So says Ellie Mae O’Hagan, who according to her bio ‘currently works with Unite the Union on its community membership project, which aims to unionise the unemployed’. Oh and she’s also ‘an active member of UK Uncut’.
I guess we can see why she has such a downer on the concept of paid employment?
A few weeks ago, some friends and I were swapping tales about the worst jobs we’d ever had. There were some howlers: from changing faeces-stained linen at a holiday camp for £2.50 an hour, to spending 12 hours a day measuring gravy cubes to ensure they were all the same size.
Oh, how terrible! How demeaning!
But if mummy and daddy don’t provide enough allowance money, just how else is one supposed to keep one in wine and cigarettes?
The level of value we place upon paid work has often baffled me. I’ve never understood why it is so readily championed as the route to dignity, self-worth and financial security when for so many people, work is undignified, demoralising and underpaid.
I heartily agree, Ellie. I wouldn’t do it if I had any alternative, either.
But you see, I’d rather not starve to death. Or live the life of a parasite, drinking the sweat from others’ brows. It’s actually a very common state of mind, you’ll be surprised to know:
As Peter Dwyer and Nick Ellison wrote in their 2009 paper, Work and welfare: the rights and responsibilities of unemployment in the UK:
“The individual’s responsibility not only to find work but to have life shaped by work – become embedded and ultimately ‘assumed’. Over time, assumptions are institutionalised and so become part of a new consensus about work and welfare.”
It is a consensus seeping into the attitudes of welfare claimants themselves. In 2011, Professor Tracy Shildrick of the Social Institute at Teesside University noted that many of society’s lowest earners prefer to work even if benefits leave them better off, because they believe that “getting by” is a more respectable option to living on welfare.
Because…it is. It gives you dignity and self-respect.
Alien concepts to the likes of you and your UKUncut chums, eh?
The lauding of paid work devalues other important forms of unwaged activity, such as childcare, community volunteering or coping with illness and disability. These activities are the sort that should be willingly funded by taxpayers as contributions towards a collective and compassionate society – not dismissed by the government as barriers to paid work.
So, if I read you right, we should uncritically hand over vast wodges of our earnings in order to keep people like you?
Hmmm, let me think about this one for a minute.
Here’s my answer. No.