I cannot really go into details, but today a colleague of mine, a good guy, a nice guy, was subjected to disgusting treatment by our employers in respect of a very minor, and in the circumstances very understandable, breach of staff discipline.
The two people who had been delegated to perform the task are also good guys, and they both looked extremely uncomfortable wielding the hatchet.
The incident can only be described as arising from diffidence towards the suffering of fellow humans.
It is not only the naturally diffident who walk upon the other side when they see another individual in distress - I seem to possess the kind of face which invites every beggar to approach it, as if I were wearing a neon sign on my forehead bearing the legend 'Sucker!' I have reached the stage of charity where I just prefer my beggars to be honest - if they're wanting to buy a drink I would prefer if they just say so, rather than going through the song-and-dance routines about needing to raise the bus fare to get to the Hamish Allan Centre. If an alcoholic needs a drink he needs a drink, and any moral qualms about giving him money to buy drink are quashed when someone for whom drink is life, not a way of life, asks for assistance.
But the diffidence to which my friend was subjected today was a kind of corporate bullying that could only be carried out in a working environment where the employers know damn well that the staff need the jobs, the kind of workplace where statistics are collated on every second of a person's day, where people pulled up for being a minute late back from their breaks, and where new and generally more oppressive personnel rules are introduced all the time.
In other words, the kind of environment that needs people in order to succeed but which goes out of its way to let them know they don't matter.
More and more of working life in the UK is like that now. Prior to Thatcher, people used to form strange things called 'friendships' with workmates, people with whom they would work for 20, 30, 40 years. I quit legal practice seven years ago this coming Sunday - in that interval I have had ten jobs, ranging in duration from one year down to four days. Although I suppose I'm a classic example of the 'flexible labour market' that we're all supposed to celebrate, seven years later I'm still in jobs where the next call I take could be my last. I have lost count of the number of people with whom I have formed nodding acquaintances over the years - indeed, I have one colleague with whom I have worked in three different call-centres.
The diffidence of corporations is perhaps to be expected, after all, they serve no purpose but to make money by fair means or foul. But the diffidence of politicians is more serious. Glasgow has decayed from being the 'Second City of the Empire' into the UK's call-centre capital, and its people are no better off, in fact are much, much worse off. That is a change for the worse that was allowed to happen, indeed a case could be made that it was forced to happen. And one seriously hopes that the diffidence she displayed to all those who only aspired to hold jobs, not become entrepeneurs; to all those who may have felt other vocations than to make money; to all those who might not possess the psychopathic monomania required to run FT 100 corporations or become Conservative MP's; one hopes that reflecting on the consequences of all that diffidence keeps Margaret, Baroness Thatcher, the Mother of the Nation, wide awake at night.