Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Daddy's Gone

I initially had intended to write this post after seeing the comments by Purest Green and Jimmy Bastard in reply to my previous post however life and work got in the way and so I just didn't find the time, hopefully I can make it make as much sense now as it did in my head at the time.

Both comments come from a different perspective but in their own way are both valid.

In the United Kingdom today there is sadly a large section of the population that are economically inactive, seemingly unnecessarily so. However for many there is a historical reason behind this.

In the 70's the UK was broke and drastically in need of a new direction. At the time there were a lot of industries that employed hundreds, sometimes thousands of men in communities in Northern England, Wales and Scotland that were no longer profitable. These industries consisted of coal mining, steel manufacturing, car manufacturing, ship building, and in the case of the town that I grew up in cast iron casting. These industries had supported the livelihoods, hopes, and dreams of a large percentage of whole communites of men for decades. In a lot of cases sons, fathers, and grandfathers would all of worked in the same company. But in the 70's a lot of those industries were struggling against new competition from afar, mostly eastern Europe at the time. Those new competitors had a cheaper workforce, more modern machinery and working methods and probably more importantly Britain had exhausted its raw materials to such an extent that anything that was left was that bit more expensive to reach. Sadly the decision was reached at this time that Britain could no longer afford to support these dying industries and so huge numbers of working proud men lost their jobs.

Communities had the heart ripped out of them when very few of those men could find a new job right away. Men who were used to working 5 - 6 days a week to put food on the table would have to stay at home on unemployment benefit while they waited and retrained for a new place in the modern slowly changing Britain. At the same time they'd have to watch as their wife, who maybe previously stayed at home watching the kids or had a part time job would now do two jobs to put the food on the table.

Most of these men would slowly find a new role in the Britain of the 80s but not before a generation of kids saw their dad being unemployed through no fault of his own. I suspect some of those kids today don't work not because they can't, but because they won't. There is a generation of young people today who won't work if its not advantageous enough for them to do so. However you only have to look at the number of Polish people that have found jobs in the UK today to see there could have been enough work for any British person who wanted one.

My own father is one them. He did not work in the redundant iron casting foundary making red phone boxes and railings, he was lucky enough to work in a stock broking office. He wasn't one of the brokers but when the brokers had a good year he got a share of the bonuses. He easily made twice what my mother made, but without my mother nagging him to go into work in the morning he would have been happy to stay at home. Despite his income it was usually my mothers wage which paid the mortgage, the bills and got the food in the cupboards. All too often his wages would disappear on the bet of a horse or a midweek drinking spree. As the song goes, all I wanted from my father 'was a kick aboot in the park', instead what I got was the sight of him with a beer in his hand watching Des Lynam talking about the football scores on Grandstand.

When my mother finally had enough of his fondness for a drink and the struggles of bailing out his gambling habits he lost his job within a week of her moving out. I was approaching 13 when he lost his job, I'm 20 years older now and in that time he's not made any real attempt to get himself another.

He's not one of those proud working men who found himself in the wrong industry at the wrong time he has just been supported by a system that is supposed to prop up those who are between jobs. I see no reason why he should have been supported all of this time because as far as I am concerned too much of a fondness for a drink or a gamble should not be a valid excuse for sickness capacity benefit or whatever it is that has allowed him not to work all this time.

Sadly it would be untrue to say that all of those who find themselves not working today are unable to do so there is a generation of kids who can work but won't work who are claiming benefits and are becoming fathers themselves, unchecked this could continue to perpertrate further  for another generation.

Whatever the reason for unemployment, I don't necessarily believe that we have a responsibility to our country as John F Kennedy might have suggested because I feel that countries can take advantage of such patriotism but I do feel that people have a responsibility to themselves, to their families and to their communities to want more for themselves than sitting on the dole.

Listening to: Glasvegas - 'Daddy's Gone'