|Issue 4 - April 1972|
|Who's Right To Work|
has only recently become recognised as a problem as it has been realised
that in an increasingly mechanised society, more people will have more
leisure time to fill. But how is it to be filled appropriately? Obviously
bingo, longer opening hours and TV do not provide adequate answers.
Clearly present society is not capable of filling the time available
to us; equally the supposed 'alternative solution' - the "freak" solution
- has far too often degenerated into the equally vicious and valueless
perpetual trip or high, getting absolutely nowhere on either the personal
or social level.
Boredom is not just a problem of the future, when "computers will take over the drudgery, and all men will have time to fulfil themselves". It is a problem now for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed, and for everyone else who does not know what to do with his or her much treasured hours of play away from work. As work is usually boring we want to fill our leisure time as well as possible.
In the north-east a crisis point is being reached. With the closure of the pits and the other centres of employment we are seeing an over-publicised but under-evaluated peak in unemployment. Unemployment on the present scale is not just, or even mainly, a political or economic matter, but a vitally personal crisis for the 1½ million people involved and their dependants - including over 9% of the male working population of the NE.
The sops that we are offered are both totally inadequate and misdirected. The aimlessness of a non-working life for people whose whole cultural (mostly subconscious) outlook has prepared them for no other personal role than as a worker has led to the slogan "The Right to Work".
Surely this slogan approaches the problem - admitted to be a problem - from the wrong direction! The right to work applies only to a now obsolescent lifestyle. As the strong community ties have broken down, the social life that was the mainstay of the old lifestyle has been worn away and the right to work has become irrelevant. We are deprived of the one thing we have always been told we are fit for - work.
Sociologists' attempts to provide entertainment are not good enough. It is a degradation of a human being to have his spare time, that circumstances have made his whole time, filled for him.
The answer lies at a more profound level: we must cease to regard the non-worker as a social freak, for he will become more and more common: we must begin to think of all men as potentially having the initiative to fulfil themselves. We must all be given the opportunity to be able to think for ourselves enough to fill our own time. In short, we must affirm not the right to work but the right to find an alternative.
The 'system' as it stands cannot allow us all this. The problem is universal: it is only more apparent in the areas of high unemployment and monotonous and unsatisfying layout conditions. Hairies and skins are equally examples of bored people in a bored society. But are the 87½% of the adult population watching TV every evening or the miners who were sent out chopping wood to fill their time while they were on strike (the secretary of one of the miners' lodges in Co Durham told me that this was a secondary reason for picketing) essentially any different?
We cannot be provided with entertainment. Education should provide an answer, but given the economic factors that subvert and control our every independent thought, the present rigid educational structure does not do so.
We must demand the right to work actively towards a true alternative - a genuine lifestyle, not a compromise - one of whose prime concerns must be a libertarian approach to teaching. The "Right to Work" where there is no work: education that has nothing to do with today's world, let alone tomorrow's: the stifling of the so-called liberties (see MG3 page 11) that should allow us to work out our own way of living in a screwed-up society: All these add up to an imperative need for active work towards an alternative that will make life liveable for us and the next generation, allowing us to evolve our own lifestyles for ourselves. Whose right to work?