Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How to go on strike... when you're unemployed

Yeah. Fuck yeah. The unemployed need to strike for better labor conditions. Isn't that insane? Yeah. It's totally insane. So how on earth does an unemployed person go on strike?

Let's examine what our jobs are as unemployed people. It's not really that we have jobs to do, it's more like, we are products, and we have to perform our designed function, or else our market value diminishes. So what is our function as products? Our function is to erode the strength of our labor rights. Or rather, our employed friend's labor rights. As long as we're here to provide an example of what could happen to them if they get picky about how badly they're willing to get fucked by their employers, we're performing our main function. But it goes beyond that, of course. We also have to sell the public on a very simple, phony narrative about what poverty is and where it comes from. We have to line up at soup kitchens so people can point to us and say "look, see that's what'll happen to you if you complain about not getting a raise!"

You can tell because any time you point out a systemic barrier that's reinforcing your poverty, somehow your complaint will be interpreted as "I have given up on trying to do anything to help myself." This often happens to people when they try to advocate on their own behalf, instead of bullying their way through everything. It can happen on any issue. It happens to women when they try to assert their most basic and obvious rights over their own bodies. It happens to black people when they point out that police have a hard-on for their blood.

Our presentation as a commodity subverts our desire to show off our own sense of determination, our positive attitude. It's not good enough to have a positive outlook. It's not good enough to be ashamed of being poor: you're expected to ignore everything that led to your situation, and ram yourself up against the same set of barriers over and over again. And you're expected to find things about yourself that aren't even true, to hold up as the evil personality traits that are holding you back. Your fake laziness, for example. Your imaginary addictions. All the things that your friends and family create in their minds because they don't know you're on benefits. They don't know how inadequate those benefits are. And you can't let them find out because then they'd stop talking to you! So our function also includes keeping the rest of the public in the dark. They must not find out about how little we actually get.

We're also expected to keep the rest of the public in the dark about how much of their money, which they think is going to us, is going to the people who provide the services that we count on, to replace the money we're not getting. The public is very ignorant about how large the poverty industry really is. And of course, anybody who's either employed by or commodified by (treated as a client of) the industry has every reason not to criticise it at all. We have to go along to get along. Kind of like how there's no real point in voicing any criticisms when a soup kitchen gives you dangerous, inedible or unhealthy food: you will be punished by other soup kitchen users, if not by staff. And you'll be punished by your friends for mentioning it.

So what do your employed friends and the rest of the public get out of remaining so ignorant? Do they save money? Nope. They do manage to keep a lot of people employed who'd lose their jobs if a guaranteed living-wage income supplement were introduced, though. But that's not the real reason that their ignorance is so valuable. There's a semi-real reason, and then the real reason. The semi-real reason is that it allows the public to ignore politics on this issue, and the public wants to ignore politics on as many issues as possible. Poverty is an issue that's permanently backburnered. So that's the semi-real reason. The real reason is: without poverty we can't have exploitative labor practices. And without that, and without slavery, and without pollution, big evil international business just isn't profitable enough to compete with mom-and-pop small business operations. It's just a large-scale vs. small-scale thing. It's a way to add unecessary levels of management by increasing the size of an operation. And now we're getting into market and trade and finance territory, but that's the problem: poverty is related to transnational corporate success.

There's gotta be a whole bunch more functions that we're supposed to be filling as products in the poverty industry. This is definitely a beginner list. A start. But let's see what we can find in terms of actionable recommendations for the common peasant looking to turn their life into one continuous culture jam aimed at resetting the economics of our civilization.

  1. No more invisibility. Why pick an inaccurate oversimplification like "not going out much lately" when you can pick an accurate one like "can't, too poor"? Why? You don't have to make excuses for your poverty. And you don't have to identify yourself personally if you don't want to, why not became a citizen journalist aka whistleblower? Recording devices are cheaper than ever. Blogging is easier than ever. Anonymity is easier than ever. Awesome computers are right there at the job search centre waiting for you. When you're in the middle of a serious poverty moment, hit record. YouTube has a "blur all faces" feature. What would the anti-police-violence movement be doing without all those awesome anonymous cellphone videos. It'd be standing around holding its dick like we are. All the time.
  2. No more excuses. They're barriers. They're real. They stopped you before. They'll stop you again unless they're taken down. They can't be taken down 'til they're visible. And who identifies barriers? The people being impeded by them.
  3. No more compromises. You've been eating food that makes you sick, at places that make you scared, to avoid hunger. Well... don't you have the absolute perfect makings of a hunger strike built into your situation? Yes you do. Call it a poverty fast, document it, and show it off. Choose hunger.
  4. Demand political power: you're not telling the people you know what's going on with you so they'll give you stuff or money or personally help you. You're telling them so they'll realize what's going on generally, and write to a politician about it, or comment on an article about it, or write to an editor about it, or do something that demonstrates political solidarity and awareness. Anytime somebody tries to give you something to help, that's what they're trying to avoid. They're trying to avoid becoming politically active on any issue, especially this one. Your sympathetic friends would sooner part with every single object they have than put their necks on the line by posting a link to an article about systemic, self-reinforcing poverty. And you need to indicate to them that what you need isn't a fish, isn't fishing instructions, it's for the river to be cleaned up so the fish can come back. Don't go out telling your sob story for donations. Go out telling your sob story for mobilization. It's the only way to keep friends who aren't living in poverty, but you have to work hard to make them understand that you don't want their resources, you want their political support, not personally and individually but as a privileged person speaking out for a whole class of oppressed persons. This is something that people love to do, in fact, even though they're terrified of doing it.
  5. No more secrets: don't let the people around you think you collect more from ODSP or welfare than you actually do. Don't let them think you get free transportation. Don't let them think you get free food that works for you when really it doesn't. Don't let them think you can afford to accept a job offer when you can't. Don't let them keep on not knowing how that works. Don't let them think somebody can go to work for three weeks without food, without laundry money, and without transportation. Don't let them think you can save for a trip. Don't let them think your benefits package increases when expenses increase. Don't let them think you get a break on rent or utilities or anything. Don't let them think you can just check into a shelter anytime when really you can't. Don't let them think you want them to know all this stuff so you can have their resources. You don't want their resources, you don't want their recommendations, you want them to email their politicians about why your benefits leave you way below the poverty line. You want them to correct their coworkers when they make uninformed statements about poor people. You want them to join you in the real world. You want them to disengage with the fantasy.
  6. Find clarity. Finally. We're not supposed to be clear with ourselves about what our own responsibilities are, because we're not allowed to identify barriers. As long as we can't identify barriers, we have to take responsibility for things that we can't demonstrate we've been responsible for. Without being able to separate out our own failures from the barriers that have messed with us, we can't even address what we ourselves screwed up on. And without acknowledging those barriers, we can't do anything to strategize around them. So if you want to talk about taking control of your life, in any situation, half of that consists of breaking through barriers that other people have set up, and the other half is you working on yourself. When those barriers are hugely profitable and politically entrenched, then your struggle has been politicized and needs to be addressed politically. Fortunately, we're technically living in a democracy, so we all have political power. Unfortunately, people don't really have the power to advocate for their own needs, and the public at large has been sold on a weird version of democracy where we are absolutely terrified of using that power. That fear comes from confusion. Who wants to wield a weapon of tremendous power when the target is unclear? And lack of clarity is the best defence against a politically-empowered public. So what do we have to do to gain clarity? We have to go ahead and identify barriers, and talk about them. We have to talk about where they come from, we have to talk about the malicious intentions behind them, as well as the innocent intentions that lubricated their development. We have to scheme around how we're going to empower ourselves to overcome them. Why re-enter a job market that's based on exploitation? Why pretend to be lazy when you're being excluded by class? Why not just call out the exclusion and demand inclusion? Isn't that you empowering yourself? Why not say hey, here's my two lists: the list of problems that I'm bringing to the table, and what I'm doing about them, and the list of problems that the market and the industry and the government are all bringing to the table, and what I'm doing about them. Instead of just presenting your situation as a big jumbled mess that you'll sort out when you get motivated. There's no way to get motivated if it's an unwinnable fight based on lies and fantasy. The veil of bullshit has to be removed, and then our lives can be detangled. It's just so much easier to solve a real problem than an imaginary one.
This is stuff that applies to basically any social justice movement. So the point of this article is to indoctrinate poor people into activism against their own oppression. Hey, if you don't see it that way, if you really do think it's a matter of bootstraps and addictions and luck and whatever then have fun being on the wrong side of history. You'd have made a great KKK member.


  1. How about a new post? I enjoy reading them.

    1. I know, I've been neglecting the living daylights out of the site. I still need to update the 40 oaks listing, too.

    2. There, I did one :D