“In Praise of Idleness” and Veganism

40 years ago I read Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness,” an essay he published in 1932. The piece was already 40 years old when I got around to reading it — 40 years later I reread this essay, perhaps under visitation of some Jungian synchronicity. Reading it this morning allowed my imagination to stagger — where have I read a better statement on redressing an injustice: the theft of productivity gains? My tentative answer — “nowhere more succinctly.”

First of all : what is work? Work is of two kinds : 
first, altering the position of matter at or near the 
earth’s surface relative 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 know- 
ledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, 
i.e. of advertising.


I’ve alluded to Russell’s essay “Nice People” several times now. Actually it’s becoming a commonplace theme here.

I checked out the marvelously titled “Why I am not a Christian” from a West German library in 1971 Giessen — the librarian was not, not, not in the least amused. Not.

Das ist Blödsinn. Totaler Blödsinn.


I took up my practice of living iconoclastically shortly (about ten minutes) after graduating from high school — I’d completed 12 years of mandatory Catholic education and needed to discover why free thinkers were so despised by non-freethinkers.

By my estimation vegans are free thinkers who believe that all sentient beings are fellow free thinkers, Genesis 1:26 notwithstanding. Being a vegan just may qualify you as iconoclast. Hold that thought a moment. I’ll be right back…

Hey, it does qualify you as iconoclast.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

I am convinced that veganism is the gentlest means for solving the ever unaddressed need for addressing global warming. It might even nip a certain extinction event in the bud: The Anthropocene. Is it possible that 7 billion homo sapiens consuming 70 billion animals (from fur to marrow) annually — a practice sanctioned by most religious institutions — might warrant more than a shrug?

Look here, Bill. Humans are created in the image of their maker. Read Genesis 1:26. ’nuff said.

Today’s bumper sticker suggestion:

Meatism kills. Veganism nourishes.

Was Venus once a lush planet? Are we preparing to become a one such once-lush planet?

Thanks for reading.



Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

14 thoughts on ““In Praise of Idleness” and Veganism”

    1. Thanks for the comforting words (and emojis 🙂 ❤ ), Violet. Veg*n e-comics are marvelously refreshing places where vegans find solace and welcome — I am grateful for each of them and value your kindness.


  1. Great post! I love the line: “vegans are free thinkers who believe that all sentient beings are fellow free thinkers.” Yes, animals are indeed free thinkers… they have thoughts, feelings, needs, fears, friends, loved-ones, likes/dislikes… I Love Animals. Respect Animals. Liberate Animals from Human Domination. Now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Spunky Bunny, Thank you for the heartfelt comment. Eye contact with a fellow soul connects sentient minds in awesome and awful recognition — a single instant really. As a deliberate and determined free thinker I now count the 70 billion served since August 2016 as 140 billion eyes.


    1. Thank you for the kind wink, Hariod 🙂 It is always wonderful to hear from you, and to read each astute remark you make on the fabulous blogs we both follow. Wishing your current project success enorm — as John Ciardi oft signed off: Good words to you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Bill, and glad my feeble attempt at irony didn’t fall completely flat; I couldn’t resist it with the words “in praise of idleness” prodding me into a slovenly response. Many thanks for your best wishes, my friend. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Let me firstly dismiss your desire for consistency in human beings . We can eat and love animals ; we can love and kill other human beings ; we can say we are Christian and behave as we wish; we can say to others do as I say but not as I do. It said that the dog is the most ancient companion of mankind and assisted in those caveman hunting expeditions perhaps of the type we see in the wolves of Yellowstone.
    As Freud pointed out we are at war with ourselves since we are moral beings ; the wolves of Yellowstone are not moral beings.
    This means we examine our actions or judge ourselves and has led to considerations of how we should live in the animal kingdom.
    One more thing if we were consistent as you suggest would we be happy that one third of the world live on less than $2 per day , or that twenty million Indians have no toilets while we speak of sending men to Mars?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kersten, thank you so much for your comments. They are gratefully received and pique interest along a range of relationships among fellow sentient beings, ones who actually cooperate with one another symbiotically and sustainably. Humans often like to consider themselves as decent stewards of this planet, while taking domestication to awful levels in puppy mills, or using technical expertise to increase the production of food-animals in slaughterhouses. All this while brutally exploiting those working for $2 per day to make everything cheap and convenient.
      Here’s a favorite quote from Tolstoy that speaks to the issue far better than I have:
      My readers are a gentle privilege and a blessing. Your thoughts are generous, pointed and timely. Thanks again for contributing 🙂


  3. Decent stewards sounds excellent I will buy that badge and polish it whenever I can. In england , one of the world’s richest countries , I’m below the poverty line yet globally I’m in the elite top two percent of income receivers. To put it in perspective the top two percent consists of about 150 million humans a small number compared to 7.5 billion. Throughout history there has been a pyramid of wealth and that has not changed through wars, the rise of religion or the arrival of technology. In the animal world it is sometimes called the survival of the fittest , many know it as the pecking order. In the human pyramid each layer struggles to climb up the the next and those of us lucky enough to have been born into wealthy countries have an enormous head start, whilst for many the struggle is life threatening.
    Now the question must be asked has our moral nature changed us from animals in the business of survival to sentient caring beings ?
    I noted in the piece about sitting on a man’s back some were brave enough to say I’m not like you? Is this really true? or just wishful thinking?
    Have some humans changed from the rest of humanity and become humane ? Is the change imperceptibly slow ? or a self delusion?
    About two thousand years ago a madman suggested we should love our enemies but it seems to me we have not got as far as loving our friends if they stand in the way of our ambition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you much for your detailed responses, questions and additional thoughts — they mean much.
      I grew up during the 1950’s and thought of the 1960’s as a distant future world. We lived at the outskirts of town in the suburbs of that era. There was a tomato field nearby that was over 100 meters long — the dirt farmers fed the local area. BTW, I collect memories of that time in my other blog:
      Sustainability was something that went on in the background, what happened while you were trying to figure out what was going on, to make sense of it.
      The population of humans has tripled since I was born. Factory farming was almost science fiction, in retrospect.
      My wife does not like how so many have twisted the teachings of that madman from 2 millennia ago into something he would not recognize today IMO. She prefers to call herself a “Christen” to let people know that his name is so often taken in vain.
      What could be more unethical than twisting words of peace into systems of war and exploitation in the name of peace and prosperity?


  4. Ghandi once said: we’d all be Christians if it wasn’t for the Christians. I like the idea of Chisten but labels are often far from accurate perhaps ‘ a thing of shreds and patches ‘ is a bit nearer the mark. I think we can talk about the characteristics of individuals but applying this to groups is dangerous . The scientists use statistics to avoid painting groups with the same characteristics . These days enormous importance is placed on intelligence but it is an overrated quality and has nothing to do with moral character . Lots of intelligent people are members of ISIS, many highly educated with degrees some at western universities. We are just beginning to realise there is such a thing as radicalisation but we are not at all sure how it works . It appears to be a mind-set which locks the individual into a fixed mode of thought. I think we may all fall to its subtlety and religious fundamentalists are a prime example.
    Are we really free thinkers or do we think we are when we are tuned by nature and nurture? Steven Pinker wrote The
    Blank Slate pointing out that we carry a huge evolutionary baggage it scotched the idea we are all born blank slates awaiting to have our characters formed. Sam Harris carried this further suggesting there is an inherited evil in us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I much agree that intelligence is enormously overrated. Looking into the eyes of creatures who developed complex vision about 500 million years ago informed my decision to become vegan. Arguments from scriptures of any kind that are “blindly” accepted by true believers do not convince me otherwise. Arguments on immortal souls and mortal souls do not convince me either.
    ISIS is indeed populated with very intelligent people who took advantage of the power vacuum resulting from the collapse of fragile balance in the Middle East.
    Homo sapiens currently consume ten times their number in sentient creatures with eyes — every year now. Do a couple lines in Genesis convince me that factory farms are unavoidable? Well, I prefer not to. I recently listened to an interview of Marilyn McKenna, author of *Big Chicken*. Despite detailing the horror of a holocaust that occurs 24/7, McKenna still eats chicken because “we’re hardwired to each meat.”
    Thank you for bringing Steven Pinker to my attention. I agree with him that “there is an inherited evil in us all.” Critical thought is not much encouraged in a society that celebrates ignorance. Questioning authority is most often the right thing to do.
    Thanks for reading 🙂


  6. Bill, in an idle hour whilst putting off packing for my next ‘adventure’, and while bookmarking a few blogs (yours among others) I fell into a state that can only be described as ‘let’s rifle through some posts and generally ignore the pack sitting on my couch, waiting for me’.

    Accordingly I read this post again and it occurs to, without fact-checking, that I believe one can’t use Genesis to justify unless one were also to admit that a few verses later it states something to the effect that seed bearing plants and seed bearing fruits will be our ‘meat’ or ‘food’ , depending on which version. Ruling over (shepherding? ) doesn’t speak to eating animals at all. I imagine you know this. I admit a certain curiosity why 1-26 is often quoted and 1-29(?) is not.

    Now, back to packing. I’ll be on WP at undetermined times after today, depending on access for the next few months. Have a great day. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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