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Our culture, or what's left of it. - Elf M. Sternberg
Our culture, or what's left of it.
Normally, I consider myself something of an odd centrist, with a decidely liberal bent in some places, but there are days when I read something that makes me think that the Left needs a deep and painful wedgie. Yesterday on Twitter I saw a comment, to which I shall not link, which to me perfectly encapsulated why I feel that way.

UK deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, was opining about why the disastrous "workfare"-like program in the UK was necessary, saying "The small minority who don't want to work they are let off the hook by the fact there isn't a proper work programme."

To which someone on my twitter feed said, "I've never fucking met anyone who wanted to work." To which my inner Theodore Dalrymple said, "There's our culture, or what's left of it, right in a nutshell."

Because I want to work. I don't want to sit on my arse all day and do nothing; I want to contribute, I want to be part of a community, I want my efforts to be valued and valuable. I want the self-respect that comes from doing something that keeps the machinery of civilization turning. I want to believe that I'm actively making these the early days of a better nation. Watching television isn't that. Nor is penning bad punk rock odes. Nor is urinating on sidewalks, puking outside pubs, or whinging about the system without actually doing something about it.

This disease of learned helplessness and immature entitlement is the real rot at the core of our civilization.

As a culture, I want to be able to support those who cannot support themselves. Even those, I want to want to be able to. I want a culture that values work. I don't know where the UK went wrong in this regard, but it surely seems to have done, and I hope that the US doesn't follow it the UK down the same pathetic path.

Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Current Music: Rocket Scientists, Gypsy

6 comments or Leave a comment
herewiss13 From: herewiss13 Date: April 8th, 2013 10:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the idea if you enjoy doing it: it's not work. Wage slavery in a cubicle farm (or worse) keeps body and soul together, but it's not exactly enlightening to the human condition.
mouser From: mouser Date: April 9th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I like work, I just can't find anyone currently willing to pay me to do the work I *want* to do. Tragically, there are those who are willing to do it cheaper, or will do it far better then I.

So I do what pays enjoy my time off. But I, too, cannot imagine that if I was on the dole not doing SOMETHING.
shunra From: shunra Date: April 9th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)

The difference between services & service

One of the great advantages of starting anew in the colonies was that there was less of an entrenched order of things here than there was there.

I wonder if the work-refusers and work-avoiders aren't the descendants of lifelong servants, for whom a life of service was actually a step up from poverty & the fields.
For people in those circumstances/that class, it would make sense that work could not seem worthwhile, nor anything but soul-grinding and urgently in need of avoidance.
Especially if schools were a process of training such people for such jobs.

It seems to me that a lot of people even in the U.S. see such jobs as the only kind available, but imagine themselves as one day winning a lottery or otherwise getting ahead in life to the point of not having to do that kind of work, so acquiesce to the system based on that hope (a hope that seems absent in older people here, btw.)

I think that there is a large class of UKers who don't even think they have hope of anything better when they're young, and give up before starting the game. I'm afraid that what the USers in that position do is join the military.

autopope From: autopope Date: April 9th, 2013 10:02 am (UTC) (Link)
You're American, so I forgive you for not being acquainted with Harriett Harman.

In a nutshell: she's a vile, dour, joyless puritan Stalinist from the control-freak wing of New Labour. Which is to say, a party that lacks any of the idealism of Old Labour back when it was a socialist party (say what you will, socialism was a quasi-utopian doctrine that was all about trying to build a better tomorrow), but is dedicated to the kind of managerialism you expect from the Conservatives, coupled to a blue-nosed nanny-state approach.

As for work ...

I've got two heuristics. (1) First do no harm. (Easier said than done.) (2) Try to find something to do that, if people knew about it, they'd want to thank you for it. A third, optional, one: find something to do that you'd do for fun even if nobody paid you for it. If you can get all three of these things right, you've found the good life. Alas, there aren't enough niches like this for everyone. But we can try to do better. Harman and her friends aren't interested in doing better. All they want is to minimize outgoings on social security by maxing out their return-to-work metrics (for some value of "work" that may or may not be productive).
elfs From: elfs Date: April 9th, 2013 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I appreciate the education. I didn't particularly care for Harman's presence; I did read more than one interview with her before writing this, but she wasn't what I wanted to comment on.

I admire your attitude toward work. You and I have lucked out, to some extent; we have found work we like, that we'd do even when nobody pays us for it, on the whole contributes more than it costs, and that pays the bills.

I have started to meet many people who don't even want that kind of life. In my naive youth, I admired James Hogan's description of such people as mentally ill; these days that seems it seems to be a cultural, rather than personal illness.
shunra From: shunra Date: April 9th, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

If I hadn't run into it myself, I'd have thought you were making that up.

A local woman said to me, a couple years back: "well, that's easy for you to say! You have a regular income and a job that provides it."
She (unemployed at the time, now working at a large software company closer to your home than mine) actually saw that as the reasonable order of cause and effect.

So, what is it that causes the problem in the U.S.? And what causes it in the UK? Are they the same causes? And what can we do to change them? (I'm not demanding answers, as such; more hoping for some flash of insight that I've somehow missed by staring straight at the problem for so long.)
6 comments or Leave a comment