24 October 2007

Two kinds of "help"

In the Daily Mail of 24 October 2007, the downtrodden husband in one of the strip cartoons, who represents the formerly centralised male head of the household, querulous at the changes in modern society, finds his wife entertaining a social worker, and says that his generation had no need of social workers. If neighbours were in difficulties, he was always there to lend a hand himself. His wife protests that he has never helped anybody, and he quotes one occasion when he boiled water for an old lady whose kettle had broken down.

Yes, it is true that people probably did not help one another very much, and probably do so even less now that everyone is supposed to be able to get all they ‘need’ from the State.

But then, how much help of that useful, practical kind that people really want to have is provided by social workers? I am under the impression that this is not what social workers think they are there for. They are paid by money taken from tax-payers (thus reducing the amount of freedom available to individuals) in order to reduce people’s freedom still further by assessing whether they are thinking and acting in accordance with the prevailing ideology. If not, perhaps they should be forced to attend parenting classes, have their children taken away from them, or be put in prison for failing to force them to attend school. These are all ways of reducing the freedom of individuals to do what they think is good for them, or in their interests. Doing something for them that they wanted done, such as housework, would have the opposite effect.

It may be true that people did not do as much as they might have done to help one another in practical ways, but it is certainly not the case that the great proliferation of social workers is filling in the massive deficit that there may have been, and may still be, in help of a really useful kind.

The ‘help’ provided by social workers is a different kind of thing altogether.