The more I go for job interviews, the more I realise how inadequate the whole recruitment system is. All they get is a CV, a begging letter; two, maybe three interviews, and a couple of statements from people who are being shoe-horned by generic conventions into writing nice things. Experience in marketing layout design, a flare for advert-writing and acting, a few meticulously cultivated contacts, and a certain lack of integrity, might be all it actually takes to persuade someone to give a person a job. It beggars belief. It’s no wonder so many employers insist on a probationary period. Some jobs last longer than some marriages – and given the choice, I wouldn’t dream of marrying someone on the strength of a few dates, the recommendation of some carefully chosen cronies and a load of marketing material whose persuasiveness depends on the applicant’s talent for creative writing and advert design. The burning questions are, ‘how do employers choose good employees’ and ‘how do you prove what you are with integrity?’ Well, I just don’t know. Maybe just take someone from a professional or educational network that’s reputed, or someone who’s already highly reputed in the business, or a friend of a friend, or – to be on the really safe side – a friend you know and trust already.
I affirm popular opinion when I say that I think the ‘Old Boys’ Network’ thing, or at least what I understand of it, is unfair (although maybe not quite for the same reasons as some public opinion-holders). But if you’re picking your next Cabinet Secretary – let’s try and place ourselves in the shoes of these swells for a minute – then you have to go on something better than the standard system we’ve got going at the moment.
So… what? Where do I go now? Do I end this as a hate rant against the government, or as a piece of propaganda legitimizing social injustices? Am I angry? Am I content? Do I leave this post and my reader with a bitter/sweet taste in their mouth, or a renewed sense of anger at having wasted time on yet another activist-bashing, naively optimistic yes-woman? Well, none of these things are really what I want to happen. I don’t really want to attack what we have. I don’t really want to defend it, either. If I’m honest, I just want to come to terms with it. I think you can care about the whole of a thing whilst disliking the specifics. You don’t need a reason to care about your country. The recruitment methods are bad, postgraduate degree-holders at the prime of their lives are unemployed, and the politicians give all their jobs to their friends. But hey, it’s still Britain, isn’t it? You can still feel a certain sort of affection for it whilst accepting that it’s in a pretty awful state. Like G.K. Chesterton said in his book Orthodoxy:
The man who is most likely to ruin the place he loves is exactly the man who loves it with a reason. The man who will improve the place is the man who loves it without a reason. If a man loves some feature of Pimlico (which seems unlikely), he may find himself defending that feature against Pimlico itself. But if he simply loves Pimlico itself, he may lay it waste and turn it into the New Jerusalem.
I suppose that sort of makes me a jobless patriot without a cause. My country is pretty messed up. No way could it merit my affection, if my affection for it were based on its merits. But then, arguably, no true loves are based on merit. Family bonds hold together, if not because of genuine enchantment of the family members with each other’s goodness, thoughtfulness or generosity, then at least because, as they say, ‘blood runs thicker than water’. You tolerate the family pet at the worst of times because at the very least, they’ve become too much of a fixture in your life for you not to care about them. The strong, long-suffering love of women for their husbands that G.K. Chesterton describes is a further case in point:
The same women who are ready to defend their men through thick and thin are (in their personal intercourse with the man) almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head. A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else.
The above might raise a knowing chuckle, but I acknowledge it to be a mere type of the love of God for his faithful. This is the God of Jesus Christ who adopted me as his own daughter before I knew how not to be repugnant to his holiness for all my sins, and washed them away in his own blood; the God who lays my flesh waste every day of my spiritual journey to conform me to the pattern of his likeness, and keeps on forgiving me for my many failures along the way even after I ought to have known better, and convicts me of my sin. This is the love of a patriot without a cause; this is the love of someone who will destroy the thing they love, along with everything within it that had a façade of goodness about it, to restore and refurbish it wholly from the ground, upwards. Such a lover will never be content with a botch-job; in his demolishing and rebuilding, he is no cowboy contractor: he’ll do the job properly, and the work will last forever and a day. When all’s said and done, if I’m going to lay my country waste, it’s (God willing) not going to be primarily because I might disagree, for instance, with the way our Cabinet Secretaries get recruited. It wouldn’t make a difference whether the British government paid me 56-pound-something per week and provided a work experience placement on that rate with fully-paid travel expenses while I hunt for employment, or whether it cut the housing benefit of some poor disabled person who can’t work and is struggling to pay the rent because they happen to have an unused bedroom in their home. I just care about my country because it’s mine, and I’d love to lay it waste and turn it into the New Jerusalem some day, even if I still relied on my Jobseekers’ Allowance by then and had to lay that waste along with it. At least, I hope I would. It’s a strength of character and faith that I wish I possessed.
And that’s where I’m going to have to rest my unfinished, mildly-contradictory, no-ends-tied case for now.