Lying flat is a phenomenon that came out of China in April of 2021 in response to an overwhelming work culture with ever diminishing returns. In essence Lying Flat means doing the least work possible to get by. A few examples may be not even attempting to get any property, not buying that new car, being self-employed, living with your parents, etc. Essentially Lying Flat is doing just enough to get by and support yourself. While advocates for Lying Flat have a point, especially in China, when so many are trying to climb up the economic ladder and compete against one another in a country of 1.4 billion people. I can’t help but feel as though this movement could also have real sticking power in the United States.
If there was better cross cultural communication that would help Lying Flat (or tǎng píng 躺平 in Mandarin) stick here in the States on a larger scale than it already has. After all, we already have our Great Resignation that has shaken up sectors of the U.S. economy. Many young Americans are already doing things associated with the Lying Flat movement because of how the American economy is set up against those that don’t start out ahead with generational wealth.
Buying a home is out of reach for many Americans and even buying a new car is out of reach for many to the point where some are trying to opt out of owning a car altogether in an extremely car dependent society. One prohibitive factor of the Lying Flat movement that was covered in a Bloomberg article is that in the U.S. healthcare is tied to employment. Being jobless, self employed, or underemployed in a job that doesn’t offer insurance means risking a bill for tens of thousands of dollars from a surprise visit to the hospital. That’s enough to bankrupt most Americans as only 28 percent of Americans have more than $1000 in (non-retirement) savings according to a survey of 5,000 people by GoBankingRates.com.
Really Lying Flat is a sensible argument to societies that are making it increasingly impossible to achieve the societal norm of “success”. This is especially true for the U.S. which has few collective programs to alleviate suffering amongst the most desperate individuals here. Forgoing buying a house or a new car can save extreme amounts of money and allow for a better quality of life as housing in the U.S. has reached levels that most people can’t afford. After all the median income for the United States is only around 30k a year.
In my own experience houses here in Colorado are around $400k and I only make $18 an hour or around 37k a year. It would never be possible for me to buy a house here on that salary. By giving up on trying to buy a house my money can be better spent elsewhere. Long term housing options can be figured out later based on affordability. Sure I could try to get a better job to afford more things such as a house, which has become a luxury item here, but I would have to struggle and work so hard that I would probably damage my health. That’s not something I’m willing to do. Others in a similar position to me have stated that they are planning to move to a smaller cities such as Grand Junction in order to escape the rising prices that they currently experience in Denver. Many others are doing the same all around the country as major metros become unaffordable. This is a lot like the Chinese who are moving to third and fourth tier cities in order to escape the extreme costs in major cities such as Shanghai or Beijing.
As those in China have been saying A leek Lying Flat is difficult to reap (躺平的韭菜不好割。tǎng píng de jiǔcài bù hǎo gē) Why should I sacrifice my health, youth and time in order to afford things that are my basic necessities? If something such as housing is to become a luxury then I no longer want to contribute to that system or struggle to succeed in it. I can contribute in other ways for my community such as getting involved in literacy programs or helping to feed the hungry instead of joining in on the rat race. Overall, Lying Flat and not buying into the obscene costs of what should be considered necessities is one way of protesting this system that is no longer working for the people.