In the Youtube video below, Mhari Black argues that benefit sanctions don’t work, that the conservatives know they don’t work, and concludes that the system which Fine Gael/Labour imported into this country when they contracted two British companies to administer JobPath, is really about dividing and silencing opposition to right-wing policies.Most people find it hard to move beyond the assumption that anything that seems designed to get “them” back to work can’t be bad. But in that assumption a prejudice is buried that has the effect of making criticism of the JobPath system seem like a defense for laziness.
And while it is arguable that the Irish version of employment activation, involving some of the same companies that administered the Workfare service in Britain, may also include the Tory parties ulterior political motives as described by Mhari Black, there is yet another reason why JobPath, particularly in the Irish situation, is counter-productive and destructive. It is because the programme is based on an underlying assumption that the fault that causes unemployment is a character fault in the individual rather than a systemic fault. The ensuing nannyish approach to “fix” the individual that JobPath represents, destroys all sense of initiative in the individual and, by extension, destroys grassroots entrepreneurial flair. This is why the system that JobPath represents is felt most keenly by creatives, since it amounts to the officially sanctioned destruction of their native creativity.
The idea also institutionalizes an authoritarian and jaded approach to social care that we all hoped had gone out with the Catholic Church’s woeful record in the industrial schools and the Magdalene laundries. It’s difficult not to escape the conclusion that the thinking behind JobPath is predicated on the old thinking that gave rise to those social care tragedies of the past.
The paralyzing effect that this type of destruction of individual autonomy brings about was described by socialist writer Graham Wallas in The Great Society (1914), as arising from what he termed “the insolence of office”, in which the right to creative thought is claimed by the authority, rendering the individual creatively irrelevant, which is pretty much what JobPath amounts to.
What makes JobPath all the more risible is that those who implemented the system appear to know that the system is a false front, providing cover to privatize public systems in order to create potential for private profits. That the price of this money-making venture is the destruction of the creativity of an entire generation is simply, in many ways, a kind of replacement for the old-fashioned manner of sending all the young men off to kill, one another. The new way is arguably more civilized, but the cancelling of individuals is very similar.
That this should be happening at a time when the country needs all the ideas and innovation it can come up with, may come to be seen eventually as a national tragedy, a retrograde step back into the dysfunctional “comfort zones” of oppressive practices handed down by the twin oppressors of Church and Empire. Lessons that amounted in the end to the widespread cultivation of learned helplessness.
But this is exactly what JobPath is re-propagating, the idea that Irish people need to be told what to do, and for similar Toryite reasons as those being engineered across the pond.
But here, we all stand equal. That’s the difference, protected by a Constitution to have equal say in the shaping of this republic. That’s what those skirmishes were about one hundred years ago. The right to self-assertion. It was a battle that we won. We are the envy of Scotland in particular, who still labour under that English Conservative yoke that the Tories represent and whose ideas Fine Gael are now using.
This is why it is important for those still in jobs to look beyond the carefully groomed prejudices against the poor being pedaled by Mr Varadkar in particular, and to reject the wasteful and destructive initiatives such as JobPath which are, in reality, only fronts for privatization.
Do workers in the public services really believe that when the dust settles and their jobs are being replicated by private companies, that they will be kept on in their comfortable public service offices? They need to think again. This entire drive is about rooting them out too, and cutting services, with a view to maximizing profits for private interests with greedy eyes on our relatively healthy public purse.