I have never done nothing for very long. There have been periods of unemployment, but only for two or three months at a time. It’s not that I need to be occupied particularly – I can do that well enough without paid employment, in fact work gets in the way*– and it’s not that I feel some kind of moral obligation to pay my dues to an exploitative capitalist system. No, it’s because what they say is true; you just can’t live on the dole. Historically, middle-class forays into the territories of the poor and the unemployed usually engender some sense of empathy, sympathy even, towards those that live on the breadline. Some middle-class journalists have actually ‘had a go’ at living on subsistence level income for a while, and they are typically confounded by the challenges of having to make ends meet. On a positive note, at least these studies bring to light the difficult circumstances of the otherwise invisible and ignored members of society. But at the end of the day, the experiences of journalists and other types of middle-class researchers are superficial and temporary: over too soon for them to become immersed in the culture of poverty, or for the constant worry of how they are going to feed the kids and pay the bills to have a debilitating effect on their health and relationships - they know they are only pretending, and in a few weeks it’ll all be like a bad dream.
For me, life on the dole was a reality (and who knows, it could be again).* But since I have always been willing to have a go at most things, I have never stayed unemployed for very long. I have also spent a lot of my adult life in Further Education, which if anything is a great excuse for not having to get a job. (I did sign on for a while after I finished my PGCE PCET course a few years ago, and again more recently.) Anyway, I am going to write about my experiences of being on the dole, or Jobseekers Allowance as it is officially called nowadays. I will describe the process, how it felt and how I coped. Not here though; in the full text of my autobiography. I am going to write about it for posterity, in anticipation that it will be of interest to future readers, and even contemporary readers for that matter who do not know what it is like.
(ie. from my perspective)?
To cut a long story short: