I assume it probably won’t ever see the light of day but the proposal by Lord Bichard to put pensioners on workfare was nauseating and indicative of a deeply malignant, unrealistic and obsessive culture that exists in our political establishment. (Bichard’s career, which is summed up on his wikipedia page, is basically a list of well-paid but slightly fuzzy, difficult-to-define roles and vast quantities of establishment brown-nosing. His connection with the working lives of most of us is tenuous at best, and most interestingly he was able to retire from the civil service aged 54 with a £120K per year pension pot if the Daily Express are to be believed……….)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but political discourse in this country is in thrall to The Cult Of Work. Everyone must work (although the definition of work is always a very narrow one……) Work is great. Work gives meaning to otherwise meaningless lives. Work makes us more righteous. Everyone, whatever their circumstances, must work. Carry on past the retirement age. Work until you drop. Etc etc. If you don’t work (in the wage-earning sense) you’re nothing. Redundant. A waste of oxygen.
The whole routine is one big guilt-trip for the retired or the unemployed by politicians desperate to find scapegoats and mirage-solutions to deep-rooted social problems, that can only ever actually be addressed by returning our focus to the central division in society: social class.
Bichard sums up pensioners, who have spent their lives working and paying taxes, as
“a negative burden on the state”.
Let’s sum this proposal up in a line: people who have worked all their lives are being asked to spend their last years, their earned retirement from work, to do more work. Why? Who knows. Do we have too many jobs to go round that we need extra people? Emphatically not. Are we really so dysfunctionally utilitarian that we only see people as vessels who must make a net contribution to society? Apparently so.
Pensioners are parents and grandparents. Volunteers. Campaigners. But I suppose as none of these relationships and socially productive activities matters to Bichard as there is no cash transaction or measurable product at the end of it.
It’s always interesting that most of the people who celebrate the innate value of work are usually people whose jobs are undemanding or people doing their dream jobs. Or morons.
And of course the wealthiest, who have no need for state assistance and therefore no need to justify being in receipt of it, will automatically be able to opt themselves out of any proposal like this. For example: Lord Bichard himself.
What a surprise.
The scary thing is that myopic clowns like Bichard actually have an influence on public policy.