Sunday, March 28, 2010

What's a Hard Working Family anyway?

I caught a fragment of an interview with Bob Crow where he was saying his union's actions would try to minimize any disruption to the holiday plans of "hard working families". This invocation of the HWF, as it shall henceforth be known, is now one of the most frequently-heard dog whistles of contemporary politics. Apart from the amusing picture it inevitably summons of an extended family taking part in an Amish barn raising or a clan of shoe-making elves whose tiny cottage fairly trembles to the sound of their frantic industry, it raises the question "who is he actually talking about?" You can only assume, as you are no doubt meant to assume, that he is talking about you and not everybody else.

It's all a nonsense, of course, designed to get us on side with whatever plan the speaker is shilling for. Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot did a lot of talking about Hard Working Families. It was their hope that you would cheer the Hard Working Families just as you would revile anyone who wasn't HWF. You are a member of a hard working family. They are a feckless bunch of spongers. And that other lot are a bunch of leeches living off ill-gotten gains. The truth is that difficulties, whether they're little local ones or major catastrophes, are equally inconvenient for all of us. Time and chance are no respecters of whether we're Hard Working Families or not. The rain falls on everyone, Bob.


  1. "Hard working families" - it's one of those adjectival cliches beloved of journalism and politics. See also "devout Catholic", "close-knit mining community", "innocent bystander".

  2. This morning my brother has yet to emerge from his bedroom.

    My father is in the garden where he has spent the last few minutes standing stock still, apparently contemplating a sprig of daffodils that have erupted from one of the flower beds. Either he is drinking in the beauty of early Spring, or he's experiencing a flashback to a particularly awful Saint David's Day. I have been arsing about on the Lamebook website, cackling over the stupid things that people write on their facebook profiles.

    The only person doing anything even moderately productive is my mother, who earlier today was preparing the next cycle of pocket money for her two Grandchildren. This entails stuffing small denomination coins into tiny envelopes which she adorns with stickers and motivational slogans.

    Are we a hard-working family? And if we are now, was that still the case this time last year when I was unemployed and claiming benefit?

    I think we're just a typical group of people united by blood ties, who have learned to live with each other's sometimes painful idiosyncrasies. We don't have quarterly meetings to discuss productivity and implement efficiency programs. Our relationship isn't something that can be quantified or even broadly qualified.

  3. That phrase has always riled me,especially as I'm eagerly awaiting the politician who tries to lure 'Hardworking, single, childless people who pay more than their fair share, and get very little back bar a 20% Council Tax discount'.

  4. A quick search of Hansard online reveals that this phrase was first used in Parliament during a 1915 debate on increasing taxes on tea. However, the speaker also frequently referred to "the poorer classes" and "the working class", who don't seem to rate much of a mention in Parliament these days.

  5. I've always loved the phrase "motorists", who I believe refers people who drive cars, but the fact of which means a great deal to them.

  6. Michael is closest to the answer. The key word is "working". Crow means "working class". Crow wants to suggest that, as members of the working class striking against the ruling class, it is unfortunate if other working class members suffer as a consequence.

  7. The Republicans in the US were especially guilty of this demographic lumping by consistently proclaiming that "the American people" didn't want the health care bill proposed by Pres. Obama.

    I would always think to myself, "Huh. Nobody asked me."

  8. Speaking of GreenMan's "adjectival cliches", the often spot-on Onion website sells t-shirts that clearly mark you as the most anonymous of newspaper protagonists, an "Area Man":,116/