Sunday, 16 October 2011

Unemployment : A Few Words From The Wise.

Call up the craftsmen
Bring me the draughtsmen
Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I'll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage – Billy Bragg

Having spent the past few months unemployed and subsequently going through a myriad of emotions on the subject; first thinking that I would only take a job that I wanted and suited my own interests, followed by a rapid descent into the depths of ‘I will take any job going’ territory, facilitated by crawling around various agencies and applying for call centres, I then rediscovered my soul (with a little help from the misguided benefit system) and proudly proclaimed: “why should I take a job that I don’t want to do?” Especially when in many cases, you would be worse off if you took a job…and you’d have forty hours less a week in which to do things that you actually want to do. Madness surely, and a fair reflection of the state of society that we live in today. Instead, I’ve reached the conclusion that until I find a job which takes me in exactly the direction I want to be heading in, I will be much better off using this time to fulfill creative ambitions, volunteering and acquiring experience which will ultimately lead me to my career of choice. I opt for this instead of spending my days assisting, and therefore condoning, a pointless system of administration upon which we are all unfortunately forced to rely, by taking any stupid office administration job pushed in my direction.

In times of trouble or unease, music usually has a way of coming through for me - reaffirming my beliefs and assuring me gently that millions of people have felt this way at some point…hell, they’ve even screamed it at the top of their lungs in stadiums. While I can see a fair point in the argument that musicians ‘use’ the working-man’s gripes in their music in order to maintain a grasp on their fan base’s reality – while in the meantime they are chauffeured around in Rolls Royce’s and drinking only the finest champagne in penthouse suites - there is no element of fakery involved when singing along to The Smiths ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ on a grey November morning on your way to the office. As such, I have acquired a list of songs which I think sum up a great deal on the subject, and have discussed them in short below;

Oasis – Cigarettes and Alcohol
Is it worth the aggravation 
To find yourself a job when there's nothing worth working for?
It's a crazy situation
But all I need are cigarettes and alcohol

This song highlights the appeal and subsequent dependency on cigarettes, alcohol and drugs as a remedy to the futile nature of working class life. While many people could not be blamed for finding vices in such things, it is particularly insulting when we witness constant rises on alcohol and tobacco taxes as the government steadily ensures that the working man can no longer afford the few items that get him through the mundane activities of day-to-day life. Tapping into the common sentiment of western disenchantment, it’s no wonder that it has re-appeared several times in the charts since its first release in 1994.

The Smiths – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job 
And heaven knows I'm miserable now
In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don't care if I live or die?

Taken from the 1984 compilation album ‘Hatful of Hollow’, this is perhaps the most explicitly simple statement of how I feel right at this moment. Why are we forced to donate the most valuable asset that we have - our time – to a faceless corporation or activity in which we hold no belief and derive no pleasure? What The Smiths have done so brilliantly here is demonstrate how we find ourselves in such a position without real choice or thought, as this is the path we are all forced to go down whether we like it or not.

John Lennon – Working Class Hero
When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years, 
Then they expect you to pick a career,
When you can't really function you're so full of fear,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
And you think you're so clever and classless and free,
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.

This song is a take on the class split of the 1940s and 1950s, and of the 1960s in which John Lennon was famous. The song appears to tell the story of someone growing up in the working class. According to Lennon in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in December 1970, it is about working class individuals being processed into the middle classes, into the machine. Another demonstration of the inevitability that many people face thanks to the systems in place to keep the working class unquestioning of their fate, this song faced much controversy upon its release – most probably for fear of raising awareness of exactly such issues.
 (Exerts from :

Pink Floyd - Money
Money, get away
Get a good job with more pay and you're okay
Money, it's a gas

Money, it's a crime
Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie
Money so they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a raise it's no surprise that they're giving none away

Focusing more on the financial side of things, ‘Money’ from Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ brilliantly illustrates why millions of people find themselves heading off to jobs they hate every morning of the week – because we are repeatedly being told, from an increasingly young age, that everything is all about money. That is apparently enough justification to hate our lives, to waste our precious time, to start wars and to repeatedly screw over our fellow human beings. Money, it’s a gas.

Bob Dylan – Maggie’s Farm
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
No, I aint gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
Well, I wake up in the morning
Fold my hands and pray for rain
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin' me insane
It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more

Well, he hands you a nickel
He hands you a dime
He asks you with a grin if you're havin' a good time
Then he fines you every time you slam the door

Within ‘Maggie’s Farm’, we see Dylan singing for the youth of his time, urging them to reject society and question what is happening around them, as opposed to quietly accepting an unfair fate and as a result; pushing any ideas and hopes that you had to one side.  The "farm" that Dylan sings of could easily represent racism, state oppression and capitalist exploitation, and has subsequently been used and covered on numerous occasions since its release in 1965 as a symbol of protest.

The Beatles – Taxman
Let me tell you how it will be; 
There's one for you, nineteen for me.
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don't take it all.
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.
Now my advice for those who die, (taxman) 
Declare the pennies on your eyes. (taxman)
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

And you're working for no one but me.


‘Taxman’ is a song written by George Harrison released as the opening track on The Beatles 1966 album ‘Revolver. Its lyrics attack the high levels of progressive tax taken by the British Labour government of Harold Wilson. Harrison said, “‘Taxman' was when I first realised that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes. It was and still is typical." The Beatles' large earnings placed them in the top tax bracket in the United Kingdom, liable to a 95% supertax introduced by Harold Wilson's Labour government, so while they were wealthier than most, they certainly knew a thing or two about the unfairness of the tax system.
(Exerts from :

The Enemy – Away From Here
I'm so sick sick sick and tired
Of working just to be retired
I don't want to get that far
I don't want your company car
Promotions ain't my thing
Name badges are not interesting

Reverend and The Makers – Heavyweight Champion of the World
It might be boring so boring
It might put you to sleep
The same old routine repeats week after week
And you work harder, work harder
Cos you’re told that you must
And you must earn a living
And you must earn a crust…like everybody else
Just be like everybody else

Here, with these songs by The Enemy and Reverend and The Makers, we find two more recent examples of how disillusionment with the working system is still as prevalent as ever. In these cases, the most apparent themes seems to be of boredom with the repetitive routines, and fighting out against what is expected of us, despite whether this bares any relevance to what we actually want to get out of our lives – lives which we only have the pleasure of living once. For as long as society keeps such outrageous systems and restrictions in place, more songs on the subject will continue to be written, and we can continue to enjoy them in the understanding that there is hope and a shared desire for a time when this will no longer be the case.

Right, back to the jobhunt…

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