There’s probably more justification for calling me a scrounger than most people on the dole. Most of the poor sods on the dole are signing on because they are desperate for the money. I’m actually not. I could have survived by spending my savings, and almost decided to do that. What tipped me over the edge and into claiming benefits was the sight of David Cameron’s smug face when it was announced that the economy was picking up and unemployment figures were down. I resolved that whatever the personal inconvenience, I would do my bit to keep the unemployment figures up. I am genuinely unemployed, and I want to be a statistic.
Way back in 1987, I actually worked in a Jobcentre. It was a nice place to work. We had boards with printouts of jobs on, and anyone could come in, glance through the boards, pick out a job and ask us about it. If they wanted to apply, and met the employers criteria we would telephone to arrange an interview for them, and give them a chic little card with the interview details printed on it, which folded into an envelope for the employer to return. It had tick boxes “I have/have not engaged the applicant” and a space for reason if the return was negative. We only had one computer in the office, and the new jobs were pinted out through it. My job was to rip up the printouts, carefully, so the edges were nice and straight and place them on the correct board (latest vacancies, shop, factory or whatever) spacing them as artistically as possible so that the place looked friendly and inviting. In those golden days even though nasty Mrs Thatcher was in Downing Street, jobcentres were not there to force the unemployed into applying for jobs: just to help anyone (regardless of their employment status) to apply for any jobs that were available. In those days quite a lot of people thought dole was an entitlement, not a handout. Something their tax and National Insurance paid for. That was the deal. When you were in work you gave money to the government. When you were out of work you got your own money back. I find it very hard to understand what people think today. Tax avoidance seems to be quite acceptable because people are just “keeping their own money”. Claiming benefits seems to be regarded as a socially unacceptable lifestyle choice. There is a whole industry dedicated to portraying people on benefits as 1. Getting outrageously large amounts of money. 2. Spending their entire lives parked on a sofa in front of an enormous flat screen TV where, whenever they are not insensible as a result of overindulgence in booze, fags and illegal substances, they are having unprotected sex, with someone to whom they are not married, in order to produce more of the feral children on which they rely for their income stream.
The theory is that benefit claimants are not people who either did or will pay tax, and are just getting what they did (or will) pay for. They are a breed apart and don’t pay tax. If you are left wing, you think these people are “socially excluded”. If you are right wing you think that these people are feckless, shiftless and lazy. Whichever wing you are you think that “these people” are different from you in some essential way and that something ought to be done about them. And its that perception I want to blog about, because rich people, poor people, peers of the realm, inmates of Her Majesty’s prisons, they are all just people, and nowhere near as different from each other as they think.