Americans fast becoming members of "The Cult of the Busy"
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR, Aug. 23, 2006 (www.catholic.org) - We are all fast becoming cult members. Not one of those Bible-spouting, gun-wielding, multiple-wives-bedding Western cults. Nor one of those flower-peddling, incense-burning, vegetable-eating Eastern cults.
Most Americans are too sensible for all that.
Our cult is a nice, practical cult. One encouraged by business and baptized by consumerism. Most of us, alas, are card-carrying members of the cult of the busy.
We work like maniacs from sunup to sundown, and then we pile on extra hours from sundown to sunup.
New reports say that Americans are not even taking much in the way of vacations anymore. We may be the stingiest of the Western economies in terms of vacation weeks permitted, but what is more striking is that at the beginning of summer, 40 percent of us said we had no plans to take a vacation in the next six months. According to the AAA, the two-week vacation is becoming a thing of the past. Even days counted as vacation are often no vacation at all, but simply a time for other chores and errands.
Technology has not helped, with many folks imprisoned by 24/7 access to e-mail and phone calls, Fed-ex and files. The whole world is now our office.
The New York Times recently reported, with some consternation, that at the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, employees are being coerced into vacationing. The company puts up posters reminding employees that vacations are good and necessary, and it even shuts down its entire operation for 15 days a year so they have no choice but not come to work.
Apparently, the drive to be busy is hereditary. As described by USAToday, students are pushing themselves as hard as their parents, relentlessly pursuing the more lucrative careers in a kind of academic cage match that leaves a few as winners and others with nervous breakdowns, premature ulcers and large debts.
Labor Day used to be a time when we celebrated good and honest labor by hardworking men and women who supported their families and built up their communities. Today, amid riches and luxuries that most of our ancestors would have thought unattainable, celebrating labor might be exactly the wrong thing to do.
Perhaps in early September we should be celebrating is a rest-from-labor day.