Sometimes it used to cross my mind that perhaps i should be more ambitious.When i think about it hard,i decided i wanted to be a social worker,i thought about training as a priest,and i still do,and i wanted to be a writer.
I consider myself lucky that i decided quite young that i also wanted to live without regret,so often i’ve followed the interesting idea,the interesting possibility or project rather than the money or”career”and ambition.It has not always worked,in that following those dreams did not lead to a rainbow,but that has always been okay with me.i tried,i put my toe in the water.
I decided not to become “music organiser”with a friend,in a certain place,because i wanted to go to train to be a social worker,even though i had not even secured a place when i made that decision.I do not regret my choice.Starting my own organisation in 1970 with a group of friends,and starting more formally as a volunteer and a youth worker,i went onto train from 1973,and retiring in 2011,meant something just over a 40 year career in social work and related activities.Though i often did other things in parallel,and sometimes made efforts to leave social work or change directions,i never drifted far.It always drew me back,not simply for economic reasons and at the end of that time,i have few regrets either about my choice or about missing other opportunities.
I do admit that there were moments,when seeing friends and colleagues move up the ladder or seek and get promotion,i would wonder if my apparent lack of ambition meant there was something wrong with me,but no i think not.i was happy to be a “footsoldier”.i trained to be a social worker because i wanted to be…..a social worker.i wanted to work with people and if possible to help them,in their distress and difficulty,not because i thought myself special or saintly or anything else but i think because i felt a responsibility to live out my values in a way that did not mean i would have to impose them on anyone.i also felt that whilst we had experienced problems,and whilst never well off,i had a better life than some i saw around me,and wanted in some ways to pass that on.It pained me that i saw the world was unfair,and i would not,and still don’t accept that i/we should simply come to terms with that so-called reality.It also pianed me that as a child i saw distress and could not do anything about it.i felt i had to do something,and that something was better than nothing.As i became a revolutionary i also felt i could not set these thoughts aside and “build for”and essentially wait for the revolution.i have no regrets about that either.It has never meant that i am content with reform,but that reform is neccessary on the road to revolution,and that once reform is begun,i would carry on down the road,and hopefully hurry on down the road to revolution.
Today then,i think i’m lucky to have few regrets so far.I can count three-the loss of friendships.My shyness,which contributed to losing and sometimes not making friends.Last but not least that”1968 is not finished yet”and that we have not already made revolution.i like others,like to think we are still working on that one.
I hope in my career,and from my values as a gnostic christian and a revolutionary socialist that i continue to be of help,of use to someone or more than someone.One of the things that has struck me though is that i feel i have always gained more from my”clients”than they ever gained from me.My first professional supervisor,a friend and comrade too,shockingly described social work to me as”emotional prostitution”in that we were needy of the involvement in other peoples emotions and human feelings.That has always been a valuable warning and insight to me,and it puts my self delusions in context.
Life is strange,in many ways.One is that whilst i was on long term sick,whilst it was not therapy,i found it therapeutic to write on the internet.It kept me in touch with friends and comrades,and indeed renewed and extended friendships and comradeship.It also enabled me to write.I don’t claim i write well but i hope i communicate and i do get to write.Apart from being avresh realisation of anonther ambition,what do i mostly write about?It might be at one level about politics or music or thought but mostly it continues to be a concern about pain,human distress and people,real people-flesh and blood and bone and feelings and passion and creativity,ingenuity and talent and human power.That continues
Since i have retired,i have headed straight towards campaigning and political activity with human beings,usually in distress of one kind or another at its centre.I can’t help myself.I suppose at some level i could have a quiet,comfortable life but at least for now whilst i might be in decline,i am still alive and with enough strength to keep on heading towards the edge of something.If life looks too quiet i seem unavoidably to head towards the trouble.
I find myself wanting to be involved in defending and improving the best elements of the welfare state but within a better context.In the process of struggle for that,i would to find ways to defend the best of what”is”along with developing new ways to meet the burgeoning distress i don’t just read about but see around me.i don’t however wish to return to being a social worker,nor even any kind of alternative-social worker.That said we are all full of paradoxes and contradictions.If that if not part of”human nature”,which whilst slow to change,i don’t think is fixed.So perhaps my thoughts and actions don’t entirely match here-though i hope that is not hypocrisy.
I regard most things in life,including me as”a work in progress”,so conclusions are difficult.But at this point,i’m coming to the working conclusion that whilst they can take the social work away from me,even i can’t take the social worker out of me.After all,i suppose 40+ years doing it,living it,thinking it,feeling it…is a long time to be in harness.
This last weekend i am aware that i have at the very least talked with,spent time with,even advised others.I am clear that i am primarily their friend and usually their comrade too,but i have also to admit that what i think,what i say and sometime show i say it,remains influenced by the store of knowledge,which even if i forget most of it,still leaves its mark at least on me,and has come to me a particular way of social sciences that are at the root of social work and filtered through personal and social values rooted equally in a spiritual path and revolutionary,libertarian socialism.
All of that is still meaningful in relating to other human beings in a way in which i want to do more than “scream that something is badly wrong”,to change the way we live now,so that we might realise the world we have to win.In the here and now we should live and let live.Beyond that i would like to continue to work for the world as a common treasury for us allto share.After that i hope that i might be able to”go home”.
i will end for now with one reference and a kind of an aside.After years of desiring to write,i realised the peculiar reference of that warning to be”careful what you wish for”.Applying it in a slightly odd way,it does seem to apply to me.After years of only writing the flimsiest of material-captions to articles or pictures,links,a few lines of text-alongside a set of articulated reasons why i could not settle down to write more substantively,which is reducible to lack of confidence,and lack of time, i realised that actually what was left of my career came down to writing,in that i was writing up to four reports a day for a number of years to assist in sentencing in criminal courts.Freed of those constraints i do now just continue to write,but will say nothing more.
What set me wondering about some of this piece was discovering a fragment of music,and the musician behind it,that once found crashed into my thinking like the ejected pilot on a parachute crashing through the roof of a greenhouse.When i heard this,i rediscovered and ambition…to meet the musician,promote a gig where i hope she might play this brief solo just or me,and to return to music promotion once again.This is Tal Wilkenfeld.To misquote Keef Hartley”Is anyone listening?Then i will carry on!”
thatWhat i am