A rogues' gallery of mountebanks, charlatans and scoundrels
Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay
Friday, 14 October 2011
Lost, stolen or strayed - the work ethic
It's something that seems to be sorely lacking in Britain today; any foray into the area of health, social services or local government is likely to furnish an abundance of examples of the sort of worker whose output approximates that of the office rubber plant.
It's nothing new; thirty years ago, as an office temp at the local council, I was taken aside and warned not to complete more than a (derisory) set amount of work in a day or the unions wouldn't like it. However, many among the increasing numbers of working mothers (by courtesy of Harriet Harman) have taken the ethos to their hearts, allowing them to concentrate on important matters like arranging their children's birthday parties in office time.
Having had reason to deal with several of these agencies recently, I have overheard far too many office discussions about 'Barbie theme or Disney?' or whether Hayley should have Ugg boots at eight; one woman filled in a vital form in front of me (wrongly) while booking her daughter's haircut on the phone. When I called to complain about the resulting problems (which took me several months and £5,000 to remedy), I was told she had been promoted.
That is not to deny that there are many hard-working and conscientious public sector workers out there. I wonder, though, whether the idle have more time to spare for office politics; those who make the others look sloppy might well find themselves first in the firing line. And as proponents of the procrastinatory art travel further up the food chain, it becomes the office norm, until our public sector makes the notorious 1970s print workers look like a colony of ants.
Macheath, the notorious highwayman, has retired from a life of crime and can now be found behind the bar of Peachum's Tavern, favourite haunt of the rakes, rogues and vagabonds of 18th century Newgate and setting of 'The Beggars' Opera'. Visitors are always welcome; help yourself to a virtual tankard of ale and read on...