole to a blanket already pockmarked with at least a hundred cigarette burns. On especially exertive days, she’d go down to the corner store to buy more beer and cigarettes.

There was a Vietnam veteran with a back injury who subsisted on government benefits and swallowed what seemed like a cupful of prescription painkillers and opiates daily. He would never awake before 2PM, at which point he’d rouse his flabby husk and plant himself in front of a large-screen TV, where he’d passively sit without burning a calorie until he fell asleep and the cycle began anew. Doctors at the VA hospital spotted something grapefruit-sized growing on his kidney, but he didn’t fret in the least about it. When I asked him what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, he said he didn’t know or care.

And there was a girl who, after a series of personal setbacks, fell into a rabbit hole of Xanax, antidepressants, and a full-blown relapse of prior heroin or meth addictions, if not both—I’m not sure. The inside of her house looked as if it had been hit by a hurricane. She could never keep a job and sucked money lamprey-like from the government and everyone around her. And none of it seemed to trouble her a whit.

I could have easily become one of those people, except for the fact that life and the government didn’t afford me the opportunity. In my high-school graduating class of 955 kids, I had the second-highest SATs but due to no looming sense of urgency and the fact that I had a roof over my head during my teens, my grades saw me graduating around 650th in my class. Then at 19, when my father died of colon cancer, it hit me—I’d either have to get my shit together quickly, or I’d become homeless in due time. With no safety net to cushion me, I hit the ground running, enrolled in college, and graduated at the top of my class. Without that gun to the back of my head and that carrot on a stick dangling in front of me, I likely would have lapsed into a life of petulant, indolent alcoholism.

Ever since then, my life has been an uninterrupted parade of having my balls busted and busting them myself—often simultaneously. And I feel I’m the better man for it. Rather than choosing to spend my life fleeing from pain and conflict and challenges, I tackle them head-on as if I was wrestling a gator. I’m in my 50s, but rather than allowing my body to melt into a sagging blob of failing organs, I hew to a rigid exercise and dietary regimen that would make Yukio Mishima—or at least Travis Bickle—proud. When the Grim Reaper finally comes a-knockin’, I will swing a barbell at his head and try to take him down with me.

And this is why I despise the cloying, coddling delusions of socialism and the welfare state it engenders—because it misapprehends basic human psychology, Dysfunction is rewarded and productivity is penalized. Citizens are plied with pain pills when they really need a shot of adrenaline. Rather than helping people realize their potential, socialism only stunts their growth. Socialism brings out the worst in people, resulting in dysfunctional societies that are, in a perverse way, antisocial.

We are all social animals to some degree, but only the weakest among us are strictly social animals. It would be naïve to deny that one’s lot in life is often shaped by external influences beyond one’s control, just as it would be foolish to disregard the overwhelming influence of personal decisions and will power. If that sounds too Nietzschean, Hitlerian, or G. Gordon Liddyan for your liking, I still deem it better than being some bearded, over-medicated couch potato who knows far too much about Star Wars and jerking off.

Idle hands engage in masturbation. I would rather work myself to death than slowly die while sitting on a couch chewing on day-old pizza and playing video games.

There’s a reason so many people “suffer” from little or no self-esteem. It’s because they don’t deserve it. They haven’t earned it. They seek it through others rather than through themselves. Society will only start to repair itself when individuals start to repair themselves. The best advice I could give to the demoralized, intoxicated, teat-sucking Anglosphere comes from a friend: “Pull your head out of your ass by your bootstraps.”

 

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