Navigating Newspeak: Problems With Talk About Jobs and Entrepreneurs
In the new political language it is common to hear about the sacrifices we should make to bring “jobs” and to invest in “entrepreneurs.” These invocations – often accompanied by the mention of “economic growth” – are becoming suspicious.
However, the suspicious person is very vulnerable in an argument. They are not usually in the position to deny the value of “jobs” and “entrepreneurs.” How could they ever even imagine? In a discussion with anyone who considers themselves “practical,” this value is absolute. It is the only thing that matters.
The real issue, which we have trouble voicing, is that this talk of “jobs” and “entrepreneurs” is a disturbing historical development. This is unimportant to the “practical” person, but we’ll ignore them for now. In the context of history, these words prevent forward movement (which requires much more than “economic growth”) and indicate the present-day limits to our notion of purpose.
This notion of purpose has become tied into the quantitative and the material. It is no coincidence that the “entrepreneur” and “jobs” are otherwise code for the “boss” and the “worker.” This focus upon our identities as tied into our workplace personas is a re-emphasis of this overarching duty to money-making. We are, at the end of the day, money-makers, in our limited concept of purpose. It is for a similar reason that our “leaders” prefer to refer to us as “taxpayers” and not “citizens.”
In this world that we create through “jobs” and “entrepreneurs,” there is a particular ambition for human relations. We are not a community, we are not the people who go home to families or to lovers, or who give over bus seats to old ladies (however begrudgingly). We are creatures of self-interest. The “job” is an individualized property, the “entrepreneur” is a competitive shark.
Here, I am often confronted with the strange and indoctrinated belief that humans were “made” for this sort of life. We are (in a very Hobbesian sense) ants pursuing power, delighting in private ownership, cherishing the life of work. It is interesting to note how this conception often comes from people who would call themselves “realists,” and yet any realistic and reflective understanding of human beings is drastically opposed to these principles.
While it is true, we are formed from a myriad of desires, it seems to me that we gain fulfillment through creativity, knowledge, altruism, and adventure. I have trouble, when I leaf through religious texts, or when I study literature or a painting, or look at any other markers of intelligent and mature thought, to find a belief in human purpose as being rooted in “jobs” and “entrepreneurial” endeavours. There is something fundamental that is lacking in office bureaucracy, assembly-line work, or in the stressful and inauthentic displays of business-ownership. Furthermore, these are not the kind of miserable human beings I want to see come out of “progress.”
In this scramble for “jobs” and “entrepreneurs,” we forget our capacity for growth and development. In Canada, there is hardly a pressing need for production. We are resource rich, with progressive technology. Amazingly, despite our material luxury and advanced methods of production, we work harder and longer, not less.
In effect, it is because our resources are not controlled democratically, but by these “entrepreneurs” who dole out pittances from their stockpiles of plenty. They – not a society with a society’s benefit in mind – decide which jobs and which working conditions they would like to see in the world.
Were we to have some bravery and take control of these resources, the country would be very different. The “jobs” we could create could not just be excess jobs contributing to little social and personal value, but “good jobs,” “useful jobs.” We might finally come around to paying histories hardest workers, mothers (which would be a stroke of developmental genius), or growing labour forces in necessary industries like education and healthcare so that workers could take more time off.
“Good jobs,” yes, not just “jobs” – we can dwell on this point. Jobs are certainly required, there is still work to be done. However, we should not put ourselves in the position, as labour unions have been doing, of situating ourselves in a desperation for status-quo “jobs.” As we become more affluent, it is reasonable to demand (if all other ideas are too “unreasonable” or too “radical”) that our working conditions are ameliorated.
However, if one is to read labour historians like Craig Heron’s accounts of the 21st century, they would be convinced that the labour unions, who quietly represent the interests of “good jobs,” have failed in maintaining even the status quo. One wonders if it is this craze for “jobs” and only “jobs” on the part of those in power – on the part of those who, as I have illustrated, have no vision of progressing the individual – that has caused this decadence.
All things considered, to call the desire for “jobs” and “entrepreneurs” a failure would be a mistake. As you might recall, these “jobs” and “entrepreneurs” are needed for “economic growth.” “Economic growth,” as it is really conceived for our politicians, is accomplished through this talk of “jobs” and “entrepreneurs.” This is because the “economic growth” desired is the “economic growth,” not of society, but of the pockets of wealthy and influential corporate interests.
Under the pretense of “jobs” and “entrepreneurs,” politicians can do miracles for this “economic growth.” Bailing out multinationals, subsidizing a failing and nomadic automotive industry, purchasing pipelines, reversing the scales of justice for engineering companies – it is all excusable under the guise of providing a stable basis for “jobs” and “entrepreneurs.”
To just be suspicious when human purpose is forgotten, progress impeded, and small minorities are privileged, is unacceptable. One should be moving on to action.
Written by: Samuel Helguero