In six minutes on Wednesaday Amanda Gorman became unemployable.
A 22 year old who mesmerised people of every age with fluency, passion and quiet dignity. She set the grounds for determining her own future by inspiring others. On her own. Nobody else wrote her script. She set her own terms.
Whilst nothing of course is ever guaranteed, if ever she needed employment, to work on the direction of somebody else, I’m sure there would be queues wanting to employ her. I think that’s unlikely though – if ever there was a person with a clear sense of direction, it’s Amanda,
Much of the narrative during the inauguration yesterday concerned healing division, and part of that was the topic of restoring the middle class through the creation of secure jobs. The end is laudable, although the means opens up an interesting debate. In a time of chronic instability, just how do we create secure jobs?
One route would be for organisations to prioritise their workforce over their shareholders, take a medium term view of prosperity, and include community as a critical stakeholder. Perhaps reinforce that through tax incentives. However, with a business culture that sees employees as safety valves, and that paradign built into everything from the way that management accounts are presented, to the teaching of business schools, that might be a very long wait.
Maybe there’s a role for unions. They however are in many respects the shadow side of shareholders, with their own agendas, power structures and politics together with a history of conflict based negotiation. Employees still remain passengers, dependent on others to determine their future.
Or there’s the Amanda route. The most challenging, but the most secure. Move beyond dependence on employers to being attractive to them as clients. We are all born with gifts, and given a lifetime to work them out. Our individual gifts are like a jigsaw – some pieces bigger than others, but all a necessary part of a whole, and that whole far bigger than even the largest organisation.
We all have a place. Amanda may turn out to be one of the corner pieces, and that’s fine. Our gifts are not a competition, it is a question of finding that piece of the picture where we fit, where nobody else quite does. If we understand where we fit, we have choices, and choices reduce dependency. Reduced dependency is as good a route to security as any I can think of. It is the route of the Artisan.
This decade and beyond suggests we need to pay more attention to that – for ourselves and others. Those of us who can see some of the bigger picture, through age, or privilege, or experience or all three have a duty to help those setting out. To teach and support, not exploit.
The best route to individual security is not to make employment a choice, not a lifeline. It’s hard, but if we choose to do it, something we can do within a couple of generations. To use the old adage, to plant trees in whose shade we will never sit.
On Wednesday we got an idea of America back, and it’s origins in a combination of self reliance and community. The rhetoric of statehood more than opportunism. Personally I’ve missed it.
We can all learn from it.