The mandatory paid leave theme that rippled through the blogosphere a few weeks ago got an airing in the New York Times Magazine this past Sunday. I thought all the angles had been pretty much covered already, but Walter Kirn takes a novel approach in his case against paid leave, which might be called the "Vacation as Nazi Propaganda" tack.
Kirn makes a two-pronged assault on the whole "vacation" concept. First he argues that it is an obsolete habit:
Grasping the truth about why more Americans are taking holidays from their vacations is as easy as stepping outside your workplace...and seeing that the recuperative promises of the old-style extended getaway...are redeemable everywhere, in every form and so close by that it's a wonder thousand-mile drives in gear-packed station wagons still take place at all.
Add a new verse, Woody Guthrie. This land is leisure land. Strip-mall day spas. Corner yoga studios. Suburban mega-gyms. Wholeness and Recovery Camps. And don't just behold, but gape upon and shiver at the colossal gaming-dining-bowling-Omnimaxing ultra-plexes whose honeycombed, multiplanar interiors evoke the vast convolutions of Utah canyons or the seemingly exitless great basilicas and which produce in me an awe that I felt coerced into experiencing during a boyhood trip to a billboard-hyped cavern in South Dakota, but didn't experience and had to fake so my dad wouldn't sulk and neglect to buy me ice cream.
Ok, so Kirn had an unpleasant family vacation when he was a kid, and has hated nature ever since. Fair enough. Pinning this view on the rest of the country is perhaps a bit presumptuous, but whatever.
The big guns come out next, as Kirn plays the Hitler Card:
The duffel-bag-lugging vacations of my youth...always struck me as forced, unnatural, compulsory. Did people take long vacations out of instinct, to quench an urgent appetite, or had vacations been consciously devised by some overbearing master-protector figure rather like my dad? The answer is that the ritual arose, to a substantial degree, from a decree. I was right, it turns out, so astonishingly right that rather than explaining what I have learned, I'd prefer to let the reader discover it for himself, and shudder. Type the phrase "Strength Through Joy" into a search engine, even if you're on a trip right now. Hint: The motto, as its utopian terseness instantly leads you to suspect, is a translation from the German. Another hint: Lederhosen. Conclusion: Invigoration-through-vacationing is not the expression of some bursting life force but, in large part, a Triumph of the Will.
I'm not entirely sure where to begin.
First things first--I did as instructed, and indeed, "Strength Through Joy" turns out to be the name of Nazi Germany's state-controlled leisure organization. That this slogan represented the driving philosophy of the Nazis is taken for granted. I would suggest, as a rebuttal to this view, that Kirn type "Arbeit Macht Frei" into search engine, but that would avoid the main point here which is that this is all a fucking joke of an argument. Really now, Godwin's Law is supposed to apply to rambling internet discussions, not to the goddamn Paper of Record.
Next week in the Times: a response to criticisms of bloated Defense spending entitled "So's Your Mom".