THE WOLF AT THE DOOR.
Sentimentalists, with a fullstomach and a knowledge of how they can always find the means to keep it so, talk very prettily of the dignity of labor, and rod out high sounding sentences about the hornyhanded sons of toil, who are their country’s backbone and its pride. Oh yes ! there is : much dignity about labor —every “ horny- • handed son of toil ” will tell you that; but he will at the same time bo ; perfectly ready to inform you that it is not the dignity of the labor ho cares a rap for, it’s the money he wants. He can do without the dignity—it brings no bread and butter; but he can’t do without the money—it stocks the cupboard. At the present moment there is a scarcity of employment, and when that occurs there must of necessity be a scarcity of both the dignity admired and lauded by the poet and the sentamentalist, and the money wages so earnestly desired by the worker. Recause the worker is unable to live without wages, and cannot exist on dignity, he very naturally casts about to find some means of stocking his cupboard. He cannot find work. Tramping a weary round lie is met with a regretful shake of the head here, a scowl there, a commiserating word at the next place, perhaps a good round curse at the next, while a day’s work at a low figure is a god-send. This is the experience of too many working' men in New Zealand at this moment. Private employers cannot supply work. Public works have ceased, and whatever the future may be, the present is very, very dreary. Is it to be wondered at that bodies of men, who often rise in the morning not knowing where their next meal is to be procured join together to raise a cry for work, and besiege Government with their clamor ? There is nothing to be surprised at in it at all. But it is surprising that because they do so they should he classed as ne’er-do-wells —idle persons who will not work when the chance is. There are men who deserve to be branded as such—too many, we dare say but we have no right to brand the whole lot in that way, for it cannot be denied that there are hundreds, ay thousands, in this colony to whom life at this moment is a weary struggle for bread. The will is there to earn it, if the opportunity were not lacking. They have not been trained to tell a smooth story, and can only, speak in the tones they heard at Nature’s knee. These tones are rough may be, but they are natural, and they are as true as natural —“ We have no bread.” But the unemployed are blamed for this outcry by some who ought to know better. They are blamed for appealing to Government, and it is pointed out to them that Government is not responsible for the absence of work. Government, to be sure, cannot compel private employers to employ hands, and with an empty treasury they cannot fill the blank with public works. But it was Government who brought the main body of workers here—it was agents in Government pay who painted New Zealand in the roseate hues that attracted so many “horny-handed ones” to the colony, and, therefore, some responsibility must rest with Government for placing more labor on tlie colonial market than the market can absorb. The men are perfectly justified in appealing to Government, and Government by doing what they can to relieve the “ jam” are only doing their duty ; for the men who now seek work, many of them, have tramped over the country, in good times and bad ; have shown their grit by toiling at hard work in the day and sleeping in a comfortless tent at night, enduring hardships that the man at Home is never called upon to face, and would shrink from encountering.. By all means let the worthless men be denounced, but let us be careful that they only receive censure, and that the willing and honest but suffering toiler be not included in the general condemnation. It is more often the worthless but - glib-tongued_ loafer who obtains such work as is a-goiug than the deserving man, who quails before the humiliating ordeal of begging literally begging—his “ brother worm to give hun leave to toil.”
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 119, 29 June 1880
THE WOLF AT THE DOOR. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 119, 29 June 1880
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