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on political correctness

17 March, 2008

ltu.jpgIn my job, I’ve got to be politically correct. It’s a part of my job description that says that I have to ensure that a safe environment exists for anyone that comes to my place of employment. By a safe environment, they mean, free from harassment, bullying, stereotyping, sexism, homophobia, racism, age-ism and any other “obia” and “ism” you can think of.

As most of you will know, I work with the “harder to help” people of our society, the long term unemployed, the asylum seeker or refugee, those with learning difficulties, economic migrants that can’t speak English and the genuinely bone-idle.

“Oh, that wasn’t very politically correct!” I hear you cry. Well you’re right,  it wasn’t and I’ll try and explain why. I’ve been doing this job now for 5 years, over those 5 years I’ve seen people come and go, some more than once, in 6 monthly cycles. Hamster wheelers we call them. People who spend their lives on 6 months training courses improving their language, literacy and numeracy skills. Sometimes they even have a break by going to another organisation, then 6 months later they’re back with us. Sometimes because they’ve been kicked off that course and we’re the only ones left that will have them.

Some of the time we see people who genuinely want to better themselves, so they can apply for a job that isn’t minimum wage. These people usually don’t stay with us for long, they work hard, pass their exams and leave into employment. Those instances are success stories. They probably would have done it anyway, we just give them a spring board to launch off.

Most of the time we have people who really don’t want to better themselves, they’re with us because if they don’t, they’ll lose their social security money, their housing benefit. They don’t want to work, they’re comfortable in their little zone of modest existence where everything is paid for them and all they have to put their hand in their pockets for is bus fare, food, weed, cigarettes and booze.

They’ve been unemployed so long, they can’t remember what “going to work” feels like. They’ve lost the whole ethos.

I once asked a guy who’d been unemployed for 15 years, “What do you do?” He replied that he was a “Polisher” of cutlery, this was Sheffield, where cutlery making was once a huge industry. I replied quite bluntly, that that was 15 years ago and that he was unemployed and had been for over a decade. He wasn’t and hadn’t been a “Polisher” for quite some time.

I had to force him to realise that the life he knew was dead and gone and that he had to move on. His chances of finding another job where his skills and expertise were needed were consigned to the history books, Sheffield no longer had a thriving cutlery industry and as such he was obsolete.

That’s where a lot of these people are still, living a life that isn’t doing them any favours. Sometimes, we have to break the cycle and sometimes that also means we have to drop the political correctness and tell it like it is. Sometimes, we have to blow away the fluff of “nice” and make them face up to the reality of what’s happened to their lives while they’ve been sat watching day time TV. Most of them have no aspirations, no hopes of a better future beyond the once weekly lottery draw, because they’ve forgotten what foreign holidays can be like, they see a BMW and see a car, not a dream nor a lifestyle, they have nothing to strive for and they have become bitter.

Last year when I’d booked my annual holiday, one of my students asked me where I was going. “Miami”, I replied smiling.

“They must be paying you too much.” he stated quite sourly.

“No,” I replied, “they pay me exactly what I’m worth, with my qualifications that I worked hard for, my years of experince, my dedication to my job and the fact that I turn up on time everyday and do what’s expected of me without complaining or grumbling, that’s why they pay me and that’s why I can afford to go to places like Miami, each and every year.”

“It’s alright for some, you’ve got a job.” he countered.

“Yes and so did you until you gave it up because it hurt your feet.” I reminded him, “I’m afraid it goes with the job of being a waiter, you can’t do that type of work sat on your backside with your feet up.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, you have to point out the obvious, throw away the political correctness and just be plain and direct.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 30 March, 2008 7:50 AM

    Well written and you do an important job, trying to get people at the bottom of the spectrum back into work. I moan A LOT about my job, but I cannot even begin to consider what unemployment must be like. Actually that’s a lie, I was unemployed once for a few months (may have been when I left university, I forget) and you really do lose all your confidence and can feel quite worthless. Isn’t nice.

    Keep up the good work in the day job! I can tell you also have a lot of patience (I think I would struggle on that front).

  2. 20 March, 2008 12:08 AM

    Powerfully written and I agree with you. And you’re there at the sharp end of it all!

  3. 18 March, 2008 2:40 AM

    PC works on my nerves! I figure that people know that I’m not insensitive, if I don’t follow the PC norms!

  4. 17 March, 2008 10:05 PM

    I could not agree with you more. I write a quasi humorous political blog you might find a little politically incorrect.

    http://www.colloquynow.blogspot.com/

  5. 17 March, 2008 8:01 PM

    Nice Blog. I like the layout you used. Did you make that yourself?

    – Randy Nichols.

    Mike Says:- No Randy, it’s a free template from wordpress.com

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