- The Guardian
- Issue #2021
What does it mean to be “resilient”? Is “wellness” a good thing? Well it depends on who you ask in this fortnight’s edition of Weasel Words!
Like many weasel words, resilience sounds like something you’d want. Certainly better than the alternative. I’m not sure what the opposite of resilience is – fragility? Breakability? So resilience is good. I want my plants to be resilient, so they can bounce back from that week when I was away and didn’t water them. I want my building to be resilient so it doesn’t fall over in a strong wind. I’d also like to be resilient so that I can quickly recover from the next personal crisis I go through. Hooray for resilience! Right?
Not so fast, comrades! As with many weasel words, it’s always a good idea to ask who’s using the word and what they want when they use it. When I’m hoping my plants are resilient, I want to save time and water. If a Human Resources (or “People and Culture”*) is offering you “resilience training,” you’re the plant, and they’re the lazy gardener. Large employers offer resilience training the way they offer mindfulness classes, hoping you won’t notice that they have no intention of doing things which would help workers to be resilient, like negotiating in good faith with the union or giving staff job security. My tip is this – keep being as resilient as you can in the face of what capitalism throws at you, and if an employer mentions resilience, ask them what it is they’re hoping you’ll be resilient about.
* Both “Human Resources” and “People and Culture” are weasely words for places that do a lot of weasely things!
As with resilience, wellness sounds good because we don’t want the opposite, do we? I’d rather be well than poorly or sick. Wellness is weasel-esque on a few levels. Firstly it’s a word for a bunch of quasi-medical practices that aren’t actually medicine but would quite like the respect and authority that go with being actual medicine. When I see the term “wellness” out and about, I see “doesn’t work well enough to be something doctors do.”
However, words don’t stay still, and “wellness” is morphing from “vaguely health-like” into “nice stuff.” Look up “Julie Bishop mining video” online if you want a chuckle. Searching for this phrase will bring you to a corporate video for Mineral Resources Limited, in which you can see our former Foreign Minister and one time Deputy-PM wander around the Mineral Resources Limited headquarters having an ooh and an aah at the nice gym, friendly barista, and lovely parking spaces. The video has become an internet sensation, although probably not for the reasons MinRes would have hoped when they paid for it. At the end of almost six minutes of unintentional hilarity, we see that MinRes is “the future of workplace wellness.” Before she got into politics, Bishop helped protect the mining industry’s wellness from asbestosis claims, but they did show us the phone app that helps her find a parking spot; you can’t have everything.