I signed on today. It’s fucking terrifying. Aside from the fact that waiting for your appointment is a little like waiting to find out if you’ve been conscripted into the army or not (for those that don’t know, you sit in a waiting room and men in suits shout names at you), the scariest thing was actually seeing how many people are actually unemployed. I was there for an hour, on a random day of the week. About 40 people came and left. That may seem a small amount but remember, if we take that number to be average, we need to multiply it by how long the centre is open, then multiply that by how many days a week the centre is open. This is for a single office.
Now, realistically, I think it’s only fitting to consider how many jobs there are that these people - including myself - can take. As a microcosm, let’s take me as an example. I have a degree in English, a fair amount of experience in organising events (both political and artistic) and a fair amount of experience in printing my own work and selling it. I, also, have experience in communicating with the public, from performing and from canvassing for political work. My optimum career according to the jobcentre? Administration for offices. The number of jobs in that field? Three.
Now, I’m not going to claim that I a model of employability. Not at all. I have never had a job (unless you count a paper round that I quit after a week), I am lazy and very difficult, I am neurotic and, frankly, don’t care enough about my career prospects to change any of these things. This being said, however, I am employable. This is not going to happen in a world where there are three jobs in the field selected for me.
I’m trying, rather desperately now, to find some way of phrasing my meaning. In this instance I believe that being direct is probably the.best option. As usual, my reasoning for writing this rant is political. My message is simple: the unemployment in our society and the lack of prospect for employment is not the fault of.workers. Terms like ‘dole scrounger’ and ‘dole rat’ are thrown around a lot, by the media, by the public and by the government. Even liberal leftists in the UK, such as the SWP, seem to harbour a subtle hatred of the unemployed (focus for their politics is, and always has been, the British worker - in a strict and sectarian sense). This is appalling, beyond belief. It also marks a ridiculous degree of idiocy.
Unemployment is not a choice - it is a curse. In the area I am most.interested in - the arts - I am a skilled worker. Our society, however, will not recognise the fundamental irony in this: that I am not skilled for a job that I am not trained to perform. The same may be said of everyone. And, rather than deal with this reasonabley (with free training or better work assignment) our society treats the unemployed as it will vermin.
Finally, it is only realistic and fair to point out that this is not a symptom of the economic crisis. It is a symptom of Capitalism. We are commodities and, thus, disposable if we ill fit our pre-packaged purposes. The peaks and.troughs of Capitalism are its routine, its ordinary trajectory. The cattle of the unemployed, roaming the streets in search of work is commonplace.
We, “the dole rats”, are the sewage created by your success.