So a week or so ago, there was an extended discussion on a friend's facebook page about whether it's wholly inappropriate for grown men to pursue Star Wars fandom (rewatching the movies, reading the fanfiction novels, discussing the movies online, going to conventions, etc.) as a hobby. Someone linked to an article which started with "Star Wars fans are weird" but basically argued that, well, Star Wars-ing and video gaming and similar activities are unproductive. "My dad didn't do any such thing; he worked, he played with the kids, he fixed leaky faucets and did other useful things."
(Sorry, I can't find the article any longer.)
You know what? My dad's main hobby was sailing -- every summer weekend growing up, we sailed. But during the week and during the winter, did he do something marvelously productive after dinner? Not really. He watched TV.
But tonight my husband has the TV tuned to the NFL draft, and the reality is that as much as there's a gut reaction to mock geeks and video gamers, the Men With Time-Wasting Hobbies are largely the ones whose eyeballs are currently glued to the TV, looking to see who their favorite teams have picked. And I would guess the amount of time that men spend on spectator sports has escalated, with the mushrooming of televised sports (how many sports channels are there, anyway?) and the amount of time some men spend following their teams, not to mention the increasing number of teams in the first place (though the large expansions of the major league teams is a bit old by now, I guess). Which in one respect is a boost for the economy, right?
What impact does Star Wars fandom, or sports-obsessing, have on the rest of us? Is this really nothing new, and just something some men simply choose to do in their off-time? Or are these men being irresponsible, failing in their fathering obligations? Are these men deferring marriage in order to pursue their hobbies? Or is the cause and effect reversed, and are they pursuing their hobbies because they don't have relationships (because, after all, Star Wars fans and gamers are geeky, and if they're disproportionately male, it gets to be a bit difficult to meet a woman in the first place)? And, not to go all "Men on Strike" on you, but do men have an obligation to society to do something Useful and Productive, whether it's marrying and starting a family, or Getting Involved in the Community in some other way?
And, really, the economy of the future seems to be reliant on the growth of Time-Wasting. Video games (from World of Warcraft to Bingo Blitz). Spectator sports. I can't tell you how many yoga studios are opening up around town. Kids' sports, and the growth of travel teams.
What do you think?
UPDATE: When it comes down to it, this is fairly connected to the question of pot legalization. There are a lot of issues with pot where it's difficult to separate cause and effect. For instance, does pot cause schizophrenia, or are people headed towards mental illness more drawn to pot than others? And, more generally, does pot take away ones motivation to achieve something in life, or are slackers (or executive function-impaired people) more likely to smoke pot in the first place?
In any event, banning pot is justified by a legal principle that says "we ban substances which, by their ingestion, cause altered states of mind. We don't want otherwise competent people unable to handle emergencies of whatever kind because they have voluntarily incapcitated themselves." (We don't ban alcohol because one can drink in moderation.)
But I think it's reasonable, in addition, to say that a lot of the reason for opposing pot is, in the end, this presumed pot --> laziness causation, and the fear that, if pot-smoking becomes legal, and normalized, that large numbers of young people will become more content to work whatever job is sufficient to buy their day's ration of pot, without attempting to further their education and gain promotions, nor to marry, start a family, and save for the future, let alone get involved in their communities (churches, charitable groups, etc.)
And of course, our society can't function with nothing other than slackers, and one of our core values, as Americans, is the idea of pushing yourself to achieve great things, whether it's heading out to the frontier or Thomas Edison's "invention is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration" dictum. To be sure, I find it hard to say that any individual young person has a duty to go out there and make something of themselves, or has a duty to start a family and raise the children responsibly -- but it does become a "tragedy of the commons" issue, as one aspect of the overall issue of voluntary childlessness.