Is lying flat where its at?
Tang Ping is the Chinese name for a social movement. In English it somewhat translates to “Lying Flat”. It’s a reaction to the pressure of working life in China and other Asian countries. A work force asked to work nine to nine six days a week is fraying around the edges. They call it “996” and increasingly reject it. Rather than chase the dream of career, family, car, house and status, many would rather relax, lay back, lye flat. They work enough to share a dry place to sleep. Just enough casual labor to earn a minimum to eat. The movement isn’t part of the government’s plan for moving the country forward. But from the individual’s point of view, seventy-two hour work weeks are not sufficiently rewarded. Those hoping a college degree would ensure a career and prosperous life are also often disappointed. Lying Flat is a drag on the “New Era” declared by the Chinese government. Doing nothing and lying flat is counter revolutionary, radical. The movement began with a single social media post entitled, “Lying flat is justice”. Like a spark finding tinder the movement caught fire among unhappy workers. it spread on the Chinese internet. A spread halted when the government intervened and removed posts. Some question the wisdom of creating a huge consumer market based on debt and everyone working “996”. But a large internal market is important to a nation sprinting to become the prime economy on Earth. People who never bought on credit have in a generation embraced capitalism’s major tenant, debt. To have more, borrow more, work more. A cycle all too familiar to us in the USA. The workers dropping out of the system have a name for themselves, the “Leek People”. The Leek they refer to is harvested with a knife. The leeks standing up are harvested, those that lay down avoid the knife. The rate of burn out in the work force suggests a system being driven hard, seeking an equilibrium, balance. The old idea of community and serving the group has moved toward the celibration of the individual. But what if the individual isn’t willing to sacrifice health and mind for the greater good? Or what the government’s plan plan calls the greater good. Where might this social movement, this pushback, lead? Lets use the adult’s rhetorical question asked of a child. “What if everyone felt this way?” Eating spinach or going to school. When I heard this question as a youngster, my thought was, Gee, don’t know, lets skip spinach or school and see. No I didn’t risk a slap by asking that but Beijing may find out. Andrew Yang was ignored the last presidential cycle when he ask a related question. “What happens when there are no jobs for people who want them? When AI machines and new tech eliminate the need for unskilled workers. Will the productivity gain be spread among the population? Like checks for stimulus under the cloud of Covid. Billions of workers around the world are part of an experiment involving capital and labor. I have decided to watch this experiment from the sidelines, reclining, a spectator, without skin in the game. Well, I live off the taxes workers pay, so I guess I have some pecuniary interest. The lying flat posse, watches too and when necessary runs a few laps in the rat race, just enough to pay the rent and buy another case of Raman Noodles. Is there a natural distribution of slackers and worker “ants” and other types in a human population? A spectrum of ambition? Maybe so.