Tag Archives: benefits

Just to survive

You only have to walk into any UK pub to overhear a conversation bashing benefits these days. It’s something that splits opinion all over the country. With the growing trend in what media experts are dubbing ‘poverty porn’, it seems as though people on the breadline are being made out to be the lowest of the low, the dregs of society, the absolute worst human beings you could possibly encounter. And that generalisation annoys the fucking hell out of me.

Sure, there are some people who are living on benefits because they either don’t know or don’t care about what happens in their lives, and they genuinely think that the best way to live is to effectively steal money from people who’ve worked seven days a week for the whole of their lives. Don’t get me wrong; I think people like that are absolute idiots – because they give the rest of those on benefits an incredibly bad name. But that isn’t the full story.

You see somebody who isn’t working. What do you think of them? If you’re anything like the majority of judgmental shitheads in the country, you’ll immediately jump to the conclusion that they’re lazy scroungers who are good for nothing. But have you stopped to consider the fact that they might actually have a disability? You might not be able to see what this is, it may not be obvious to you, but there’s every chance that it’s there. They may spend the whole of their lives in pain, waiting until they are able to take their next dose of medication to ease their symptoms a tiny bit, without even having the positivity to hope that things could get better.

They might crave normality in their lives, and might spend every waking hour wishing they were able to get up and go to work, but knowing that they may never be able to. Instead they have to rely on other people – which might lower their self esteem even more, and will never be able to “contribute to society” in the same way that some people believe every human being should be forced to – no matter whether they’re physically able to or not.

You should also be aware of the actual statistics with regards to benefits claimants and the proportion of money that the government has to spend on them. The way it’s portrayed in the media, you would be forgiven for thinking that most benefits payments are given to the jobless, but this isn’t often the case. A lot goes towards the state pension, which is for people who have worked their whole lives and paid more than their fair share into the economy. So, do you seriously think that they should be made to hand back their pension and go off to work? I don’t think so!

And then there’s that lovely group of middle-class earners who take ‘child benefit’, because it’s their right to do so. They don’t need it but they take it anyway. And they’re often the ones moaning longest and loudest about scroungers. Lovely folk.

So, before you sit in the pub, talking shit about what you “believe” or what you think you “know” about the economy, benefits, and the way things work, just remember that really, you probably don’t understand even half of the full story. And, by tarring everyone with the same brush, you’re probably ruining the lives of people who need these benefits just to survive day by day.

You never know – you might be reliant on “the system” at some point yourself.

Illiterate, innumerate

Yet more employers are whining about how “young people don’t have a work ethic”, and how “everyone wants flexible hours and decent pay straight off, they don’t think they should have to earn it”. More hand-wringing over how ‘incompetent’ and ‘lazy’ British workers, particularly young British workers, are illiterate, innumerate, have shit timekeeping, can’t follow instructions, and won’t stick with anything if it’s not exactly to their liking.

Meanwhile, the same young, British workers are driving themselves to nervous fucking breakdowns, applying for everything, posting ads on Gumtree that are only ever responded to by people with poor English skills thinking that the ad is offering a job, or wankers who think it’s funny to take the piss out of the desperate by responding with something sexually suggestive. They’re uploading humiliating begging videos to YouTube and Facebook, because the business world is so immature that it thinks it’s cool to run Dragons’ Den-style recruitment processes. These young workers see all of this and think “What’s the fucking point?”

It’s not going to matter that I could be at a job that starts at 8am by 7.45am, or that I worked a summer job hauling marquee poles around – god, that was shit, but I stuck it out – or that I know better than to turn up to an interview in jeans and a hoodie. Nothing’s going to fucking matter, because you’ve had a few bad experiences with people from my socioeconomic demographic and decided to write the whole lot of us off, and tell the world via social media, newspapers and television that you’re doing so. Fucking great.

I spent my early teens to mid-twenties among the first wave of “useless young people”, despite applying for jobs that would’ve meant an hour and a half on a fucking bus, each way, despite doing a job that meant I had to get up at 4.30am so I could feed and walk the dogs, get showered and dressed and have breakfast before I had to leave the house at 6am to walk to the bus stop for the ONE bus that would get me into the city an hour before I needed to be at work.

Despite getting to work, and having to watch colleagues who lived in the fucking city eating their breakfast at their desks, because apparently I was the only one who could be bothered to be fucking organised in the morning. And anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not a morning person. There isn’t enough coffee in the world for me to be bright-eyed and bushy-fucking-tailed before about 10.30am.

Despite the fact that I was intelligent and capable, and proved it time and time again. No-one was interested, because I was a “useless, lazy, entitled young person”, so they could go and rip off some poor foreign bugger with a clean fucking conscience.

Now, in my late twenties, I’m suffering the effects of that dismissive earlier attitude – my ‘career’ hasn’t ‘advanced’ as far as some fucking suited wanker thinks it should’ve done, so I’m therefore not worth bothering with. I’m obviously a workshy waster who’d struggle to spell ‘work’, never mind actually do it. Or I get the “Oh, that’s quite a way from Norwich – and you don’t have a driving licence?” with the pitying look that says because I’m apparently incapable of doing this piss-easy thing called driving (easy if you have decent peripheral vision, and haven’t had a ‘dissociative episode’ during a driving test), I must also be incapable of reading bus timetables and working out if I can get to and from a place for the times they want me there.

I also get a lot of “Why don’t you move to the city? That would surely make finding work easier.” Yes, because I can pay the astronomical fucking rents on crappy city centre flats with Monopoly money, can’t I?

British business has spent years writing off British workers and they wonder why so many of us are now shrugging our shoulders and saying “fuck you then” at the expense of that mythical beast ‘the taxpayer’, as if we don’t pay fucking tax on just about everything we buy.

I don’t give a fuck that you probably have met some fucking useless twats – I probably went to school with most of them – but until you give everyone in the group you’re so casually trashing a chance, you don’t get to have a fucking opinion on that group as a whole. Talk about the individuals you’ve encountered but don’t fucking tar us all with the same fucking brush. You wouldn’t get away with it if you were saying “all black people are lazy”, or “all Muslim blokes expect a decent salary for an easy job”. Just because there’s no law against this particular prejudice, doesn’t make it right.

Offer me a job. Give me a chance to do it. Then tell the world – if it’s the case – that I’m lazy and incompetent. But you don’t get to fucking judge me until you’ve met me.

The treatment process

According to Face-crap, which got its intel from the Telegraph, the great and the good that are the UK government are planning to sanction benefit claimants who “refuse treatment” for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, because, apparently, “cognitive behavioural therapies work”. So say well-off, middle-class wankers whose only experience of depression has been Fortnum & Mason being out of the ’57 Merlot, without which their dinner party will be a complete write-off.

Cognitive behavioural therapies don’t always fucking work. I know this because I spent three years being asked to “imagine the very worst that could happen” – fine, you cunt; the worst that could happen, right now, is I don’t get this job. The jobcentre tossers decide I “wasn’t trying hard enough”, or some such crap that makes an entirely arbitrary decision – based on whether the interviewer’s getting his leg over sufficiently, or the fact that her PA brought her a full fat latte this morning, when she specifically asked for skinny – into my fault. I lose my benefits, including housing benefit, I can’t pay the rent on the hell hole I call home, I end up on the streets and either starve, freeze or get beaten to death.

There – now the fucking therapist is as depressed about the state of the world as I am. Good. Welcome to the world as experienced by the working class, pal. And yes, I’ve taken my heavy-duty prescription medication like a good little boy, too – then stopped, and switched to valerian, which isn’t recognised because you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it, or be seen by a psychiatrist with no concept of how anyone earning less than thirty grand a year could possibly survive, just to get hold of it. And you know what? It has the same effect; I still feel like I should kill myself, I just don’t have the energy to do it.

Job interviews still see me up half the night with stomach cramps, sweating and vomiting, then sitting there, on the wrong side of that fucking desk, shaking and trying to force a coherent answer out of the fuzz in my head; the shakes are just less obvious, so I look weird, rather than alcoholic. I still hear the voices telling me what people are thinking, what threats are out there, how useless I am – it’s just that they’re whispers from the next room, now, rather than someone sitting across the table from me. The other people in my head are still there – they just choose to stay in their rooms, quietly getting on with whatever it is they do when I’m in control of my mind and body.

I’ve “engaged and complied with the treatment process”, as they say in psycho-babble, and I’m still batshit crazy. The craziness didn’t get better when I was on the drugs-and-talking-cure trick, and it’s got no worse since I decided to use valerian to take the edge off everything and treat the people in my head like people that can be engaged with, rather than enemies that have to be destroyed.

Stop my benefits. Call me a liar, a lazy scrounger. Tell me I’m “making it all up”, that “society doesn’t exist to support layabouts like you”. Force me to take a job, any job – then watch as I get sacked, because, from what I’ve seen in the contracts I’ve had for the jobs I’ve done before, from what I’ve experienced first hand, employers are allowed to call insanity “gross misconduct”, and fire your arse without notice.

Whether or not you give me a pittance to live on, whether or not I’m working, whatever names you choose to call me, I will still be depressed. I will still get anxious about anything from the state of the world to the fact that Tesco have put the price up on the yoghurt I like. I will still have five other people living and talking in my head. I will still see things that aren’t there. Your threats, punishments and disapproval will not “cure” me, or make me “suitable” for the kind of twats who get to decide whether or not they want a nutter working for them.

I’ll carry on doing things that I enjoy in the times when my madness decides to take a day off. I’ll write, create, engage in debate, walk my dogs, take care of my partner. And on the days when the world’s inside out and back to front, I’ll stay in bed with the curtains closed, grit my teeth, and endure it until the darkness lifts. My life continues with or without your approval.

Employed by the government

“Get a fucking job, you lazy sponger!”

I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone is saying under their breath as I bowl out of my house in the middle of the day with a pair of shades on waving my dole money about like an American rapper.

The cat’s out of the bag. I am unemployed and slightly unrepentant I must say but I wasn’t always like that. Up until last year, when my company realised that a projection of income isn’t guaranteed and that my tiny salary would offset their discrepancy, I had worked since I left college at 19. Covered a wide range of industries, from slapping children to sending text messages from behind desks, walking around aimlessly on London Underground and most recently stapling bits of paper to other bits of paper (or removing all but one staple from other people’s staplers).

I was employed and loathing it. Apparently 80% of everyone hates their job and frankly who could blame them. Your jobs are shit! You! Reading this now, your job is shit! And you know it, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading a website of hateful rants. Admit it. You want to quit.

Do it! I didn’t dive back into work and I’ll tell you why. Russell Brand. No he didn’t inspire me with his vaudevillian mockney geezer ‘oh matron’ routines. He said something about voting to old Paxo. I’ll paraphrase: “Ooh blimey, don’t do that voting lark! It’s just the perpetuation of societal routines in which those elected demonise the poor and consolidate power and wealth to their elitist big business friends. Don’t do none of that voting or nuffin’ coz nuffin’ will change and that. Until there’s an alternative Jeremy, I shan’t, can’t and won’t participate in this complicité tacite. I’m proper angry and that now, Jeremy. You little scallywag, you!”
And I thought to myself (because not many people listen when I speak) if it’s not worth voting without a proper choice, does that apply to everything?

And so I am here. Unemployed. Because who wants to cram their face into the stinking underarms of a stranger on the tube in the morning and have his egg and bacon McMuffin breakfast dripping from his pores onto your eyelids like acid. Or spend seven hours pretending to like the boss’s cunt of a PA in case she convinces him to fire you during their pillow talk. Or having six-figure earners ask you how to change the font size.

Fuck that. Enquire as to your benefit allowances and get on that dole if you can afford it. There is something in the world that you are great at and frankly it’s not worth slaving away for five days a week if you could be doing something else you enjoy instead. So if you don’t have the job you want, don’t participate until you get it.

And if you need any more wise words of advice from me, you can find me in Victoria Park sitting on a bench. I’ll be the one with the fake Burberry cap, can of white lightning and a staffy between my legs shouting at passers-by “Get a fucking benefit, you busy do-gooder!”