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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Thursday, July 24, 2003


Dis.sense is a German site. This month, they are emphasizing doing nothing -- Nicht-tun. And as part of that theme, someone translated Kasimir Malevich's legendary essay on laziness into German. Well, yours truly has translated the first part of it into English. Enjoy.

Laziness as the actual Truth of Mankind
Work as an instrument to reach truth
Philosophy of the socialistic Idea
It has always made a strange impression on me to hear or read some family member or bureaucrat making a contemptuous remark about laziness. �Laziness is the mother of all vices� � which is how the collective wisdom of humanity and all peoples has branded this particular style of human activity. But for myself, I�ve always been of the opinion that this condemnation of laziness is unfair. Why is work so great? Why is it elevated to the throne of praise and fame, while laziness is forced to sit in the pillory and all the lazy are shamed and have to wear the burden of viciousness; meanwhile the laborious are covered with fame, given presents and feasted? To me, it has always seemed like this is the exact opposite of what should happen. Work has to be cursed, as it has come down to us from the legend of Paradise, and laziness should be that towards which all humanity has to strive. Somehow, this has developed quite otherwise in real life. It�s this �otherwise� I want to concentrate on. And since every clarification must employ marks and occasions and every decision and logical conclusion rests on these marks, in this essay I will go over them and illuminate their connection to one another in order to reach the goal that is truly hidden in the word �laziness.�

With many words, the truth is hidden, and can�t be dug up. It seems to me that man rarely handles the truth and that when he does, he�s like a cook, who cooks many different things in many different pots. Now, it is certainly true that every pot has its own proper lid, yet out of pure distraction the cook bangs around pots and covers them with random lids until he finally forgets what is contained in each pot. I think that something like this has happened with laziness � many words and truths are covered with lids until nobody knows what is found under the lids. On one lid it stands written, �laziness is the mother of vice.� Now, they take that lid and they cover up some random pot and think that they�ve captured scandal and vice in it. Of course, it is self-evident that the word �Faulheit (laziness, from Faul, foul � R.),� if it implies some human circumstance, is very dangerous, but what is there that is dangerous for humans throughout the world? One has to think that laziness implies the death of �being� �i.e. of men, whose exclusive salvation resides in production and labor. If man is no longer active, whole countries will die, death will threaten whole peoples. It�s clear that this circumstance, as the circumstance of corruption, will have to be prosecuted. So, in order to escape death, man has brilliantly come up with a lifeform in which all must work and no one is allowed to be a bum. That�s the reason that the socialistic system that leads to communism, struggling against all previous systems, brings all of humanity into the single way of labor, and leaves behind all bums. This is the meaning of the most pitiless of all laws in the most humane of all systems: he who doesn�t work, doesn�t eat. This is also why the communist system prosecutes capitalism, because the capitalist encourages the bum and because the ruble definitely leads to laziness. So in the socialist system God�s curse, i.e. labor, receives the highest blessing. Under the blessing of communism, everyone gets to work, otherwise they starve. But even this point is hidden in the system of laboriousness. The point is that man in all other systems would never feel the nearness of this all-encompassing death, and would never see, that in production lies not only the general, but also the particular good. In the collective labor system, however, death stands before each, and each has only one task; through labor, and the products of labor, to save himself. Otherwise, as said, the threat of hunger. This socialistic system of labor aims, in its natural, unconscious processes at bringing all of mankind to work, in order to improve productivity and preserve security and strengthen humanity and through the increased level of productivity to assure human existence. Naturally this system, that bothers not just about the particular individual, but about all of humanity, is absolutely right. Exactly as the capitalist system guarantees the right and the freedom to work, bringing about the increase of money in the bank, in order to secure laziness in the vague future. That presumes that the ruble is one of those signs that that seduces us because it promises that which everyone dreams of: the happiness of laziness. In fact, that is the meaning of the ruble, the ruble is in itself nothing other than a little piece of laziness. He who collects the most little pieces will luxuriate longer in laziness. The ideologues who worry about all the people imagined this cause and effect in their consciousness and were therefore always unanimous that laziness is the mother of all vices. But in their unconsciousness, the Other exists: the wish to make all equal in labor, or otherwise said, the wish for all to be equally lazy. So what cannot be achieved in the capitalist system can be achieved in the communist system. Yet the capitalist and the communist are both bothered by the same thing: achieving the only truly human state, which is laziness. In the deep unconscious of the system is hidden exactly this truth. But for some reason, this truth has never really been grasped. There has never been a labor system that announces the solution to mankind�s problem thusly: �the truth of your striving is the way to laziness.� Instead, we find everywhere those dreary reminders of the virtue of labor, and the implication that labor is unavoidable, and it is impossible to lay it aside, and in fact this goal is what the socialist system has in mind to reach through labor, taking the burden of vice, hour by laborious hour, off the shoulders of all humanity. The more people who work, however, the less hours of work there will be. And so more time will remain left over for idleness.

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