Magazine | June 23, 2014, Issue

Argument of the Week

It would appear that writers for Slate wake, stretch, yawn, and think: What comfortable, familiar, harmless aspect of life can we destroy today? What means of arranging society, accumulated over the centuries, can be torn asunder by whelps hungry for novelty? Latest case: the need to rethink the week.

“The case for the week was never airtight. It’s now weak and getting weaker.”

Having never thought “the week” needed a series of postulates and proofs, I found this line alarming. All these years we’ve accepted the week, but without sufficient evidence? Duped by Big Calendar! Year after year, we’re sold more pro-week propaganda with pictures of puppies, and we accept the week as an unalterable fact of life, when in fact it’s one of those “certainties” that can be redefined, must be redefined, like gender or marriage or which Dr. Who was the best.

You think: If they want a ten-day week called the “deca,” and I balk, I am a decaphobe.

The author continues to build his case:

“Most Westerners no longer observe a weekly Sabbath, and the coordination advantages of keeping everyone on the same uniform schedule have evaporated.”

Poof! Gone like a spritz of mist on a hotplate, just like that. Makes you realize what’s been nagging at you the last few years: diminished coordination advantages.

“So why does this arbitrary time cycle still dictate the rhythm of our lives? Is it time to abolish the week and find a better way to structure time?”

Possible responses:

1. I’m sure you have put a lot of time and thought into your new calendar, mister. Judging from your notebooks — thick, smudged, filled margin to margin with cryptic squiggles and big block-letter eureka moments like “NON-VARIABLE COORDINATED CALENDRICAL OPTIONS = RULING-CLASS PRIVILEGE” underlined in red — well, it’s impressive! But we are at a coffee shop and you smell faintly of eau de hobo and I would like to return to my magazine and no I will not lend you a dollar.

2. Yeah! Abolish the week! It would be great if we demolished centuries of tradition. We still get Friday, though, right? There’s a keg at the office Friday afternoon at one place I work and that’s awesome, although my contract with them is up in a month so they can get rid of the calendar after that.

3. Or you think: Is this your job? Coming up with things that will never, ever happen but make you sound like a bold freethinker? Can’t wait for your next one. “Clothing! We waste time and money on choosing what fabrics we will use to cover our skin, when a heat-conserving foam, applied by nozzles in the shower, would make everyone more likely to concentrate on his true essence instead of the cut of the suit. Is it time to rethink clothing?”

At least we’d have a conversation about it, because that’s what counts. Nowadays if you can’t make anything like gasoline or circuit boards or steaks, you make conversation-starters. It isn’t as easy as it appears. Start with some blog posts; a few tweets that establish your credibility (“Hump day combines racist camel imagery & rape-culture slang. #RethinkTheHump”); and perhaps some funny pictures of your cat looking angry because it’s Monday, which makes sense only within the chronological hegemony of the existing system.

Then you get the call to the editor’s room: We’ve seen your work on the days of the week, and we really enjoyed those videos you did in support of 45-minute hours. We think it’s time you tackle the big issues. Now, we have Sonja working on the necessity of doing away with the month — it’s a women’s issue, you understand — but I think you’re ready to help the world rethink the week.

This is what the bossy hyperactive Left does these days: shout “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG,” from the days of the week to the way you make your coffee.

At this point you may be asking exactly how the Slate writer intends to replace the week, and I can’t tell you, because I do not care. This will be mistaken for cranky mulish resistance to thinking outside the box, as if society hadn’t been frogmarching everyone out of the box for the last 40 years. The only way for a progressive to be taken seriously is to purge society of all its boxes, which (a) guarantees we can look at our problems with fresh eyes unclouded by the useless lessons of history and (b) guarantees jobs for the Box-Elimination Commissars, who will guide us through the transitional period.

Great! Let’s do it. Let’s remove the past’s dead hand from the controls. Let’s rethink the public schools. The ruinous effects of regulation. The obese VA bureaucracies that result in six-month wait times for a hemophiliac bleeding out in the ER. The notion of federal rules for school-sandwich composition. The idea that cities exist to transfer money from residents to the pensions of public workers. All the century-old ideas that have turned into rusty, ossified chains trailing behind the withered corpse of 20th-century progressivism like Marley’s cash boxes — well, the case for managerial collectivism was never airtight. It’s weak and getting weaker.

Nah, bro, that’s . . . conservative. Let’s get rid of the week. If enough people like the idea on Facebook the author can be trusted to write why driverless cars will help eliminate the fallacy of autonomy, and that would be awesome. You’ve heard about Google’s self-driving cars, right? A progressive’s dream: No steering wheel. No brakes.

Of course it leads to Utopia! Where else could it possibly go?

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

James Lileks — James Lileks writes the Athwart column for National Review magazine and is a frequent contributor to the National Review website. He is a prominent voice on Ricochet podcasts.

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