China’s ‘Lying Flat’ Culture Comes to America

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I speak from experience when I say the following: China is not a fun place to live. Constantly monitored, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, citizens find themselves victims of a perverse social credit system.

Like something quite literally out of the British TV series “Black Mirror,” innocent people are punished for the most frivolous of reasons. Then, there’s the grueling “996” work culture, which involves working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 6 days a week. Although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has promised to regulate the country’s excessive work culture, millions of Chinese citizens have already thrown in the towel. Fed up of 72-hour work weeks and poor pay, China’s Gen Zers and millennials have embraced the idea of “lying flat.”

Instead of working, they are opting to “chill.” In other words, they are refusing to work.

Obviously inspired by the rebels in China, an increasing number of young Americans are opting to “lie flat.” This does not bode well for the U.S. economy, according to Alison Schrager, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at City Journal. Schrager is, of course, correct. Gen Z and millennials are leaving the workforce in record numbers. Why? Because of “high unemployment benefits and stimulus payments,” the author argued. Furthermore, because the country was basically shut down for 18 months, many now find themselves “flush with savings.” After all, they had nowhere to spend all this free money, wrote Schrager.

Well, that’s not completely true. According to a Yahoo-Harris poll, young investors are all too eager to gamble as 11 percent of Gen Zers have bought cryptocurrencies with their stimulus payments. Meanwhile, 15 percent of millennials, those between the ages of 25 and 40, have invested in crypto. Is this a wise way of using “free” money? I’ll let you decide.

In the United States, those opting to “lie flat” would do well to realize that Americans have “never worked so little,” wrote Schrager, a statement that is backed up by a rather interesting study. Since 2003, American men have gained an average of 28 hours of extra leisure time per month. American women, on the other hand, have gained an average of 24.

Epoch Times Photo
Firefighters exit a Starbucks Coffee that was vandalized by rioters during a “Youth Day of Action and Solidarity with Portland” demonstration in Seattle, Wash., on July 25, 2020. (Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)

With so much extra leisure time, why are America’s Gen Zers and millennials opting to lie flat? Is it because they are lazy, ungrateful souls? No, not necessarily. They are lost, some of them incredibly so.

As someone with a background in psychology, I believe the problem is much more deeply rooted. The “job hopping” and refusal to work paint a worrying picture for the future of the country. There exists a fundamental disconnect that cannot be legislated away.

Entitlement and Self-Absorption

Before continuing, I must state two things. First, although I loathe the term, I am a millennial. Second, the points made going forward are not intended to describe all Gen Zers or all millennials. They are designed to give a broad picture of the troubles facing the country and its citizens. The refusal to work is symptomatic of a deeper malaise.

The decision to “lie flat,” I contend, has more to do with narcissism and entitlement than laziness. We’re told millennials are painfully narcissistic. Gen Zers appear to be even worse. God help those born after 2010, the members of Generation Alpha.

According to psychologist Karyl McBride, entitlement is defined as “the unreasonable expectation that one should receive special treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.” In the world of the narcissist, wrote McBride, he or she must always come first. This is called narcissistic entitlement.

McBride warns that the narcissistically entitled lack the capacity “to feel empathy towards others.” Therefore, they are governed by impulse and craven desires, or as Freud would say, their identity. When a narcissist speaks, others must listen. All must obey. They see themselves as special, even exceptional, and for this reason they must be treated like royalty.

Not surprisingly, because of their tendency to manipulate and deceive, narcissists find it incredibly difficult to build or maintain connections with other people. In this “Age of the Selfie,” where individual needs come first, the community comes a distant second. According to one pertinent study, over the past 30 years, American college students have become 30 percent more narcissistic. Thirty years from now, expect things to be 30 percent worse.

With the atomization of society and less commitment to long-term, monogamous relationships, young Americans are opting to turn inwards. Traditional values, no longer attractive, have been replaced by nihilism. Society is becoming increasingly selfish. In the United States, maintaining a job is, as obvious as it sounds, hard work. According to Gallup, 85 percent of Americans hate their jobs. To be an American is to persevere with Sisyphus-like persistence—or at least that used to be the case. Younger workers appear to be less resilient than previous generations. Resilience, which is intimately linked to wellbeing, involves possessing the ability to not just adapt to new situations, but persevere through the pain. Now, though, among the younger generations, perseverance is in short supply. With less commitment to marriage, less commitment to community, and less commitment to religion, millions of Americans are less committed to the idea of work. This is a deeply worrying trend with no obvious solutions.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Mac Ghlionn


John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of the New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, The Spectator US, and other respectable outlets. He is also a contributor to The American Conservative.

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