(Image adapted from the cover of Signet books edition of George Orwell's 1984)
“It will be those people, who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes … We shall once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful. We shall honour those who can teach us how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things, the lilies of the field who toil not, neither do they spin."
So wrote the economist, Keynes, J.M., in “Economic possibilities for our grandchildren” in The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes, Vol.9: Essays in Persuasion, London, MacMillan, 1972 
Then along came the Second World War with its fuel and weapons creation frenzy. It wasn't until the 1960s that people again began to talk hopefully about the great promise of leisure. To combat this trend of thought, the media published many articles about the competition posed by Japan's workers, who were described as incredibly hardworking, disciplined and efficient. By the 1990s working hours, particularly in Anglophone industrial societies, began to rise again and there was no longer any official promotion of leisure.
Now the official message is to work harder to produce more and then to go out and shop to consume more.
In tune with our increasingly humourless and stern paternalistic society, we are cyclically subjected to these media beat-ups about how we are all taking too many sickies, as though we were so many bad children, and the folk in our media, industry and government were wiser and worthier elders - even the 'young turks'. Today it is Australia Talks' turn to get out the whips. As usual we lesser mortals are subjected to the opinions of people deemed 'experts', although if we are quick we might be able to get a short comment in on air.
Will Australia Talks challenge the 'experts' with the real scandal, that Australians are now working more hours for less money, and the promise of a generation ago, that we were going to have much more leisure, has been withdrawn. It has been replaced with panels of authoritarian experts telling us why we must work harder. Will the panel even look at the unpaid work we are forced to do in order to fill out more and more forms or the difficulty many people experience in fulfilling social obligations which are now deemed much less important than activities which make money?
The promotion of the program entitled "Sick Leave" states:
The great Australian tradition of a sickie - or doonah day - is alive and well. Despite the downturn - or maybe because of it - sick leave is on the rise. Why are Australians taking so many sickies and how are we spending them?
The line-up of guests appears one-sided. They are:
- Paul Dundon, Managing Director, Direct Health Solutions
- Cherie Curtis, organisational psychologist, Onetest
- David Gregory, Director, Workplace Policy, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- George McEncroe, Comedian
At least if George McEnroe is, indeed, the comedian that he or she is claimed to be, one can expect of him or her to effortlessly show up the sanctimonious hypocrisy of those who would judge workers for have taken sick days for reasons other than sickness.
I responded early in the Australia Talks guest book:
The real scandal, is why, when we were promised over a generation ago, vastly shorter working weeks and longer holidays as result of improved technology, the exact reverse has occurred for the vast majority of the Australian workforce, whether overtly through award conditions, through subtle blackmail or through economic necessity.
Those who have guided the destiny of our country in this period have brought about a situation where a lot more needs to be accomplished in our own time than what used to be the case. So, for many, time off work for reasons other than sickness has become a necessity.
As so many more are working in dreary low-paid occupations for which we are overqualified, days off work are often necessary to save our sanity.
In my opinion, those who periodically beat up the question of supposed abuse of sick leave are amongst the lowest of hypocrites in our society.
If you also want to help pre-empt a new witch hunt against workers deemed to have taken too many days off sick, please make your views known on the Australia Talks guest book, or phone them tonight after the 6PM news (5PM news in Queensland) on 1300 22 55 76, or add your comments below on the candobetter site.
  John Trevor Haworth, Anthony James Veal, Work and Leisure,Routledge, UK, USA, Canada, 2004, pp.24-26
This article was written by James Sinnamon with Sheila Newman