Ainda sobre trabalho

, por Alexandre Matias

Continuando o papo sobre trabalho e a decadência da mediocridade, mais dois textos que valem a citação – e pra ninguém ficar me chamando de “libertário” ou “anarquista”, o primeiro (que trombei “sem querer” outro dia na rede) é do Bertrand Russell (de 1932) e o segundo (que a Kátia, do B*Scene me mandou) saiu na Veja este ano. Esse é o primeiro, o Elogio ao Ócio (se alguém se dispor a traduzir, eu publico e dou crédito):

“First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men; this is called politics. The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e. of advertising.

Throughout Europe, though not in America, there is a third class of men, more respected than either of the classes of workers. There are men who, through ownership of land, are able to make others pay for the privilege of being allowed to exist and to work. These landowners are idle, and I might therefore be expected to praise them. Unfortunately, their idleness is only rendered possible by the industry of others; indeed their desire for comfortable idleness is historically the source of the whole gospel of work. The last thing they have ever wished is that others should follow their example.

From the beginning of civilization until the Industrial Revolution, a man could, as a rule, produce by hard work little more than was required for the subsistence of himself and his family, although his wife worked at least as hard as he did, and his children added their labor as soon as they were old enough to do so. The small surplus above bare necessaries was not left to those who produced it, but was appropriated by warriors and priests. In times of famine there was no surplus; the warriors and priests, however, still secured as much as at other times, with the result that many of the workers died of hunger. This system persisted in Russia until 1917, and still persists in the East; in England, in spite of the Industrial Revolution, it remained in full force throughout the Napoleonic wars, and until a hundred years ago, when the new class of manufacturers acquired power. In America, the system came to an end with the Revolution, except in the South, where it persisted until the Civil War. A system which lasted so long and ended so recently has naturally left a profound impress upon men’s thoughts and opinions. Much that we take for granted about the desirability of work is derived from this system, and, being pre-industrial, is not adapted to the modern world. Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.


This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in which it arose. No wonder the result has been disastrous. Let us take an illustration. Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?


When I suggest that working hours should be reduced to four, I am not meaning to imply that all the remaining time should necessarily be spent in pure frivolity. I mean that four hours’ work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit. It is an essential part of any such social system that education should be carried further than it usually is at present, and should aim, in part, at providing tastes which would enable a man to use leisure intelligently. I am not thinking mainly of the sort of things that would be considered ‘highbrow’. Peasant dances have died out except in remote rural areas, but the impulses which caused them to be cultivated must still exist in human nature. The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive: seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had more leisure, they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part.

In the past, there was a small leisure class and a larger working class. The leisure class enjoyed advantages for which there was no basis in social justice; this necessarily made it oppressive, limited its sympathies, and caused it to invent theories by which to justify its privileges. These facts greatly diminished its excellence, but in spite of this drawback it contributed nearly the whole of what we call civilization. It cultivated the arts and discovered the sciences; it wrote the books, invented the philosophies, and refined social relations. Even the liberation of the oppressed has usually been inaugurated from above. Without the leisure class, mankind would never have emerged from barbarism.

The method of a leisure class without duties was, however, extraordinarily wasteful. None of the members of the class had to be taught to be industrious, and the class as a whole was not exceptionally intelligent. The class might produce one Darwin, but against him had to be set tens of thousands of country gentlemen who never thought of anything more intelligent than fox-hunting and punishing poachers. At present, the universities are supposed to provide, in a more systematic way, what the leisure class provided accidentally and as a by-product. This is a great improvement, but it has certain drawbacks. University life is so different from life in the world at large that men who live in academic milieu tend to be unaware of the preoccupations and problems of ordinary men and women; moreover their ways of expressing themselves are usually such as to rob their opinions of the influence that they ought to have upon the general public. Another disadvantage is that in universities studies are organized, and the man who thinks of some original line of research is likely to be discouraged. Academic institutions, therefore, useful as they are, are not adequate guardians of the interests of civilization in a world where everyone outside their walls is too busy for unutilitarian pursuits.

In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity. Men who, in their professional work, have become interested in some phase of economics or government, will be able to develop their ideas without the academic detachment that makes the work of university economists often seem lacking in reality. Medical men will have the time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods things which they learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval, have been proved to be untrue.

Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid. At least one per cent will probably devote the time not spent in professional work to pursuits of some public importance, and, since they will not depend upon these pursuits for their livelihood, their originality will be unhampered, and there will be no need to conform to the standards set by elderly pundits. But it is not only in these exceptional cases that the advantages of leisure will appear. Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all. Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever”

E este é a quase íntegra do outro, de um tal de Stephen Kanitz:

“Nenhum ditado popular explica tão bem os problemas do Brasil e do mundo como “Em terra de cego quem tem um olho é rei”. Ele mostra por que existe tanta gente incompetente dirigindo nossas empresas e nossas instituições. Mostra também por que é tão fácil chegar ao topo da pirâmide social sem muita visão ou competência. Basta ter um mínimo de conhecimento para sair pontificando soluções.

Existe um corolário desse ditado que me preocupa por suas conseqüências. “Em terra de cego, quem tem um olho é rei, e quem tem dois olhos é muito malvisto.” Indivíduos inteligentes e capazes são encarados como uma enorme ameaça e precisam ser rapidamente eliminados pelos que estão no poder.

Por essa razão, pessoas com mérito e competência dificilmente são promovidas no Brasil. Promovidos são os bajuladores e puxa-sacos. Quando aparece alguém com dois olhos, os reizinhos tratam de eliminá-lo, quanto antes melhor.

Já cansei de ver gente competente que, de um momento para o outro, deixou de ser ouvida pela diretoria. Já vi muito jornalista que, de repente, caiu em desgraça. Já vi muito jovem comentar algo brilhante na aula e ser duramente criticado pelo professor, sem saber o motivo. Todos cometeram o erro fatal de mostrar que tinham dois olhos. Por favor, não deixe que isso aconteça com você.

Se você é dos milhares de brasileiros que possuem dois olhos, tome cuidado. Em terra de cego, você corre perigo. Nunca mostre a seu chefe, professor ou colega de trabalho os olhos que tem. Lamento não poder dar nenhum bom conselho, eu sou dos que têm um olho só.

A maioria dos dois-olhos que conheço já desistiu de lutar e optou pelo anonimato. Quando eles têm uma idéia brilhante, colocam a solução na mesa de seus chefes e deixam que a idéia seja descaradamente roubada. Eles se fingem de mortos, pois sabem que, se agirem de modo diferente, poderão tornar-se vítimas. Mas há saídas melhores.

Se seu chefe tem um olho só, mude de emprego e procure companhias que valorizem o talento, que tenham critérios de avaliação claros e baseados em meritocracia. São poucas, mas elas existem e precisam ser prestigiadas.

Ou, então, procure um chefe que tenha dois olhos e grude nele. Ele é o único que irá entendê-lo. Ajude-o a formar uma grande equipe. Se ele mudar de empresa, mude com ele. Seja diferente, procure os melhores chefes para trabalhar, não as melhores companhias. Normalmente, as grandes empresas já são dominadas por reizinhos de um olho só.

Por isso, considere criar um negócio com outros como você. Vocês terão sucesso garantido, pois vão concorrer com milhares de executivos e empresários de um olho só. Nosso erro como nação é justamente não identificar aqueles que enxergam com dois olhos, para poder segui-los pelos caminhos que trilham. Eles deveriam ser valorizados, e não perseguidos, como o são. O Brasil precisa desesperadamente de gente que pense de forma clara e coerente, gente que observe com os próprios olhos aquilo que está a sua volta, em vez de ler em livros que nem foram escritos neste país.

Se você for um desses, tenha mais coragem e lute. Junte-se a eles para combater essa mediocridade mundial que está por aí. Vocês não se encontram sozinhos. Nosso povo tem dois olhos, sim, e é muito mais esperto do que se imagina. Ele está é sendo enganado há tempos, enganado por gente com um olho só.

Foi-se o tempo de uma elite pensante comandar a massa ignara. Hoje, a maioria do povo tem acesso à internet e a home pages com mais informação do que essa intelligentsia tinha quando fez seu doutorado. Se informação é poder, ela não é mais restrita a um pequeno grupo de bem formados. Nosso povo só precisa acreditar mais em si mesmo e perceber que cegos são os outros, aqueles com um olho só”.

Mais uma vez, a ênfase: cada vez mais gente fala nisso.

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