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WHY WORK? April 17, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Humankind/Planet Earth, Peace, Personal Experience.

Our apparently feeble-brained Prime Minister has proposed that all work is ennobling, when the overwhelming evidence  that it is often debilitating and counter-productive.

While my understanding is limited in matters of theology, my sense is that working like a demon was the living under the curse of eternal damnation. I suppose that if one rejects the theology, one also rejects the motivation. One supposes that the nature of God is a contested area, although the consensus across the religious traditions and spiritual (whatever that means) practices they encompass compassion and regard for the disadvantaged.

Of course the ideology of Capitalism, and in fairness and analytical integrity we might have to distinguish between Corporate Capitalism and Entrepreneurial Capitalism, has outlived the usefulness of theology, if one assumes that materialism cannot be theology, or at least an ideology. Market mechanisms as regards Corporate Capitalism has long since been discarded. One works and consumes and over-consumes and the planet is left the worse for wear, the future is diminished for the young, and there is no sense of morality. Greed and gluttony are self-serving, while we can ignore the effects, such as the dreadful “war” in the Congo as described by Johann Hari.

Nor would be expect, in some respects, our deeply ignorant and unqualified Prime Minister – and thus not capable of growing in the job – to be familiar with the Prophet of the materialist conception of history and notion of surplus value. I do not really care about surplus value and who gets the profit of labor inputs, although it seems to me that those who create the computer systems do not get the recognition they deserve. So much for individualism as it was understood in its first artistic blush at the onset of the Renaissance.

What I think matters more about work is its social value, and its intrinsic moral value. What I keep noticing it is that people who provide essential services, for example to the elderly, are usually underpaid for their services. The endeavour to raise the status of nursing in hospitals has not been successful, for whatever reasons, and the level of care is not what it should be. In part this might be attributed to lack of staff, but I do not believe that work loads are the full explanation.

Working has to do with the framing of a social structure based on domination and privilege. The competition of the jungle is the ruthless argument of efficiency and effectiveness and therefore productivity. Thus work is dehumanizing, so that human talents and skills become in the general sense irrelevant. So that the God of profit and greed means that human hands are replaced by mechanization, automation, computerization and organization.

Part of the political process, which our enlightened Prime Minister subscribes, no doubt reinforced by the wisdom of the focus groups, is the invidious process of scapegoating. Let turn our unanimous violence on the unemployed, and in the process take away their voice. Suppose they might have legitimate grievances based on experience, which must not be articulated. In my perhaps limited experience of unemployed and underemployed people are often suffering distress, sometimes taking subtle forms.

I have Glomerulonephritis and that sufficient for me to be classified as having a disability. Some people have doubted whether this disease should be so classified. In the extreme case, as I experienced, the fluid imbalance that accompanies the disease causes cramps to the point where movement is not possible. Just imagine if you are lying on the floor at home alone and you cannot move. Minor cramping is disconcerting enough. I have the hope that I am getting better. I trust the evidence will support that belief. Of course, since my stomach operation two weeks ago, I have the excuse to be a complete bludger, although I would be wise to be careful about lifting weights especially now.

Still, I agree with Jeff Sparrow at The Drum that work is part of human nature. Working is what we do as human beings. We conceptualize, we think and we move stuff around. We have to do this with integrity without within a social and environmental framework of utility rather than violation of nature. The violent nature of work is often overlooked, and the devaluation of persons leads to other violence, although that does not justify the expression of violence. So a starting point that could be applied to all the work we undertake is the question: Does this task do harm? Another criterion is: Does it produce personal and social growth?


When I went to school, the pressure was on the student to pass exams. Now it seems in NSW that the pressure has been displaced to the teachers. Sarah Whyte provides a brief report in The Sydney Morning Herald. NAPLAN apparently means the National Assessment Program for literacy and numeracy. The implication in the report is that the more socially disadvantaged the students, the more stressed the teachers. But is teaching real work?



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