Wetenschap - 19 september 1996

The drawbacks to leisure

The drawbacks to leisure

It is perhaps not the first thing which comes to mind, but apparently that there are many negative aspects to leisure. In the announcement for the conference Accelerating Leisure the organizers indicated that there would be an element of surprise for the participants. The organization, including WAU's Centre for Recreation and Tourism Studies (CTRS), was referring to the short plays planned for between the sessions. For the layperson, who associates leisure simply with doing something enjoyable, the keynote speeches were even more surprising. It makes sense to relate leisure to work and stress, and even perhaps to illusions, but to serial killing as well ?

The three day event started Thursday 12 September with a video. This began with scenes of happy seaside visitors playing leapfrog, but rapidly became more dramatic as bare mountainsides in summertime were transformed into scenic skiing areas in winter.

Contemporary leisure spenders are highly informed and fast moving consumers. At an absurd pace, they visit ten countries in six days, in order to be able to say that they have been to as many places possible," Professor Adri Dietvorst, chair of CTRC, in his introduction on accelerating transformations in tourist landscapes. He argues that many people seek to spend their leisure time sustaining their own small worlds in more and more exotic locations. The tourist industry sells sub-tropical dreams and illusions of unchanged values and romantic memories.

Juliet Schor, professor at Tilburg University, elaborates on the spiritual and financial sides of leisure in relation to work. Schor explains that the pace of life is accelerating. Her research, in the USA, shows that the number of people feeling stressed and rushed is increasing dramatically. Forty two percent of her research sample thinks that life is too fast and would like to see their workloads reduced, even if it means lower incomes. The majority of this group would like to make changes but simply cannot afford it because of mortgages, debts or deeply ingrained consumption patterns. Schor notices changes however: about 28% have already made changes in their lifestyles. They have reduced their working hours, and participated in turn off TV weeks and no buy days. However, there are still many people who see consumerism as the only way to give meaning to an otherwise meaningless life. Schor feels it is a spiritual disease.

Chris Rojek, sociology professor at Nottingham Trent University, brings out the heavy artillery. He criticises the leisure experts for not paying attention to more defiant ways of spending leisure time. Rojek explains that if you associate leisure with freedom of choice and self determination it is naive to only consider the good activities which people undertake. Many people spend their leisure time protesting against the dominant, moral and boring order of things. Illegal hunt associations and highly ritualized sects are examples. He argues that serial killing and other criminal practices are strongly related to leisure. Serial killers use their abundance of free time to prepare and perform their horrific acts. Rojek emphasizes the disproportionate attention crime and killing gets in the media. Turn on your television or read the newspapers and you will see that killing has become a dominant but normal feature of leisure time," claims Rojek, You will not find
many theory books on leisure in a regular bookshop, but there will be lots of crime and horror novels."

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