23/02/13 What’s the best bit of kit you own?

Have you ever looked at an ants nest thinking ‘Coo-er, what impressive cooperation, administration, altruism, architecture and all round shary-cariness there is to be found in these subterranean cities…?’

One of my favourite facts is that a nest of 40 thousand of these social insects has roughly the same amount of brain cells as the average human.

The thing I like about your average bunch/ flock/ army of ants is that they seem to get the maximum bang for their limited bucks.

Small insects – small brains but wonderfully complex civilisations.

From what I can establish, the most capacious iPod can hold a massive 180 gigabytes of data, and home computers with memories of 32 gigabytes are seen as pretty impressive.

Yes, I know, I’m getting into the realms of blah blah blah techy shite – but bear with me…

In 2007 a team at the University of Southern California calculated that if we added up all the digitally stored information in the world at that time it would come to 256 exobytes – which is a great big number that only mathematicians would be conversant in.

So what Chris? Get to the point or so help me I’ll…

Huge though this number is, it comes to less than 1% of the data stored in all the DNA molecules of your average wo/man in the street.

The human brain on it’s own is also staggeringly impressive – it holds, on average, 2.5 petabytes (that’s 2 and a half million gigabytes) of information – put in simple terms, that’s enough storage to hold 300 million hours of TV shows, which is slightly over 300 years of non-stop happy viewing.

Don’t even get me started on how far ahead we are of robots and other seemingly fancy bits of technology.

YOU are by far the greatest thing you’ll ever own.

So what is our society doing with these wonderful bits of kit?

The breathtaking under utilisation of us is, to my calculations like using a top of the range Apple Mac as a hammer to break nuts.

From when we are born we are squeezed, cajoled and otherwise forced into boxes of underachievement and containment.

From a very early age we are told we’re not smart enough, strong enough, committed enough to be what we’d like to be…

That luxury of realising our full potential is limited to a few – the wealthy – the privileged and the fortunate.

Don’t be lured into the trap of thinking we live in a meritocracy – that’s a myth pedalled by the fortunate millionaires in our cabinet – wealthy types whose parents could afford to support them through unpaid internships – whose wealth could get them into the best schools – the best universities and the best jobs.

We are all brilliant!

How else could we have members of the Royal Family flying helicopters? Surely that goes to show that, given the right conditions, any one of us could blossom and grow.

It’s that same equal opportunity meritocratic claptrap that has lead us to believe that it’s the collective fault of the unemployed for their current status.

Such a belief allows us to punish them for their laziness/ lack of application/ stupidity/ lack of ambition…

That means we can put 160 thousand folk on workfare – they can work full time for up to a year, filling shelves for up to £56.25 a week – or £1.52 an hour – it’s only fair that they work for their benefits.

Companies, as you can imagine, fell over themselves to er…employ (?) folk under these conditions.

The recent case of Cait Reilly the geology graduate who was gaining valuable experience volunteering at her local museum only to be told that she had to fill shelves at Poundland is a case in point. She refused this free transfer and had her benefits stopped as a result – she was called a job snob by Iain Duncan Smith – the secretary for work and pensions.

She took her case to court and won – unfortunately IDS has not finished with her or the rest of the unemployed shirkers. He is changing legislation so that the department for work and pensions can, once again, feel in complete control.

Legislate in haste – repent at leisure – watch this space.

The culture of shirkers and strivers allows us to ostracise folk for no reason other than their unemployment.

Recently, the case of the single parent with 11 children hit the headlines – it was reported by some that this was a typical benefits in the UK case.


I worked as a social worker for 20 years and, more recently, have rubbed shoulders with a large number of unemployed and disabled folk on benefits.

All of these people wanted to make some kind of meaningful contribution to society.

Tough love is not what they need. Some half-baked notion of what’s best for the masses sold by our great leaders from their ivory towers is so wide of the mark as to be hysterical.

Why not approach the great unwashed and ASK THEM what would be their best route into meaningful work?

Here’s a clue – don’t threaten them – don’t stop their benefits as soon as they look like they’re dipping their toe in the employment market – is that so crazy? It’ll be far cheaper than paying a variety of overpriced consultancy and ‘we promise to get folk back into work’ firms – especially since government statistics show that people with no help are more likely to get a job than those helped by these agencies.

Use joined up working so that all agencies involved with an individuals future – DWP – employers – purveyors if fine education – health professionals work with the person to enable them to achieve their potential.

That would be a good start – there’s a long way to go.

As long as we keep alienating our wonderful, beautiful and potential full people things won’t change.

Walk a Mile


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