Mental Health

Perfect Attendance Leads to Elevated Self-Doubt and Ignorance of Illness | by Laura Williams-Burke | Sep, 2021

Celeste Headlee’s book, “Do Nothing,” argues that a cultural shift took place in the early 1920s in which capitalist industrialism replaced religious values.

“To many in Henry Ford’s time, it was more shameful to miss a day at work than to stay home from church. I would argue that work began to replace religion,” Headlee writes.

The message to work despite the pain, combined with capitalism’s incessant encouragement to use whatever money we may have to pursue happiness, results in people coming home from long days on the job to stacks of Amazon packages, then wondering why they still feel sad or sick once they’ve opened the boxes.

I don’t have to paint you a picture of how my experience as a child in the 90’s relates to today because face masks and vaccines for teachers and school staff are additional flash points in the culture war / public health mashup hellscape of Covid.

“What are all those hours of work actually getting me?” we wonder morosely, staring at our pay stubs and credit card statements, using the math skills we learned during those consecutive days at school to calculate the number of decades it will take to pay off our student loans.

Our necks ache from staring at screens, our hands cramp up from typing, our desire to socialize disintegrates as the extra hours we dedicate to our jobs result in overexposure to people. We spend more time around our co-workers than our families and take out our aggravation on the ones we love the most.

We put in overtime because we want to show we have a solid work ethic, and besides, overtime means more pay.

Headlee explains, “Over the course of a couple hundred years, the religious notion that working long and hard makes you deserving while taking time off makes you lazy was adopted as an economic policy, a way to motivate employees to get the most out of them.”


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