The Discrimination of the Unemployed Turns to Illumination When Questioned

Until you find yourself in a position where you can’t find employment you won’t understand how widespread and deeply entrenched are attitudes about the unemployed.  Where did these attitudes arise? The media.

In Australia we coined terms like – dole bludger, loser, drain on the public purse and so on. In truth to be socially excluded is the hardest experience to bare and can be soul destroying. Not only is it difficult from the perspective of poverty and as a social stigma, you are less likely to find a partner and others will not fund you as they see you as ‘economically unviable’. Yet they have no understanding of the reality.

I’ve spoken to young people about how they feel. They told me they were desperate to get off income support as they felt stressed by job providers who ask them to come in up to 3 times a week. They have to sit there and go for jobs. The agencies have no understanding of the distrust they project when they force people to come in and search on their computers. The silent belief is that you have to stay active and if you are not forced you won’t do it. What they don’t understand is that people are either motivated to do it themselves, honest or losing confidence. What they don’t need is a job agency as a policeman or enforcer of compliance under Social Security rules. What they need is empowerment and encouragement to try a range of ways whilst receiving confidence to keep on and someone showing interest in their future. I am so blown away by the lack of interest agencies have in people, again money appears the incentive not true passion for guiding people into what they truly love. I’ve witnessed a consultant telling a job seeker ‘they have to go to work for the dole’, if they are sick ‘they have to get a certificate’, ‘they must…’, or ‘lose payments.’ The language is conveyed as should, have to, need to and threats if they don’t, this is not respect or service to people. From a conflict resolution perspective, inclusive of psychology, language of this nature is considered disempowering and poor communication which worsens their belief in themselves as they have no say or self determination. Society at large just looks at them as failures with no understanding of the economics behind it which has no connection whatsoever with the idea that they are lazy. In truth laziness is actually disempowerment, they give up and feel unmotivated as they are in patterns that mean they sleep late get up late, they feel completely out of sorts and have no idea what to do. They end up drifting and feeling useless.

I am an economist by training and market analyst by profession. I am also a professional trainer in empowerment and conflict resolution. From an economics perspective I know that there is not full employment as was touted the ideal of economists such as Maynard Keynes (democrat/labour/left wing). Keynesianism envisages government spending as a way to stimulate economic growth. Keynes viewed pump priming (spending) as important to boost the economy in times of recession or in his time, depression (1930s). The government may use interest rates (monetary policy) to influence demand for borrowing money or it may release bonds to buy up money to take it out of the money supply to affect interest rates. People borrow when interest rates are low and will buy bonds when interest rates are high (yields). The government may use fiscal policy (tax and spending on services) to affect the economy (stimulus or contraction).

What we are seeing today is the government exercising less control over employment with the mining industry collapsing and foreign investment changing the playing field. Mining in Australia is a significant industry considered the backbone to the economy. We viewed it as sheep, wheat and mining. We see ourselves as a commodities exporter (extraction). Whereas other countries may adopt a strategy of value adding through complex manufacturing. Australia has slowly dismantled manufacturing in alignment withe Pacific Rim strategy (countries around the Pacific losing manufacturing). Other developing countries in Asia (Asian tigers – Singapore/Taiwan/South Korea/Japan, China), South America and other third world countries can manufacture cheaper given the low cost of labour and government subsidies. The price of the Australian dollar (currency exchange rate) is affected by exports (selling) and imports (buying). If we import more than we export then we have a trade deficit if we export more than we important than we have a trade surplus. There are other factors affecting national accounts such as interest rates on loans which are exponential. Australia has a current account deficit which is $20,794 million. The current account deficit is a measurement of a country’s trade in which the value of goods and services it imports exceeds the value of goods and services it exports. The current account also includes net income, such as interest and dividends, as well as transfers, such as foreign aid, though these components tend to make up a smaller percentage of the current account than exports and imports. The current account is a calculation of a country’s foreign transactions, and along with the capital account is a component of a country’s balance of payment. Refer ttp://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/currentaccountdeficit.asp#ixzz4EwGtEmMM

I am exploring our accounts for the first time in a long time as I put my cap back on, I am having shocks. I am looking at Australia’s net foreign debt – $1,027,844 million ($1.03 trillion) – I have to pause to take this in (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/5302.0) I studied economics in the 1980’s under Labor during the Gareth Evans (Foreign Minister) era. Wow. Okay let’s look at it. I am looking at ABC news they are saying the Current Account Deficit (CAD) $21.1 billion (same as above) so that is $917 per person. Anyway let’s look more… The debt per month according to the ABC the Government is paying $1 billion per month in interest (refer http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-12/joe-hockey-one-billion-a-month-interest-fact-check/5478480). This is massive. Okay how much is Gross Domestic Product (GDP)? GDP=Consumption + Investment + Government spending + (Exports-Imports). This is the equation used to calculate GDP. Debt is 36% of GDP Refer http://www.tradingeconomics.com/australia/government-debt-to-gdp. Okay what is Gross Domestic Product (curious?) Note: Gross domestic product (GDP) of Australia is the total market value of all goods and services produced within Australia in a given period of time. So it is estimated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics at $1,621,554 (million) or $1.6 trillion. So debt is 36%. This is very high. I remember when I studied economics the problem is compound interest, it compounds from one year to the next exponentially, it is easy to get caught in a debt trap. The banking fraternity has much to answer for given enslavement caused by debt. In the third world there are calls for debt forgiveness as indebted nations can be manipulated through debt by banks to restructure their economies. This is called Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP). Yes it saps the country of its own ways of producing and transplants broad scale farming for commercial markets. It can create heavy cuts to government spending on services to the community. So debt is problematic when out of hand. You can lose your sovereignty. So I further poke in the dark. I can see resources fell by 6%, notably coal, iron, minerals. Net Foreign Debt on the Balance of Payments is $844 million (deficit). So that is different from ABC’s analysis. We have an industrial system which once was governed by the National Wage Case (regulating wages and categorising jobs) but now it is negotiated through Enterprise Bargaining and under the previous Labor Accord system (many years ago) wages were traded off for superannuation (long term savings). Today we have issues around whether there will be favourable yields (interest rates) around superannuation investments – in English will there be superannuation to live on when people retire or will Investments go belly up. So the financial situation which creates a buoyant economy or a deficit economy is not controlled by governments but by global impacts.

So it is interesting for me to witness this and see how people unemployed, the result of recessive industries and lack of training spend, being treated like second class citizens. I find it interesting given the reality is we are all equal no matter the job we do. Every person is born into this world and they have a right to happiness and to be treated as equal, yet sadly they are not and their life is deeply affected by their status. Conversely those of high wealth often get into venues for free, gain all sorts of advantages and rewards for being ‘winners’. They find mates, they have friends, their are jobs for the boys (in particular) and they circulate around money which attracts more opportunity. Contrasted by the job agency which has cheap furniture, photocopied instructions half falling off walls or desks. You can so feel the difference in how the environment communicates worthlessness. Those unemployed have many challenges the main one being – confidence and belief in oneself as the system itself disempowers and has a view of those unemployed as if failures that need help. Yes some do but not excessive pressure and having their rights to make a choice removed. It seemed to me not unlike people in jail who lose rights when incarcerated. There is a salient attitude to those believed to be less. I have really come to see how deep this discrimination goes. Most people in this situation comply. Some who know better can’t as they know it is of concern, particularly the loss of rights through signing off on agreements people don’t agree to in truth.

As a market analyst I used to evaluate physical environments in terms of signage, temperature, aesthetics, messages, design and so on. So I observe wherever I go and I see clearly how messages are silently communicated and I have felt saddened. In my own life I came to feel devastated as I felt stuck. I worked in 400 companies yet couldn’t get an interview, it was unbelievable but as a peacemaker I have to make peace with how I may be seen and how I see myself (the latter is harder). I have to see my setbacks in a different light as part of my work but it is hard, I can convey that. People won’t visit you if you don’t have nice things or a partner to suggest you are loved you don’t have the appeal. It is amazing to me as I’ve never judged in this way. I never cared what people did, I came to see them because I loved them and valued them. However, I realise that different viewpoints are out there and people seem at times to care more for what you have rather than who you are. My ex husband Paul told me that attitude is the way of the world, I didn’t believe him at the time. I have wealthy friends and I don’t see them as better than people who are unemployed. I see their challenges and I try to be a friend. That is it.

So going back to unemployment. In my view the job centre process is disempowering. the attitudes are more akin to compliance or policing. The unemployed are forced to sign contracts in agreement with job search, work for the dole and other activities which appear to be coming into use the computers. I wasn’t offered training myself although that would have helped. The interesting aspect of contracts is in truth you are not in agreement but if you don’t sign you don’t eat. They say this is choice but it is not, it is forced compliance and it raised for me, questions of what is democracy and choice? I have the right to say no to a job if it pays $17.70 gross per hour when I paid $20 per hour in the 1980’s. This appears to be beneath the poverty line. The welfare payment is 1/3 under the poverty line from my research. I was told I had to put in my c.v. even though I didn’t know who the employer was. For me this was important as I’ve seen the abuse in industry and I have ethics. So I have to be sure that I am not applying for a company that is not in alignment with my ethics. From my own research and experience I have come to see that economic growth without humanity is not serving society. We cannot just create employment and trash the planet which is happening day by day. I see companies getting around safety and pollution controls by moving offshore or building in obscelence into products so you and I purchase more, this affects resources on the planet. I believe in humane employment policies. I do not believe people should be in a position where they have to work 70 hours per week when this could be job share. I want to see people with choices, particularly with families, as their children don’t see them. They should not have to feel pressured by career to dedicate more unpaid time. We are seeing the removal of loadings from overtime, we are seeing slowly more of the benefits of employment being undone due to the pressure of wages downward. This comes from a mindset that regards labour as a cost of production rather than a human asset that could be expanded through creativity (working smarter) and education. Instead the pressure is to cut the bottom line. We have created to many expenses that are rising due to the CPI (consumer price index). This should not just be an automatic increase as it is inflationary and erodes real incomes for wage earners. In other words prices rise, wages don’t this means the cost of living rises. So I see many externalities (pollution, health issues – stress etc) that companies can off load onto society rather than take responsibility for their part.

Increasingly I am noticing workplaces are more controlled and people are not given a say in how things happen, particularly if those decisions affect people’s lives. We don’t have democracy in workplaces to mirror the social philosophy of a free society. So what we end up with is contracts (sound familiar) and agreements where employees have no choice but to sign if they want to pay mortgages and get kids to school. So in truth they feel forced unless they have bargaining power through their skills being in demand or union representation. This in my view is autocratic governance in workplaces increasingly unaware and detached from the difficulties employees are experiencing. There is a silent creed at work – keep your head down and just smile and say yes. There is a code where it is not appropriate to speak up and these people are seen as trouble makers rather than empowered citizens speaking up and stating their truth. So people play it safe but increasingly problems surface. Bullying is another problem and this may arise out of work pressure, poor management understanding where managers step over the line of control and it becomes an extension of their ego. They feel bigger when they force and demand outcomes. People tend to comply (sound familiar)out of fear of loss of income. So in suppression their stress grows, their frustration goes and a feeling of disempowerment grows (sound familiar!!). I see this culture of compliance overlaying not only unemployed people but working people as well. I ask compliance or democracy.

I do not agree with Mutual Obligation as I believe Social Security has an obligation under the Constitution to provide income for those struggling or in hardship. It is actually the sign of a civilised society to look after people who fall between the cracks or happened to be the outcome of recession or industry contractions. Moreover, work for the dole is a form of civil conscription and from my understanding of the Australian Constitution Section 51, sub section 23A there is an clause that says it is not legal to civilly conscript. If you look at this and perhaps put yourself in their shoes, how would you feel to be forced to do work like making christmas presents that doesn’t lead you into work, but is a form of sheltered workshop type of work. You were told you owe the government through mutual obligation, in my view inferring you draining the government and lazy. In truth welfare spending through recipients is an excellent way to stimulate the economy particularly in rents and food. Both mostly local industries. So the money goes back into retailers or investors which is responsible for stimulating employment and growth. Moreover, unemployment keeps wages down, imagine if their was full employment, employers would have to compete for labour and that would force wages up. So there is an interest in keeping conditions of unemployment so that wages can be driven down (remember a cost of production). So it is not a drain it is a job creator in truth. People contribute to their society in a range of ways. They may look after the elderly, they give their time to others when many don’t have time. They help others around them. They may engage in pursuits that are creative, volunteering, or somehow contributing to the creative commons. There are many ways people contribute. In fact it is not possible not to. Everyone pays tax through GST so the argument of draining the taxpayer is no longer legitimate.

For myself, I’d like to see more compassion and kindness in industry. I’d ask HR professionals to ease up on criteria and look for people with a passion for a job rather than fitting a box and caring nothing for the position. 20 years ago it was easy to get work and people would give you a go much quicker than today. This means talented people could find work and they didn’t need all these onerous qualifications that may expand the profits of the training industry and off load training costs from businesses to trainers, in truth it created more barriers to those seeking to enter lower entry level industries. This means they couldn’t get work as they didn’t have the qualifications. Not everyone is academic, some are good with their hands, they are artists, singers, carers and so on. They are equally intelligent but their intelligence is broad based. I’ve met trades people who are much better problem solvers than academics. I’ve seen mothers as better at psychology than psychologists. I’ve seen a carer who was called to the profession and she gave the elderly more than a normal Personal Care Attendant. They loved her. I watched her interact with them and their eyes light up. Then I watched another flopped the old person over like meat. She had no feeling or empathy for this person. The person felt like they were being handled and you could see the stress. Yet the carer had no idea she was impacting the elderly person this way. She had no empathy. She probably had all the qualifications but not a personal feeling for the elderly, poorly recruited. The list goes on. We are all much happier when we fit the right place and are doing work that inspires us rather than bores us to distraction.

We have a lot of changes to make in the society to ensure people are happy. It is so important that all people are honoured no matter if they are working or not. They are indeed equal and of great value. I’ve heard stories from every work of life and I see the university of life in many eyes. I no longer rank people by how much they earn and intelligence for me is not equated in degrees but emotional intelligence. I’ve met many so called intelligent people who have no clue about how they impact others or are socially inept. yet they will rake in the high salaries and be valued higher than an intelligent unemployed person who may be an Einstein in disguise. What a world we live in. I see it as insane, I see a loved based culture as the only sanity and when people thrive the planet will. As we come into harmony with inner truth we harmonise with natural systems which is part of us.

The malaise we see today is reflective of a global civilisation moving away from traditional knowledge to university systemic knowledge which doesn’t think holistically, it thinks in segments or specialisation. It can’t connect the dots and see how all things integrate and impact. Economics is all demand and supply curves, microeconomic equations that cannot factor in too many variables. It can look at speculative preference but has no idea of social/emotional impacts or environmental impacts. Which is why we live in a bubble of our own making somehow disconnected from the natural order in the blind belief we control it. In truth as the Indians said ‘when the last tree falls you will realise you cannot eat money’. How true. We don’t see how our behaviour, attitudes, worldview is completely detached from natural systems, flows, homeostasis and the balance required to keep the system stable and functioning. It is an adaptable environment but it has limits to its own ability to adapt. It is an intelligent system that self regulates but with a disconnected humanity exploiting resources for profit and within a consciousness of greed as need, it imbalances with taking for needs without greed and replenishing stocks. We think it is infinite. I know from my economics days that we had infinite growth modelling, a misnomer. The planet is finite and it is highly tuned, but we are completely out of resonance and we are experiencing today the environmental changes witnessed by temperature changes, earthquakes, tsunami’s, axis shifts, volcanic eruptions, ice caps melting, unseasonable blooming, insect movements, bees dying and so on. The natural world is crying out to us that it is under stress, just like us, so do we hear the call for help or ignore it and just cash in until the party is over? I guess it depends on whether we love our children.

So perhaps those unemployed are in the best position. They live where need equals want, they are not creating more demand which is destroying the planet, they are learning to live within their means and they have lost ego of career. My inner sense tells me that one day I will be happy that I’ve learned to live a humble life. That I don’t spend money on false entertainments but face myself on a daily basis, fears and highs. I don’d desire to improve my home to impress others or buy things for the fun of it. I buy what I need and this creates a mindset of living in a way that is in balance with need not greed.

In reality most people will at some point end up unemployed. As the global economy resets and industries collapse, we will find a domino effect occurs as the global system is highly interconnected by a series of banks. The stock market is like a giant casino and when they panic they sell sell sell. This is how stock markets have crashed in the past. They are not really about building foundations to societies that are solid, there is much speculative investment and digital money. Only 10% of reserves are held in cash at any one time I believe. This is called fractional reserve banking. Someone deposits money, 90% lent out 10% held and then in the next transaction deposit the same occurs. It is a way of money creation. If there is a run on the bank the banks can’t give paper/plastic money as they hold a fraction. Gold in the beginning was used as a deposit in exchange for money as a medium of exchange. The Federal Reserve held gold at Fort Knox in the United States to underwrite the value of paper money. However, those gold reserves are substantially reduced. So if there is a collapse the money can’t be underwritten. This came from the Bretton Woods system arising just prior to the end of WWII (1944). At this time the International Monetary Fund was established and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The US controlled 2/3 of the world’s gold at that time and gold was to underwrite currency. The US dollar became a fiat currency and was traded throughout the world. We saw prior to the meltdown in Europe the euro replacing the US dollar. I’d be interested to know what next. Apparently the Chinese are calling for a new reserve currency.

So you can see just from this poke into global trading that we live in precarious times on a system built from greed and status that is completely out of harmony with natural systems.

What I’ve learned from the peace work I’ve done is that we have to reconnect with our true nature which is based on love, compassion, truth, instinct and harmony. That is what helps us to naturally harmonise with nature, as we are embedded within it and dependent upon it. So we have to find ways to interconnect, to live lightly on the earth and shift what we value from material possessions to inner wellbeing of love and peace. This is not a hippy statement of leaping into the air with a joint (which is fine by the way) but a realistic appraisal of who we really are when we stop thinking and start breathing and feeling are nature. Breakdowns, system interrupts can be great at triggering inner reflection and a reality check. We are at the point of a reality check. For if we do not get into harmony we are the ones earmarked by nature for extinction as the system always wins. The greater system does not need us we need the natural system. So ‘who is your daddy’ as Michael Moore said in Fahrenheit 911 (he is speaking of greed in that statement). I love that term. Perhaps it is more accurate to say ‘who is your mother’, for mother earth is the real security and we are indeed in it together. We are not in control, nature is.

So treat each person with love and respect and stop the platitudes that denigrate those not working, in truth they are saving the planet. When you think positive thoughts, when you are kind, when you share you are in harmony with something far beyond your understanding. There are no loses only the failure to love is the greatest externality.

I send you peace and love.

Mohandas Gandhi

“Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong”

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