Resourceful resources

CybermenOK  – 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

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8 Responses to Resourceful resources

  1. Simon Ensor says:

    Am in UK this week and feel like alien.

  2. AND – have you noticed that the three Brexiteers are the ones who want to privatise education, health, social care and prisons?
    Out of the EU they can hand us over all tied in a pretty bow to the American neoliberals to slice and dice as they will!

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      It’s really, really scary living here at the moment. At least it’s not quite as bad up here as down in England.

  3. scottx5 says:

    This is an extension of the notion of deskilling where managers sort out complications by picking relevant or appropriately enhanced resources. Just began a book on Civil Rights leaders in the US and their secret was to distribute decisions among many people.

    Heard an assessment of Trump’s followers claiming they have no particular agenda, only a generalized anger with the way things are. Without the willingness to investigate HOW they got there, anyone who doesn’t challenge them is their choice. This feels like the end state of the management era where people give up everything and throw their fate to the gods.

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      I think that a lot of the #Brexit folk here are like Trump followers. Angry at austerity, believing the right wing rhetoric about it being the fault of the EU, or immigrants, or just angry. Dark days for all of us.

  4. scottx5 says:

    In the US and Canada people elected politicians on Free Trade platforms promising “access to cheaper goods”. The voters never completed the math to identify that it might be their jobs that would be outsourced because it was always “those over-paid workers” who drove prices up. And now that it turns out to be they themselves were the over-paids, and since this is NOT to be admitted, the new story is now that foreign workers TOOK our jobs away. Always someone to blame, always not you, never to admit that the politicians and their pals suckered you and will now watch you fight each other.

    The good news is a larger number than ever before now see the future on offer is garbage no matter who they blame. It won’t get better until they stop playing the game.

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      It’s so sad that these politicians get to play games like that with us, and that so many folk fall for their rhetoric.

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