Robert Heinlein ended up being half-way right. The part he missed is that we don't just vote for bread and circuses these days, we also buy our bread and circuses. Our comforts and our distractions.
I've been fighting my own efficiency for a long, long time. There's some part of me that is petrified of what would happen if I were done early. If my work, efficiently executed, did not constitute the whole day. If my weekends were not full of entertainment, my ears full of music, my head full of thoughts. Petrified of stillness, to the point of avoiding it at all costs. To the point of filling the day with distractions.
This is made entirely possible by technology. The technology which enables one person to grow enough food for many, the technology which replaces household drudgery, the technology which gives us light at night and company in the stillness. This enables us to have both extra time, and the entertainments with which we fill the time.
I am terrified of extra time, so I turn to my distractions and I turn to inefficiency.
A few weekends ago while shopping I came across what I think of as the uniqueness of the Sandpoint area; a visiting Japanese family in high fashion, obviously on a ski vacation, in line behind a Hutterite family with 6 boys and 5 girls. The Japanese family clearly experienced culture shock; the Hutterites not so much.
Bonner county is an outdoor paradise settled with loggers, miners, trappers, railmen, prostitutes, and persecuted minority groups. We still have a large population of Anabaptists of all creeds, as well other formerly persecuted sects. This leads to a population which is, ahem, difficult to govern.
Lately I've spent much time researching the various Anabaptist groups in an attempt to understand the people around me, which has led to much research concerning the Amish (by far the most written about group). As a whole, their days are filled with efficient work with palpable results and free time without all the technology we use to fill it.
In all my reading, I've come to one inescapable thought; my attachment of inefficiency and technology to fill the time is a deep-seated fear of what I would find if I just stopped moving.
During this time life has also thrust, very clearly in my face, the fact that many people are unprepared and ill-educated, some intentionally so. Between the large number of VERY intelligent people I know who do not know the simplest, most necessary things and the population at large, it's become quite clear to me that people are willfully ignorant. That beyond their bread and circuses they do not have much curiosity in the world at large.
I've been guilty of willful ignorance myself, as well as the inability to see beyond my own nose. In many ways, I think what I'm terrified of is stopping and finding that I'm actually far more ignorant and far more boring than I think.
Worse, I think I would open my eyes and be forced to see that in reality, so is everyone else.
I think that is what the distractions keep us from seeing, those things that would scare us, that would make us rethink everything we know, those things that would prove us wrong.
I'm going to toss the distractions and find out.