Saturday, 26 May 2012

The only jobs worthy of respect - according to W.H Auden


From an essay by WH Auden in I Believe: the personal philosophies of twenty-three eminent men and women of our time. London: Allen & Unwin 1941.

The only jobs known to me which seem worthy of respect, both from the point of view of the individual and society, are being a creative artist, some kind of highly skilled craftsman, a research scientist, a doctor, a teacher, or a farmer.


This discusses a big problem for many people - I mean the problem of trying to find and work-in 'a job worthy of respect from the point of view of the individual and society'.

As a mid-teen the above passage by WH Auden made a big impact on me, since I was thinking about jobs. I agreed with the above list, more or less, at the time I read it - these were worthwhile jobs, others were not.

But now...

1. Creative artists. Not even trying, highly professionalized ugliness-makers.

2. Highly skilled craftsman. As a hobby, yes; but as a job?

3. A research scientist. A docile and dishonest bureaucrat.

4. A doctor. Dying species, salesman for Big Pharma.

5. A teacher. State propagandist?

6. A farmer. A subsidy-farmer.


My point is that all of these few jobs which used to be 'worthy of respect' have been thoroughly infiltrated by the state, bureaucritized, made into cogs in a machinery that does harm. It has become, ahem, a challenge to do respectworthy work in any of the above categories.

This means that nearly everybody is doing work which is not worthy of respect.

(And of those who imagine they do, then this is a delusion or dishonesty.)

Which means that (being honest and clear-headed) we all are beavering away busily at despicable activities which tend to make things worse...

And the situation seems inescapable.