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INDEED, THERE ARE times when chilling out is the appropriate response. Even in the People’s Republic of China. Details are given in Elsie Chen’s “These Chinese Millennials are ‘Chilling,’ and Beijing Isn’t Happy, The New York Times, July 3, 2021. Here are tidbits from this article, together with life’s musings on my part.
“Five years ago,” Elsie Chen reports, “Luo Huazhong discovered that he enjoyed doing nothing. He quit his job as a factory worker in China, biked 1,300 miles from Sichuan Province to Tibet and decided he could get by on odd jobs and $60 a month from his savings. He called his new lifestyle ‘lying flat.’ ”
Revisiting the Work Week. Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, once asked, “What is a weekend?” By contrast, some Chinese define their work week in terms of “the 996,” namely, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.
I’m reminded of Les Standiford, who wrote about Andrew Carnegie and his libraries, “What good is a book to a man who works 12 hours a day, six days a week?”
Carnegie’s view was “If I had raised your wages, you would have spent that money by buying a better cut of meat or more drink for your dinner. But what you needed, though you didn’t know it, was my libraries and concert halls. And that’s what I’m giving to you.”
Back to China: Wikipedia notes in regard to 996, “In 2021, for the first time an academic study by Chinese institutions recognized the existence of ‘excessive-work cultures like ‘996’ to the extent that, if not corrected, it can dilute the gains of the Dual circulation policy” [a Chinese policy emphasizing domestic consumption as well as international trade].
Ahead of the Curve. Chen reports, “ ‘I have been chilling,’ Mr. Luo, 31, wrote in a blog post in April, describing his way of life…. ‘I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong.’ ” Luo titled his post “Lying Flat is Justice,” attaching a photo of himself lying on his bed in a dark room with the curtains drawn.
“Before long,” Chen writes, “the post was being celebrated by Chinese millennials as an anti-consumerist manifesto. ‘Lying flat’ went viral and has since become a broader statement about Chinese society.”
Better Off Than Parents? “A generation ago,” Chen observes, “the route to success in China was to work hard, get married and have children. The country’s authoritarianism was seen as a fair trade-off as millions were lifted out of poverty. But with employees working longer hours and housing prices rising faster than incomes, many young Chinese fear they will be the first generation not to do better than their parents.”
This same malaise hit American culture perhaps a generation ago.
Contrasting Cultures. An important difference is the contrasting cultural involvement of western governments versus the People’s Republic of China’s. Chen notes: “Mr. Luo’s blog post was removed by censors, who saw it as an affront to Beijing’s economic ambitions. Mentions of ‘lying flat’—tangping, as it’s known in Mandarin—are heavily restricted on the Chinese internet.”
Sorta Reclining Flâneurs. The French have a word, flâneur, a stroller, a saunterer, whom Wikipedia describes as “an ambivalent figure of urban affluence and modernity, representing the ability to wander detached from society with no other purpose than to be an acute observer of industrialized, contemporary life.”
Chen cites Zhang Xinmin, a reclining flâneur who uploaded his song “Tangping is the Right Way.” Part of its lyrics: “Lying down is really good./Lying down is wonderful./Lying down is the right thing to do./Lie down so you won’t fall anymore./Lying down means never falling down.”
The video is blocked in China. But we can consider its philosophy here. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021