In praise of sloth and stupidity

Barbara Amiel August 1 1983

In praise of sloth and stupidity

Barbara Amiel August 1 1983

In praise of sloth and stupidity


Barbara Amiel

A curious scene took place on CBS television news last week. The setting was the People’s Republic of China, and the occasion was a sale of U.S.-manufactured clothing in Peking.

It was an inspiring sight: the reserved, diligent Chinese virtually doing one another in as they elbowed their way to get at jeans and printed blouses in this once-in-a-lifetime sale. Their deportment made the ladies at a Hadassah Bazaar look positively genteel.

It was so reassuring. Never mind the puritanical ethic of Maoism. Once again the old eternal verities stared one in the face. The dreadful tyranny of Mao and his successors will likely not be brought down by some thoughtful political philosopher but by petty vanity: the yearning of human nature for one’s bottom to be covered with a different piece of fabric than the bottom of someone else.

This is not without relevance for our own times. It is fashionable these days to discuss the shortcomings of Canadian society. Our auditor general tells us ceaselessly of our waste. Our newspapers daily recount the absurdities of bureaucratic greed and individual laziness. But those qualities, like the vanity of the Chinese, should not be seen as entirely without benefit.

Waste, stupidity and vanity are sometimes a check on human evil. When the spirit of the times or the ideas that permeate a society are decent, then it is a shame to have them derailed by human frailties. But when a society is embracing wretched political and social philosophies—or flirting with them as we may be in our little waltz with statism, socialism and the resulting curtailment of liberty and fairness —then inefficiency in carrying out policies may be a good thing.

For example:

□ From Ottawa comes a recent issue of Safety Canada giving us the good news of another study taxpayers are funding. Explains the nonprofit newsletter: “The Edmonton Health Dept, is carrying out a three-month study of carbon monoxide levels in bingo halls, Concern over the hazard erupted when the Canadian Medical Association published an article about a woman who sat three times a week in smoke-filled halls playing bingo and suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as a result.”

Hopeless, one supposes, for the Edmonton Health Dept, to see the obvious

solution and suggest that the woman restrict her bingo to twice a week. A three-month study is clearly vital. But never mind. This study is utterly harmless. Just think what dreadful things in the lives of Edmontonians might be studied by these mad bureaucrats if they were not all tied up hanging around bingo halls.

□ In Manitoba farmers are rejoicing over the diligence of Mexicans imported to tend our crops. The Mexicans get their airfare paid, $4.65 an hour, room and lodgings. They love it. Our desperate, unemployed Canadian students and adults love it. Because the last thing in the world that Canadians can see themselves doing is working outside in that wretched Manitoba heat with nothing but a straw hat and PabaGel sunscreen to protect Caucasian complexions. Besides, as an understanding farmer explained to The Globe and Mail, Canadi-

‘The Edmonton Health Dept, is carrying out a three-month study of carbon monoxide levels in bingo halls9

ans would “rather get welfare, and I can’t blame ’em.”

This may cause employed taxpayers to wring their rawboned knuckles. Do not. The reluctance to engage in manual labor will stand us in good stead should the commissars ever come to power and try to build the great society of socialism or fascism. Both those repugnant ideologies require a great deal of outdoor work of a grimy nature. Our society abounds with commissars. We are very weak on the labor side.

□ It is an almost universal fact of life that when the CBC is mentioned, loud moans go up around the nation. The CBC is seen as the example par excellence of the repository of waste, muddled thinking and left-wing propaganda programs. This is not entirely true. The CBC has some very talented people in it. However, it also has The Other Kind, who may best be described as Females of a Certain Type.

Recently, the CBC Producers’ Association of Television Producers and Directors (Toronto) hired a Female of a Certain Type to edit its newsletter. Small items of interest to other Females of a Certain Type began to surface. A recent

issue featured a cartoon strip with a black female. Caption 1 read, “I have no money for an abortion, and the government won’t provide one for me.” Another caption lamented that “Day care is largely unavailable, so I am prevented from working.” Further on, the unhappy cartoon character pointed out that “if I do manage to work, I am paid 59 cents for every $1.1 am also forced to accept sexual harassment.” The final caption read: “Women aren’t trying hard enough.”

That is unassailable left-wing logic. It omits only one thing. The government is the people. Substitute the word “neighbor” or “people” in those captions. Thus the cartoon reads: “I have no money for an abortion and my neighbors won’t provide one for me.”

That such a female should be putting together the newsletter of our CBC producers and directors may be alarming to many Canadians. They should be soothed. Most females of this type are at the CBC. If they were out in the real world, they could be doing incalculable harm. As it is they talk only to one another.

□ In closing, let us all ponder the heartbreaking story of the two unemployed Quebec families sent by Employment and Immigration to the “nearest available job,” which, as a spokesperson proudly explained, happened to be at the Rogers Pass Esso station in Revelstoke, B.C. Both families sold their possessions and trekked across this great land of ours only to find the (one) job filled. One of the families trekked back. The other has not been heard from. Perhaps, even now, they have been sent by the Rogers Pass Canada Employment to a job opening at a Miracle Food Mart store in Yellowknife.

It is difficult to know which of the two parties involved in this mess was more stupid: the bureaucrats or the citizens. But it doesn’t matter. As long as our nation is filled with such people, we are unlikely ever to be able to organize a network of oppression or devastation that equals, say, the Waffen SS. If a nation is captured by an evil idea such as nazism, the damage it will do to innocent people is directly proportionate to its efficiency. The more disciplined, inventive, punctual and even courageous a country may be, the more harm it can do. What may protect us, ultimately, from the horror of monolithic evil are our petty vanities, our laziness and, above all, our breathtaking inefficiency.