Saturday, June 13, 2009

In Defense Of Fun

I was looking over Amanda's posts on the way Date Night sometimes gets viewed as part of the work that married people do to maintain their marriages, rather than a fun thing to do with somebody you like. She cites Laura Kipnis, who "talks about the Protestant work ethic and the American fear that there’s something immoral about having too much fun."

This is a big problem. A society where fun was regarded as a genuine social good worth promoting would be, well, a lot more fun. The issue of recreational drug use is a biggie here. And it's not just in terms of fun and relatively harmless currently prohibited drugs like marijuana. (If marijuana is legalized, I want to have potlucks where all the guests get high first and then eat each other's food, which will taste extra super great in the way food does when you're high. At the last party I went to in Austin, I was watching the ceiling fan spin as I ate my friend Jenn's raspberry lemon cake, and it was like my mouth was full of sunshine.)

To my knowledge, pharmaceutical companies aren't currently researching any new, purely recreational drugs. Of course, there's all those drugs that help dudes get erections, but they get away with those because they can be justified on the basis of fixing a medical problem, not on grounds of fun sex. This is a big loss. I'm sure that the American pharmaceutical industry could come up with a bunch of fun-causing psychoactive drugs that would have minimal side effects. There's definitely a market for them, and if the FDA screened them properly, we could get all kinds of good and harmless stuff. But the fact that people would enjoy these drugs isn't taken as any sort of point in their favor, and I'm sure Big Pharma avoids working on them because of the certainty that the sweet fruits of their labors would immediately be banned.

There's a pretty good misery-preventing justification for this sort of research too -- if Big Pharma was allowed to sell well-tested, safe, non-addictive euphoriants, they'd cut into the market share of more harmful illegal drugs. But the biggest reason to allow these drugs is disabled when you don't let people give fun-based arguments for things.


Stephen said...

I'm sure that the American pharmaceutical industry could come up with a bunch of fun-causing psychoactive drugs that would have minimal side effects.

Really? Only I'm convinced that whatever Big Pharma could come up with would make meth's side effects look downright pleasant.

Rachel Luxemburg said...

with all due respect, Neil, the nirvana you're envisioning of lots of legal, fun drugs with no addiction or side effects is simply not based in reality.

Mary said...

I don't have a problem with responsible chemically-assisted fun by adult people who can handle it, but I must say I would not have needed any help enjoying the cake you speak of. It seems that's all one would need, particularly if that's an actual photo.

I guess "Date Night" is OK, and my hubby and I may or may not have used that term in the past, but on that same note, we find the concept of the "Play Date" for children absolutely hilarious. Kids go outside. They find their friends. They play.(Unless they live somewhere particularly dangerous or isolated)If we wanted to get together with kids who lived beyond walking distance, WE would set it up & get our parents to drive us. Or parents go someplace THEY want to go & those people have kids. Your kids play with them.

I think the parental "busier-than-thou" syndrome is a large contributor to sucking all the fun out of everything, or at least the fun of enjoying one's spouse.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Well, Stephen, they do make good things on occasion.

Fiat lux, why can't there be another pot? That strikes me as an acceptable level of being non-addictive and side effect free. If we're doing that well with just smoking a plant, I have to imagine that we can do better if we unleash the chemists.

It was a good cake, Mary, and I would've enjoyed it anyway. But my level of enjoyment at that moment was really amazing. I like your play date comments. I guess it makes sense when kids are real small.

low-tech cyclist said...

This post reminds me of what Tom Lehrer said in the recorded version of his song "Smut," that dirty books and movies had to be defended on free-speech grounds because freedom of pleasure wasn't protected by the Constitution.

Fun is pretty damned important in ways that have nothing to do with drugs, because if you're not having any, then life's a pretty dreary place.

Which is one reason why I advocate reforms like paid vacation (everyone should get at least two weeks' paid vacation a year, and most advanced countries require 4 or more weeks), and time and a half after 40 hours a week for everybody, because we need time to have fun, dammit, and if they're going to make you work overtime, sacrificing some of that time for fun, then you damned well should get paid extra for the privilege.

low-tech cyclist said...

Mary - I grew up, back in the Baby Boom years, on a street with a dozen houses, and nine or ten kids within a year of my age living on the street. It was pretty easy to go outside, find friends, and play. The early 1960s were a great time to be a kid in the 'burbs.

Things won't be that simple for my 2 year old, even once he gets old enough to wander up and down the street on his own. But as Neil points out, right now (and for a couple of years to come) the only way to get him together with other kids his age is either through day care and the like, or through play dates.

Not to mention, they're for parents as much as the kids - to ease the load of supervising each other's kids, to be less isolated, to have other parents to compare notes with and commiserate with.

Mary said...

That was kind of my point,l-tc,that play just sort of happens, especially at that age, when adults with kids visit with other adults with kids. Nevertheless, I see your point, and was especially humbled when my husband came into the house and announced that our dog had a "play date".

I am all for fun, and have long advocated 90-minute minimum lunch breaks(NO errands!And real dishes!)along with the proper vacations for all that you suggest.