I wrote this a while ago on the subject of dependence (oh, and excuse the loose use of economic concepts in this post – I didn’t fully understand the complexity of the terminology at the time):
It’s a truism to say our political system is anything but conciliatory. And so it is I am minded – in these strife-ridden times – to argue that important concepts which might otherwise liberate are being lost to such strife.
One example, which I bring to this post from my teaching experience, involves providing the right environment to encourage students to become independent learners. This, in such experience, is not always an easy task. There are many language students out there who are looking for the continued emotional support of the teacher. You may provide them with the materials and content which a modicum of self-learning would serve to multiply by a thousandfold their progress – but no, they will insist on leaving most of the work to the classroom and the teacher.
Or they prefer to spend years in the company of the same teacher, using such learning to act out social instead of training needs.
Good teachers should, however, be like good dentists: so good at what they do that they do themselves out of a job. And yet it doesn’t seem to work like that. People often don’t want – or don’t know how – to be independent.
I then went on to argue:
So now I’m going to make myself unpopular. Let it first be understood I am entirely on the side of those who would remove through democratic means all vestiges of this Coalition government. It would, however, be remiss of me not to argue – as I have already mentioned above – that some potential good is being lost to the blunt battlecries of our current crop of politicians.
They demonise benefit fraud; they look to remove disability and incapacity allowances; they blame the unemployed for not finding jobs when jobs are not to be found. And yet, if given a different slant, all these ideas could be grounded in positivity. For example: benefits are good as amelioration strategies for short-term distress but should not create a social environment of dependence as has often happened. Supportive alternatives (and the word here is “supportive”) should kick in as soon as they can with the objective of ensuring people remain as proactive and independent as possible.
And what about blaming the unemployed for not being able to find those non-existent jobs? It’s the wrong tactic all round. We should be encouraging – not rhetorically but practically – as many people as possible to want to strike out into an economy of the proactive.
Business should not be a fearful beast but something people find absolutely fascinating.
And yet whilst our large monopolistic corporations supply our consumer fantasies with the gadgets and prices the latter dream of, the former can only distort and make so unfairly competitive the free-market economies which supposedly populate Western society.
No wonder the unemployed don’t want to set up new companies. If their customers won’t pay and the wider economic prospects are so grim, who on earth would choose to be an independent worker in times like this?
Only to conclude that:
Big corporations love us to become dependent on their products and services.
Big politicians love us to become independent of the state.
We can have one or the other – but it’s going to be mighty difficult to juggle both behaviours at the same time.
In a successive post, I went even further:
A quotation attributed to Ralph Nader came my way this morning which made me think that perhaps the answer is to be found somewhere here. It goes as follows:
“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nader #business #leadership
As far as I can see, Cameron & Co understand quite the contrary. And it’s absolutely clear that they don’t want to remove the dependency culture at all.
Instead, what they really want to do is transfer our sense of dependency from the state to their private sector buddies.
Not change us at all, then – just rearrange the furniture for the benefit of their deep-pocketed sponsors and bosom business pals.
Leadership? You gotta be joking. The Coalition know as much about the true tenets of leadership as did the Pied Piper of Hamelin. They don’t want to amplify our initiative – they just want our docile consumer complicity.
And that’s a really long way from encouraging independence of action.
Finally, some time around the middle of last year, I suggested:
Of course, in a very great sense, big business encourages its participants, customers and employees to be as dependent on its services as possible. They’re not looking in the least to create independent – that is to say, disloyal – subjects who pick and choose as the fancy takes them in an unpredictable and dangerously freedom-loving way; or who might either switch brands or even set up their own competing ones. The very dependency culture which people like Iain Duncan Smith criticise in the public sector and Welfare State mindsets is – quite paradoxically – promoted aggressively and actively in that private one I describe above.
Working as an employee for a large corporation is to be cocooned in an environment where every few months little rewards come along to make you give up on the idea of spreading your wings; of leaving your safe and secure little role; of moving out of that comfort zone. Buying as an end-user from a large corporation is to be cocooned in an environment where spreading similar wings to other providers is either dangerous or uncool; either risky or unwise; a choice the advertising messages pumped out daily encourage you to believe can’t exist.
Big business is as (perhaps corruptingly) effective at deliberately creating a dependency culture as the public sector and the Welfare State could ever be accused of.
With the single proviso that the Welfare State doesn’t seem to do it intentionally, whilst big business most definitely does.
And so to my main question – and the reason behind this post: big business – or at least banking big business (which is where my experience of such organisations lies) – is a web of dependent relationships. Now I’m not saying this is necessarily bad – for myself, as an employee, and at a particular moment in my life, it actually proved very positive. But if we can see in the private sector positives to be taken from such a set of relationships, why do we argue that in the public sector and the Welfare State the same cannot apply?
To (quite reasonably I think) conclude:
Why is it good to be dependent in the private sector but not in the public?
Why is dependency only to be contemplated as permissible by those who run transnational organisations?
And what does this mean for the morality of those who create such empires; their behaviours and attitudes; and, indeed, the wider ability of society to generate the entrepreneurial spirit that creates new economies?
In these three pieces, then, we can see how a reasonably thinking person like myself has tracked and reacted over the past two years to the unthought-through analyses of the processes at work here: no real end-to-end comprehension of what we might want to do from scratch; no real desire to assess the totality of what might be fairest; no intention at all to aim for a perfect world; no wish to leap out of a most unpleasant real world.
Instead, just tinkering around the edges. And, finally, blaming the Welfare State for using the same tools of outright dependency that Big Business has used all along.
The only difference being that whilst they claim the Welfare State leeches off the real economy, in truth with all their externalisations, their tax avoidance and evasion and their pretty widespread living-off the state and all its works, those who really live out this dependency fantasy are the sponsors of political parties everywhere: the transnational institutions which provide so many of our Western democratic experiences.
It’s time we did something about it. And fast.
As I say in my first piece linked to right at the top of today’s post:
From independent learners, then, to independent workforces, we most definitely have a challenge here as we attempt to convince people otherwise. And where we can most definitely criticise the Coalition is in the prejudices which underlie the anti-dependence rhetoric they have used: they need go no further than their nearest language class to understand that the instinct to dependence is far broader and more widely shared throughout all levels of society than they might think.
Maybe an instinct so very broad and shared we should begin to consider capitalising on it – instead of demonising it cruelly as we are! After all, as all sensible entrepreneurs will tell you: “Where there’s a resource, there should be a way of taking advantage of it.”
So why should only the corporates be allowed to make full use of dependency? Do please answer me that …