About a decade ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a series of articles about the similar effect that lack of sleep was having on worker productivity. They weren't recommending any changes in workplace policy, the tone was more about hectoring workers to go to bed earlier. So they really did not expect the pushback that they got. An ad-hoc committee of CEOs bought a full-page ad, paid for out of their own pockets, to attack the idea that people need 8 hours of sleep a night. Every single one of them was getting by on 4 hours of sleep a night or less, and they were the most productive people on the planet. They insisted, collectively, that anybody who claims to "need" to sleep 8 hours a night is just a lazy slacker, that those people will never achieve anything in life, and that it was disappointing that the official newspaper of capitalism was encouraging people to be lazy slackers.Fits in to future posts I'm planning about how leadership in our society is not based on intelligence, or skill or merit, but by personality. I've personally seen how the surest ways to get to the top are an permanently elevated mood, a lack of outside interests or hobbies (except child-rearing), lack of any self doubt or self-reflection, and a boundless appetite for work. People who fit this description have the" secret handshake," and are shunted directly into the elevator headed for the top upon arrival under the principle of "like attracts like." But are such people really good leaders? In fact, evidence says they're the worst possible.
Around the same time that I was reading that, I was reading articles about hypomanic disorder. Hypomanics aren't completely out of control, but they do have some impulse control problems and serious difficulty predicting the negative consequences of any actions that they're contemplating, leading to disastrous overconfidence. They also tend to be gregarious, and high energy to the point of being fidgety, and, statistically, they also tend to sleep only 2 to 4 hours a day.
It occurred to me that this many not be a coincidence. Modern post-industrial capitalism rewards the living heck out of people with hypomanic disorder. Ever since then I've been making references to Procrustes' prescription pad: our society knows which is the perfect mental state, and if you're not in that mental state, we chemically stretch or saw off parts of your neurochemistry until you fit into it. The direction of 21st century life is to reserve all of the rewards of work, thrift, and investment for people for people with one particular form of mental illness, hypomanic disorder. But we claim that this isn't cruel, because we're also working on drugs to induce that disorder in otherwise healthy people.
And this comment to an article about the backlash to standing desks makes a sadly all-too-believable statement about how absolutely everything, from restaurants to transportation is politicized in modern-day America:
I can see this becoming a divisive issue in US politics. Liberals will continue to enjoy standing desks, and will go on and on about it. Then conservatives will feel the need to take the exact opposite point of view, because there's a culture war going on, and so politics has to be as black and white as possible. The conservatives will form a group called Americans Against Standing Desks (AASD), which for some reason will be financially supported by the Koch brothers. They will come up with a conspiracy theory involving the UN trying to take away our chairs. Romney will show his support for the movement by sitting rather than standing at the podium at the next debate, although the Daily Show will unearth videos of him standing at desks in the past. Obama will see the whole thing as stupid at first, but then become concerned when conservative pundits attack him for standing a lot. They will say that Obama has shown a lack of leadership on this issue. So Obama will feel forced to pick a side and will install a standing desk in the oval office. The next conservative president, whether or not its Romney, will make a huge deal of getting rid of the standing desk.And honorable mention to this comment:
'Ignorance,' said Lady Bracknell, 'is like a delicate exotic fruit. Touch it and the bloom is gone.' Ironically, the protective shield around ignorance is - tolerance.
Somewhere along the way, we decided, fatally, that 'everyone is entitled to his beliefs' was the same as 'all beliefs are equally valid' and that 'I believe this' is the same as 'this is true'.
Worse, faith is by definition proof against reason; Tertullian said 'I believe (in the resurrection of Jesus) because it is impossible', and that he was so certain of a point of doctrine (I forget which) that if angels were to come from Heaven to contradict him, yet he would cling to it. The gospel has Jesus telling doubting Thomas, blessed are those who have *not* seen and have believed.
Denying evidence becomes a virtue. Truly, blind faith. There is nothing you can do about faith. It is, a priori, common-sense-proof.
And if you try to argue, even the mildest and most reasonable challenge, you get labelled a 'bigot'.
Although I am officially a 'liberal' or at least a moderate, I blame the left. The whole everyone's-entitled-to-his-opinion thing has gone too far. At some point one must say, you have a right to an opinion, but yours is just plain wrong.
Someone - I wish I remembered who - once said the tragedy of America is that it was founded on faith rather than on reason. Amen.