The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Political Fuel

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 6, 2009 @ 23:58

Ask yourself: if you wouldn't live here, then why do we allow other people to?

Ask yourself: if you wouldn't live here, then why do we allow other people to?

As someone with too much time on his hands, I recently decided to exchange part of it for cash. I got on my bike and found a job. All because my self-employment has been feeling a bit like self-unemployment lately.

But no matter. Because my new job is one I’ve done before: a petrol station cashier. Working nights. In one of the most deprived parts of the country. It’s not ideal, but it pays the bills.

And yet… what surprises me so much is always the Friday and Saturday night shifts. They are an opportunity to peer through a rather revealing bulletproof glass window into the sheer abyss that passes for civilization in parts of this country.

For what I witness is generally not a pretty sight, dividing neatly between the workforce of the city, most of whom binge drink into oblivion, making a mockery of any claims that it’s only an irresponsible minority ruining it for the many; and the remainder of the customers are the feckless, the lazy, the unemployed, the ignorant, the uneducated, the unmotivated, the unaspirational. Usually all of those at once, in fact.

Harsh words from a so-called Lib Dem. Partly I’m trying and failing to be controversial. But as time has gone on, I’ve become less willing to make excuses for some of these people. Circumstances are indeed bad. Times are very tough. Living conditions are often very bad. Employment prospects are dim.

But underneath it all lies an element of fatalism. That life has dealt these people a bad hand, but they’re absolutely OK with that as it was “meant to be”. It’s not necessarily that there are no jobs; it’s more a fact that they don’t want to do anything with their lives and are very content to accept their lot and get on with it.

Nothing frustrates me more than such an attitude. And it’s this complete poverty of aspiration that must be challenged. That is the big political issue of the coming generation. It’s one the likes of Norman Tebbit thought he had the solution to all those years ago. But, as is often the case with most right-wing responses, they are too simplistic. They fail to appreciate the intense difficulty of the problem, deeply embedded into life and culture, which need more than just getting a job.

It’s all about giving people self-esteem. And yes, I do appreciate the bitter irony of saying such a thing after blasting them as lazy and feckless. It’s about inculcating in them the values of self-actualisation: that you don’t have to lie back and accept the hand you’ve been dealt. You have to go out there and do something about it.

That is where our benefits system is failing: it has allowed people to behave like that for too long.

But how the hell can we teach people to have more respect for themselves?

Politics is bloody tough. But this is the kind of thing that must be tackled head on.

This is what is really important. This is where left-right politics has failed for generations, providing neither equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. Or even any kind of egalitarianism. It’s merely a system of every man, woman and child for him/herself, financed by a supply of giro cheques to help ameliorate our guilt for allowing people to live like that in the first place.

Hmm. That almost sounds like an anti-capitalist rant to me. I’m getting dangerously anarchic in my old age.

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One Response to “Political Fuel”

  1. […] more on that some other day, though it’s something I’ve almost wittered about in the […]

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