Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Is "Paid-Employedness" the new “Next to Godliness”?

"Absolutely Yes!" seems to be the answer in a society desperately searching for meaning, since the fading of our most recent religious fad, the quest for the Holy Grail of Wellness. Disapointingly,  the Rapture didn’t happen despite our purchases of sacred crystals, regular donations to the vitamin pill industry in the hope of miracles, pilgrimages to the mystic East, daily yogic contortions and kale, kale and more kale.

Being in possession of paid work is now an even bigger measure of virtue than doing good works for the glory of God with no thought of remuneration. Sure, as a volunteer, you might get some lip-service and some Christmas Party sandwiches from whoever gained the benefit of your unpaid work.

But caring not a fig, the tabloids will still vilify you as bludgers, scroungers and leaners. Thus justified, your government will then cut your benefits to the bone again, and you can go drop dead in a back alley for all anyone cares.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating a U-turn to the good old days of obeiscence to Iron Age Deities and their occasional Female Personal Assistants.

But can we all remember that our current economic system (I dare not mention the C-Word lest some troglodyte throwback still fighting the Cold War accuses me of being a Communist).  So, can we remember that one of the well-documented origins of said C-ist system as it emerged in Europe, lies in the Protestant Work Ethic: work hard for the glory of the Big CEO in the Sky, with no expectation of earthly reward.

And BTW, John Wesley’s original 18th century dictum “Cleanliness is Next to Godliness” was resurrected to sell soap in the 19th. There's a moral in that.

And thus was the enormous productivity and creativity of Cap***ism unleashed, for both Good and Evil.

For those hoping to find a Red under my Bed, having long out-aged my radical youth, I have concluded that Western Capitalism is as good as society ever got, despite its current decline and imminent fall 😢

But couldn't we instead capitalize on our successes? We have freedoms barely dreamt of in the pre-capitalist world. Despite capitalisms flaws, we have amazing advances in science and public health, growing acceptance of gender diversity, legal protections for ethnic minorities, freedom of movement and information,  and more.

So can't we instead pull back from the brink of self-destruction as out planet drowns, freezes and burns from our our over-productive excesses?

And so, to my point...
No.  The possession of paid work is not the hallmark of moral virtue. Nor is the pinnacle of happiness to be found in working for the profit of others.
Meanwhile there's plenty of evidence that a significant proportion of depression, despair and suicide is a direct result of the injuries of poverty exacerbated by our punitive so-called “welfare” systems.

What could be more depressing to the human spirit then to be press-ganged by the whip hand of punitive "welfare" systems into meaningless jobs creating junky consumer baubles and destroying the planet in the process?

Actual happiness comes from:
  • integration into a social network engaged in working collaboratively and co-operatively towards the common good
  • being respected for your contribution
  • not being stigmatized or shamed for being unemployed in a society that worships full employment
  • being adequately remunerated in work 
  • having your basic needs met adequately if not able to work
  • having a healthy work-life balance and more...

Have you actually SEEN the conditions under which the vast majority still toil?

I note the huge numbers of Neurodiversity Employment Services, both public and private sector, touting their services in hot pursuit of the Holy Grail of Employment. Many are doing great work, and beginning to influence hiring processes to be more aware of the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce. At the same time, where there is profit to be made, there will be exploiters.

As with all new growth industry, first come the creatives, the innovators, the idealists, the people of good faith. Then come the “Cowboys”. Eventually must come the regulators, if there is a government on the side of the people, not the profits.

I notice that some agencies who specialise in autism seem to be muscling into the lucrative IT market, cherrypicking the IT whizzkids and ignoring the rest. There have always been plenty of “ Geeks” in IT, way before the penny dropped that Geeks and Aspies were pretty much the same thing. I should know. I was one of them as far back as the 1970s - female version. Case in point: the glossy brochure of one recent entrant to the Australian market shows happy smiling Aspies in IT jobs. They were all male, with maybe one exception. Says a lot, dont you think?

What the Neurodiversity movement legitimately pursues is recognition and accommodation of the specific abilities and support needs of neurodivergent individuals. But at the same time, we should see beyond the mindset that the possession of a paid job is the measure of all virtue, and the fount of happiness. We and the whole of society would benefit from:
  • shorter working hours and more flexible conditions for ALL people who work 
  • a LIVABLE social wage for those who can't work, and, yes, even for those few who don't want to. It's not as if there were even enough jobs for those who want them. And even the most ideally "neurodesirable" worker is generally working too many hours for too little pay.
  • fallow time for those who need time to discover their talents or heal from illness or trauma
  • more pay and better conditions for human services workers, nurses, teachers, social worker to help them do it

The  Neurodiversity Movement arose from the resistance of neurominority activists to their  exclusion from employment, health, and education etc

But if the movement is fully understood and used properly, it will find itself humanizing the working conditions of all humans, and providing an adequate standard of living for all, not just those with inherited wealth, paid employment, or entrepreneurial abilities.

Finally let me employ Godwin's law to ruin your day

This was written on the gate to the hell-hole of Auschwitz

"Work makes you free"

It didn't then, rarely does now, and probably never will.

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