Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me. (Harvey)
(pic credit: http://www.filmforager.com )
This morning, whilst I was checking my twitter timeline, I saw a tweet by you (your PR). It had been retweeted into my timeline and said something about making GP’s work longer hours so that ‘hardworking people’ can get an appointment. Whilst I have many views about how this is a ridiculous policy and a thin smokescreen for the real problems in the NHS (lack of beds in the community, over crowded hospitals, no way near enough nurses etc etc etc), this is not what this letter is about. This letter is about that, offensive, phrase – ‘hardworking people’.
I have young children and I have been thinking about what I want to teach them and what I want them to aspire to be as they grow.
I’m not about to start to try to challenge you on the validity of your rhetoric. I do think it’s insulting though; what you fail to seem to understand is that the only people who are socially acceptable to you and your supporters not only perhaps work hard but also happen to work in jobs that command a higher wage. Market forces have decided that, for example, an accountants hard working week is worth more in monetary terms than a steel workers hard working week. Not your fault, eh? It was the market that decided. So it doesn’t matter that hard working steel workers and their families sometimes can’t afford to make ends meet. Perhaps they don’t work hard enough? I’m no economist and my knowledge as a social scientist doesn’t go deep enough to challenge you properly. That’s what we rely on the opposition for. That’s not what this is about anyway. This is about my children.
You are asking me to raise them believing that work – ‘hard work’ – will make them good human beings. You and your government are putting Hard Work, exams and strict rules at the top of your agenda. No compromise. No grace. No kindness, and worst of all no compassion.
I’m going to raise my children to be compassionate. To understand that however people treat them or behave there is always a reason why. So much behaviour can be explained by something going on that we know nothing about.
I’m going to raise my children to be kind. I want them to understand that being kind is more important than being smart. Being kind and showing love is more important than anything actually.
I’m going to raise them to love people more than they love money. They’ll understand that money is important – that’s just the way the world works – but they’ll understand that the amount they have shouldn’t define them and getting money should never make them stray from the truth that people are more important than money.
I’m also going to have to teach them, thanks to you, that sometimes life can be unfair – sometimes people who are elected to be in charge of how our country is run will have their priorities all wrong. Sometimes they will love money more than they love people. Sometimes they will be so far removed from the reality in the country they govern that they’ll actually do damage instead of good.
My children may well choose to work hard in their lives, but my hope for them is that they will work hard to show love, kindness and compassion in all that they do. Not to ‘get on’.