Stefan Stern has kindly shared an opinion piece he’s written in the Guardian, which I like very much. You can read it for free here (thanks to the Guardian’s enlightened sharing policy)
Five years ago, Stella and I moved back into the centre of London so we could walk to work and avoid tubes and trains. Ironically, affluent people like us don’t have to worry about going to work. Stella’s employer has told her it doesn’t intend her to go to her office this year.
But Stefan’s point is that the choices available to Stella and me, aren’t available to most London Commuters , for whom cycling and walking aren’t practical. I did actually commute to the City from Windsor by bike for a few yers and good luck to you if you are as fit as I was then – I certainly couldn’t do it now. I applaud the City of London’s move to ban cars from large parts of the City so that pedestrians and cyclists can find it easier to get safely to their offices (existing pavements and cycle lanes aren’t wide enough to cope).
For all that employers aren’t going to risk their high-paid workers to exposure to COVID-19 on public transport – which is why home-working for the “haves’ will continue and why the “have nots” will face the trauma of the tube
It’s not just bosses who won’t do it.
But people who are not furloughed and need to pay their bills will travel into London tomorrow on a crowded bus or tube or rail-carriage and they will be putting at risk more than R<1. They’ll be risking themselves and their fellow passengers.
Do we work in the bullshit economy?
Another Guardian writer, Larry Elliott, is less gentle than Stefan Stern, Back in 2007 he lambasted new labour’s knowledge economy and re-christened it the “bullshit economy”
The essence of successful bullshit is that the really top-notch exponents not only manage to convince others but also manage to delude themselves. Some explanation has to be provided for Britain’s increasingly lopsided economy, dominated as it is by those not-so-heavenly twins, the City of London and the housing market.
These comments were not just Pre Covid but pre financial crisis. They are echoed by Stefan
Work is a practical matter that involves completing tasks and meeting needs. That is one of the lessons of the past few weeks. We have taken too many people in the workforce for granted for too long, while our leaders have loftily declared economic triumph.
It is not good enough for those of us who in our ‘heavenly” houses and top City and Westminster jobs to order people off Furlough and into the offices. It is up to us to make work safe and that means finding new ways to work- even if work is in our kitchen.
For those who have to travel, we must make it as safe as it can be, as Stefan concludes
General Omar Bradley, commander of US forces at the D-Day landings, said: “Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics.” The logistics of getting safely to and from work should be what concerns us all now.
For those of us who get paid to carry umbrellas so that bosses don’t get wet – we should be asking can we find ways to get things done.
For those of us who employ the umbrella-holders, can we really call ourselves leaders?
We need to think again about what defines “essential work” and ask ourselves if we are doing it. If we cannot answer that question, we may well be in the mire – in the bullshit economy..