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The Case For Working With Your Hands... by Matthew Crawford


You know those books where, prior to reading them under the weight of readerly guilt for having to this point completely neglected them, you had avoided them as you expect, once the plunge has been taken and cover opened, to be confronted by a whimsical piece of nonsense, written whilst whiling away a few hours between gloating about how wonderful your life is to your dwindling stock of friends and sleeping with your ridiculously good-looking wife who also makes the world’s greatest vegan curry, and destined to annoy the shit out of you because you had the vain hope that maybe just this once it would be worthwhile and life-changing but are fully expecting to be seriously disappointed? That.

Sorry, did I just utilise a Twitter device?

A condemnation of my life.
Well, “That” in this case would be a gigantic fucking* lie. This book, scholarly in a slightly biased fashion, anecdotal in an entertaining and endearing manner, so so very interesting in a “Jesus Hindu Krishna I’ve wasted my life” sort-of-way, is the antithesis of those vapid arse-wipers. God damn it all to Hell if only I had access to this sort of advice when I rather short-sightedly decided that Law was the path to the most riches with the least amount of effort pre-GCSE choice, aged 13**. What Crawford manages, in a manner on reflection which is somewhat preachy, is to give sufficient evidence, calling on sources ancient, old, modern and post-modern, to prove (to me anyway, with my penchant for idleness) conclusively that work without a product is not work – it is containment.

Why else would someone like B&Q advertise with a slogan that presupposes pride in a job done, not necessarily well, but at least by oneself if not because effort for an end product, a tactile, every-fucker-can-see-it product that illustrates just how fucking hard you’ve had to work to get there? Information Management is just so much shit. Bertrand Russell said the definition of “work” (and I think he meant this pejoratively) was twofold: “first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so.” Judging from this I would say he is of a similar position to Crawford, in so far as if your job fulfils the natural role in your life of producing something that makes you proud, that you can experience as a product of your labours, or that other people can enjoy and relate that enjoyment to you, then it does not count as work.

Oh fuck – if only I had been told all of this when I was a stupid, ignorant little dipshit by someone other than my mum, who, bless her, did tell me that a trade would always be in demand and that I should take up plumbing. At that tender age the spectre of rooting around in soil pipes was so abhorrent to me that the door closed forever (or nearly forever). Where would my life be now? I suspect that I would be living in a carved mahogany mansion overlooking the city I had built from the ground up with my bare hands, with grateful citizenry depositing offerings of fruit, bread and sexy young daughters at my doors daily.

All this distracting expostulating  with the way my life has turned out, at least on the work front, should not take away from the fact that this is a good book. Not brilliantly written, not easy to read (at first), and probably not well footnoted enough to pass as someone’s doctoral thesis, but very much an argument for a way of life that is so appealing to me that I have already stopped working very hard in my role as an administrator.

Anyone who raised an eyebrow just then, can leave now.

*A pre-emptive apology for all the swearing would normally appear here, but fuck you.

**In an aside worthy of getting myself a spousal kicking for my habitual “blame the fuck out of everyone except myself” whinging, I blame it on my parents’ obsession with L.A. Law.


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