I’ve emerged from a deep dive into tangping, the so-called ‘lying flat’ phenomenon which began a couple months ago when Luo Huazhong (31) posted a photo of himself in bed, captioned “Lying Flat Is Justice,” that went bacterial.
Mr Luo had quit his factory job five years earlier. Picking up odd jobs, he got by on his savings, but now lives with his parents. Now he reads books, lays in bed, and philosophises, dubbed an ‘activist’ following China’s predictable reaction to his slacker attitude.
Another Chinese millenial, Leon Ding (22) dropped out of uni and now gets paid to play computer games. He is not interested in work unless it leaves him ample time for idleness. He’s making enough to scrape by, and admits he wants a ‘stable job’ one day, but won’t take just anything.
In her op-ed for the New York Times, former radio-producer Cassady Rosenblaum admits swapping the hamster-wheel for her parent’s porch in the hills of West Virginia was a good deal. She doesn’t discount working for a living, but rejects “rejoining a system that is beginning to come undone.“
Does their slacktivism enrage you?
Slackers are not a Chinese invention, and tangping is merely the latest iteration of a fundamental human rejection of the prevailing work ethic. When the cost-benefit ratio becomes overly biased in favour of employers over employees, who’s surprised some opt out?
My only problem is everyone’s presumptive fallback position. Neither Mr Luo nor Ms Rosenblum have any problem with slacking at their parent’s expense. Do these people really have to raise you twice? I mean, carry your own water. Your parents’ retirement budget probably didn’t factor in a squatter.
I totally get the fact that people end up, seemingly randomly, in jobs they hate. If I popped the cork on my 1983 Penfold’s Grange Hermitage and a mullet-haired genie in tiny thongs and a wife-beater popped out, and said “Hey mate, whaddaya want?” I wouldn’t be going back to work.
But with nobody to cover my expenses, I can’t afford ‘lying flat’. Instead I devolve to the “work to live” philosophy. I work a 38 hour week and not one minute more. If I lose a minute, I take it back the following week — I’m a Seinfeldian even Steven in that way. Of course, some people don’t really get tangping, they think it’s what came after planking.
We’ve been sold a lie.
Putting Gramsci’s thoughts on hegemony to one side, unlike so many of my acquaintances, I don’t want a swimming pool — but I’m told I should. Ditto the new car, the bigger house, etc. All I want is zen-like mastery over time so that I can do the things that make me happy.
But these things cost time and money, so I still have to work.
Luckily, I don’t hate it.
Kudos to those whose lives are so pared-down that they can live for free. So long as the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ isn’t footing the bill. I’ll try ‘lying flat’ when my savings, life expectancy, and expenses fall into sync.