“Work has become intolerable. Rest is resistance,” says Cassady Rosenblum in The New York Times. In China this April, 31-year-old former factory worker Luo Huazhong told social media he “had a right to choose a slow lifestyle” of reading, exercising and doing odd jobs to get by. The post, alongside a picture of Luo snoozing, went viral. American news outlets described the “lying flat” trend as symptomatic of China’s “hyper-competitive” 996 regime: 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Luo tips his nightcap to Diogenes, the Greek philosopher who lived in a barrel to “criticise the excesses of Athenian aristocrats”.
But lying flat has “global resonance”. In the West, workers simply aren’t returning after the pandemic. Me? I’ve quit my job as a copywriter and gone back to live with my parents. And it’s not just low earners. At Goldman Sachs, where salaries start at $150,000, entry-level analysts complain they work 98-hour weeks, don’t shower and hardly sleep. “I’ve been through foster care,” said one in a leaked report. “This is arguably worse.” Black American thinkers argue that “rest is not only resistance, it is also reparation”, owed because enslaved ancestors were never allowed to stop working. If jobs are sustenance, careers are now “altars upon which all else is sacrificed”. Work is “a false idol”. Take a nap. Be free.