Is progress all it’s cracked up to be?

Somebody asked me the other day if there was anything in the past that we do not have now and would like to come back. And the answer is, yes. Caring.

When I first went to work for the then Reckitt & Colman in Hull as their R&D Information Manager, it was my first experience of working for a company that had been formed by Quakers. I know it is easy to decry Victorian values and we hear newspapers trumpet that this political party or that political party will take us back to Victorian times. But not all things Victorian were bad and there were many employers who, yes, went into business to make a profit, but also gave their workers a good standard of living. The Reckitt family in Hull, Titus Salt in Bradford, Cadbury in Birmingham, Terry’s and Rowntree in York, to name but a few.

Reckitt built the Garden Village in East Hull, Lever Bros built Port Sunlight. Good quality housing for their employees with sizeable gardens to grow produce. The other Quaker employers did the same. There was a swimming pool for the employees on the Reckitt site, a bank so nobody had to give up their lunch hour to traipse into the city centre, healthcare and even a visiting chiropodist. A squash court, dance hall, snooker tables. The bosses worked out early that happy healthy employees meant a happy workforce, which meant high production and less sickness.

How different today when employees are regarded as commodities to use, burn out and chuck away all in the name of profit. How many burned-out marketers do we see? Everybody is fed the mantra ‘do more with less’. Sickness is looked on as a weakness. The person who stays at his/her desk until they are hollow-eyed with exhaustion is held up as an example. Employers don’t care if their staff work themselves to death. This is happening all over the world.

More tragically, this attitude is seeping into all aspects of life. People who are ill and/or cannot get work are derided for using foodbanks. Foodbanks!! We need foodbanks in the 21st century and all through governmental and corporate greed and a lack of care.

I still believe those who care outnumber those who don’t. I have to believe that, otherwise what do we have to look forward to? There are still many people, frequently those who don’t have many surplus pennies, who will add extra items to their weekly shopping trolley to put into the cardboard boxes most supermarkets now put out, destined for foodbanks.

And the most tragic thing of all? It’s going to be a long long time until the circle turns and we get back to caring and when we do, I think it might just be too late.

Laid in Earth cover copy                         AK1 copy

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