Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Doing More With Less: In Defense of Creative Loafing
March 11, 2008 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Doing More With Less: In Defense of Creative Loafing I’ve been on unemployment three times in the past six years. Each time was better than the last, and each time I stayed on until the last cent was exhausted. I didn’t even try to get a job; it was a paid vacation. This is somewhat unusual from what I can tell. There’s a deep vein of antipathy in this country toward collecting checks from the government, especially in precincts that tend to skew rightward. Politicians imply that it’s un-American for an individual to milk the government, all while jacking up corporate welfare for their campaign contributors. And your uncle who cheered at the end of Easy Rider? He insists that if he had to obliterate 40 years of his life punching a clock, why should you goddamn hippies have it any better?
posted by jason's_planet (107 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Being gainfully unemployed is a lot of fun for about a month. Then it gets tedious.
posted by khaibit at 11:47 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


This article is written as a troll, right? You couldn't have invented a better right-wing stereotype. Complete to the threat to join up with Al-Queda if his benefits weren't extended.
posted by jokeefe at 11:48 AM on March 11, 2008


I was starting to cheer the guy on - until I read further into the article and realized he's an intolerant, self-satisfied little prick. What a douche.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:49 AM on March 11, 2008


So I hope buying shoes on credit and not pulling out was worth being chained to a desk for the rest of your life.

Um, yeah. Fuck this asshole.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:51 AM on March 11, 2008


This article is written as a troll, right? You couldn't have invented a better right-wing stereotype. Complete to the threat to join up with Al-Queda if his benefits weren't extended.

No, I think he's inspiring us to work harder! I'd rather work than spend any more time reading him, certainly.
posted by mkb at 11:52 AM on March 11, 2008


I already agree with some of his arguments and the general principle, my fondest fantasy from the age of about 8 until working ground all fantasy from me was to inherit enough to never have to work for a living -- I'm one of the few people I know who knows what to do with himself when he has extended free time, sure I get bored for an hour here or there but I always have books to finish, things to learn, thoughts to think, arguments to engage skills to develop and so on that were I given a choice of a reasonable income from, say, stocks, or just any 'work' i.e. time and energy consuming activity which I must engage in or face unwelcome consequences, I'd choose the independence (I might do activities some would consider work but it's not the same if you do it for yourself, for fun, with no obligation to do it again tomorrow). But if I didn't feel that way I don't think his presentation would persuade me. He's a dick.
posted by Grod at 11:55 AM on March 11, 2008 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: I feel that I’m absolutely entitled to it
posted by jepler at 11:55 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


and the mere prospect of getting another job was enough to make my testicles retract into my body...

Oh, there's some quality writing in this piece.

There's also the small problem that he doesn't seem to grasp the logic that if everyone followed his "advice," the government would have to pay out billions in benefits, but would have no income to pay for them. But it's OK because we're spending billions in Iraq, or something.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:55 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


He is right though. Your friends and family tell you to 'get a job', and three breaths later they're hatefully dismissing the job they've resigned themselves to giving their life to every day.
posted by ninjew at 11:57 AM on March 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


That is precisely the sort of obnoxious, self-congratulatory defense I don't want to see shopped around for what I believe is, in general, a worthy thesis. Work is kind of, you know, bullshit in a lot of respects and not how most people want to spend their time. But this is a premise used as an excuse to string together Funny Anacdotes. Blech.
posted by cortex at 12:00 PM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm all for people not working so much and not buying so much stuff, but this guy is a grade-A dick.
posted by ssg at 12:01 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


tl dr
posted by Greg Nog at 12:02 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


khaibit: I agree entirely, but for me the timeframe was more like six months. After six months of rocking on everyone else's dime I really went batshit insane and took the first job I could get. I'm one of those people that needs some semblance of structure to be happy. I don't love my job, but I'm definitely happier getting paid to work than to sit on my ass and watch tv.
posted by analogue at 12:06 PM on March 11, 2008


Bob Black did it better.
posted by fleetmouse at 12:07 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


As per his suggestion, I'd love to buy this guy a drink... of hemlock.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:09 PM on March 11, 2008


Bertrand Russell did this first and much better. This guy just needs a slap.
posted by echo target at 12:09 PM on March 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


In other news, why bother going to restaurants when there are homeless shelters that give out food for free! Everybody should go there! Think of all the money we'd save, not buying food anymore.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:11 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


He is right though. Your friends and family tell you to 'get a job', and three breaths later they're hatefully dismissing the job they've resigned themselves to giving their life to every day.

Actually, no, very few of my friends and family do that. They may complain about imperfections, but since when is anything perfect?
posted by mkb at 12:11 PM on March 11, 2008


Not wanting to work is fine. But collecting unemployment without looking for a job is illegal. What a dick.
posted by samw at 12:13 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tom Hodgkinson, although occasionally an alcoholic twat, also did it better.
posted by suckerpunch at 12:14 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


troll
douche
asshole
dick


whatever, I still enjoyed the piece. thanks jp.
posted by caddis at 12:15 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Interesting sense-of-humour faliure going on here.
posted by Artw at 12:17 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


*idles happily, goes back to bed, dreams about art*
posted by loquacious at 12:20 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Quitting the Paint Factory
posted by regicide is good for you at 12:21 PM on March 11, 2008


Edgier than a nerf ball, this fellow is.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:22 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Given the day I'm having at work this is speaking directly to my soul today.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:22 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, I'm all for idling. Don't get me wrong. I just don't like entitled, self-important idling. Unless I'm reading Wodehouse or Three Men In A Boat.
posted by echo target at 12:23 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


But collecting unemployment without looking for a job is illegal. What a dick.
I used to work a seasonal job. I would be unemployed roughly from thanksgiving to valentines day. I collected unemployment. As a condition of getting the check, I had to list ten places per month that I had applied to. Of the scant few that actually called me for an interview, I let them know that come February, I would be going back to my old job. God I was a dick now that I think about it.
posted by Sailormom at 12:23 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting sense-of-humour faliure going on here.

Why don't you explain the hilarity for those of us who are just to dense to see the humour in the article?
posted by ssg at 12:26 PM on March 11, 2008


Having been unemployed on multiple occasions (more than half the time by choice) for varying periods of time of at least 6 months, I can say that the first month is easy, the second is harder and the third is hardest and then it gets easier again (it's very cyclic). There's a bit of a hump you have to get over before it gets good. The thing for me is that while my quality of life improves the longer I am unemployed, my productivity and creativity tends to decrease over time until it spikes again when the prospect of employment hits the horizon. Think a U-curve. Meanwhile the "enjoyment" curve is more like a sine wave.

On the upside, Traveling while unemployed is great. In fact, traveling while employed, like "on vacation," pales in comparison to the freedom of not having to rush back to work. Of course, "traveling" requires money which generally requires working. Thus the vicious cycle.

I collected unemployment for a couple months the first time I was eligible and it felt weird, but everyone told me to claim it. I felt guilty after a bit because I wasn't really interested in a new job at the time, so I stopped. The second time I claimed unemployment I felt entitled to it (dotcom bust) and claimed it for 6+ months. Though most of it went to pay my COBRA health insurance, so I wasn't exactly getting rich off of it. After that I lived on savings, which while foolish and scary at first, proved to be liberating and after some basic budgeting, very enjoyable.

I'll probably never be happily funemployed again, but I did enjoy those times and don't regret them one bit.

Vaguely related literature: Then We Came To The End
posted by shoepal at 12:27 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


In the world of Star Trek, technology has advanced to the point that nobody has to work, so people just do what they want all the time, and if that involves things that formerly would have been considered work, then that is just a coincidence. So if you want to be a poet, then that is your job and if you want to design holodeck apps, then you do that. It is all like whatevs. You just get your food from a replicator anyway. I think that the world is heading there now. I mean, you're at work right now right? Are you working? Me neither. Neither is anyone else. We are all just sitting around in front of computers pretending to work. We might as well stop the charade. Once we have robots to wait tables and build things, we can stop all this nonsense about "work" and I can be a professional laser tag player.
posted by ND¢ at 12:34 PM on March 11, 2008 [192 favorites]


Yet another article proving that the vast majority of writing in free city weeklies is uninformed, rote shit.
posted by dhammond at 12:37 PM on March 11, 2008


I've been on unemployment twice. Both times I let it run to the end of its benefits, because I'd been paying into it for years and it's not as though they give you your money back if you don't use it by the time you retire. I consider both times to be moderately beneficial, although I agree with analogue that I was something of a gibbering madman by the six month mark. I did manage to get a lot of creative writing done, some of which I somehow sold to supplement my income.

My girlfriend at the time thought that I was a hopeless slacker, but when I returned from my hiatus I found a good job and immediately got back to the grind. Today I'm a more-or-less productive member of society, and I can die happy knowing that I took the time to stop and smell the roses (or, more accurately, watch every episode of The Twilight Zone).
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:37 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yet another article proving that the vast majority of writing in free city weeklies is uninformed, rote shit.

I fix things for you as if it were my job, but its not.
posted by ND¢ at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


khaibit: Being gainfully unemployed is a lot of fun for about a month. Then it gets tedious.

Exactly. Ive actually found that it becomes more stressful being unemployed then it was having a job. Of course I don't and won't collect unemployment unless it gets really bad.
posted by lilkeith07 at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2008


Interesting sense-of-humour faliure going on here.

Why don't you explain the hilarity for those of us who are just to dense to see the humour in the article?


Well, it's not explicitly labeled as such but from reading it appears to be a rather lightweight jokey piece including several bits that shouldn't be taken entirely at face value and several points over-emphasized for comedic effect. However there’s something about articles written in that kind of tone, and maybe without the explicit labeling as humorous, that for whatever reason causes MeFites to go fucking mental.

I've seen the same phenomena with Charlie Brooker articles a couple of times and I'm not entirely sure how to explain it, but I suspect there’s quite an overlap with the groups 'People who say things that are funny "aren’t funny"', 'People who get offended at practically anything' and 'People who just go fucking mental whatever'.
posted by Artw at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2008


I’d freely agree the article isn’t very good, BTW, I just don’t see anything worth going fucking mental over.
posted by Artw at 12:42 PM on March 11, 2008


Artw: I don't really see anyone going fucking mental in this thread. Sure, people are calling the guy names, but Mefites are generally pretty quick with the name-calling when they think something sucks, so I wouldn't read too much into it.

It does piss people off a bit when someone does disservice to an argument that they support by making a joke of it (intentionally or not).
posted by ssg at 12:54 PM on March 11, 2008


See, your employer never pays you what you’re worth

In this guy's case, I imagine they paid too much.
posted by adamrice at 12:55 PM on March 11, 2008


Interesting sense-of-humour faliure going on here.

See, my complaint is that that particular failure started well upstream, with our Mr. Schneider.

However there’s something about articles written in that kind of tone, and maybe without the explicit labeling as humorous, that for whatever reason causes MeFites to go fucking mental.

*sets police car on fire, punches nun*
posted by cortex at 1:01 PM on March 11, 2008


I've been seriously considering a month or two of voluntary unemployment, actually. I mean, it'd be nice if the company would just fold already, so I could pick up the $400 a week or whatever, but this is getting really tiresome, and the prospect of finding another job like this is really unappealing.

Maybe I ought to buy that ice cream truck on Craigslist.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:05 PM on March 11, 2008


I dunno, mister, your loafing is not very creative, and seems to have been consistently lacking for the duration of the quarter. Maybe you should show up on Saturday to draft methods of improvement in that area.
posted by zennie at 1:10 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Isn't unemployment at the former employer's whim, to a certain extent? In other words, if your last employer said "I canned his lazy ass for too much metafilter," the state isn't going to approve your unemployment claim?

Mind, I spent a year of my life, in two six-month stretches, on unemployment and aside from having essentially no money it was great. I got $103 a week, I think. 20 years ago, that was real money diddly squat, but my rent was only $100 a month.
posted by maxwelton at 1:11 PM on March 11, 2008


cortex: *sets police car on fire, punches nun*

This could be the new paradigm of rioting: sure, there aren't enough Mefites going fucking mental in one place, but if a good number of us go fucking mental wherever we happen to be, it'll be like a riot spread out around the world. Shortly thereafter, the riot should go viral and we are in business.

Now we just need to figure out how the heck we can monetize this. I'm off to register riotr.com.
posted by ssg at 1:23 PM on March 11, 2008


However there’s something about articles written in that kind of tone, and maybe without the explicit labeling as humorous, that for whatever reason causes MeFites to go fucking mental.

That's because it wasn't funny, and then we get the pleasure of having someone come along and give us shit about not finding it funny.

Really, the guy isn't funny. He's not funny in the way my redneck, "bad back" suffering, perpetually out of work, drunk-ass, "can I use your phone," neighbors back in Michigan weren't funny.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:26 PM on March 11, 2008


Ha! That was fun. Thanks for the link.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:30 PM on March 11, 2008


Funny article. Author remains a douche.

It's a false dilemma. The third way would be to use his abundant free time to find a job that doesn't crush his soul. They do exist.
posted by butterstick at 1:39 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


use his abundant free time to find a job that doesn't crush his soul

Freelance writing, for example?
posted by uncleozzy at 1:41 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some men fantasize about having sex with their girlfriend and her sister/mom/best friend/daughter/brother/all of the above at the same time.

I fantasize about being this guy.

Sure they're both pretty unrealistic and a bit sick in the execution, but still, we all have our fantasies.

Maybe this guy is an entitled dick, but two summers ago when the grocery store shut down and I spent a month on severance, where I could wake up, make a cup of coffee, go for a run, and spend the rest of the day not worrying about shit was easily the happiest I've ever been since I was a wee child.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:46 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Touche, uncleozzy. Touche.
posted by butterstick at 1:54 PM on March 11, 2008


khaibit : Being gainfully unemployed is a lot of fun for about a month. Then it gets tedious.

I somewhat disagree. If you have videogames and booze, you can stay entertained for nearly three months. Thought, at least for me, after that I started getting twitchy and doing crazy projects in the yard and around the house. After a while I needed to find a job just because I was exhausting myself trying to keep busy.
posted by quin at 1:54 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I didn't make it through the whole article. For a loafer, he runs his mouth like an athlete.

I did, however, immediately check to see if my employer has a policy on taking sabbaticals. I wish I could peg down a hard date that I needed to finish certain projects by, and the bosses would know not to pack anything else in my pipeline until I returned. Working life needs a soft reboot. Just to get all the running processes back to an efficient baseline, allow you to identify and close up the non-critical threads, and wipe the cache of all the memory-hogging .tmp crap.
posted by krippledkonscious at 2:00 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've been on unemployment twice. Both times I let it run to the end of its benefits, because I'd been paying into it for years and it's not as though they give you your money back if you don't use it by the time you retire.
Do you feel the same about life insurance? I mean, you pay into it month after month and it's not like they pay you back if you don't die. I think you deserve to collect yours.
posted by rocket88 at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2008


This guy sucks the paint off an 8-ball. It's exactly the kind of writing I'd have loved and aspired to when I was writing for independent weeklies myself, though.

I'm fairly certain that he also did another piece about a year ago for the City Paper about how easy it was for him to have mindless, soulless sex in DC. The tone rings a bell -- it was a thin veneer of self-deprecation over a great big sack of "aren't-I-cool," self-conscious affectation at its douchiest.

It's like the guy shreds up Chuck Pahlaniuk and Hunter S. Thompson novels and just takes big fat bong hits of them. People were all atwitter about that article, too.

If I'm right, he's written a shitbird's warble about getting laid and another about getting a job, ensuring that it will be MUCH more difficult to do either in the future.

And if it is that guy, one of my best friends used to date his roommate. She said their place was like the house in Fight Club, but strewn with more trash and old condom wrappers.

I may be a working stiff, but my standard of living's improved drastically since I thought that kind of writing was cool. Maybe there's a parallel.
posted by chinese_fashion at 2:03 PM on March 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


I think you deserve to collect yours

LOLDEATHTHREATS!
posted by dersins at 2:32 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Praise Bob !!!
posted by jeffburdges at 2:40 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


My goal in life is to eventually be rich enough to not have to work. There's a streak of laziness in me a mile wide and more than a little wanderlust. "Creative Loafing" is basically what I do best. So part of me gets what this guy is saying. And I understand that this is intended as a humorous piece. But the author is reinforcing some dangerous stereotypes. There are enough douchebags out there who still buy into the "welfare queen" myth and who love to find things like this to hold up as "proof" that people on welfare or unemployment are lazy shmucks. Especially in D.C. Seriously, they don't need any more ammunition.
posted by LeeJay at 3:06 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yet another article proving that the vast majority of writing in free city weeklies is uninformed, rote shit.

Hey, you proved your own point. Kudos!
posted by dhammond at 3:12 PM on March 11, 2008


Do you feel the same about life insurance? I mean, you pay into it month after month and it's not like they pay you back if you don't die.

Maybe you pay into it month after month, but lacking dependents, I've never really seen the need.

I think you deserve to collect yours.

We all deserve a break. The nice thing about mortality is that we'll all eventually get one.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:13 PM on March 11, 2008


I'm a layabout, and I love it, but if I got to where I had to steal food I'd get a job already.
posted by bink at 3:20 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Leisure is king, but he has some fucking corny subjects.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:24 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


However there’s something about articles written in that kind of tone, and maybe without the explicit labeling as humorous, that for whatever reason causes MeFites to go fucking mental.

You seem to assume that the article is intended to be humorous, and I'm not sure that's clear. There are plenty of people who really do think exactly what the author said.

I guess some people around here find those people obnoxious.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:25 PM on March 11, 2008


I recall spending about six months on the dole fresh out of university, and totally buying into the ideology that working for the man usually equals soul death. Hanging out with bunches of artskewl girls didn't help much. I also thought it was something that I pretty much owed to my forefathers, who would've surely dreamed of the wonderful future society in which you could do sweet fuck all, and the government would give you enough money to clothe & feed yourself, not to mention pay your rent & buy booze & go see movies & go to the beach & read books & check out all the free art galleries & museums & whatnot.

That attitude has mostly left me now -work is quite rewarding if you find something you enjoy.

I still hold a vague contingency ambition, though: have enough equity in real estate to piss off to Africa or India or wherever, rent a cheap one-room shack & live like a king on a hundred bucks a week or so in rental income.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:38 PM on March 11, 2008


If $400 a week was half of what I normally make, and I had no family, then I wouldn't have a problem staying on unemployment for an extended period of time.

What happens the next time Mr. Genuis gets to the end of his benefits and can't land a job because he didn't start looking soon enough?

The last time I was on unemployment was in 2004 and it wasn't fun. It's never fun when you find out that people you know look for work for over a year only to find nothing. I've been fortunate enough to never be unemployed for more than a month or two.
posted by Dillenger69 at 4:06 PM on March 11, 2008


"I loafe and invite my soul; I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass."

-Walt Whitman
posted by exlotuseater at 4:32 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]



There was a time I was essentially unemployed for nearly two years. Working on and off in the movie business. Then burdened with guilt I worked constantly with little relief for eight years — often working 60 hour plus weeks. And I hated it.

Then I quit and didn't work for almost a year again.

It all taught me some very valuable lessons:

1. "Jobs" are bullshit and are for suckers. They are so you can sell your time, the only commodity that matters, to somebody else so they can re-sell it to reserve more of their own time. It's a fools trade. Don't fall for it.

2. You can make "a living" doing almost anything you like to do. By that I mean you can survive and flourish if you understand what you really need to live happily.

3. Collect unemployment when ever and where ever and for as long as you can. Use that time! Fuck it — there is nothing wrong with that. Work the system as well as you can because it will be one of the few times you will see it do you some good. If you use your time right everybody ends up a winner (I employ people now).

4. Everything you do comes back. I did lots of work for free. But only exactly what I wanted to do. I only worked for people I liked. And eventually it's how we built a business. If you work for people you don't like... well... guess what? It's going to attract more of the same.

I own my own business. Some weeks I work 50 hours or more. Some weeks I works maybe five. Some weeks bring in 70K. Some weeks bring in zero.

Job security is for pussies.
posted by tkchrist at 4:39 PM on March 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


Job security is for pussies.

Hope you got insurance then, Ironman!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:48 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Being gainfully unemployed is a lot of fun for about a month. Then it gets tedious.

All right, I agree it's not a great article, but the above is just silly unless a job is the only thing that keeps you feeling busy and productive. It doesn't have to be. As a writer (and by "writer" I mean I write poetry that's never going to make any money) I'd be delighted if I could afford not to have a normal job.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 6:36 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


The only thing worse than havin a job, is looking for one - Bruce McCullough
posted by any major dude at 6:46 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


shoepal has this one dialed in. His comments are right on. I collected unemployment when I was fired from a McDonalds in 1978 (I'm not just old, I'm an old loser;-). Actually I brought the management's attention to an accounting "irregularity" on the entire crew's pay-stubs and was promptly fired with no reason given the next day. I was quite devastated and my father(who had never been unemployed a day in his life at that point) told me to go file for unemployment. I couldn't believe that my college summer job (which I would have to quit in a couple weeks anyway) made me the proud beneficiary of a $48/week stipend which I would enjoy all through the next semester pretty much making me the richest kid on my dorm floor(70's and a state school, you have to work inflation backwards several decades to realize what a big deal this was!).

Anyway, at 18 years old I became immediately comfortable with this concept of "collecting unemployment". I've collected probably 4 or 5 times over the ensuing decades and shoepal is right about the ebb and flow of appreciation for the time you have and the consequential ways you misuse it/don't appreciate it as your employment gap increases. I last used unemployment(and a nice severance package) as a nice bridge to taking 4 years off(2002-2006) as a stay-at-home dad, which was great. I got to stay home from 1 month after my first daughter was born until a few months after my second daughter turned 2 and then I was able to work from home until they were both nearly 4 and 6. No matter how much money you earn in your lifetime, you will never, ever, ever buy back your children's preschool years and I am deeply, deeply, grateful that I was lucky enough to miss exactly none of those years.

It's a classic grass-is-always-greener deal. There's nothing as energizing as a new job when you've been away for a long time and the other side of this particular coin is it's nearly incomprehensible to seek new employment if you've just lost employment somewhere where you invested every bit of your talent as long and hard as you could. My feeling about the author of the article we're discussing is that he's posing. He's telling us it's great but I KNOW if you've been gone from work long enough, you start to lose your confidence about how good/how marketable/how wanted you really are. You may have left your job at the top of your game and be supremely confident of your ability to return at any time during month 1, month 2, etc. but the confidence slowly seeps out of you and that is what I think this guy is really feeling right now. It's only when you get back out there, put in a couple months and hit your stride again that you get that confidence back again and stop feeling compelled to sell others on how great your life is.

First Comment, guess I should keep them shorter, eh? Anyway, great job spotting the sine-wave and U-curve shoepal!

R
posted by Rafaelloello at 6:50 PM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


You're best of all off with good savings habits and living well within your means so you can just up and have a month off if you need it. But temporary disability insurance is worth having. Superannuation schemes usually offer it as a bonus, although often the qualification and waiting periods are obnoxious.

I spent six years working in the Australian social security system, mostly with the unemployed, mostly before John Howard. The fact of the matter is, human ambition and capability, however you want to define them, are not evenly distributed across persons, or across time. Forcing people to work has a chance of creating resentful, miserable employees; they'll be back in the door again in a few weeks time. (Generally when the wage subsidy the employer gets, runs out, and there is a large proportion of the Australian business sector that basically operates on that basis.)

Punishing the unwilling, unsuitable and unemployable by taking them off the dole has a certain amount of appeal to the mouthbreather voter, who is always up for the joy of seeing a bit of stick put about to anyone who seems vaguely happier in some way than himself, but depriving people of a means to live and feed themselves creates a social burden that will get picked up one way or another. As is usual with right-wing social policy, it fails to take into account the unwillingness of financially unsupported people to politely die off. What happens instead, is the cost of their support, and their dependents' support, gets distributed over their friends and relatives, schoolteachers (my own father dipped into his pocket from time to time to buy kids lunch), shops through shoplifting, landlords through non-payment of rent, random businesses through non-payment of bills, random people through stealing, and so on and so forth. Don't think you won't pay. If it's through the tax system, that has the advantage of spreading the cost out as widely as possible.

What does work, and this is one thing Howard's minions actually got somewhat right, is making them find something to do. Some useful purpose in life, to get out of the house, to meet people, to do something. I'm no fan of the "Protestant work ethic" which would sooner have people shovel shit from one pile and back again all day than be idle, but I do believe there is dignity in usefulness. Being Howard, they got the rest of it wrong of course: the diary of employer contacts is nothing but a honeypot to provide an excuse to kick them off for fraud, the weightings on training, community service, and part-time work are all out of whack, and the whole process is made so ridiculously obnoxious that the benefit of it is largely destroyed.

Anyway. According to those stats I remember, about half of applicants for unemployment were employed again in six weeks, and about half of the remainder every six weeks thereafter. Anyone on the dole longer than six months was either brutally unlucky, or to some extent unemployable, whether from lack of natural intelligence, lack of skills, mental and/or physical health problems, obnoxious personality, or ...

Depression. That's the mammoth in the dole office waiting room, and in the end, was the reason I got out. Depression pervades it. I bring it up separately and additionally to mental health problems (ie, drug addiction, schizophrenia, PTSD) on purpose; it's like a soup in which everything else floats. The happy bludger is a rare beast indeed. The beach-lying, beer-swilling loafer stereotype, if you took a good look at him, is nothing but a depressive deep in pain-avoidance. The grind. The endless emphasis on your worthlessness, from within and without. The inability to raise the ambition and energy to get the skills to get out of the rut. Depression can lose you your job, get you on the dole, and keep you there, and the atmosphere of the unemployment assistance system will only make it significantly harder, unless you are intelligent, self-aware, and careful. Most people are none of these, and in further irony, depression reduces them all.

I think the writer is, whether or not he realizes it, depressed. He feels the working world pointless (he is largely right about that), he has no family to care for, no real reason to get out of bed, and what he describes as lazing around the house could easily be a post-hoc justification for social anxiety. Now, that can take time to get over, time spent not stressing about much, ideally. Whether that's distinguishable from "bludging", even by the person themselves, is a solipsistic question. When the alternative to bludging is untenable, one bludges.

Now the right thing to do, at least under the Australian system, is to see a doctor and get a medical certificate, for exemption from having to seek work for some period of time; normally not more than three months at a time. Get better, and then turn your attention to getting employed. But if the US system doesn't allow for that, well, that's a problem no individual person is in a position to solve.

So no, I don't begrudge him his time off the clock, living on the largesse of the US taxpayers (or selected US taxpayers, because you folks seem to like paying a bunch more for crappier results, for some reason). It's highly unlikely he'll stay that way for any significant length of time. When he gets some ambition, when he finds something he wants he can't afford on his current lifestyle, then he'll be motivated to get it. People being able to do this helps us wage-earning schlubs, even if we never personally need some time off, because desperation drives down wages and conditions.

Which is the other part of it. When you wag your finger and tut-tut, you do that on Sam Walton's behalf, not your own. Sam is standing there with his claws out, ready to seize you if he can and make you his, a serf to do his will or starve. If the choice is bludge, or work for him and his kind, we're all better off if bludging is an option.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:17 PM on March 11, 2008 [15 favorites]


Nothing wrong with the length there, Rafaelloello, although some snarky bastard will probably suggest you drop the "R" signiature thingy.

Ubu
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:19 PM on March 11, 2008


This thread is extremely depressing. Apparently the only reward of prudence and diligence is the privilege of supporting people who would prefer not to support themselves.

It's discouraging to think that I have to give up the fruits of my labor to feed and clothe worthless layabouts. I really feel no differently toward them than I do a cancerous tumor.

I don't even hate them. I'm just disgusted by them and wish they weren't sapping my life.

I don't envy them, because I don't want what they have. I want to work hard and reap the rewards I'm entitled to. Apparently that's discouraged.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:02 PM on March 11, 2008


It's discouraging to think that I have to give up the fruits of my labor to feed and clothe worthless layabouts. I really feel no differently toward them than I do a cancerous tumor.

I know how you feel. After all, I think pretty much the same about CEOs and shareholders.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:18 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Don't despair, Mr. President. Consider this: The Professional Loafer's lifestyle cannot be sustainable. The fact that he went and blabbed about it publicly might even hasten his comeuppance.

Many of us hard-working folk have plans for our future - a legacy. Whether that legacy is children (hopefully good ones), a positive imprint on society, or some larger impact on the world, we strive for something. I look at work as a means of enabling that journey. Sure, it sucks to be stuck in a rut when you hit one, but when you do, at least you know where to find it again. Work your way out and forge on with renewed resolve, cuz now you've got better instrumentation. And if you enjoy your work and can do things with your money like travel, that right there is enough to shitcan most of his arguments.

People who milk the system are in a rut of their own making, and will waste many years going only sideways, adjusting themselves like someone would adjust his own balls - yeah, you've moved it around a bit to get comfortable, but they're still hanging there right by some asshole. And so they'll devote a ridiculous amount of effort to remain stagnant, while you and everyone else retains the ability to effect positive change on a macroscopic scale.

Only thing is, don't die before you accomplish anything. That would suck.
posted by krippledkonscious at 9:33 PM on March 11, 2008


I know how you feel. After all, I think pretty much the same about CEOs and shareholders.

No, I don't think you do know how I feel. To know how I feel, you'd have to possess at least a modicum of innate intelligence and a passing familiarity with the topic.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:44 PM on March 11, 2008


Full-time jobs suck.

Full-time unemployment sucks (after a while).

The middle road? Find a part-time job that pays well enough that you don't have to work full-time.

It works for me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:50 PM on March 11, 2008


To know how I feel, you'd have to possess at least a modicum of innate intelligence and a passing familiarity with the topic.

Would this modicum of intelligence & passing familiarity with topics extend to understanding concepts like "Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site"
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:53 PM on March 11, 2008


Being self-employed in creative fields most of my long life, usually in the underground economy, I got burned out hustling 24/7 for every nickel and not having health insurance and so got a "real" job about two years ago. Sure, I'm over-qualified and underpaid and get treated like shit, but man, it's like a vacation. It's only eight hours a day and just five days a week, with somebody else (the business's owner) sweating the bottom line while I get to leave and go home. To me, "work" IS creative loafing!
posted by bonefish at 10:32 PM on March 11, 2008


To know how I feel, you'd have to possess at least a modicum of innate intelligence

Flagged as "Now pull the other one".
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:36 PM on March 11, 2008


This thread is extremely depressing. Apparently the only reward of prudence and diligence is the privilege of supporting people who would prefer not to support themselves.
Mournful cry of the downward envier. Even you don't believe that. If it were what you really thought the only reward of prudence and diligence were, then it would be prudent to give up work and spend your remaining years indiligently mucking about on the internet, because the prudent person does what works, not just what looks like it's expected of them.

That you seem to think otherwise, indicates that you do apparently get something out of your prudence and diligence for your precious self. I suspect you think you deserve all the rewards of everything you do, which is incredibly ignorant and selfish, because you do whatever you do as a member of a society. You didn't invent the language you speak, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the computer you type on, the foods you eat; a huge amount of what you take for granted as your due was thought up by people you'd dismiss as "worthless layabouts" because they had time and inclination.

It's discouraging to think that I have to give up the fruits of my labor to feed and clothe worthless layabouts. I really feel no differently toward them than I do a cancerous tumor.
Hyperbole, venom, and a lack of perspective? From you? No way!

I don't even hate them. I'm just disgusted by them and wish they weren't sapping my life.
There's a whole cloud of sap-suckers all around you, Steve. The unemployed are little, and their straws are tiny. Real-estate speculators are doing you a hundred times as much damage.

I don't envy them, because I don't want what they have. I want to work hard and reap the rewards I'm entitled to. Apparently that's discouraged.
Nope, go for it. You may find "entitled to" has a different meaning than what you're thinking, though. Working merely entitles you to roll the dice. You're not entitled to roll double-sixes.

Another major thing you're missing: the same person can, at different times in their life, be productive and diligent or lazy and a layabout. If everyone were all productive all the time, we'd live to maybe forty and we'd still be in the feudal system, because no-one would ever have the time to just stop, lie back for a bit, and question life.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:40 AM on March 12, 2008 [9 favorites]


posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America

It's discouraging to think that I have to give up the fruits of my labor to feed and clothe worthless layabouts. I really feel no differently toward them than I do a cancerous tumor.

Eponysterical!!
posted by fullerine at 2:40 AM on March 12, 2008


What aeschenkarnos said, a thousand times.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:10 AM on March 12, 2008


hey, stop picking on Captain America while he's sleeping off his booze and can't defend himself!
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:47 AM on March 12, 2008


This thread is extremely depressing. Apparently the only reward of prudence and diligence is the privilege of supporting people who would prefer not to support themselves.

It's discouraging to think that I have to give up the fruits of my labor to feed and clothe worthless layabouts. I really feel no differently toward them than I do a cancerous tumor.


Yeah, I don't want kids either.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:33 AM on March 12, 2008


Wow. People are really pissed at this article. I thought it was really, really funny.
posted by onepapertiger at 7:14 AM on March 12, 2008


Uther Bentazor:
It's discouraging to think that I have to give up the fruits of my labor to feed and clothe worthless layabouts.[...]

Yeah, I don't want kids either.
People choose to have children. No one says, "The best use of my life and resources is to support some guy who has decided not to work." There are chosen obligations and then there are unchosen obligations. There's a difference, right?
posted by A-Train at 7:41 AM on March 12, 2008


Insofar as state and federal welfare policy, and not the actions of random citizens within the confines of those policies, determine the degree to which "support[ing] some guy who has decided not to work" is an obligation, where you live is very much of the chosen rather than the unchosen variety.

It's not like some lazy guy invented and implemented the unemployment insurance system one day because he didn't feel like going to work. Dislike being forced by your government into supporting that system? Move somewhere with a policy more to your liking. Dislike flaws in a system you otherwise support? Go get an economics degree, or get involved in state government.

Choice very much applies to the actions toward change that Joe Whinypants is or is not pursuing, and the whining itself is neither an obligation nor remotely unchosen.
posted by cortex at 8:06 AM on March 12, 2008


Idler:
...edition of the Idler is titled “How To Save The World Without Really Trying” and argues that idleness is eco-friendly and that to save the planet we need to to do a lot less. It is man’s interference that has caused the problems; therefore we need to leave nature alone.
posted by asok at 9:04 AM on March 12, 2008


I'm surprised at how few people commented about the "stealing food" part of the article. I mean the guy starts out okay, progresses slowly towards low-life-hood, then drops directly off the edge of the cliff.

Though I enjoyed the premise. While I enjoy the job I'm at now, the next time I find myself unemployed, I'm going to stretch it as long as I (reasonably, morally) can. Sabbaticals are good things! You can take time to recharge your creative energies, dip into the parts of your field you wish you could have learned more about but were restricted by the projects you were on, and take time to catch up on a really good TV show maybe. Then return to work as one of those oddly cheerful, happy, satisfied-with-their-lives-and-as-a-result-contributing-more-than-everyone-else types.
posted by Imperfect at 9:16 AM on March 12, 2008


cortex:
It's not like some lazy guy invented and implemented the unemployment insurance system one day because he didn't feel like going to work.
He's a parasite now even if he didn't invent the unemployment insurance system.
Dislike being forced by your government into supporting that system? Move somewhere with a policy more to your liking.
Wow, that is so great. It takes me back to when I lived in Canada. That is exactly what friends in Canada said when I said I thought Canada was too socialist. "If you don't like it, boy, why don't you move out of town? We all held a vote on how community resources should be allocated." <hostile glare/>

Dislike the mindset of the citizens where you live? Persuade others to effect intellectual and cultural change. Oh wait -- doesn't work in Canada or the US; doesn't work in person or on the internet.
posted by A-Train at 9:35 AM on March 12, 2008


Fact: Canadians automatically start speaking like stereotypical Southerners if their community resource allocations are being threatened.

"Y'all ain't from around Chibougamau, are ya? Keep drivin', boy."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:47 AM on March 12, 2008


doesn't work in Canada or the US; doesn't work in person or on the internet.

Perhaps you're just not very good at it.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:57 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


He's a parasite now even if he didn't invent the unemployment insurance system.

And the fact that the unemployment insurance system exists and allows him to get away with being a "parasite" is a function of the system as it exists, independent of his use of it; and the reality of the creation and maintenance of that system exists, too, independent of his specific use or exploitation of it

So, it's the obligation of those who disagree with you to just up and agree with you? Your set of preferences is more important than that of everyone else who lives where you do?

You did notably elect not to quote the part of my comment where I suggested that, if you're not so unhappy that you're inclined to move, you actually take personal action to effect change within the system.

To come back to your comment about chosen vs. unchosen obligations directly, you said this:

People choose to have children. No one says, "The best use of my life and resources is to support some guy who has decided not to work." There are chosen obligations and then there are unchosen obligations. There's a difference, right?

No one says, "The best use of my life and resources is to support some guy who has decided to have kids", either. And yet we have taxation for education and child services and so on. Taxation for social services for the mentally ill; for the elderly and sick; for the incarceration of folks convicted at varying rates and for varying reasons; and on, and on.

No one sets out in life to fund any of these things, all of which can be ascribed partially or wholly to the choices made by the individuals who end up using (or exploiting) these systems. The folks who feel sufficiently strongly about not funding one or all of these services will choose to do something about it: move; change the system; cheat on their taxes. The folks who don't care enough, won't. A lot of the folks in that latter are will complain, which is understandable but doesn't actually count one whit as far as effecting change, and often comes off as just plain whiny.
posted by cortex at 10:30 AM on March 12, 2008


Hope you got insurance then, Ironman!

There is no "insurance" that pays you for going out of business. There is no "insurance" that protects your time or provides you more of it.

But yes. We have savings. We have capital. We have health insurance. We have little debt.

My point is this. There is no "Job Security. " It is a myth. Your employers, if you have them, owe you nothing. Being employed by others is an illusion of security. Best you learn that right away. Most of you in the US are going learn the hard away with in the next five years. As most of you will be laid off.

I have employed as much as 12 co-workers to, right now, three. We pay them well. Provide them with decent benefits. But legally I own them next to nothing in terms of keeping them employed beyond any person contracts we drafted with them. And we are highly unusual. Most business don't utilize the liberal contracts that we draft and respect.

This thread is extremely depressing. Apparently the only reward of prudence and diligence is the privilege of supporting people who would prefer not to support themselves.

Where? Who in this thread are you "supporting?" You are imagining this. Individuals and businesses pay into unemployment insurance. I PAY into unemployment insurance. It is not "welfare." How many people do you employ, Steve? I see nobody here you support.

It's discouraging to think that I have to give up the fruits of my labor to feed and clothe worthless layabouts. I really feel no differently toward them than I do a cancerous tumor.

Man you sound bitter and well... pathetic.

Do you enjoy your labor? I think your problem is there. Because if you are waiting to enjoy the "fruits"? They are gong to be spoiled my friends. And there is nobody to blame but YOU when that happnes. Not worthless lay-abouts. YOU.

You better enjoy cultivating them.
posted by tkchrist at 10:37 AM on March 12, 2008


It was my understanding that you got out of unemployment insurance what you paid into it, and it is separate from any kind of social welfare benefit. I’m not really sure where the moral argument comes from.
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on March 12, 2008


I find it difficult to get excited about people who exist on welfare. Even those defrauding the system have little impact on government coffers. There are far bigger problems regarding inappropriate use of government funds IMHO. All the businesses that I am aware of (other than the few ethical concerns) partake in cheating the government out of taxes whilst creaming the maximum possible from subsidies and grants. That is why tax accountants make so much. You pay your accountant £5000 in order that they save you £15000 in tax payments through creative accountancy.

A few people I know actually enjoy their jobs, in that they feel challenged and rewarded by the work they perform. They are also remunerated quite hansomely for their time. However, not one of them has told me that they would rather work than spend time with their children/garden/house or working for a charity/on their hobbies or some other soul-enriching activity. There are a few people for whom their self-worth is so intrinsically linked to their job that they cannot imagine life without it. They tend to be a little difficult to be with as they have only one thing to talk about.
posted by asok at 10:53 AM on March 12, 2008


It was my understanding that you got out of unemployment insurance what you paid into it, and it is separate from any kind of social welfare benefit. I’m not really sure where the moral argument comes from.

It's a bit fuzzier than that, though there's definitely a correlation between above-the-table income and benefits eligibility. That fuzziness, and the element of personal choice in (a) whether to collect at all and (b) whether to be diligent vs. perfunctory vs. antipathetic in one's fulfillment of the job-search obligations if/while collecting that I think leads to the moral argument.

It's not a savings account, from which you can draw while remaining (again, above-the-table) employed, so there are lots of folks who will never (or at least intend to never) collect it; to them, it may seem as if anyone who does collect it is getting an unfair advantage because said collector lacks the moral fortitude to refuse what they themselves have chosen (or suppose that they would choose) to refuse.
posted by cortex at 11:02 AM on March 12, 2008


That seems... dickish. Why would they make it their business?
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on March 12, 2008


I don't know if it varies by state, but in South Carolina employers pay unemployment taxes, not employees. As for getting worked up about whether people collect on it or not, I guess that is a personal choice, but yeah it seems a little dick. I mean, for 90% of people it is just a temporary thing to keep them afloat when they hit a rough patch. Sure people are going to abuse it, but I would rather take the chance that someone will abuse it if that is the price you have to pay to have it there for people who need it.
posted by ND¢ at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2008


Sure people are going to abuse it

How? It's a set amount and only lasts X amount of time. And that is it. Plus. How do people abuse what is rightfully theirs?

I think if you go on food stamps or welfare unnecessarily when you can otherwise find gainful employment or don't have kids, etc, that is ethically troubling. And of course with welfare being a more open-ended entitlement you have all sorts of abuse potential. But getting your own unemployment insurance? I don't see the abuse other than outright frauds of not being employed in the first place and working in depth scams.

What gets me is this: "I have to give up the fruits of my labor"

What? So? You have to pay taxes. You think YOU got reason to complain about layabouts?

Listen. I just wrote an $18,000 dollar check to our fine federal government. I am paying for a war I didn't want and I'm funding an administrations fiscal irresponsibility way out of proportion to anything I get from these insane favor the rich policies.

But suck it the fuck up. The only thing that keeps me going is thinking some small pittance of that tax might help put some poor kid through school or help out a single mom. And to do that I'll take a hundred layabouts and scam artists.

That's why I say if the fruits of your labor is money... you are a sucker.

You better love the labor itself. You'll never ever be happy unless you get huge amounts of money for what you do and you can retire early.

And if that's the case— you make lots of money and you just want more of what you make? Fuck you. Stop complaining about this piddly shit. Your fruits are being eaten by much bigger parasites than lazy people. Do something about that first then you have room to complain.
posted by tkchrist at 11:47 AM on March 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wow. People are really pissed at this article. I thought it was really, really funny.

Yeah. I'm surprised too. I found this while I was googling for any news on a possible extension of my benefits. I read it. I laughed. I said to myself "This guy's fucking obnoxious." And then:

"Front page! Front page! This is going on the front page of MetaFilter."

I'm a little surprised that it's inspired so many angry comments. Perhaps work and leisure and the unspoken assumptions surrounding them in our culture are more charged than we like to think.

A question to all of you guys who are attacking people for collecting unemployment or other forms of public assistance:

Are you equally angry at rich kids who live off mom and dad? Have you campaigned for confiscatory inheritance taxes? Should we have laws limiting how much money family members can transfer to other family members in any given year?

(Oh, before I forget: Thanks to caddis and everyone who liked the article. I appreciate it.)
posted by jason's_planet at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


A question to all of you guys who are attacking people for collecting unemployment or other forms of public assistance:

Are you equally angry at rich kids who live off mom and dad? Have you campaigned for confiscatory inheritance taxes? Should we have laws limiting how much money family members can transfer to other family members in any given year?


As a tangent to that, I wonder what peoples' attitudes are towards the voluntary simplicity movement, versus rampant consumerism & overconsumption?

Even if they are parasiting themselves on the welfare system, I can at least respect the fact that 'creative loafers' are minimising their environmental footprints, compared with those proud, prudent & diligent people who insist on their right to enjoy the full fruits of their labour.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:46 PM on March 12, 2008


I love this thread, especially all the holier than though rhetoric. Precious. You all work so hard, that is why you are commenting on MeFi all day. LOL. You should all have lunch with Eliot Spitzer.
posted by caddis at 7:03 PM on March 12, 2008


Do we get 4 grand for it?
posted by Artw at 7:07 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


caddis, you make us all feel shamed & humbled with your rhetoric.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:41 PM on March 12, 2008


Several commenters in this thread don't seem to realize that unemployment insurance is unemployment *insurance*, not an unemployment savings account. If you start collecting unemployment benefits, unless you are collecting for a short time or have a long work history, it will almost certainly be far more than was paid on your behalf by your employer.

The amount varies from state to state, and by your employer's unemployment experience rating, but in Nevada my company paid 0.3% on the first $25,600 of wages per employee (so a maximum of $76.80 per year) plus another $54 per employee per year to the federal government. So, only $130.80 per person per year.

Also, it is an insurance program, and insurance exists to pay for losses that are not deliberately incurred. Seeking to be fired so you can collect unemployment insurance benefits and/or avoiding suitable employment until your benefits run out is as unethical as setting your house on fire in order to collect your homeowners insurance benefit.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:46 AM on March 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


« Older I Wanna Be The Guy...  |  Inspired by the staccato brill... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments