I’m thinking of writing a book: Platitudes for the Unemployed. It can help those with newly-jobless friends know what to say when they are overwhelmed by pity or just feel socially awkward when the bar bill arrives.
“Something will turn up” is my favourite so will be the title. It seems to suggest I can wait on the settee for it to turn up, the very nature of expecting it meaning I don’t have to look. I would happily take this on board and watch re-runs of CSI all day but suspect Jobcentre Plus wouldn’t accept “something will turn up” as an entry in my Looking for Work booklet.
I also like “things can only get better” which evokes long-dead memories of a Tory defeat and the shallow belief that Labour would fix all ills.
“You’ll find something soon” at least suggests some activity on my part, whereas “you have so many qualifications and so much experience, how can you not find work?” sends me back into self-loathing even when said in a cheery sing-song voice.
In fairness, what else can people say? This economic mess is beyond the understanding of most under 40s. The stark reality of a Depression beyond the imagination of many more. Even an eager re-reading of Of Mice and Men wouldn’t necessarily make the clear connections between now and the Great Depression.
While being genuinely patronised makes me angry I recognise that mass unemployment is a learning curve for most.
As I’ve said before, we’ve had generations certain they would own property, gain qualifications, have a long career, certain they would remain employable if they updated their skills regularly and showed willing.
Who knew 80 years after the Great Depression we’d be here again? Leaders clumsily handling a global economic crisis, unable to reach agreements and plundering millions of people beneath the breadline. Maybe Hyde Park will have Cameronvilles or Cleggvilles the way Central Park had Hoovervilles.
I wonder if some struggle to accept the growing reality of many years of mass unemployment and poverty because we still imagine such an existence in black and white: mass unemployment as men in pubs while grubby kids play on cobbles and economic depression as wizened women holding weak babies. Starvation is the Great Hunger in Ireland or fly-covered children somewhere really hot, not a queue at Jobcentre Plus for food parcels; queues of men are rejected at dockyards, not in employment agencies; and homelessness is people in doorways, not families moving in with relatives because their homes have been repossessed.
I thought of this as I recently watched a documentary about the images of 9/11 and how significant they are in our shared memory of the event. The images from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information Collection are among the most famous capturing the Great Depression in the US; the former gathering 77,000 black and white documentary images in 1937 (many by documentary photojournalist Dorothea Lange), and the latter 108,000 images. You can see these images via this website.
Images of the UK depression I found seem to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, of police using batons to disperse crowds. There’s also a photo of a demonstration against the means test, via Paul Townsend’s Flickr account.
If you want to you can of course find out about the rich Americans who thrived during the Depression. I wonder if this is Richard Desmond’s ulterior motive here in the UK as he launches the Health Lottery today, which gives much less to charity than the National Lottery but will, no doubt, appeal to people desperate for a chance to win its top prize of £100,000.
The starkest image to portray my own poverty is an empty fridge – I still haven’t drunk that Netto cava, though, so if something doesn’t turn up it’s something to look forward to.
Something genuinely due to turn up: A supermarket delivery which is causing myself, Chaplin and the fridge much excitement
Plans for the day: A controlled job search followed by a nice lunch, some Frasier re-runs and a start on the Dos Passos trilogy
Jobs I’ve found to apply for in the past three working days: 6