Monday, 13 April 2009

Job Hunting in Stormy Times

Earlier on today, on one of the Italian TV channels, there was a programme featuring a 36-year-old guy who has been looking for a job since October 2008. The guy was sitting in the studio next to his septuagenarian mother; apart from her son, the woman did not seem to have anyone else who could look after her.

One of the things that really struck me was that the guy has a degree in languages and a diploma as a translator. He had worked as a salesman for 4 years, but the company shut down in September of last year. It is quite disturbing to think that given such a baggage, the guy has been unable to find a decent job for so many months!

Some individuals might think that he has been unemployed for so long because he was being choosy when it came to job hunting. That was clearly not the case. Indeed, he said that he had even applied to work as a school janitor, but he was not accepted.

At one point, he was asked whether he would consider moving to another place to look for a job. I thought that the question was a bit silly since the guy cannot just pack and move to wherever he wants to when he is also the primary source of help for his mother.

In my view, the most offensive part of the programme was when a psychiatrist and a representative of some employment agency expressed their opinions about the guy. The psychiatrist made the guy look as though he barely had any coping skills when he suggested the need for psychotherapy. The employment agency representative was even worse; echoing ideas that are frequently expressed by those who are fairly comfortable, he placed most of the blame on the guy. Between the lines, the representative was telling the guy: "Forget about the State and about other people...only you can solve your unemployment problem!" Honestly, if I had been sitting in the unemployed guy's seat, I would probably have told the employment agency representative, "Well, if the State cannot do much to help me, why on earth should I bother voting during election times? Why should I elect people to power when they will ignore my pleas for help?"

I think that the cult of excessive individualism has become so strong that even when discussing social problems such as unemployment, there is this idea that every person has to struggle on their own to solve their own difficulties. In this way, the notion of collective action is brushed aside and countless politicians just continue dishing out wonderful speeches about plans which are hardly ever translated into reality.


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