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  • Cameron Mazzeo MSW, LCSW

Laziness and Other Forms of Elite Gaslighting

Posted May 4th, 2023

Written by Mx. Rowan Quinn


We've all heard the how laziness is destroying our society and more in the news: lazy generation, lazy millennials, lazy parents, lazy politicians, lazy workers, etc. Laziness has become a scapegoat for all the problems of the older, wealthier generations. But does Laziness actually exist?

It's more complicated than a simple yes or no. Science has dozens of

explanations for the broader concept of avoidance, efficiency, and lack of – or

even re-prioritization of – expense of energy, time, and effort. So what is laziness,

in reality?

The dictionary definitions are just as broad and unhelpful; “disinclined to

activity or exertion: not energetic or vigorous,” “the quality of not being willing to

work or use any effort,” “encouraging inactivity or indolence,” or even just

“moving slowly,” or “not rigorous or strict.” The suggested etymology seems to

come from various German words meaning Feeble or Weak.

But therein lies the problem. We, as a society, associate illness, fatigue, or

inability, with a moral failing.

Let's dissect the various definitions, shall we? “Disinclined to activity or

exertion: not energetic or vigorous.” In the modern era, everyone is expected to

learn far more, achieve far more, and work far, far harder than even a few

generations ago. According to former president Franklin D. Roosevelt; “It seems

to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying

less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. […]

and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages

of decent living.”

For our county in New Jersey, as of April 2023, a current living wage – in

this case, the cost solely of living frivolously – for two adults, without children? Is

$28.92, assuming we follow the original proposal of a single breadwinner. Adding

another worker halves that to $14.46 to just subsist. But the cost of a single

breadwinner, a house spouse, and two to three children rises to a minimum living

wage being between $40 and $45. So anyone who raised two children on one

salary, especially if they did so with any frivolities or niceties, should be advocating for a $40 minimum wage.

We only just raised the minimum wage to a living wage for two working

adults, without children. For a single adult, without children, the cost is closer to $20. So even the current minimum wage is not truly a living wage.

Imagine the toll that takes. Not just physically – although the physical exhaustion from working multiple jobs is literally hazardous due to increased risk of injury and fatigue – but mentally as well. Burnout is a real danger to mental health, physical health, and anyone around us. From falling asleep at the wheel to lashing out in anger, to just loss of rational decision making, burnout makes us a hazard to ourselves and others. And imagine the anxiety, constantly worrying about making rent or buying food, or the depression or crushing despondence of knowing you'll never have the life your parent's promised.

And that can cause a vicious cycle. Rates of Depression, Anxiety, PTSD

and other mental disorders are at all time highs. We have better understanding of different neurotypes, but those with neurodiversity are still expected to overexert themselves to try to present in neurotypical ways. And some of those conditions come with co-morbidities or symptoms that might make one seem lazy. Struggles with time

blindness, rejection sensitivity, higher expectations for oneself, or even just

needing to take more steps, or different steps, to get a task done? All can seem, to

an outsider, like laziness, when it's just a symptom of a deeper issue, exhaustion,

anxiety, or worse.

So if laziness doesn't truly exist, what should we do moving forward? Well, to start, completely release the idea that you must constantly be productive to be deserving. Accomplishing tasks in your own time and taking time to rest is necessary component of being human, this is not a thing you need to earn. It will be hard adjustment to make, but you deserve opportunity to disconnect, rest, and rejuvenate despite the pressure to "grind". Pushing yourself till you can not functions is not a badge of honor, and unfortunately it generally makes the problem worse in the long term. Instead work on finding better coping techniques, advocating for fair compensation, and building strong social supports are all good places to start. But overall? Just try to be kinder – both to yourselves and others – and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Works Cited:

-Ferrari, J. R. (2013). Procrastination and task avoidance : theory, research, and treatment. Springer-Verlag New York. Ferrari, J. R., Johnson, J. L., & McCown, W. G. (1995). An Overview of Procrastination. Procrastination and Task Avoidance, 1–20.

-Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act. (1933, June 16).

-K. Glasmeier, Dr. A. (2004). Living Wage Calculator - Living Wage Calculation for New Jersey.

-Landau, S. I. (2008). Cambridge dictionary of american english. University Press.

-Lieberman, C. (2019). Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control) If procrastination isn’t about laziness, then what is it about? New York Times.

-Marucci-Wellman, H. R., Willetts, J. L., Lin, T.-C., Brennan, M. J., & Verma, S. K. (2014). Work in Multiple Jobs and the Risk of Injury in the US Working Population. American Journal of Public Health, 104(1), 134–142.

-Webster, N. (1961). Webster’s new international dictionary of the English language. Merriam.,%3A%20moving%20slowly%20%3A%20sluggish

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