How do we treat ‘The Unemployed’?

So, how do we treat people who are out of work? What do we REALLY think of them? Are they lazy? Not trying hard enough? Playing the system? Good-for-nothings? A waste of space?
Well, I work with (mainly) guys who are entrenched in the soulless carousel of the Benefit System. And I have to tell you – I’ve had my eyes opened over the past couple of years.

Mistake number 1: misinterpreting disillusionment for a ‘bad attitude’
How would it feel if you were invisible? What if you were so used to being judged, labelled, often looked down on, and patronised to within an inch of your life? What if it happened day in, day out to the point where you actually believed that’s all you were worth? Do you think it would crush your spirit? It would mine. Is that what may contribute to a feeling of general disillusionment and such low self-worth that a person may even stop making the effort to feed themselves properly, because they think they’re ‘not worth the effort?’ Let me tell you – it does.

Mistake number 2: the whole ‘books’ and ‘covers’ thing
Assuming you’ve lost any semblance of self-esteem which you may (if you’re one of the lucky ones) have once had. Do you then bounce out of bed every morning and scrub up like a shiny pin, put on a crisp white shirt and a smart suit, go out into the world and ‘kick ass’ down at that Job Centre to sign on? No. You don’t. The two are mutually exclusive. More likely is that you feel around for whatever tracky bottoms are at the bottom of your bed, pull a cap on, and in your invisible state, you drag yourself down to the Job Centre where you remain invisible so it doesn’t matter what the hell you wear anyway.

This is a dangerous place for the rest of us (“Phew! We’re US. Thank god we’re not THEM” and please note the hint of irony) because we make judgements – it’s human nature, but The System makes it so EASY for us to make judgments. About everything from intelligence, attitude, background, ability, capability, education, home settings, the list goes on. And we are all too often so sadly very, very wrong. I’ve seen it time and time again. That person who comes in looking like Stig of the Dump. It turns out that he’s painfully analytical. It’s his ceaseless questioning of life and the madness of the carousel on which he finds himself which has contributed to his demise. Nothing to do with laziness, or lack of effort, or willingness to try, or ability. He’s simply put himself out of The Game because he can’t get his head around the ridiculous rules of it. It’s that simple.

Mistake number 3: not seeing somebody. No, I mean not SEEING them.
We all have a story. We all fight silent battles: we just don’t see them, but maybe we simply don’t look hard enough. Often, when you really look and TRY to see someone, the clues are there. The tragedy is that it’s easier sometimes to just to keep our heads down, keep walking, and not even try. We’ve got our own stresses and crosses to bear: I don’t have shoulders broad enough to carry a million other burdens other than my own pitiful melodramas. But, at the very least we can look up and we can TRY to see the real person looking back at us. Isn’t that the very least we can do? Surely to just feel listened to and acknowledged is the absolute bare minimum any of us can do to help each other if – God forbid – we find ourselves being one of ‘THEM’ rather than our usual, comfortable, self-righteous, judgmental ‘US’ selves.

As with the Lottery, “IT COULD BE YOU!”


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