Work Is Good

In these non-apprenticeship-outsourced-shelfstackingNVQ-permatemp-interning-precariat times where having a job means the pressure to work like an animal without pay, honestly that’s hard to believe. As someone who has obsessively over-worked since early childhood my spiritual journey is to learn how to spend a day on a sofa eating crisps and being OK with that. I don’t mean this type of non-work that a lot of us are involved in, I mean the real stuff. Work in the sense of doing stuff, producing it, playing with it and showing it off to other people. In policy speak this is about self-actualization and metal-capital but for the hippies amongst us read being yourself, do something you value and the confidence that goes with the realisation that we are capable of producing something of value. As if that wasn’t enough work at its best offers us a productive way of being in the world involving learning, laughter and a deeper sense of being human in a world with other humans.

All well and good, the very definition of wellbeing actually, but this faces us with a dilemma because increasingly we’re in a world where being good at something doesn’t pay. Just because you have a trade or skill that’s needed doesn’t mean that anyone is going to pay you a living wage to do it. Do you work anyway? Something remarkable is happening in the UK and its good and bad. Huge numbers of people are setting up their own organisations, caught on the tailspin of social enterprises, to do a job they like. Thousands of people work as volunteers or trainees providing services as diverse as policing, therapists, artists and plumbers. They work for no or very little money. They do it because its real work, even without the money.

What this means though is that we’re building up a powerful group of capable, aware and unwaged people. At some point they will have something to say in a very loud voice to governments about how they have failed to reward hard work and turned the UK from a low wage to a no wage economy.

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