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Is it “Give us jobs!” Or “Laborare est orare”?

I noticed today an article under the headline”…British youth protest needs the spirit of los indignados…We’re marching from town to town to build a mass movement against the cuts, demanding job creation, not destruction.”

The author of the article, Paul Callanan, writing in today’s Guardian, is the national organiser for the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign. He continues

if the present economic crisis and attacks on young and working people show anything, it is that capitalism has not been able to solve the question of unemployment and poor living standards in the decades since the march. Yes, we may live much better now but we face 75 years of gains, like the NHS, the welfare state and the right to an education, being blotted out of existence. This government wants to wind back the clock to the 1930s. That is why we are bringing the spirit of “los indignados” to Britain and marching again.

“Young people, unemployed people, trade union activists and students from the struggle last year will march from town to town, starting on 1 October and arriving in London on 5 November, myself among them. We will be organising protests, demonstrations and meetings to bring together all these groups. We’re demanding job creation not destruction from the government. We’re demanding a wage you can live on for all, including apprentices and interns. We’re demanding a halt to the brutal attacks on benefits, already lower for young people. To beat this government and to win a decent future, young people need to be part of a broad anti-cuts movement. That’s why the solidarity shown on 30 June was so important. We want the march to help build a mass movement.

The tragedy here is that it seems as if the opponents to the British government’s policies, unable to move the debate onto fresh ground, are condemning a generation to fighting over old territory in a battle that was never winnable and not even worth winning.

Jobs are tasks that have to be done though we prefer to avoid doing them. Their life-enhancing power is minimal. Jobs are not fulfilling. Jobs do little to develop or allow the expression of individual talent. Jobs are not life-enhancing. Jobs have nothing to do with human creativity. They can be done with a good grace and indeed it is good for all of us to do unpleasant but necessary tasks at times. And those doing them should be properly rewarded and valued. But there is more to human life than spending one-third of one’s waking hours in drudgery, in exchange for a minimal reward. Aspiring political activists should be raising people’s sights and exhorting them to aspire to something better.

Work and jobs are not quite the same thing. Work is of the highest value. As St Benedict expressed in when writing his rules for monastic life, “Laborare est orare” – to work is to pray. Everyone needs to work as that is our means to a livelihood and mutual care, and most people’s mode of self-expression. And whilst a job is not a natural human right, the means to a livelihood most certainly is. Furthermore, work allows the flow of creativity and gives dignity. Where does work come from? It is something that people do, quite naturally. We work and produce things and share them with each other. But in order for work to be like this, everyone needs free access to the surface of the planet and its natural resources. Even for something as simple as being a street musician.

A few simple questions put the matter into focus. “If you are willing and able to work, and people want the things you make, and you still want the things they make, what it is stopping you?” And as for jobs, the question is “Is it really the job you want? Or the wages? Don’t we really want to minimise jobs and maximise wages?”

The wages are what satisfy us, not the jobs. Without the wages who would take on a job?

It is depressing that a rising political leader has nothing better than this with which to inspire those he claims to lead, and is stuck in the mindset expressed in the slogan “Give us jobs!” Or could it be that he really views his followers as lumpenproletariat?

As a postscript, one of our members, Robin Smith, sent me this


Jobs are what our masters create for us.

We are their slaves if we must wait for them to give us jobs.

Our masters either grant us, or deny us, the right to work, through their power of jobcreationism.

We want more wages, not more work. Jobs we want even less of obviously.

We are compelled to accept any jobs we would not otherwise choose to do.

Because of private property in land.

This also means wages, the thing we really want, are competed down by this process, to minimum wage, then welfare, then starvation levels.

We are slaves.

Those protestors are slaves.

They are not rebelling at all.

They are asking for more charity as welfare and futile jobs.

If they really meant what they said they would rebel and stop seeking charity.

The thing they really work for, their wages, now barely keep them in a living.