The belief that everyone can be persuaded by argument to behave well is, I
suppose, a corollary of the notion that no man does wrong knowingly. The task
of the moralist, then, is to get people to understand the true nature of their
conduct, to educate them; and once this is done, the reprehensible conduct will
cease by itself.
This is an optimistic theory, and like all optimism is unfounded. Men not only do
wrong knowingly, but often do wrong because they know it is wrong. Of course,
every false theory is an employment opportunity for someone. The truth might
set you free, but it will also sometimes make you unemployed. And
unemployment is more to be feared than is freedom to be welcomed.
Recently I attended our annual town meeting. The senior policeman in charge of
our area was there to take public questions. He was very smooth, and might just
as well have been a mildly evangelical vicar as a policeman. One of the
townspeople asked him about periodical nuisance in the town, namely the
descent upon it of hundreds of motorcyclists who gather garbed in black leather
at a disgusting café a few miles out of town, and arrive like a swarm of African
killer bees, their machines making a sound like angry hymenopterans of
Was it an offence to make such a noise, asked the townsman?
‘No,’ replied the vicar-policeman.
If he had left it at that, we should all have been satisfied with the knowledge that
in order to do something about it, if we felt sufficiently moved to do anything at
all, we should have to lobby parliament. However, the vicar-policeman
(presumably his boss was a canon-policeman, or even a bishop-policeman)
‘We are working with the bikers to educate them about the noise they make. We
send an officer to the café on the weekends when they meet there.’
This infuriated me. Talk about wasting police time! It was grossly disparaging of
us to imagine that we should be impressed by such evident absurdity, and
condescending to the bikers themselves to suppose that they were unaware that
the revving of their engines made a noise fit to bring down the walls of our town.
They did not make the noise because they were unaware of it, they made the
noise because they liked it. The pretence that ignorance was the heart of the
problem (the vicar-policeman was far from stupid) gave his force an excuse to
engage on pseudowork, so much easier and less wearing to perform than real
See Working With – A definition (the text below is from the page that this linked to)
‘Working with’ ‘To fatally undermine another’s work, project or
Editor Myles Harris adds his definition of this vital management tool.
A politician who announces he is working with a colleague means he is
either just about to sack him – or he is about to be sacked himself. The
statement ‘I am happy to work with Mr X in my cabinet’ means ‘either he
goes or I go, but he is the one who will be going’.
‘Work’ used to be one of the most respectable words in the English
dictionary, but it has spent the past decade slumming it in the world of
psychobabble. Seduced from its original meaning of Newtonian work –
the energy required to move a physical object from one place to another –
it now means the energy required to dredge up emotions; diffuse,
unfocused, hysterical and exhausting.
To work with somebody is to work upon his emotions, to force him to
make irrational decisions based on his feelings rather than the facts. This
makes him feel inadequate, helpless and unable to proceed.
It is also a form of female bullying much favoured in the new gynocratic
offices. The same technique is used by mothers when they bend down to
correct the behaviour of a naughty toddler. ‘Look at me directly Toby
when I am talking to you.’ The very act of being forced to look at your
questioner brings on a feeling of guilt. In modern management, mothers’
questions are re-placed with ‘personal development pIans’. These are
humiliating diaries in which victims are forced to keep a daily record of
their failings and intentions to reform. Personal development plans create
a sense of self loathing so severe that very few can bear to open them
after a few weeks. They can then be sacked.
By working with male colleagues, ambitious young women can rise very
rapidly in an organization. lt allows them to take over projects, poach
ideas and eliminate threatening innovations. The difficulty arises when,
having cleared the office of males, they try to work with each other. Work
with is also replacing that threadbare euphemism, ‘helping the police with
their enquiries’. If somebody offers to work with you, flee.