A Modest Proposal for a US Labor Day Every Month

Happy Do Nothing Day.

By Edward Curtin

In a country with Mount Rushmore that celebrates ruthless and frenetic westward expansion, it might be a bit naïve to suggest a Do Nothing Day. National holidays are great – so many sales for stuff no one needs, and far too many people working on what is supposed to be a day off to honor work.

To rush less, to idle, and to do nothing sounds un-American, yet it might be a solution to many of the nation’s ills. Quixotic as it may sound, if every person in the country could be convinced to lay aside compulsive busyness for one day per month it would accomplish much.

Samuel Beckett said, “Nothing is more real than nothing.” It is the empty space out of which we come, the background silence for noise. Such a gift should not be shunned.

Doing nothing means: no work; no travel, except by foot or bicycle; no use of technology of any sort except stoves; no household repairs or projects; no buying or selling of any kind, including thinking of buying and selling. Simply being.

Businesses would be closed, factories would be idled, planes and trains grounded. Only emergency services would operate. Republicans and Democrats would add one more day to their monthly schedules of doing “nothing.”

Think of how much would be accomplished by doing nothing. People might dream, hear birds, even sing themselves; have conversations and feel the peace of a wild idleness.

Happy Labor Day.

Educated in the classics, philosophy, literature, theology, and sociology, Ed Curtin is a former professor of sociology. His writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years.  He sees all his work as an effort to enhance human freedom.  

23 comments for “A Modest Proposal for a US Labor Day Every Month

  1. John Wright
    September 6, 2019 at 15:09

    Marko –

    I hope that you and yours are well.

    As happy as many of are about the release of this study, there’s no need to spam it all over CN, especially on totally unrelated comment threads, such as this one.

    Interesting that you are experiencing “database errors”… I am too, for the first time ever…these seem to disappear as soon as I edit certain key phrases from my comment…hmmmm?

    Thanks !

  2. Les kober
    September 6, 2019 at 08:54

    Make it a week, see them squirm!

  3. September 4, 2019 at 11:09

    Do Nothing Day would make people think about how awful and immoral the situation has become, making them in turn uncomfortable and frustrated at their perceived inability to do anything about it.
    ….then they’d turn to drink to take their mind away.

  4. Lucy
    September 4, 2019 at 01:44

    Good idea. But there’s a detter one suggested by our deputy of the Supreme Soviet – to make a 4days working week

  5. IvyMike
    September 3, 2019 at 21:07

    Even better, also modest, how about 2 hours sitting on the porch with a loved one or a couple of close friends and having a few drinks and just talking?

  6. Tedder
    September 3, 2019 at 13:45

    This reminds me of life at Tassajara Zen Monastery. For almost half the day, we did ‘literally’ nothing!

  7. Ibn Insha
    September 3, 2019 at 11:48

    Did you say something?

  8. Kevin
    September 2, 2019 at 21:49

    Awesome! Sounds like meditation.

  9. Sam F
    September 2, 2019 at 16:43

    Indeed “background silence” is “a gift” when one is attuned.
    But it is better to argue the value of specific non-labor activities.
    The US fails completely in public service, benevolence, and peacemaking.
    It fails in non-technical education, and social and moral learning.
    Progress is advanced by activist education, not time off to watch TV.

    We do have weekends, most already squandered in vain pursuits.
    Specific days dedicated to reflection on benevolence would set a standard.
    The war holidays should be re-dedicated to peaceable progress.
    Labor Day should become Oligarchy Abolition Day.

    • Skip Scott
      September 3, 2019 at 09:32

      I think part of Labor Day should be no TV day too. Just shut down all the broadcasts and watch the proles wake up from their hypnotic trance. It might lead straight to Oligarchy Abolition Day gaining traction.

      • Sam F
        September 4, 2019 at 06:56

        Good idea. Perhaps “Abolition Day” would help declare that oligarchy is the understood threat.
        Isolation from mass media would improve awareness and independent thinking.

  10. Miranda M Keefe
    September 2, 2019 at 14:17

    Yep. This IS modest. So modest it is embarrassing.

    Here’s a real proposal with teeth.

    How about a Labor Day every week.

    Increase wages so a four day work week (school week) gets the same compensation we now want at $15 minimum. Reduce from 8 hour shifts to 6.

    That means $20 hour minimum wages.

  11. Mark Stanley
    September 2, 2019 at 13:01

    An admirable idea Ed, but for me it’s a long-standing tongue & cheek joke that I always work on Labor day. There’s so much to button up this time of year. Today I’m replacing a rotten wall on the back side of my barn.

  12. Eddie S
    September 2, 2019 at 11:39

    “Think of how much would be accomplished by doing nothing. People might dream, hear birds, even sing themselves; have conversations and feel the peace of a wild idleness.”.

    Unfortunately, in a not so-subtle way, in the above closing sentences, the author effectively equates non-work/business activities with “…doing nothing…”, which is only really true from the perspective of the business world. In the non-business world, dreaming, bird-watching/listening, singing, and contemplation ARE activities which people expend energy on (or ‘work’ at), so I think he indirectly feeds the perception that non-business activities aren’t worthwhile…?

  13. Mike
    September 2, 2019 at 11:31

    Wouldn’t a living wage, workplace safety and a shorter workday be better?

    • Anonymous
      September 2, 2019 at 14:11

      But progress! But “the devil plays with idle hands”! But patriotism! But *(a)murica(n empire)! But sin/weirdos/terrorists!

      Unfortunately, the middle to upper class mainstream is loud about why people shouldn’t enjoy a reasonable life in this country.

  14. Michael McNulty
    September 2, 2019 at 11:20

    Business exec’s and politicians usually moan we can’t afford any more public holidays, not realising they’re usually the only two groups of people who actually get the day off and get paid for it. That shouldn’t surprise us, though, because they’re also the same people who keep telling us there’s no such thing as a free lunch, when they’re about the only two professions who often get to eat for free.

  15. pat
    September 2, 2019 at 11:08

    Sounds wonderful!

  16. Anonymous
    September 2, 2019 at 09:39

    That day exists in (stricter than reform) Judaism — it’s called Saturday.

    “Modern” western culture just views such behavior as mental illness at this point in time. You get what you pay for.

  17. Garrett Connelly
    September 2, 2019 at 08:28

    Doing nothing one day per month adds up to a 3.25% reduction of harm done by frenzied economics. The world economy requires about 1.5 Earths. Capitalists need to grow forever or sink into depression.

    Faster and faster growth to infinity on a finite planet is an obvious design flaw in modern societies. The United States consumes at the rate of about five Earths, if everyone lived like the US, the world economy would require five Earths.

    If Americans quit the rat race 3.25 percent of the time, they would then consume Earth’s life support systems and resources at the reduced rate of 4.8 Earths. This would set a great example for the rest of the world to follow.

    • rosemerry
      September 2, 2019 at 15:05

      If only the Pentagon and the POTUS would stop ‘work’ for at least a day, think of how many people would live who otherwise would be killed and how much damage and destruction would be avoided. How unAmerican!!!

  18. Walter
    September 2, 2019 at 06:56

    How about making every Friday a “black Friday”? This is the contract term in my union’s contract, “black Friday” means the Friday is a no-work day, unless the wages are time and a half. OT on Fridays or no workie.

    The suits can’t do the work themselves, we have the power, when we organize.

    Nevertheless I often think about the General Strike on the West Coast.

    What? You were not aware of this critical history?

    (wiki) > “The 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike (also known as the 1934 West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike, as well as a number of variations on these names) lasted eighty-three days, and began on May 9, 1934 when longshoremen in every US West Coast port walked out. The strike peaked with the death of two workers on “Bloody Thursday” and the San Francisco General Strike which stopped all work in the major port city for four days and led ultimately to the settlement of the West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike.

    The result of the strike was the unionization of all of the West Coast ports of the United States. The San Francisco General Strike of 1934, along with the Toledo Auto-Lite Strike of 1934 led by the American Workers Party and the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934 led by the Communist League of America, were important catalysts for the rise of industrial unionism in the 1930s, much of which was organized through the Congress of Industrial Organizations

    • Anonymous
      September 2, 2019 at 14:16

      You really think something like that would work in this day and age? Never mind how much more military level nonsense the public tolerates from the police than they would have in the 30s or early 40s…

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