Knowledge: Why we work and mass media models

1. "What, then, is work for? Aristotle has a striking answer: “we work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.” This may at first seem absurd. How can we be happy just doing nothing, however sweetly (dolce far niente)?  Doesn’t idleness lead to boredom, the life-destroying ennui portrayed in so many novels, at least since “Madame Bovary”?

Everything depends on how we understand leisure. Is it mere idleness, simply doing nothing?  Then a life of leisure is at best boring (a lesson of Voltaire’s “Candide”), and at worst terrifying (leaving us, as Pascal says, with nothing to distract from the thought of death).  No, the leisure Aristotle has in mind is productive activity enjoyed for its own sake, while work is done for something else.

Bertrand Russell, in his classic essay “In Praise of Idleness,” agrees. ”A great deal of harm,” he says, “is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work.” Instead, “the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.” Before the technological breakthroughs of the last two centuries, leisure could be only “the prerogative of small privileged classes,” supported by slave labor or a near equivalent. But this is no longer necessary..."

What Work Is Really For

2. "...mass media models are persuasive: They serve as a cue to indicate that a certain behavior is legitimate and appropriate. After watching a prizefight, it appears to be OK to “punch someone’s light out”; hearing about a teenage suicide or a schoolhouse murder suggests or that those who have wronged us will now be forced to grieve for us or will now be dead; watching a housewife mop the floor convinces us that this is an appropriate lifestyle for women (but not necessarily for men). A steady diet of mass media models can shape and twist our understanding of what is right and wrong with the world."

Why Mass Media Models Persuade Us