It staggers me that I can still be dismissed as lazy, that those facing the brunt of mass unemployment globally can still be dismissed as lazy. With 2.64 million unemployed in the UK alone – the highest level since 1994, according to official figures – this reaction, and the short-sightedness and cruelty of it, is beyond my understanding.
Perhaps it’s because most Tories – certainly Tory leaders – don’t worry about such trivial things as low-pay, gas meters, the threat of homelessness with repossessions and rent too high for benefits, redundancy, over-priced train fares, losing their Disability Allowance or other benefits …
And perhaps it’s also as a fascinating recent study from UC Berkeley suggests – that individuals in the upper middle and upper classes are “less able to detect and respond to the distress signals of others” while “people in the lower socio-economic classes are more physiologically attuned to suffering, and quicker to express compassion than their more affluent counterparts”.
Social psychologist Jennifer Stellar, lead author of the study, says the upper classes “may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven’t had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives”.
According to the latest statistics, as reported by the BBC, the numbers claiming benefits rose by 3,000 to 1.6 million in November last year and the total number of employees fell by 63,000 to 29.11m, mostly due to job losses in the public sector.
I blogged about how I’m going to take up a job offer – despite the fact I’ll have less money, despite the fact it will cost me to work, despite the fact it is not permanent or even full-time – I am going to work. I’m doing so because it might lead to more work, but I recognise it might not. The chances are I will be unemployed again in a few months and I have no control over that.
This somehow met with abuse. It would seem we – the unemployed – can’t do anything to satisfy the rabid Tories. Not even while their party leader admits that unemployment is a problem. Not even when it’s obvious that unemployment is a global problem.
I’m told “get a job, you lazy bum”: The Telegraph (Torygraph) reported that there are at least 23 people chasing every job adding, “over the past year, the number of applications for each job vacancy has jumped by more than 50 per cent for customer service, secretarial and retail roles. An average of 46 candidates apply for each customer service job, 45 for each secretarial job and 42 for each retail job.”
I’ve been secured interviews, indeed I’ve been congratulated at interviews having being picked among almost 100 to make it to the shortlist. Sadly, there was one job available and I didn’t get it.
Still, my inability to get a job – despite applying for many for which I am over-qualified, many for which I’m under-qualified and thinking as laterally as Dali on LSD – is, to Tories, my fault.
I’m told “start up a business”: I don’t have enough money to start up my central heating so where I’m going to get funds to launch a business is beyond me. One would have to lead an odd life to think anyone, anywhere can start up a business. The romantic notion of having a market stall that turns into a chain of supermarkets is celebrated because it is remarkable.
Still, my inability to do so – despite volunteering to join the government-funded New Enterprise Scheme and having a business plan for a social enterprise – is, to Tories, my fault.
I’m told “a stint in Tesco’s/M&S/McDonalds would show you some humility”: I’m not able to get a job at McDonald’s or the other places. I fail to understand why people think just anyone can get these jobs. It’s not snobbery on my part but recognition from employers that I have zero experience in retail: it would be extraordinarily arrogant of me to assume I can just walk in and do these jobs. Employers also know I won’t stay working there for a moment longer than I have to because I want to earn more and do the work for which I qualified.
Still, despite working hard to gain qualifications which I was assured would secure me work for life, my current failure to don either a McDonald’s uniform or a Ronald McDonald suit is, to Tories, my fault.
I don’t mention my qualifications to appear superior but because I have them, I worked hard for them, and I still can’t find work. The change in education and our understanding of it as workers is discussed in an excellent video which states: “We were kept at school with a story that if you worked hard and did well and got a college degree you would have a job. Our kids don’t believe that and they’re right not to.” All workers are in this mess of mass unemployment together – whatever qualifications we do or don’t have.
I agree wholeheartedly with Owen Jones who says, “Mass unemployment is not an individual fault; it is not the product of millions of people ‘choosing’ to go on benefits out of a ‘lifestyle choice’; it is not the consequence of people failing to look hard enough for work. It exists because – to repeat myself – there is simply not enough work to go around.”
I saw – and still see – many jobs cuts in journalism and I became freelance. I worked in schools, wrote articles and taught at university where I was lucky enough to have my department pay for me to qualify as a lecturer. Then the axe fell in higher education and I struggled for a while – a good friend even paying my rent one month – until I had no choice but to sign on. I still haven’t been able to pay my friend the money I owe.
I rest assured that I’ve done all I can to find work, that I’m still doing all I can and will continue to do all I can. I now hope the coalition government will do something, anything to create jobs. No one chooses to live on £67.50 per week if there is an alternative.
Still the Tories – with a sociopathic lack of compassion – want us to blame ourselves for the state of the economy. They think we can’t recognise that we’re not responsible for a global economic crisis.
Instead they want to reform welfare cutting benefits and forcing people off the dole in search of jobs which don’t exist. Instead they stop Disability Allowance and force even more people – those unfit to work – to search for jobs which don’t exist. You can read more about this here. Instead they plan to stop Legal Aid for those challenging benefit decisions: intending to change the rules so it can’t be used to help people challenge mistakes despite the fact that inaccurate decisions push people into poverty. You can sign a petition to stop this here.
I can’t see how forcing people off benefits by arguing they can find work can make any sense to anyone during a global economic crisis, a national recession, when unemployment is at its highest in 17 years and when dozens of people are chasing each and every limited vacancy.
The Tories know that what they are spouting is economically and politically untrue. The Tories want to create a nasty narrative of hatred towards the unemployed, to blame individuals for their situation, despite global economic problems, and to divide and rule workers. This is easier than creating jobs and helps justify the vile decisions they’re taking which plunge individuals and families into abject poverty.
Wanting to leave people with no state help at all in such economic circumstance is, again, a lack of compassion beyond my understanding: I simply don’t hate and dismiss my fellow human beings in this way. To me, calling anyone a lazy bum for being unemployed in the current circumstances shows a lack of understanding of economics, political history – and a severe lack of empathy.
While we’re talking about the psychology of Tories, I also think their constant suggestion that we’re lazy bums, snobby and avoiding work is a massive psychological projection on their part.