Saturday, 2 April 2011

A new reality for the thousands who entered the abyss on the 1st of April 2011

A new reality for the thousands who entered the abyss on the 1st of April 2011

Today I became one of the great numbers of folks swelling the ranks of the unemployment queue. I believe the next three months stats, even after doctoring, will show a very significant rise of folks who were “let go” on March 31st 2011.

To use an irritating but apt phrase - this is the perfect storm - high unemployment being merely the first ripple of the approaching front.

Over the last forty years the forces of globalisation and an incessant drive for private sector profits have seen manufacturing driven from the UK into cheaper regions. We have also seen the loss of “real” apprenticeships, declining educational standards, welfarism and many more politically sensitive factors that have eroded the employability of the indigenous workforce. We have seen a response to these conditions; a resulting jobs gap replaced by both the public sector and welfare with export earnings replaced by debt.

I don’t think anyone would argue that the last Conservative government (and then Labour) decimated our heavy industry and replaced factory jobs with retail, IT, banking and welfare. More recently the never ending pursuit for profit has resulted in the off-shoring of even these jobs. I have witnessed my generation becoming reliant on a debt-fuelled retail and property boom. Both of these sectors were always unsustainable and I believe we have a great deal further to fall. What we are left with is a hollowed out economy, leaving scant remains.

Even for people who have the abilities, intelligence and entrepreneurship that a skills and service-based economy requires there is little in the way of real or secure jobs about. Our young folks are facing high unemployment and student loan hell and they, like me, are never likely to be able to pay off their student debt and, unlike me, for them an affordable home looks increasingly unattainable. I’m currently mortgaged to the tune of £135K, and owe around 12k on my student loan. I didn’t do credit cards or any other kind of debt as the latter terrified the life out of me. Scant comfort in these challenging times.

We are told the nation is bankrupt. We have seen the cuts to spending result in demonstrations and civil unrest and this has only just started. We have reached a rubicon of taxation beyond which any more tax raising measures on ‘ordinary’ folks will actually reduce revenue and damage the economy further. The Government will not tax where the real profit is. The vital small business sector is held back by lending inertia and inflation has eroded profits.  The pound in my pocket buys me about a third less than it did at the weekly shop two years ago. Meanwhile, with more and more folks like me signing on, the deficit and welfare bills are rising inexorably.

We are continually being told that the public sector needs to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs and demonstrate value for money. Notions of ‘public service’ are under sustained attack. Multi national corporations sacrifice all for profit. Governments are bought by vested interests and forces of chaos, both natural and political, are at large - their cadence growing faster by the week. A looming oil crisis may well bring about the £10 gallon.

It would appear there are few options available and none are palatable. I suspect it will not be long before there is a mandatory work-for-welfare scheme seen as a return to the workhouse or new forms of slave labour.

The one major thing which bugs me about our government and the political and media classes is their apparent supposition that this is a temporary glitch and that in a few years we'll be up and running again.

We're in for a precipitous decline in living standards and there is no way of knowing how far down the bottom is or when we'll reach it.

The Economists who plan the way things are run are held up to be scientific gurus instead of right-wing snake oil salesmen. The media try (and do a pretty good job) to tell us that our interests are the same as the corporations and that eternal growth is sustainable and will eventually trickle down to us. The main political parties are all agreed this is the only way whilst the compliant media never (or hardly ever) present any alternatives as rational or achievable.

What do we need to do then? Well, some of us will continue to take to the streets in huge numbers. It is not wise to just stall and hope the economy recovers. It can’t in this system. The system is broke.

Human beings are problem-solving social animals. We need other people, and we need the self-esteem that flows from contributing something of value to the community in which we live. To create is to express who one truly is. The tragedy is (as Marx made clear) capitalism alienates us from the fountain of self-respect. When we farmed or made things for our families and friends and sold the surplus we could literally enjoy the fruits of our labour. The kind of work people are offered today denies them the dignity and joy of creation and so, all too often, it degrades self-esteem rather than enhancing it.

Modern society and its memes have hooked into instincts we barely understand and we are left addicted to consumerism. As with alcohol and drugs consumerism offers us a kind of fake comfort. We are lured down dead ends in our desperate search for something, anything, to fill the hole in the Soul.

Alcohol and drugs and brand-led consumerism are the opiate of the masses.

Freud said that human beings need love and work. Without the latter we find it hard to have real love for ourselves. Narcissistic obsessions yes, love and respect no.

Meaningful work makes you free and not working will, eventually, send you into an abyss of self-loathing, usually deepened by the AOD people use to stave off the utter despair generated by lives without ‘meaning’. This is what capitalism offers you; shiny toys in exchange for your soul.
Choose life.

Tolstoy, in a letter to Valerya Aresenyev, (November 9, 1856) said, "One can live magnificently in this world if one knows how to work and how to love…" (Troyat, 1967, p. 158). Freud is purported to have said that the goal of psychotherapy is to allow the patient to love and to work (Erikson, 1963). The themes of love and work are central to some of the most influential theories of psychological well-being (e.g., Erikson, 1963; Maslow, 1954; Rogers, 1961). There importance for healthy functioning has been empirically documented (e.g., Baruch, Barnett, & Rivers, 1983; Gurin, Veroff, & Feld, 1960; Lee & Kanungo, 1984; Vaillant, 1977). Study after study has shown that satisfaction in one domain is associated with satisfaction in the other. But how are love and work related? What is the nature of the connection?

I am left concluding that there is absolutely nothing any the world’s governments (or the ‘free markets’) can do about this state of affairs as long as we remain wedded to free market policies and more nationalist, autarkist solutions have their own severe drawbacks. Resources will only get scarcer. This is inevitable. So our buying power, even if there is economic growth at some time in the future, will only go one way and that is down.

We are all going to have to become more versatile, as communities and as individuals.  As a matter of biological history, the greatest cause of extinction is over-specialization. This new time, this new ‘recovery’, will belong to the agile, to the Jacks-of-All-Trades, to the generalists.

Some ideas worth of exploring are

I’m left today with hope despite the blackness. The phrase ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ is prominent in my thoughts.

We have no other options. We have to keep learning, keep organising, stay creative. We have to step up and take the challenge. We, as individuals and communities, will be engaged in recovery for as long as we have the heart and the will. We are not alone. We are many. If we open our eyes we can see. The need for recovery is everywhere.


tim1leg said...

just read this back, oh dear only one month left of job seekers allowance then i dont qualify for any help!

tim1leg said...

thank god i got a job!