Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Work Ethic

On last week's edition of BBC Radio Four's 'Any Questions' Jeanette Winterson asked "Who's going to get off their arse for £6 an hour?"

There were many reponses in a follow-up programme, but my favourite came from a gentleman in Burnley.

I think the accent helped:


Rog said...

Lovely. I've been earning around the minimum wage ever since I went self-employed and never been happier or worked harder and longer.

Mind you if I said that in my Thames Estuary whiny pseudo cockernee it would deserve a punch in the face.

(Of course I'm working for a brilliantly creative and caring employer....)

Steerforth said...

Yes, I seem to be in a similar position. My sales are good, but once I've paid for the stock, postage, rent, van hire and other bills, the money that's left over is pathetic. But it still beats working for someone else.

nilly said...

We are happily self-employed and minimum-waged too but we both cheered Winterson's rant. £6 an hour is not OK or enough for most to survive on.
I watched "Lucan" last night only to be reminded, yet again, of what Boris and his ilk think of us. Bring on the revolution.

Steerforth said...

The good thing about Boris's speech the other day is that he finally stopped hiding behind the affable old duffer image and nailed his colours to the mast. I hope that all Boris fans can now see that his policies would be the death of this country.

I'm not sure about a revolution though. I think I'd rather follow the advice of my satnav, making a u-turn back to a point where I can find the right turning.

zmkc said...

It's the smartening yourself up bit that I find so difficult

Debra said...

The references in the first comment went over my head...
I don't work for minimum wage.
I don't work... for any money at all.
When I go to my volunteer job, I work at it... AS THOUGH I WERE PAID TO DO IT... but then again, that depends on how you look at the question. Just how much is my work.. WORTH, and how to determine it ?
When my little non profit library structure introduced a computer program to track the books, the situation was... edifying, as we say in French.
I noticed, over time, how a "tool" which was designed to make our work... easier, but especially FASTER had a tendency to get out of hand.
How certain people used this tool... to generate more work for themselves, and thus worked more. (And this, in the absence of a brutish head honcho guy determined to work us all to death against, at the library there is no boss, and we work as a team.)
Yesterday, up on the mountain with some friends, I mentioned that I was naturally indolent. In French, the word "lent" means SLOW.
So... that good old Protestant work ethic that work for money is going to get you out of bed in the morning and GIVE MEANING TO YOUR LIFE... well... it has been responsible for more and more people wanting to find meaning (and salvation...) that way.
I say... it's dangerous to put so many eggs in ONE BASKET for so many people...
Wouldn't the world be wonderful if... we could all have caring, INTELLIGENT, SELF INTERESTED EMPLOYERS who understood that they needed to reward their hardest working elements with.. money ? gifts ? fond words of praise ? all of the above ? in order to make a maximum of profits while at the same time preserving the quality of work as an activity which occupies the greatest part of our days ? This, I believe, is the Adam Smith LIBERAL dream, and it greatly fueled.. PROGRESS...
Self-employment ?
I have also noticed that mass education tends to produce (yep, note that yuckky word) people who wait for external constraints and others to tell them what they should do/think. Self-employment requires neurons, initiative, ambition, and self discipline. Hard to conjugate all of these in our modern LIMITLESS world.
I enjoy... working for no money in my home. Even my own housework beats... working as a politician, jetting all over the planet to shake hands, no matter how much money and fame, and honors go along with this "work".
This will sound unpopular, but I firmly believe in.. austerity. Not really austerity, if you like, but, self imposed frugality. I think that we are perhaps the last generation to be riding on the coattails of the industrial revolution boom. The revolution is slowly petering out in our Occidental countries.
This week I opened Machiavelli's "The Prince". Machiavelli gives a precise demonstration of César Borgia's rise to power, and decline. One of Borgia's tactics.. AGAINST HIS ENEMIES was to shower them with gifts, money, appointments in order to soften, and destroy their capacity to resist, and discipline themselves.
Decadence has some awful side effects...

Steerforth said...

Zoe - I have to do the opposite at the moment. I'm not wearing my Conran shirts on a muddy, rat-infested farm.

Debra - You've raised some very interesting points that would require a blog post to give them the reply they deserved.

I think there is a dignity in labour, but being an exploited automaton in a large factory or office is a poor way to live. It's interesting that when Henry Ford introduced the production line method, the staff turnover was ridiculously high, because the craftsmen he employed couldn't cope with being mere cogs in a machine.

I don't want to compete with China. I agree to that it's better to live frugally and not be a slave to the machine. Ideally, we'd be able to grow some of our own food and divide our working time between the home, the community and a paid job.

Canadian Chickadee said...

He's absolutely right. The thing I missed most after I was laid off was having somewhere to go and something to do when I got there. I liked having to get dressed and go out, and I liked the feeling of self-worth and importance having a job gave me. It took me a long long time to get used to being "just a housewife" (yes, I know how dreadful that statement sounds!). The money I earned was nice too, of course, but mostly what I missed was the feeling of purpose and that I was a contributing member of society.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Well he's got the right attitude. Those with a work ethic deserve more than the minimum wage if you ask me.

Debra said...

As a housewife, I am supported by somebody else.
For a long time, I felt incredible self imposed guilt about spending so little time on the.. houseWORK, and enjoying considerable freedom to be out and about, wandering and roaming.
But when you think about it, in our minds, what makes houseWORK less gratifying and "fulfilling" (yuckky word, too) in our eyes is that we're not getting paid to do it (idolatry of filthy lucre there), AND nobody is patting us on the back when it's done. We are our own boss in an invisible, eminently private place (whew, thank heaven that our homes are still private places...).
But now... think how.. childish it is to whine to get a pat on the back for our work.
SOME things just have to be done without being told to do so, and without being seen. And if WE can't pat ourselves on the back when we finish them and do them well, is it because we are expecting some third person nanny to tell us what a big boy/girl we are ?
But then maybe this attitude is one of the hidden side effects of patting... children on the back every time they behave the way we want them to ?
The road to hell, as we say.
(This doesn't mean that one should get a kick in the teeth for work, either, or contemptuous dismissal.)
Steerforth, the ancestor of Henry Ford was Vaucanson, under Louis XV in France. He helped to bring about the rise of the modern engineer, and wrested control of the Lyon silk looms from the corporation of the silk weavers, a highly skilled and specialized corporation, in order to put into place the Jacquard loom, which was one of the first uses of.. UNSKILLED labor.
ONE of the motivations behind this ?
To make objects more accessible to a larger number of people. Those priceless silk tapestries and hangings were reserved for the brightest and best of France's aristocracy, and sometimes only for royalty...
It seems to be.. a fact of life that it is impossible to put objects of the quality of the tapestries hanging in Versailles in the homes of countless yours trulies...
Ironically, in France there are highly skilled trades with people who produce beautiful objects which are going bust because the artisans cannot make a living with the time they spend on their irreplaceable, unique objects. M and Mrs Everyman go down to the local industrial zone and see the prices on a sofa from China and.. compare with the price of a hand crafted object. M and Mrs Everyman do not understand the difference between an object made in China, and one made in France, because their eyes are trained on... the many cases. (But this is a simplification, mea culpa.)
At this point we have truly sacrificed quality for.. QUANTITY in our idolatry of filthy lucre ? or.. THE NUMBERS ?

Canadian Chickadee said...

Debra, I wasn't disparaging housework. I've always done the housework without complaint. It was just that I never thought the day would come when that was ALL I would be doing. And with everything else that was going on in my life, there was no energy left over to take on any new creative challenges or any volunteer work. So I didn't. But I can't say that the spotless floor was really all that fulfilling as an end result for an entire days labour!

Debra said...

Chickadee, I never suggested that you were disparaging housework.
But if you take a little survey around you, you will notice how few people of both sexes think that housework has any value.
I tell people that I am a slut.. in the original sense of the word. My floors were NEVER spotless...
And I really have no excuse for my laziness, either...
I will shut up, now, Steerforth.
But your post is on one of my favorite subjects...