So we’re lying in bed reading and listening to Radio 4. We are at that place in life where this constitutes a date.
An item comes on the radio telling us about an American performance artist - Laurie Anderson - who has written a piece of music specifically for dogs.
“Is there anything more pointless than music for dogs?” I ask.
“Golf clubs for cats,” replies my wife without looking up, adding: “How do you know you are a performance artist?”
“Same way you know you are a con artist,” I suggest. “After you’ve fooled a certain number of people someone sends you a badge.”
‘Bankers have always struck me as pointless; they may well make money but they don’t produce value do they?’
I am not against pointless or even self indulgent things. We grow flowers and get tattoos; we don’t consider these to be activities of artistic or social importance. They are just things we do. Other people carve stuff, someone I know likes to iron. It takes all sorts. But in these austere times I wonder if we think about pointless activity - and even jobs that don’t really produce anything useful - in a slightly different way?
Bankers have always struck me as pointless; they may well make money but they don’t produce value do they? Estate agents too. Nearer home I remain unconvinced by many psychologists, especially those who go on television to give a psychological perspective on things like divorce (“well, often people stop wanting to be married to each other; put the cheque in the post won’t you?”).
I believe it is wholly unhealthy to point the finger at others without having the good grace to first point it at oneself, but if I make a living teaching nurses - and assuming I am not terrible at it - I think I can say I am doing something useful. Nurses are necessary and I help them learn, ergo if not entirely necessary then I am perhaps at least a bit more useful than an estate agent. However, as I work in a university and can easily stand accused of being one of those people who “teach them how to write essays rather than how to put up a drip”, it is possible that I am a force for evil - what with my social science nonsense and silly preoccupation with emotional labour.
Obviously I believe thinking and the move to graduate entry nursing is vital, otherwise I wouldn’t encourage it. But I wonder what the humming presence of a recession and the “need to tighten our belts” does to our judgement about what is necessary and what is a waste. It seems to me that the arguments around nurse training are getting louder as we get poorer and, as a consequence, we may find we are - and, let’s face it, some of us have been here before - persuading ourselves that the cheap option is, by sheer coincidence, also the best option.
Shorter training, less educational support, maybe a different skill mix and perhaps lower knowledge expectations? Just what nursing needs. We can call it realistic, we can call it inevitable. Is it merely coincidence that now, of all times, some people will call it “right”?