One of the things about the fox’s recitation: he seems to be trying to promote a return to a sane way of interacting with the world. Spending some time trying to live out his advice has really underlined that for me. (A note: I know that there are better words than “sanity” and “insanity” to describe what I’m talking about, and I have no interest in impugning people with mental illnesses, but these words are what I have to work with at the moment, and tend to do the job.)
It’s easy to recognize madness in things like war and politics and consumer culture. It’s much more difficult to recognize cultural insanity in the day-to-day. Using the fox’s recitation as a guide, however, I’m starting to see instances everywhere.
Let me give you an example.
At a staff meeting today, we received a handout with the following information:
If your child is mildly ill and between one and 12 years old, you can find sick child care through… program at … Medical Center. This is a great resource when you have a mandatory meeting to attend or an event to host and your child is not well enough to attend school or daycare. [Employer] underwrites the entire daily fee for benefits-eligible employees working .50 FTE or more….
This was presented as an AWESOME, HELPFUL benefit that is GREAT for people who have work to do but are inconvenienced by having a sick child, because, as the Division Manager said, “it’s so annoying to have to use your sick time when that happens.”
Everybody agreed this was an excellent benefit. And, in the worldview of the TOTALLY NUTS, it is!
Seriously, this attitude is nuts, right? Like, pathological. There isn’t a meeting that’s mandatory enough that would make me think I was being “inconvenienced” by my sick kid, even if he just had some sniffles. If my kid needs me to stay home and take care of him, I’ma stay home and take care of him! There is nothing I do– there is nothing ANYBODY does– that is SO IMPORTANT that staying home with a sick kid shouldn’t be a priority. This plays into the value of family, of consideration, of basic human decency.
But, see, this is the whole “work ethic gone mad” system we live in. “Look how much easier it is for you to work! See, this is a BENEFIT! You could stay home and not get paid, or could have to use your sick time, but instead you can drop off your precious child with these people we’ve paid to watch him, and come in to work with us instead, and you should THANK us for it.”
I know this is a cultural thing, and there are countries with more rational sick leave policies, but that this is even considered an excellent benefit at a major state-run institution is a sad, weird thing, isn’t it? This is the direct result of the mixed-up attitude the fox talked about, when he said that work isn’t a virtue, it’s a default state. When we start to see work as a virtue, it can get completely out of control, and cause us to lose sight of things that actually matter, like taking care of family members who need us.
Of course, since we’re in the realm of King Sunday and King Monday, there’s very little we can do about this. At the very least, however, it behooves us to recognize madness for what it is.