Take your “positive attitude” and shove it

A few days ago, I called up the local Census Bureau. They’re supposedly hiring census takers for the 2010 Census. The job requires a high school diploma. I have a Master’s degree. The job would last maybe two months. I need something more or less permanent. But I haven’t found any jobs whatsoever.

The woman who answered the phone took my name and phone number and signed me up for a test to be held at the Sebastopol Library today. Show up fifteen minutes early, she advised, for a 1:00 pm examination.

I arrived twenty minutes early. There were lots of people in the library, but no signs indicating anything about the test. I asked at an information desk. The woman behind the desk hadn’t heard anything about the test but led me over to the other information desk where I guess the calendar for room reservations is kept, and the woman there, who also hadn’t heard anything about it, commenced calling all over the place.

Long story short: there was no Census Bureau test at the Sebastopol Library today or at the library in Guerneville. There was one at the library at Rohnert Park. Given advance warning, I could have driven to Rohnert Park easily enough. But even though they had my telephone number, no one at the Census Bureau called me. And no one was at the Census Bureau to answer my phone call then or a half hour later. And no one returned my call after I left a message.

I guess I’m supposed to believe this is for real.

Since beginning my job search many months ago, I have looked for college teaching jobs, writing jobs, and jobs at nonprofit organizations. I have sent out hundreds of resumés, filled out countless on-line applications. Very rarely have I even received an acknowledgement.

But I’m supposed to believe this is for real.

The job search advice is to tap your social networks. I have social networks, which I have expanded, mostly on line. But I have not gotten one job lead from my social networks since I was laid off from my last decently paying job in 2001.

And I’m supposed to believe this is for real.

After being laid off from high technology in 2001, I came to realize that this was the third time I had landed hard in that industry. I’d never progressed very far up the career ladder and spent an awful lot of years in desperate poverty in between “real” jobs, working in exploitive, abusive conditions.

Poverty is real. And there is nothing good that can come of it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to protect their own position.

I first graduated with an Associate’s degree in Business Data Processing in 1979. The last time a Republican had been elected president, it was Richard Nixon, and I remember thinking the Republican Party had been forever discredited. I was wrong. I entered the job market for real just about the time that California’s Proposition 13 passed and Ronald Reagan came to power. And all I’ve seen since is how jobs in one industry after another were exported overseas. I realized that anything in any kind of work that I’d been raised to understand as “real work” was being exported just as fast as capitalists could figure out how to export it.

Unemployment is real.

I returned to school, earned a Bachelor’s degree in mass communication, a Master’s in speech communication, and am now pursuing a doctoral degree in transformative studies. A Master’s degree is all you need to teach in a community college. It is all that is needed to be hired for an lecturer position at many (if not most) universities. And I even have experience: I taught public speaking for two years, tutored and supervised tutors at the communication lab while finishing my Master’s.

My qualifications are real.

But now people tell me to keep a “positive attitude,” to keep applying, to keep networking, and not to whine. Oh, and by the way, according to the local job resource center, long-term employment is now two years. So even if I find work, I am essentially expected to continuously beg for access to the essentials of life.

I’m sorry, but this is not for real.

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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