So, it turns out that a multitude of job applications haven’t solved the problem and my overdraft is just about done. To celebrate my return to state dependency, here are my 5 favourite things (in no particular order) about claiming unemployment benefit or, perhaps, a Love letter to the Conservative Party in Five Parts.
1. Telling your girlfriend you’re signing on – again!
There are so many awesome things about this I don’t really know where to start. Considering how many people she could go out with – people with jobs, cars, even homes to call their own – persuading her that you are in fact worth it becomes a wonderful game of second guessing. Does she have some hidden problem with her self-esteem that keeps her with me? Will she adopt the Thatcherite mindset and decide that she can do better? Then, naturally, you consider the possibility that she’s, in fact, not as shallow as you are and loves you in spite of your situation. This is cool too because it redoubles your sense of failing, given the person you’re letting down.
Of course, some might argue that there is nothing wrong with being on the dole and it isn’t something to be ashamed of. That where the many positive stereotypes from culture come in – men who appeared to be losers and, in fact, were losers! There’s the initially virtuous but actually sexually predatory male lead in Fishtank, the cheating lay-about in Sliding Doors, the wretched John Cusack in Being John Malkovich (although, to be fair, his job is the start of his downfall…). With this sort of inspiration, it’s no wonder I have my head held high!
2. Knowing that you’re not alone.
It’s also great that unemployment numbers are so high. The 2.5 million people, not to mention 973 000 people in my age bracket – that’s one in five, yo – out of work really keeps the competitive fire in my belly burning.
I really love that there are now around 1 million youths I have to consider rivals for the paltry work available. And when I say paltry, this isn’t me being dismissive. It’s in reference to the fact that, as Guy Standing points out, 97% of the jobs created in this country last year were part time. So it’s £120 a week on benefits (roughly, including housing) or around £130 working part-time or on a casual basis. I guess there’s always internships!
3. The sense of security Tories bring to everything
In much the same way as Zizek jokes that the financial crisis might have been created to show the disastrousness of the contemporary left, I sometimes wonder if the current Tory regime is a crazed Leninist version of Barry’s “bomb the mosque” campaign in Four Lions. With growth forecasts at 0.1% for Q2 this year (reduced from the equally exciting 0.2%) forecast previously, it seems that the cuts are having precisely the effect that everyone else predicted they would.
What’s more, the current Whitepaper suggests that privatizing, well, everything would be a smashing idea. With no NHS, at least I’ll maybe be able to put ‘recovered from injury through self-healing’ on my CV. Even better, there is talk of cutting the minimum wage, because it’s ‘holding back job creation’. Imagine if the £5.75 currently prescribed for my age group (already less than the £7.20 living wage) was cut! I could earn £75 for the same tiny amount of hours, making benefits look even shittier by comparison. Even better, I might find that to get benefits I have to work, for free, for one of these parasitical companies employing free labour. I imagine that having free labour from ‘dole scum’ and ‘benefit scroungers’ has a really positive effect on wages and job creation, as I’m sure you’d agree!
4. Starting to resent people you really care about
It’s also great when you start getting angry with your friends for their good fortune or family connections. On a personal level, I think this is the best bit of being on the dole. Why? Because while the ‘coddled’ version of me wants to be exuberant about the good fortune of others, the ‘competitive’ and ‘flexible’ me thinks it’s better that they become economic rivals.
There’s nothing like hearing other people’s good news and almost hating them for it, all the while assuming that they think you’re an indolent cretin. Some might even suggest that inequality breeds an absence of trust, but to me that’s just socialism.
5. Asking daily questions about pride versus eating
I also love filtering through job options on the basis that I don’t, actually, hate everyone and the planet earth or think that being paid to attack your own values makes it worthwhile. Do I want to work in debt collection and punish broke people? Do I want to work for a bank? Do I really (really?) want to be a cop? Why the hell not!
It’s cool when not wanting to do anti-social and destructive labour is met by snorts of derision because, to be honest, why should my life matter? Some people honestly believe that having some sort of coherency in your life, i.e. not having to be ashamed of a big chunk of it, is one of the things that makes life worth living. It lets you embrace your friends honestly, knowing that you’re not earning a wage from screwing over people like them and allows you to feel embraced when people you admire talk about honour and pride. But why bother with that? Better to hate yourself and spend the extra £10 per week on intoxicants to help you forget it.