In advance of today’s strike action Katharine Whitehorn wrote for The Observer that striking against a public body, the council or something like London transport lacks the impact of early factory workers ceasing production so the owner couldn’t make any money. Rather, it ‘just screws up the general public, who get stuck in tunnels, can’t get their benefits or their post’ who can thus be ‘forgiven for losing any sympathy they might have had with the aggrieved workers.’ It’s saying something when the rag the fiancé calls the Wet Liberal Weekly is printing such views. 

I’m not about to make another argument against those that fail to take responsibility for their lives (I was offensive enough when I wrote Incapacity benefits need cutting). I dislike trade unions, unionists and all who strike in the modern age and don’t want to go over old ground. Rather I’m interested in the efficiency argument. As Whitehorn argues, ‘the bright sparks in the union need to devise a new weapon that targets the right people.’ I’m feeling charitable so I’ll allow for intelligent people being in trade unions but this is strictly in order to keep the column flowing you appreciate.  

The fiancé and his ex-wife are fortunate. The boys’ paternal Grandmother was able to take care of the school aged stepchild so the fact his teacher was at the cinema or whatever it was he did instead of going to work didn’t cause too much chaos and both were able to go to their jobs. Because that’s the big flaw in strike action, decent hard working people are forced to neglect their duties as a knock on effect. Lack of sympathy aside, it’s manipulative and irresponsible. It’s also inefficient.  

What is effective is Johann Hari’s writing method and I largely fail to appreciate quite what has upset people so much this week.   

As a brief diversion, last Thursday there was no column because at the last minute I had to travel to Durham to attend my Viva which I’m thrilled to say I passed, meaning I can now call myself Dr Kathryn Ashcroft. I took a week off blogging (more of that later) partly as a reward.

Anyway, as someone who has successfully demonstrated responsible and defendable research practises I’m perfectly happy to admit that of the many quoted conversations in my thesis, the vast majority were written from memory at a later date. I captured the essence of the conversation, recorded the date and details of the interviewee but I wasn’t transcribing. What I do in the field is carry a notepad and pen to catch spellings and important details but at the end of the day sit at my laptop and type furiously as I play through the events of the day. Happy to admit and recently awarded a doctorate for my methods.  

I don’t mean to be rude about those kicking up a fuss over Harigate (although I’d like to politely suggest that we may be due a new suffix!) but are they really qualified to judge? Hari has pointed out he’s yet to be accused of misrepresentation by an interviewee. He didn’t change words for any effect other than for clarity. Ah the crime of clear and understandable writing!   

It’s disheartening to live in a world where throwing tantrums (what is a strike if not that?) is the best union leaders can come up with to get their point across and those seeking intelligent solutions to the problem of unclear communication are criticised.  

Bentham would no doubt be rolling his eyes at such nonsense upon stilts.   

I rarely lean towards utility, preferring to think myself a beautiful and unique snowflake, but where it suits me I’ll pick and choose from the annals of philosophy. Utilitarianism in particular seems to resonate with a lot of people and if not in objective, then the execution of strike action a great many would no doubt concede that it does not lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest good.  

To sound byte it: Do what you need to do unless it negatively impacts on us!  

Those negatively impacted by Hari are the type that suffer the crime of being offended. Such individuals suffer the indignity of being victim to no other crime and feel very left out. Apologies if I seem dismissive of them, I’m not a utilitarian. Those negatively impacted by strikers are in greater numbers and suffer genuine inconvenience. These are the individuals needing apologies!  

Somewhere along the line, things have got a bit mixed up.  

So to return to last Thursday. My Viva lasted two hours and in that time my examiners went through my thesis in fine detail as they assessed my arguments. I started a column on the train home but frankly, I felt empty. So I stopped. I stopped and stepped back. I reflected that my writing shouldn’t be a chore and might perhaps benefit from a brief holiday. A week later I’m feeling much refreshed and was eager to sit and write tonight.  

It was an effective strategy.  

What justifies it as effective is directly linked to answerability. There is a degree to which I feel answerable to my readers but I don’t think it’s modest of me to say this blog has limited influence. Hari is deemed more answerable because he has a greater readership and is an ambassador for a broadsheet newspaper. There’s a degree to which he can’t be effective due to numbers. Somebody is bound to get upset.  

Perhaps there lies an excuse for the strikers. The vastness of their problems relates to decisions that reflect the intelligence of mob rule. Taken individually I’m sure there are smart and good people amongst the numbers but taken together they are reactive and short-sighted. Join a union and it seems you sign away your effectiveness; you give way to the view of the majority and relinquish your autonomy. It may be a reason but it’s a poor excuse as anyone with any sense should surely appreciate that your autonomy is the essence of all that you have.  

Perhaps it’s an effective way to navigate life but it lacks accountability and there lies my complete lack of support. If you can’t take responsibility for your own life then please don’t bemoan those you feel impact upon it. You cast yourself in a position of vulnerability. 



Leave a Reply.