The Backlash

The Backlash

The reaction to ‘a more considerate way of handling employees and other people you have to deal with’ is already setting in. Covid unleashed a question we all knew the answer to – “What do you want most in life?” We had been almost forbidden from saying it on grounds of ‘selfishness’, irrelevance to employers and conflict with the belief that suffering is the only way to paradise. Covid’s lockdowns, isolation and induced terror, finally allowed us to use the word ‘happiness’ – for many, for the first time in public in their lives. 

Handling employees decently is a prerequisite to good management. Mollycoddling them is insulting. The people who explain this best to you are the disabled. They accept help when they need it but remain as fiercely independent as they can. They know that survival comes more from within than externally. WfH was a command during Covid. It became an option for many post-Covid. Managers soon discovered that some people who adopt it are frauds. Those who understand the responsibilities that go with WfH will decide when they appear where, and how they work, anyway. They don’t need permission to do the right thing.

The pendulum swings in everything that happens in our lives. Often it swings too far. Take ‘political correctness’ and the absurdity of some of the euphemisms used today. I read job descriptions that persistently use the phrase ‘go-to-market’. It means ‘sales’. Sales is five letter word; go-to-market, a twelve letter one. In an era when greater productivity is demonstrably needed, does adopting the twelve letters improve on the beautifully simple, communicative word ‘sales’? If not, what is its purpose?

A trivial example, but look at much of today’s writing. It seems that the authors didn’t get Kigsley Amis’s neat expression “more means worse”. Amis used it to question the expansion of higher education. It applies to much more than that. Comprehensively detailed papers on key subjects are necessary and those who produce them are to be congratulated. A ‘three-words’ Twitter is no substitute. But for most of us, most of the time, we want information quickly, clearly, neatly and briefly (QCNB?). 

Among a jungle of jargon and patronising pampering I see a ray of reason rising. In France, Macron is trying to get his voters to understand the simple arithmetic that older and fewer people mean you must work longer. If he doesn’t win it will be another nail in the coffin of democracy. Voters who have access to so much information and discussion must use it responsibly or become subject to laws that reduce their democratic rights. The British Government has already insulted the electorate by backing off longer working. Perhaps they will make up for it by biting the National Health Service costs issue and charging a modest access fee. What you get free you abuse and fail to appreciate. But the British voter has been taught the mantra ‘free at the point of delivery’ for nearly seventy years, as though it was a religion. 

Backlash – if it exists – is found more in business than in politics.

Meanwhile the western education system appears to be totally ignoring teaching politics to the young. The young are given access to virtually everything an adult is allowed to absorb. If you are going to give matches to children at least teach them when and how to use them.

There is a backlash, and a bigger one is coming. ‘Free and easy’ is a good strategy in a crisis like Covid. It is a disaster in the changing economic and business world. If we can use AI and its intellectual development to make us think more intelligently, humanity will survive. 

If we can’t, we will become a society of automatons with less choice than ants.

Keep it moderate but help build the backlash if you value who you are.

Good morning

John Bittleston 

Can you say how we should improve education to make democracy work better? ‘Backlash’ seems a rather crude way of doing so. Please tell us

31 March 2023