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Boredom March 21, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.


I’m not a great fan of Freakonomics and all its works. There’s a certain tone that seems to run through it that rubs me up the wrong way. Can’t put my finger on it, just one of those things. I prefer Planet Money from NPR for matters economic. But that said every once in a while it does raise fascinating issues. For example, last year it had a piece ‘Am I Boring You?’ which investigated the issue of boredom.

Now that’s something I find of particular interest. For a start the word itself didn’t have much currency until the 18th century – I’m sure we can all think of reasons why. Furthermore in the early 20th century in Britain it was discovered that boredom in repetitive industries and workplaces was a greater problem for workers than physical challenges. That’s an aspect of working conditions that isn’t often considered.

In some ways this is an age of spectacle, information and entertainment, and one has to wonder about whether some are ever bored any longer. Of course there is ennui, a different issue again.

I remember in the 1990s always being surprised at people I worked with in a fairly large private enterprise who hated the Christmas holidays. Where we worked we were forced – isn’t working life lovely – to apply days from our 19 (later 20) days holidays at Christmas because the industry/trade we mostly addressed did so two. Just on this this distorted holiday days radically. The companies would only allow employees to take holidays in July and August, incurring additional costs, but also limiting the scope and range of holidays. What remaining holiday days were burned off at Easter which left very few to distribute around the rest of the year. Anyhow, in relation to Christmas holidays, many people would say they were bored. I never felt that way. I wasn’t much pushed by being forced to take days off then, but the longer the holiday the better from my perspective. And there always seemed to be something to do.

Now it seems to me there’s even more for those who have the luxury of time and resources. Boredom seems a long way away. But then, and this is a different aspect of this, so is stillness. Mobile technology means that sitting in a café waiting for someone to show up is no longer a case of having the brain shoot away on tangents but instead is a process of checking mobile. Looking up and around. Checking mobile. Looking up and around. And repeat.


1. sonofstan - March 21, 2016

Simon Reynolds makes the point in Retromania that boredom is the component missing from the creative lives of musicians these days – I don’t think it’s being replaced by endless fruitful endeavour but by distraction – which is itself as exhausting in the long run as boredom; maybe more so


WorldbyStorm - March 21, 2016

Yep, I’m always a bit leery of ‘too much stuff’ arguments – they can seem very middle class but this is a weird age of distraction


tinder - March 21, 2016

@sos ‘it has been’. or is ‘being’


sonofstan - March 21, 2016

Gee, thanks.


2. 6to5against - March 21, 2016

Not only is waiting in cafes, or elsewhere, a changed thing these days, but waiting in general has been dramatically reduced.

I recall – I’m sure others do too – the complex plans needed to put together a night in town with a gang. Meeting at the gates of TCD was a favourite for us. The first arrival might have to wait half an hour or more for others to show – and then we would have to wonder about the stragglers. Should we give up on them, or wait a bit longer, or leave a note pinned to the railings explaining the plans for the evening and hope they might spot it.

But kids today (and myself on my rare excursions) can leave the house without even having decided where to meet. They can make plans and alter them as the evening takes shape and never have to worry about spreading the message.

I’m sure they have other hassles to compensate. Not least the exhaustive nature of never being bored. But it is a real cultural change.


sonofstan - March 21, 2016

Yep. I remember arranging band rehearsals being a business of ringing and leaving messages, calling into pubs where people *might* show up later to leave notes, cycling around to houses to drop notes in the letter box and even sending postcards.


1maybloc - March 21, 2016

The wait at TCD gates was always a great exercise in people/tribe watching – seeing everyone assembling for their nights out, and listening to all the different accents, Dublin and Country.
The top of Grafton Street was always a favourite meeting spot for our crew. While waiting you could always watch all the Skins and postcard Punks at the Stephen’s Green gates get pissed and starting arguing…..


3. Dr. X - March 21, 2016

The Temne of northern Sierra Leone have no word for ‘boredom’ in their language, because they have no word for ‘lazy’.


blackberry - March 21, 2016

oooo soo kinda relevant.
these mega-philo’s that we we contend with – the ‘under’-class, just do not get it, that these, by which they live, (and kinda’ adhere to) ……. must be renewed. a kind of re-aspiration, as opposed to ‘re-ambition’.


Dr. X - March 21, 2016

Thank you, comrade, for that authentic frontier gibberish.


4. Paul Wilson. - March 21, 2016

Englands Dreaming Sex Pistols and Punk Rock by Jon Savage, quotes from a Maoist poster from the sixties. ” What sre the politics of boredom? better red thaan dead” I gather the idea was that boredom is a product of capitalism. Hence the deluge of early punk songs on the subject.


5. CL - March 21, 2016

Boredom is in the mind, not in what is external to it.


6. gendjinn - March 21, 2016

To your point about boredom I must point you to Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line by Ben Hamper. It’s an American Ragged Trousered Philanthropists of Ford/GMC Michigan.


sonofstan - March 21, 2016

Really good book – a much tougher Michael Moore.


CL - March 21, 2016
gendjinn - March 21, 2016

Nice one CL! Thanks for that.


gendjinn - March 21, 2016

Oh yeah. I assume you know their relationship & history.


7. Gewerkschaftler - March 21, 2016

I can’t even remember what boredom feels like, whereas my children complain of it. Just frustration that I haven’t several lives to investigate all the possible interesting avenues I come across.

But then perhaps I’ve just become become easily distracted / amused.😦


LeftAtTheCross - March 21, 2016

The best cure for boredom G has to be having kids. Never a spare minute.


Alibaba - March 21, 2016

Yeah, when my only child told me she was ‘bored’ and ‘you just don’t get it’, I asked her what she wanted. Much to my surprise she replied ‘I don’t know’. Phew, I thought, it doesn’t involve money or commodity mania. Turns out all she wanted was the company of other kids. Sleepovers worked a treat, especially when we arranged them on a revolving basis, getting the parents of others to share the burden, oops the the pleasure of arranging them. ‘Cause it doesn’t last that long and you will miss it when it’s gone.


WorldbyStorm - March 21, 2016

That rings really true Alibaba, I’ve just the one too and more than anything company is the best pastime.


8. gendjinn - March 21, 2016

Freakonomics always rubbed me the wrong way given that it promoted correlations without doing any investigation on the directionality of causality, or if there even was any.

Their assertion that Roe v. Wade explained the 90s drop in crime was pretty odious and weak that this article was inevitable.


WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2016

Yeah that was particularly toxic.


9. dmoc - March 21, 2016

Freakonomics – I knew I’d read an attack on them a while back. No better man than Yasha Levine of the late lamented exiled.

NOTHING GOOD comes out of the University of Chicago, it’s a neocon psychopath hatchery.


QUOTE: As Steven Levitt’s S.H.A.M.E. Profile demonstrates, Levitt is a dyed-in-the-wool Chicago School neoliberal who believes in the sanctity of “the market” and a small government whose function is restricted mostly to protecting property rights. He has used “objective” economic research and mainstream credibility as cover, while attacking teachers’ unions, advocating for the privatization of prison labor, spreading crude climate denialism and promoting rank “free market” ideology that sees human labor as a resource to be extracted for maximum profit. Levitt has also developed a nasty habit of misrepresenting the research of other scientists in order to reach predefined ideological conclusions, and has failed to disclose financial conflicts of interest.

But perhaps the most disturbing thing about Levitt is his enduring interest in researching and “proving” the effectiveness of authoritarian and, some would say, borderline eugenicist policies. Aside from doing studies on the positive effects that incarceration has on society (we benefit to the tune of $15,000 per inmate per year if inmates are packed into overcrowded conditions), he published a paper that argued that an increase in abortion rates among black women in the 1970s was the main reason for a drop in crime in the 1990s. The methodology and data of his research were discredited by other economists, but Levitt stuck to his original conclusion linking race and crime: fewer African-American children correlates to less crime. Levitt’s explanation wasn’t just wrong, it was extremely sinister, reinforcing a racist stereotype of the worst kind with a seemingly modern “scientific” explanation.


CL - March 22, 2016

And here’s a profile of NPR’s Adam Davidson:

“Over the years, Davidson has whitewashed the occupation of Iraq, praised sweatshop labor, attacked the idea of regulating Wall Street and argued for “squeezing the middle class”—all while taking undisclosed money from banking interests….

Liked by 1 person

CL - March 22, 2016

“Financial blogger and author Yves Smith (whose Naked Capitalism website is a must-read for the financially-literate) noted that Mr. Davidson’s recent column, “The Other Reason Europe is Going Broke,” “manages the impressive feat of making you stupider than before you read it.” She catalogues the misrepresented facts and appeals to American prejudices that form the hallmark of Mr. Davidson’s work. Other experts have similarly sounded the alarm: Economist Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has repeatedly called out Mr. Davidson’s technical distortions and failure to comprehend basic macroeconomic principles on his blog.”
(See: “Adam Davidson Gets Stimulus Wrong in the NYT”; “You Don’t Have to Save When Your House Does it For You”, etc.)



10. Phil - March 22, 2016

When did you last hear a group of people, stuck outside a locked door or similar, start singing “Why are we waiting?” Or start singing anything, really. No bored individuals = no collective consciousness, or something like that but less pretentious.


11. How to Stay Passionate About Your Job ⋆ BMW Quality Writing - July 12, 2016

[…] Boredom […]


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