Letter to the Editor

By Shepparton News

Success in Shepparton can be measured easily, certainly if we apply contemporary values.

In fact, success anywhere is easily gauged if we apply assessments that have catapulted humanity to the point were it stands astride the world.

Yes, busyness driven by the exploitation, sometimes knowingly and others not so, of human nature has given us so many wonderful things, but left us teetering on the edge of the abyss.

There is another way.

Idleness appears integral to who and what we are and yet any suggestion that it be enthusiastically embraced brings scorn, derision and laughter as we are so conditioned why a life of work, accumulation, ambition and pleasure arising from what is considered success that we are unable, it seems, to contemplate anything different.

However, writing in Idleness; a philosophical essay Brian O’Connor said: ‘‘A more stable and less ambitious socioeconomic system could possible save us from some of the more familiar perils of modern life’’.

Already, before writing another word, I can hear the chorus of complaints from those addicted to a life of busyness, who see success only in achievement and living a life diametrically opposed to idleness.

Much of what we enjoy today, they would argue, only exists because of efforts of those who were engaged, busy and constantly pushing to improve things, make them better and wherever and whenever possible allowing people to live an easier and trouble free life.

And, of course, there is lots of sense in what they say, but, as most know, a trouble-free life is a mirage.

Many conflate idleness with pleasure, but they are in fact different and as O’Connor says pleasure is eventually expended, it cannot form the basis of any long-term way of life, whereas idleness allied with virtue has a certain endurance.

Busyness became embedded in our lives after the neoliberal seed planted in the first half of last century and then flowered in latter decades when those playing the long game manufactured a few crises to suggest that what existed was failing and the philosophies that drove, among other things the monetisation of everything and privatisation of the publicly owned infrastructure, was the only way.

The resultant busyness produced many things, among them an inequality of a like the world has never seen before as it can be shown that just a few more than 60 individuals control more wealth than 3.5 billion people.

Interestingly, inequality carries its own seeds of destruction.

Although that inequality could bring social or revolutionary changes another even more destructive process, which has arisen from this obsession with wealth, control and power, is afoot — its the disruption of our climate system bringing changes to our weather of a type never before experienced.

Where does idleness fit in with this?

Well, it seems that virtuous idleness allows time for reflection and strips us of our energy-rich behaviours that are pushing our world closer to circumstances about which we know little.

And so what does that mean for Shepparton?

For a start we should embrace idleness, step back from the previous PM’s mantra of jobs and growth, consume less, detach ourselves from our energy-rich lives and encourage our city council to follow the lead of their Melbourne counterparts, the City of Darebin, which has formally adopted a climate emergency strategy.

Rob McLean is a former News editor.