The dignity of manual labour.

Well a word from the wise, by the time you’re sixty, you’re knackered. Trust me in this one, I’ve seen it. I mean, it’s fine for bureaucrats and others to get early retirement due to stress, but what about early retirement because your body is knackered and you cannot do the job any more?
Looking back at the jobs I’ve done, I’ve dug ditches, emptied septic tanks (and unblocked the soil pipes), corrected the spelling and grammar of senior civil servants, got the welder out to fix something, and milked cows; sometimes all in the same day.
I know how to use a yard brush properly; I can use a muck fork and load a wheelbarrow. I’ve fixed ballcock valves, bled the air out of diesel engines. I’ve marked and dug out the foundation trenches when we were building, and I was only half an inch out in one hundred feet. They had to use a laser to spot that one; I’d just used the old method of doing right-angles.

Yet it always amuses me. You see, I am a redneck. I’m someone who works outside in the sun so the back of my neck gets sunburned. And to be called a redneck is an insult. Think about it. We live in a society where the people who feed you, the people who you couldn’t survive without, the people who grow your food, the people who clean your sewers; all get looked down on by the people who think they are the educated ones. I’ve even heard people sneer at the machinists who make their clothes. Indeed people use the phrase ‘only a machinist’ as a derogatory comment.
It’s been said that society is only three meals from anarchy. That’s how thin the line is. Watch the panic buying start when suddenly there’s a rumour that the tanker drivers might go on strike.
And yet, the people who actually do the things that keep us from barbarism are sneered at. I’ll tell you one thing. There are a lot of well paid people wouldn’t be missed. The BBC journalists go on strike and the quality of Radio Four broadcasting improves.

At times it genuinely frightens me, just how ignorant and out of touch a lot of reputedly educated people are. I keep getting asked to ‘like’ campaigns on facebook which say that the government is failing us because they aren’t just putting unemployed people to work build new roads, railways and the like. This is often followed by the phrase ‘Like we did in the ‘30s’.
Have the people who start these campaigns got a clue how the real world works. Are they harking back to such glorious victories of socialism as the building of the White Sea canal?

White Sea canal

I think they’ve missed one of the ironies of the modern world. Whilst in the office the introduction of the computer has increased the amount of data that has to be shuffled and the number of people who seem to exist solely to shuffle it; out in the real world the introduction of technology means that civil engineering now employs small numbers of seriously skilled people. In factories and workshops there are less people, but by and large they’re a lot more highly trained.

Perhaps we ought to shuffle things a bit. I do worry about all these people who suffer from stress after years of working in offices. So how about we bring in a law; you cannot go into admin, teaching or enter the civil service until you’ve had your forty-fifth birthday?
It strikes me that most of the stress in these jobs seems to be due to appallingly bad management and stupid ways of working. Therefore concentrating on an older workforce who’ve already had jobs and know how the world works will help. Imagine telling a group of trainee teachers, all in their mid forties, that children must be left to do what they want because eventually they’ll want to learn. The trainees would probably tell the lecturer off for going out in the sun too long without a hat. Or in a civil service setting, imagine telling people of that age group that any error on a form is to be regarded as an attempt to defraud the state until proven otherwise. Say that to people who’ve already had twenty five years struggling with government forms they’ve had to fill in.

We’ll take things further forward. Aged fifty, you’ll be allowed to stand for election to local government, and at fifty five, to parliament.
Obviously we’ll have to take salary structures and pensions into account. No one paid by the state, local government or out of a tax like the TV licence can earn more than the Prime Minister and his salary is fixed to four times the national average. MPs do not get a pension or golden handshake when they quit. It’s not a career, get over it. They don’t get expenses, that’s what they get paid a salary for.
But what do I know, I’m just a redneck. And anyway; the present system obviously works so well.


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4 thoughts on “The dignity of manual labour.

  1. keirarts August 5, 2013 at 7:09 am Reply

    I think part of the problem is modern work expectations. A lot of staff we looked at who applied for Blockbuster were applying because they thought it was ‘easy’ work. Several shifts later they were quitting.

    The place was difficult partly due to bad management. One of my most hated phrases in business is “do more with less” Its a phrase that has come from some sort of business school someplace. Our head office was populated be people who joined the company at upper-management and had never worked on the shop floor a day in their life. Our best district manager had actually worked his way up and knew what he was talking about. So if we had a thousand DVD’s Games and Blu-rays to box up and ship to other stores, all the while receiving as many back in turn. We could phone up and get the hours we needed.

    I also remember a few of my mates scoffing when I said I was knackered after an eight hour shift. “we work 12 or more in the yard”

    These were the same people asking me to recommend TV Box sets to watch at work for when there was no jobs to do! I had to gently explain that in those eight hours I was lucky if I stopped for 15 minutes to have a sandwich


  2. jwebster2 August 5, 2013 at 8:38 am Reply

    Not only that but I’m afraid you were having to be nice to people whom I’d just take a cattle prod to 🙂

    • keirarts August 5, 2013 at 8:40 am Reply

      Not that nice.

      I would on occasion find a dirty job and make them do it, such as cleaning the fridges ect. One lad complained he had OCD when I asked him to wipe down the shelves. “you should do a good job then” I replied.

  3. jwebster2 August 5, 2013 at 10:07 am Reply

    You’d have made a brilliant sergeant for National Service men

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