We hear a lot about “hard-working families” and other similar citizens. “Hard-working” is latterday political shorthand for voters the tabloids can’t trash. So any public pronouncements mildly lily-livered politicos need to make are always peppered with such adjectives.
I think they – and we – have got the ground rules wrong.
“Hard-working” is rapidly becoming a synonym for wage slavery. Government talks about a childcare crisis when what it actually means is a working-poor crisis. Childcare may be more expensive than it should be – but it’s surely prohibitively so because people are having to hold down more than one poorly-rewarded job, and simply don’t earn what the better-off clearly expect of – and still get from – life.
If our future is to become one where the Knowledge Society drives the economy, where the life-sciences sector can turn our medical records into profitable activity (without, I have to add, interfering with our right to confidential GP-patient relationships), where the creative industries can be proportionately remunerated for their efforts and where the sweat of our collective brow can be virtual rather than 19th-century literal, working harder in the way so apparently beloved of modern politicians – looking, it would seem, to keep us under the thumb of a capitalism which is anything but liberating – is clearly not the way forward.
An example closer to home, to illustrate what I’m saying. I’ve long harboured (for a clean decade at least) the idea of language-training via the Interweb. I’ve thought about its advantages for me as an individual: the lifestyle I want to lead; the people I want to reach; the product and service I’d like to deliver. Since the end of 2012, I’ve started putting that idea into practice. I’m now earning what my wife earns for her college classes, but without the transport time, the photocopies and other associated costs which moving from physical place to physical place always implied. This is then, at least in my humble opinion, an example of working not harder but smarter. And I’m not saying my wife isn’t smart – quite the opposite. What, however, she is an example of is a very smart worker trapped in what we might term a “hard-working process”.
After all, there is little point in working hard if there are easier sequences of procedures able to free us up from drudgery, time-wasting and needlessly repetitive tasks in general.
So a call to all our politicians. Stop talking about the virtues of hard-working families and citizens; start talking about the need to work more smartly; more intelligently; more thoughtfully; more process-focussed. A future shared wealth may lie in such intentions. An increasing wage slavery lies in any other direction.
Unless, of course (and it’s now that the thought suddenly comes to my mind), an increasing wage slavery is what they are readying for us … and so it is that the term “hard-working” may really equal “monumentally taken-advantage-of”.