Remember when you would go over to friends for a cookout and meet a couple of new people there and while knocking back a few beers the new acquaintance would say "So, what do you do?" and probably many of us would answer "Oh, I work for ___. I'm a _______."
What we are really telling the new acquaintance is that they have just met a productive gainfully employed member of society. After establishing those bona fides, then we would most likely move right along to the "hobbies and interests" part of the life resume - "but I also play in a band and rescue wildlife and make and sell Popsicle stick houses on my website."
When people ask "What do you do?" they are really asking "How do you get your money?" And thankfully, most of us had a ready answer. Nowadays, not so much.
Nowadays, the “what do you do” question is often met with an uncomfortable silence and a shrug or a joke - “less than I’d like" or whatever cover story has been crafted for the benefit of friends and neighbors who aren’t privy to the deep dark secret shame that stalks our neighborhoods – unemployment.
Nowadays we are living in The Great Paradox: the stock market booms, corporate profits and CEO salaries soar and yet the 99% are languishing worldwide. How soon before the US sees the same 27% level of unemployment as Spain? Oops! Looks like we’re there already, but we just find a different way to couch it:
Instead of gasping and pointing fingers at the Spanish unemployment rate perhaps we should turn our attention to the astonishing fact that only 63.3% of working age adults are “participating” in the US labor force. Love that terminology – it’s like 36.7 % of us weren’t couth enough to send back the RSVP to the employment party. I can almost hear my mother saying, "Honey, put down that book and go outside and play with the others in the nice economy. You need to participate more."
We would all love to play, but we aren't allowed to. We have morphed into a society where the money is simply recycled among a small segment of society within a closed system. This small subset of the world lives inside a giant wealth colander with little bitty holes and the rest of us live outside of it, trying to collect the few drops that escape.
At what point does a repressed, depressed, unemployed and underemployed populace turn from quiet sighs, hand-wringing and despair to anger? How do we get our elected representatives to stop kissing the rings of the 1% and the corporations and to stop staging their mock austerity melodramas for the rest of us?
Someone needs to tell our media and our politicians that the jig is up. We know that Austerity is Bullsh#t. Just as in Downing Street, they tried to fix the evidence around the desired outcome and it HAS FAILED. The real consequences of corrupted political systems and wealth inequality and disparity are before us every single day.
As members of the working class, we might consider the term "jobless recovery" an oxymoron, but I bet the corporatists consider it the best of all possible outcomes. Jobs inherently involve those pestering entities known as workers with their annoying demands for liveable wages and benefits.
In our new corporate zeitgeist, EMPLOYMENT IS CHARITY. Workers are to be grateful to have a job, any job, due to their scarcity. In this environment of diminishing expectations, we are to overlook the complete inadequacy of the wages and the lack of benefits. This is not a new phenomenon. You can read about previous generations fighting the same battles for decent income and living/working conditions and a dollop of humanity here:
The Other Civil War (Howard Zinn excerpt on History Is a Weapon, long )
So we’ve been here before, in fact many times. The wealthy, connected and corrupt have been trying to have it all and suppress the working and lower classes for most of history. And they keep bumping into the same mathematical problem. When all is said and done, there are more of us then there are of them. At some point when they overstep the boundaries of their boundless greed, as they always do, we will push back, as we always do, and a correction takes place.
We are long overdue for both pushback and a correction.