Let us salute the greatness of lazy men.
It was bound to come to this. We’ve demeaned workers and the very concept of labor long enough. Now the person who gets up, has coffee, puts in their eight, and comes home, doesn’t feel like “I did an honest day’s work.” No. They feel like a sucker.
Because the clever ones, the “winners,” are those who figured out how to make gazillions doing as little as possible.
Once upon a time, we were fascinated by con men and grifters precisely because they were weird. And weirdos are interesting! The grifter or the hustler — someone who abhorred regimented labor — was an amazing figure. Everyone would enjoy giving the finger to their boss and never filling out a time card again.
Old and New Grifters
Of course, the classic grifters are not lazy. To become a master con man takes years of practice — and probably a lot of beatings. It’s actually much harder than having a regular job. But that’s not how we view them. We see the grift as easy money.
Over the last four decades, we have seen the rise of a new kind of gift. And these new grifters are Our Heroes. Don’t think Joseph Weil. Think Gordon Gekko.
Forget the blather about soldiers and teachers and people who bring wounded abandoned puppies back to health. They’re saints. As is, we’re glad they exist, because we sure as hell don’t want to do that stuff. But they aren’t heroes.
No. A “hero” is someone we look up to — someone, at our best, we think we could be.
Greatest American Hero
And Trump is the Greatest American Hero.
He’s never done an honest day’s work in his life. Never had to. Early on, he figured out that the American lip service paid to a work ethic was quickly becoming blather. So, rather than pretend to a work ethic like his kind did in generations past, he was simply “deserving.” His schtick was, “I’m too awesome to work.”
Truly, a man ahead of his time.
This attitude is sociopathic, of course. In a sane culture, you’d never be proud of laziness. Even if you hate a co-worker, you do what needs to be done for them. If for nothing else, you assume this creates an environment where they do the same for you.
But that was Old America. Before we learned that every human interaction must be weighed by a cost-benefit economic analysis. Before free riders — the people who don’t obey social norms, yet get away with it — became Our Heroes.
Trump’s art form is the “reality” show, and what are those? They’re quick, easy cash for TV networks. You can spend a bundle on period decor and fabulous actors and talented writers for Mad Men. Or you can produce a bunch of cheap crap and hope something sticks.
Notice the title of late, unlamented American Idol. It was never about singing. Your local PBS station has programs about singers in your community who are unbelievably good at their craft, totally unknown, and stick with it for the joy of honing their skills and sharing this joy with others.
American Idol was about becoming an “idol.” About “winning.” Not being a “loser,” like those local musicians who are so damned good. Pride in a difficult task, well accomplished? Save that for the nerds.
The people who haven’t “figured it out.”
Trump is an idol for a nation that’s devalued workers so badly, we’re not sure helping our fellow employee (or fellow anyone) makes sense anymore. Sure, it seems right. But what does that matter? Maybe the liars and hustlers were the smart ones, all along.
I don’t believe that. I think it’s destructive madness, ultimately. But is cashing in on it currently rewarding? Yes.
Yes, it is.