OK – fair warning – I am going to rant. I’m sick of Brexit and I’m not sleeping well so I’m not in the best of moods. But there’s something that’s bugging me, and on reflection I don’t think this is trivial matter of wordplay.
I’ve read a few times recently that “there is not the resource to do X”, or “X is possible, but it would take a significant amount of resource to do it”, when actually this is manager speak for “it will take a lot of somebody’s time” or “it would need a lot of people to do it”. But when did we start referring to people as resources? I’m a human being, goddammit – I’m not a sodding resource. Paperclips are resources. Fossil fuels are resources. People are not resources. or, at least, they should not be. I think it signals a fundamental disregard for employees to refer to them as resources, and not as people. People matter – they can think, they can be hurt, they have human rights. You should care about people and, if you are an employer, you should recognise that your employees are human beings – and, goddammit, you should have a personnel department, and not call it “human resources”.
I blame capitalism for most things, and in this case a quick squiz at Wikipedia suggests I am right to do so:
The term “human resource” was subsequently in use during the 1910s and 1920s as was the notion that workers could be seen as a kind of capital asset… One major concern about considering people as assets or resources is that they will be commoditized, objectified and abused. Some analysis suggests that human beings are not “commodities” or “resources”, but are creative and social beings in a productive enterprise. Wikipedia
Exactly so. We should be bloody annoyed about this. And, you know, it’s bad enough that Sports Direct treat their workers as they do, but you kind of expect that universities would at least recognise that employees are worthy of being recognised as people.*
Calling workers “resources” denies us our humanity, our individuality, our creativity. It implies that we are all replaceable – that we do not have talents, that we are not important. It underestimates our ingenuity, our “expertise” … I could go on and on. Maybe I’m noticing it because I work in a humble “services” part of my university, and not in an academic unit, but I suspect that even if that is the case then it’s only a matter of time before it happens in all of academia.**
But most of all, turning us into commodities ignores our resourcefulness. And that takes me back to why I was so annoyed about this earlier. My unit frequently gets requests for Moodle customisations or shiny shiny technologies that would break Moodle, or would not work. And, as I remarked earlier today, if instead of asking us for X, they instead said “We need to do Y, can you help us please”, then we could put our resourceful heads together and find some workable solutions.
So, please, let’s stop seeing any other human being as a resource, and instead celebrate our resourcefulness.
* Don’t get me wrong – I think all workers are due respect and not just those in academia – I just think it’s atrocious that Higher Education does not recognise this.
** Not all, obviously. Those at the top will preserve their pomp and salaries.
flickr photo by Rooners Toy Photography shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license