Why is it that those who shout the most about the virtue of hard work always seem to be those who don’t seem to do anything remotely useful? Yes, I’m talking to you Iain Duncan Smith and your cronies. Why can’t we have a more honest debate out the purpose of work?
This is something that always troubled me. There seems to be some form of conspiracy to deny the truth about what work is for. Perhaps this is because over the years the jobs market has shrunk to such a point that we can longer be honest about it. We are now expected to live for work, all become complete workaholics and love every minute of it. This is of course less of a problem if you’re doing something that gives you some form of satisfaction and pays well, but what if that isn’t the case? And what if there really aren’t ANY jobs out there?
Is there really anybody out there who loves working in a call-centre, for example? Imagine all the flak you get in that job, the pressure you’re under and the pittance it pays. You might make some friends in the job and that might make it bearable, but I can’t imagine any other benefits. Furthermore, there are even more deeply unpleasant jobs than that, none of which pay very much. Yet, if one attends an interview for such a position one is expected to claim that it is your life’s ambition rather than just wanting to earn some form of living. What’s wrong with just doing a job, being paid for it and going home at night and forgetting about it? How did we get to this point where we are all expected to tell such lies about it? Who is it fooling? I can’t imagine that it’s fooling anybody.
There is something deeply unhealthy about all of this. I don’t remember when it got started but I have a sneaking suspicion that it started in the 1980s. Yes, another example of the hypocritical legacy of Thatcherism.
There are many myths that have now become accepted truisms but one of the most damaging is that there are some people who “simply don’t want to work”. It has become such an accepted point-of-view that it is now not only de rigeur Tory policy, trumped up by the right-wing media, but it has also been embraced by the Labour Party.
My problem with this is that it is reactionary, not constructed according to intellect but instead motivated by appeasing the media and public bigotry. It is a policy that ignores that real cause of unemployment, the misery and poverty of expectations that it causes. It avoids the reality of multi-generational unemployment, demonstrates no depth of analysis and in many ways does not even qualify as policy at all. Why not address the needs of the needs of those who trapped in multi-generational unemployment by consulting those people affected by it, rather than adopting a sanctimonious and disapproving stance – Iain Duncan Smith style – and cynically manipulating the issue.
The public debate now surrounding the Murdoch Empire should not be perceived as any sign that politicians will cease to be led by attitudes whipped up by the right-wing media. Politicians are aware that they are communicating through a 24-hour rolling news culture; this has been exemplified by the current government which often announces policies before they have been fully formulated and is forced to u-turn on them within days. In the case of this government’s education and NHS policies that is to the better, but let’s not forget Tony Blair’s infamous suggestion that people guilty of anti-social behaviour ought to be frog-marched to cash-machines – not much thought went into that either.
The riots have prompted a free-for-all about attitudes towards those “who don’t want to work” and precious few people seem to be asking why. The government tell us that there are plenty of jobs available but not very clear about what kind of work it is, and where the employment opportunities are. Furthermore, what about those currently employed in public services who are about to made unemployed? There is a real danger that this will lead to even more widespread multi-generational unemployment in some parts of the country. Certainly I am not convinced by the government’s reassurance that the private sector will fill the void.
It is time that we abandoned this myth that some people don’t want to work and provided more adequate opportunities and social justice for people, before we all end up on the scrap-heap.