Bob Jones produces another fine column, this time on self employment:
Most of my peers shot off at 15, into the labour-short factories then abundant in the Hutt Valley. My father wanted me to be a plumber, which he, a welder, viewed as an elite trade. My mother aspired for me simply to be a white-collar worker. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to do anything, so after several short-lived factory jobs, for a time I became a wharfie, where I was paid more than my father and mostly basked in the sun reading.
The work was substantially done back then by Bos Murphy’s Aotea gang, as they were known. Bos had returned from a professional boxing stint in Europe; its highlight: winning the Empire middleweight title in London. He secured a contract with the port, astonishing in those union-dominated days, and employed a small army of profit-sharing Dalmatians who ran from ship to ship – a classic example of incentive behaviour.
They were detested by my unionist fellow layabouts, who would mutter abuse when they passed, although never loudly for fear of Bos, notwithstanding him resembling a poet.
He died well off a few years ago, having been self-employed all of his life, as is common with most ex-boxers given the 100 per cent self-reliance of that loner’s pursuit. A restructuring along those lines might end Auckland’s waterfront woes to the satisfaction of all parties.
Yes, Local 13’s days of bullying everyone appear to be over.
Eventually, I solved my dilemma when I realised it was not the career options which were unattractive but instead, answering to others, which was implicit in employment. For example, when I was called up for the then three months’ compulsory military training, a stand-off ensued when I refused, explaining I was incapable of tolerating being shouted at.
It wasn’t belligerency but reality, and consistent with my similar refusal to do the then Tuesday afternoon army training at school for which I appeared in the school magazine’s military notes as a deserter. A like-minded mate spent most of his three months’ “service” in the brig, having repeatedly dropped officers for yelling at him. Like me, he was to be self-employed all his life. Anyway, before things could reach a head, the compulsory military rubbish was scrapped.
But here’s my point: while most folk are content being employed, a sizeable percentage with an independent streak are not. For them, there’s a special dignity in being their own masters even though it’s often fraught with worries.
Contrary to belief, they’re not primarily motivated by money but simply a desire to steer their own ship. There are hundreds of thousands of self-employed New Zealanders who wouldn’t have it otherwise. They’re farmers, retailers, tradesmen, professionals and diverse service providers.
Yes, steering one’s own ship…I get that.