Work, holidays, leisure, recreation, and the search for meaning in late modernity: Part Two
By Mark Wegierski
There has usually been a very broad variety of employment available in Canada and the United States. The employment situation is curiously contradictory. For example, the "white-collaring" of most available work has not necessarily served the interests of those in the traditional working class who would in some cases be comparatively happier and more competent working in a factory. It should also be remembered that around forty-five percent of the population in Canada and the United States has some kind of post-secondary education – but the corollary of that is that the true meaning of such an education has greatly diminished. It has been estimated that a person with a B.A. degree obtained in America in 2001 or later, is typically on the knowledge level comparable to that of a high school graduate in 1951.
What is to be noticed is that there is virtually no discernible drive for self-cultivation among many of the persons in Canada and the United States who receive welfare support that is rather more generous than that available, for example, in Poland, or other East-Central European societies. (Except for the retirement pensions of certain former state officials, one should not be deluded about the "generosity" of the "welfare-state" in Poland, or other East-Central European societies.) Whether because of deficiencies of character or the stupefying nature of the mass-media and mass-education systems, considerable numbers of welfare recipients are sunk into varying degrees of apathy.
Turning to the so-called middle classes in North America, one often finds some modicum of technical skills or competence, combined with unbelievable levels of shallowness, and the willingness to follow "politically-correct" fads like sheep, regardless of common sense and residual notions of human nature.
Among many of the wealthier persons, and even especially among so-called "creative types" or "intellectual types" one finds astounding levels of shallowness and faddish political conformity.
Nevertheless, there are some people in America and Canada – such as "the working poor" -- who are working very hard indeed. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, many Americans and Canadians are extremely hardworking. There are many jobs at the lower end of the social scale that may not be particularly pleasant, yet many Americans and Canadians work hard and diligently at them. They are not shirkers. The working poor, especially in America, are under considerable pressure from the outsourcing of their work abroad, and from the prevalence of illegal immigration.
There are also such occupational groups as lawyers or stockbrokers, who are well-rewarded financially, but work punitive hours. One wonders whether they are natural "workaholics" or if they are driven by the need for more and more money to support a comparatively ever more lavish lifestyle. On the other hand, there are some occupations where the work is seen by those not holding such positions, as being light and lackadaisical. In Canada, for example, it is very common for those not working at government jobs to disdain civil servants, whose positions are seen as rather cushy.
Paradoxically, we are seeing – in different parts of current-day society -- such trends as "the end of work"; "the rise of leisure and recreation"; and "the end of leisure" -- at virtually the same time.
Although Western Europeans are considered to be devoted to their recreation and leisure, relative to North Americans, the current-day Western European embrace of recreation and leisure does not appear to be leading to much of an intellectual and cultural renaissance. Most Western Europeans seem just as sunk in "vidiocy" and vulgar pop-culture as the stereotypical Americans. About the best that can usually be achieved is that "sophisticated" Western Europeans become epicures rather than gourmands in their self-indulgent decadence.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.