The Duke held radical views on work and leisure, writes Tom Hodgkinson
Was Prince Philip an idler? Before you counter, “Yes, he sat around doing nothing on taxpayers’ money”, I’d like to offer a few words in his defence. It seems Prince Philip had sophisticated views on work and life. A friend sent me a YouTube clip of the Prince being interviewed on the telly in 1984 about a book he’d just written with the William Morris-esque title Men, Machines and Sacred Cows, and he was not only very witty and self-effacing, but turned out to be a critic of the work ethic.
The interviewer, Gill Nevill, says she has the Victorian attitude that work is good and what she does in her spare time is incidental. Prince Philip’s reply makes him sound so like an anarchist, you wonder whether the release of the Sex Pistols’ album seven years previously had an effect:
“To judge people by their jobs is rather a limited way of judging the individual… In many cases what a person does in their leisure time is more important – or more significant socially – than their job… The factory worker may be the secretary of the local football club, for instance. The work he does for the football club, which may be voluntary, is, from the community’s point of view, far more valuable. I think people ought to be judged far more on what they are and how they behave – and what they do in their discretionary time – than on what they do to earn their living.”
These are sound anarchist principles of the sort expressed by Oscar Wilde, Colin Ward, Kropotkin and others. Of course, the Prince founded the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, which is a brilliant idea and very much based on the same Aristotelian notion: that the stuff we do outside our paying jobs may well be more important and valuable than the job itself, which is too often, in the late David Graeber’s terms, “bullshit”.
Well said, Phil.
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Nice to read a commentary on Sir Stavros that doesn’t make me want to trundle Madame Guillotine out of the garage. Can’t disagree with his point re non-working activities. That said, his were largely centred around animal slaughter and driving horses beyond sensible levels of endurance. The DoE Award scheme is incredibly positive. Having met quite a few of the people who actually make it work on the frontline, I can’t help thinking it’s mostly there to keep those dangerously obsessive organisers busy and not meddling in the affairs of adults. No complaints there then.
My mother Monica says pretty much the same thing. She thinks we should ask each other what interests you have rather than what job you have. I like it! It makes a conversation opener more fun and can lead to some unusual places.
OK, this really took me out of my anarcho-comfort zone! I appreciate that… I’m obviously not a fan of the Royal Family but I love this bit of info on the Duke. True dirt, that no mainstream journalist (or even anarchist publication for that matter) would write about!
What a nice post, and indeed I didn’t know Prince Philip had written a book! Speaking of books, and since you mention David Graeber, did you know that his latest book is about Libertalia, a Pirate utopia in late 17th, early 18th century … Madagascar? It was written , but not published, in English, but assuming you read Italian, click here.
What a pile of *&!$! Try explaining that theory to doctors, cleaners, nurses, bin men and social care workers to name a few right now…