This post constitutes my application to one day appear on Have I Got News For You. I have a major soft spot for Ian Hislop, and no, I don’t know why. He just looks sort of cuddly. Just me? Yeah, thought so.
It’s all been kicking off recently, hasn’t it? The news has been better than a particularly tense episode of Homeland over the last couple of weeks or so. The Pope’s resigned, Oscar Pistorius is on trial for murder, people are bridling at horsemeat making it into the food chain, and Iain Duncan Smith has put his foot in it rather spectacularly. All we need now is a meteor to – oh, hang on.
I’m usually kind of loath to write news-centred posts – I’m not great with politics, and as His Lordship Dylan Moran puts it, there’s nothing like the news for both enraging and boring you. Simultaneously. Like most people (I’m guessing; maybe you’re not all as relentlessly self-involved as I am), I’m really only interested when it’s directly relevant to me. So when I heard that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, had been generally quite insensitive and ignorant about people on Jobseeker’s Allowance (it involved Cait Reilly), I was intrigued.
I’m not going to go into the details now – partly because I am in the middle of a very hectic week and am too tired, and partly because I’m presuming you know how to use the internet – but it’s at the end of this interview here that Duncan Smith comes across as a callous Tory knob. A Times journo – can’t remember his name, sorry – subsequently wrote a piece that was admittedly pretty tongue-in-cheek, but also reasonably supportive of IDS, detailing all the menial jobs he’d done in his time, and what he’d learned from them. His overarching point was that if nothing else, you soon learn that you don’t want to be stuck doing menial, badly-paid jobs for the rest of your life.
The point that callous Tory knobs and their supporters seem to be missing – and you’d think they’d have noticed this one, being the ones in charge of the country, and the economy, and whatnot – is that shit still needs to be paid for. Take both freshly-hatched graduates with not enough work experience, and those who aren’t super-educated and therefore have perhaps a more limited set of career prospects available to them – these people still need to eat. They still need something to put on in the morning, they still need transport, they still need to be able to let off steam, and try to have some fun so that the tedium and sheer bloody frustration of being turned down for the umpteenth job doesn’t drive them mad and/or kill them. And those things cost money – it doesn’t matter where you shop. It’s not the government’s responsibility to provide their people with clothes, food, transport, et cetera, but it is their responsibility to ensure that everyone can afford the basics. Yes, this is where benefits come in. But to use the case of Cait Reilly, making someone work for free while threatening to cut their benefits if they don’t comply, when they’re already doing relevant voluntary work they’ve sorted out themselves, doesn’t. Make. Much. Fucking. Sense.
I’m one of the lucky ones, I know. On good days, I manage to remember this. I live in a nice bit of the country, my parents don’t mind having a [massively-opinionated, overly-fond-of-wine, convinced-she-will-one-day-change-the-world-with-her-words] 22-year-old living with them. They make it very easy for me. I have two part-time jobs that occupy nearly as much time as a full-time one. I could jack them both in, sign on for JSA and devote all of the resulting free time to looking for that elusive career-starting job, but it would drive me insane. I still take “not tonight, wench, I’m knackered” as personal physical rejection, so I’d hazard a guess I’m not much fun after rejected job application number 15. Or 56, or 435. So I’m going to carry on as I am – working the two jobs, fitting applications for “proper” jobs into the slivers of free time around them, and trying not to get dragged down into the mire of doom and gloom that tells me I’ll be proofreading and tanning-salon-minding for the rest of my life and won’t be moving out of my parents’ place until I’m well into my forties. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of these jobs, I hasten to add, they’re just not central to my ultimate life plan.
About the worst thing you can do in life is decide you’re too good for something, or indeed someone. That tends to be when life decides to take a run-up and kick your arse back into touch. So I repeat, I know that I’m lucky. Some very clever, able, wonderfully-qualified people I know are struggling to find any work whatsoever. I’m not expecting anyone to hand me a nice little writing job on a platter (though that would be awesome, world, if you could? I’d be ever so grateful).
All I’d like, really, is those in power – specifically, the man in charge of Work and Pensions – to apply a little understanding, and to look at the finer details, instead of dismissing people as “job snobs” or “workshy” or whatever else, because they simply can’t afford to work for free. Especially if they are already working for free, as I might have mentioned. It applies to unpaid internships as well – if you want to get into a certain field but the only “in” is an unpaid internship, then seriously, what are you supposed to do? I don’t know exact benefit figures but they’re probably not going to cover much more than say, two-thirds of the transport, if current train fares are anything to go by. Oh hell, I don’t have any answers – I don’t know if you’d guessed – and I’m not looking for sympathy, a pat on the back, or anything more than blog page-views, if I’m honest. Frankly, I think we need a few more Cait Reillys – people who are quietly unafraid to say to those in charge, “what you’re doing isn’t helping. We’ll work with you, but we need to know that you understand what’s really going on here”. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Which is a worry.
On a brighter note, I bloody love this song.
And this one.