Ever since the days of slavery rich bosses have attempted to get as much profit for as little labor cost as possible. Those days are here again, with the explosion of low-paid indentured servitude style jobs filling the market place. Several times since we have become a nation escaping the oppression of European overlords, we have had to face our own oppressive overlords and humble them. Often it is much maligned (and sometimes abusive themselves) unions who have met selfish force with aggressive counter force. As the pendulum swings, our society may be preparing for another move in that direction, because the abuse from on high has increased astronomically the past 20 years as the poor are again being trod on by excessive greed.
An example has been the recent revelation of medieval vacation time. America “remains the only developed nation with no federally mandated vacation policy” according to research. We might think that those “lazy” Europeans are in so much trouble because they get too much time off, but that would be wrong. We all know that Greece is in trouble but forget that many hard-working north European nations are doing better than us and taking longer vacations. The fact is that “the Greeks, who face a horrible economy, work more hours than any other Europeans” and that probably shocks those who think that a longer work year is somehow more productive.
There is certainly a level at which work is most efficient, but our current level of vacation time is not it. And, when we consider efficiency, we must also consider health and societal efficiency, which are much different than the efficiency of how many widgets are made each day. There is an answer. It is found in one of the world’s most ancient documents, the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament.
One day in seven was mandated as a rest day, not a day off to mow lawns and do laundry, but a day of rest from all work activities. Time for personal chores was part of the work week, yet today, if you want to move up the corporate ladder forget that idea. The very ones who should be setting an example for the rest of us are the greatest slaves, middle managers, who have no legal protections over their time like ordinary workers. Many of them have to work through vacation time too and get no rest time at all.
Also in ancient times there were mandated spring and fall vacation times. These festivals were often observed in Jerusalem for a week plus many days travel to and fro. The total vacation time added up to many weeks. More than that, a sabbatical year was mandated every seven years. Light work fixing machinery may have been done and gleaning a few volunteer vegetables but by and large it was a whole year off for farm workers.
Rest is an important principle for health and family life. It is a principle that ignored has gradually turned us into a society of indentured servants. It’s time for another mini-revolution like in the late 1800’s or 1950’s. Employers can take the initiative by learning from the lessons of history or face the consequences of a society that elevates greed as a virtue.