Hard work?

It’s a phrase I’m hearing more and more often in these times of political crisis, economic meltdown and social brouhaha. The way it’s used has, needless to say, a dry, puritan, moralistic tone: hard-working = good, but what’s the opposite? Slacking? Idling? Scrounging? Being – gasp – a claimant (a composite of all three qualities)?

I worked once with a copywriter who would dash off a piece of work with the words “that’ll do, fuck ’em”. He was usually right – his stuff would get approved without much of a problem. Not that he cared: he was already down the pub. Whatever else it was, it wasn’t hard work. But it was good enough.

I myself consider that I work quite hard. I like doing things as well as I can. Do I therefore consider myself to be “hard-working”? Well, no. I also like to sit and look. I like nothing better than to potter aimlessly and I’m very, very good at it. On occasion, I work quite hard at not doing anything in particular, with nothing visible or tangible to show for it, but usually it comes pretty easily. I certainly don’t qualify for the label of hard-working.

I remain puzzled: who are the politicians referring to when they talk about hard-working people? We talk about the “idle rich”, but I’ve never heard mention of the “idle poor”. In between, there’s a vast number of people who would rather work enough to keep life and soul together and have time to spend with family and friends – or whatever – than spend their lives caught up in the relentless pursuit of wealth, which I suspect is the real subtext of the phrase.

I have this probably rather old-fashioned and quaint belief that “enough” is much better than “too much”. I don’t think I’m alone in that. And I will work quite hard to acquire enough, but no more to get too much: I don’t really want it. As a wealth creation unit, I’m happy to admit I’m crap. And I make a rubbish capitalist. But I fondly believe that my working life has been a richer one for not trying to make my first million and it’s not over yet.

I tell you what. If I win £101,000,000 on the Lottery, I’ll share it with you. I suppose that means I’d better buy a ticket: there’s a first time for everything.

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