(F)unemployment: Make the Best Of It

Because we’ve all heard the numbers – they’re high.  Really high.  According to the BLS’ (Bureau of Labor Statistics) data, the West (i.e. California, et al) “reported the highest regional jobless rate [this past] June”: 10.7 percent… the Northeast at 8.8 percent. As of 2 July 2010, the national unemployment rate inched down to an ostensible 9.5 percent. But word-on-the-street’s been telling different numbers.

If one were to apply the same metrics used during the Great Depression to measure today’s unemployment numbers, nationally, the rate would look more like twenty-five percent. In other words, these days the BLS conveniently excludes the homeless, part-timers seeking full-time employment, those who want a job but have ceased their job-hunting out of ready-to-drop frustration, and then some, from its routine employment evaluations.  

To assess (read: fudge) the numbers so to generate data purporting to show a not-as-bad-as-it-really-is economy, the CPS (Current Population Survey) measures employment solely by “work-related and job-search activities during a specific reference week.” Moreover, because “unemployment” is a relative term, to explain it one must first define it. And so seeking a clearer definition during the Clinton Administration, “discouraged workers” was expunged from official US unemployment statistics altogether; “discouraged workers” a rubric consisting of: any person of legal employment age not currently looking for employment, or, in other words, folks “marginally attached to the labor force…” And there you have it – official employment mensuration that intentionally leaves out a large portion of the potential workforce; that is to say, the thing’s invalid, artificial.    

Since 2004, the wealthiest ten percent of US households owned 81 percent of all stock, the lower 80 percent of the US, according to the Economic Policy Institute, owned a paucity of “less than eight percent of US equity.” Nothing has changed since ’04. The Ruling Class does indeed hold a monopoly on productive property. Writing in the July/August 2010 issue of Z Magazine, in his article “Hitting the Class Ceiling”, Rob Larson explains that, “higher unemployment puts employers in a stronger position relative to workers, who are afraid to join the jobless.” What this means, Larson avers, is: “higher productivity and lower wage growth for workers and, therefore, higher profits” for private industry – giving some vertical mobility to the stock indexes.    

So, OK, recent rises in stock indexes only reflects how well the Ruling Class is doing these days. And unemployment numbers are bad, they’re probably, in all likelihood, far much worse than what we’ve been told, broadcasted incessantly via “specialists,” citing verbatim, contrived reports. But if you think about it, what’s really so bad about high unemployment numbers? Considering job losses in all sectors of the U.S. economy – i.e., white and blue collar, manufacturing and service sectors, both private and public spheres – if continued unabated, we can count on lowered consumption rates; less production of toxic chemicals; less worker-exposure to toxic chemicals; less PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) belched out into the atmosphere, absorbed into tree-leaves; encumbered productivity and more pressure on private producers (read: exploiters) and so on…     

Think about it, with an economy slowing down to a snail’s pace, burgeoning with unemployment, collapse and the end of the Age of Imperialism is so close we can all taste it. Centuries of capitalism, corporatism, industrialism, governmental abuse, and the massive cultural and ecological damage perpetrated by those who have benefited from all the above, has finally come up against a wall. The era of “limitless” growth fueled by fossil fuels – a scheme as pyramidal as the culture that propounded it, has proven itself fallible, bankrupt, immoral, unsustainable – outright stupid. And now it is time to surf the decline, as it were, weathering economic caprice as mercurial as the climatic vagaries global climate change presents us. So surf’s-up (!)     

And fret not. The more unemployment there is, the more funemployment there is. Simple. Don’t let the rhetoric of production (e.g., What’s wrong with you, get a job…) get the best of you. The word “unemployment” may have some pejorative connotations – but only according to the standards by which the Ruling Class measures the bottom majority. Conveniently, They (the Ruling Class) i.e., the top five percent who own two-thirds of American capital; i.e., those who control productive property, want you to believe that working for them for suppressed wages is much better than joining the (ulp) Unemployed. But when unemployment becomes funemployment, then never mind those greedy tycoons, who, don’t forget, are culpable for this mess in the first place.    

And so like unemployment, “funemployment” must be defined: The fun employment of the unemployed and/or those marginally attached to the labor force to partake in cooperative endeavors, esp. endeavors entailing sustainable management of sustainable social arrangements, viz. social arrangements characterized by dynamic equilibrium and convivial reciprocity with the landbase upon which they rely. (Which we’ll get to in further detail, in a moment, down below.) Or, really, “funemployment” can just be any ‘ol fun-to-be-had, in a time of sociopolitical ataxia, in direct unequivocal spite of the Power Elite and the imbalanced, socially-stratified experiment we identify as civilization.

Like, say, e.g., you’re unemployed, collecting government money, and you’re just sitting around surfing the Web, using a pirated Internet connection, maybe in California, maybe smoking marijuana, legally, that you bought with government money issued to you via unemployment services (whatever it takes to stick it to ‘em). Don’t feel ashamed, you’ve just entered the “funemployment” pool. Keep going, or not going. The point being – you’re not your job. And don’t ever let some Talking Head make you think, feel or believe otherwise.    

It’s absurd for anyone to allow his/her life to be characterized by an economy that has severely damaged the ecological infrastructure of this planet, imperiling our collective future; immiserating our communities while profits flee elsewhere and natural environments suffer degradation (e.g., Appalachia). It’s perhaps that era, now, in which our lives become characterized by the relationships we foster, between each other and the land, and, just as important, by the work we do. Not occupation, but work, good ‘ol Bruno Bauer-blessed work.    

Here is where the good times roll. In an era of declining fossil fuels, and talk of the total collapse of entire economic and industrial infrastructures and institutions (the recent BP oil spill [along with the thousands of other oil and toxic chemical spills that occur per annum the world over] is testament to the fact that, in the words of Yale professor Robert Shiller, “we’re just plunging headlong into the future without knowing what we’re doing…”), one can flock to the very corporate institutions that are at fault for impoverishing the cultural, ecological and economical capital of the world, and toil in high-intensity production jobs for peanuts… or, one can turn the other cheek, completely ignore the industry behemoths for a change, and navigate the terrains of collapse within one’s immediate community. Practice endogenous growth (growth from within); create walkable, bike-friendly downtowns; turn lawns into gardens and/or participate in your local community garden; pick up a trade; barter; join your local Transition Town movement; forage for wild edibles; make musical instruments out of things you find in the trash and start a band; boycott the corporatocracy… The things one can do in a time of (f)unemployment are endless.     

With all this (f)unemployment going around, there is now more time to get out in the local community, relocalize, meet new people, foster new relationships, grow food together, find food together, restore land bases, take a break, hop on a bike, go swimming, watch the land come alive with animated life and then, resume community-based work. Now is not a time for belligerent bigoted Rightwingism (you wacky T-Partiers, you… look what it’s done to Arizona: elimination of all-day kindergarten statewide, 4-day school weeks in some parts, an 80% budget reduction for state parks [2/3 of which are on the brink of closure], a deficit as bad as if not worse than Cali’s…). No, rather than allaying fear and grievances with patriotic nationalism, it’d be wise to turn inward toward the local community – think Gemeinschaft folks, not Gesellchaft. As famed anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski once put it: “The gardens of the community are not merely a means to food; they are a source of pride and the main object of collective ambition.”    

Just as Chris Keating from the band Yeahsayer croons in the song “2080”: I can’t sleep when I think about the times we’re living in, I can’t sleep when I think about the future I was born into”… Seriously, I, too, can’t sleep when I think about all that. But not out of fear inasmuch as excitement, because these are compelling times. Just the other day I exchanged with my neighbor some chanterelle mushrooms I picked in the woods by my home for a week’s worth of produce grown from her garden. The only thing it cost the two of us was time. Time well spent outdoors, in the fresh air, in the soil, re-learning how to self-sustain, how to share, how to cooperate – not toiling indoors somewhere for some impersonal competitive corporate abstraction for some green paper we all perplexingly agree holds real pecuniary value.

Kirkpatrick Sale, commenting in 2007 on the dollar’s value, warned of the imminent collapse of the American dollar. Because constricted by a national debt of nearly $9 trillion and showing “no sign of declining —in fact, rising enormously since 1995 and precipitously since 2002 — and by a trade deficit of $545 billion,” Sale points out, the dollar does not have a bright future. “Whether the trigger will be China’s switch to euro investments, or Iran and Saudi Arabia’s opting for a petro-euro instead of a petro-dollar, or a general worldwide distrust of the American cockeyed economy, is hard to say — but it could be one or all,” admonishes Sale, “and our economic bubble will collapse in a heap. And then the only useful currencies will be those based on real worth, calculated at a basically local level, and precious metals, which are primarily useful at local levels as well.”

One of these days, soon enough, there will be a stark cultural divide – those with paper money, and those surviving, co-operatively living in functional sustainable communities.

Frank Smecker is a writer and social-worker from VT. He can be reached at: frank.smecker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Frank, or visit Frank's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Wingnut said on July 23rd, 2010 at 10:27am #

    Hi gang and author! I hope everyone is well!

    Okay, I want to try to follow Captain Smecker on his journey, here… but I need a map.

    Paragraph 1-3: Talks about distortion in (labor) statistics reporting. Absolutely correct. The distortions are purposely made to boost consumer confidence, a thing that keeps the worshiping of greenbacks, empowerments, and enjoyments… alive… for the pyramid scheme called capitalism (a giant sham/religion that ate a nation).

    Paragraph 4: Quoted some statistics. Ouch.

    Paragraph 5: Tries to delineate pyramid layers and put labels on the layers. Frank, I got ruling class people running a local gas station, ordering-around 3 employees… and yet barely making ends meet. That ruling class owner is also working class, yet he’s capitalist class, too. Believe you me, ruling class and capitalist class and a million other fun labels and associated phenomena… infest the working class. Its all mixed up together, so why bother trying to find lines of delineation and putting labels on them? ALL capitalism users are playing roles. It does no good to set one class (pyramid layer) against another in some kind of US vs THEM war. US vs THEM is a capitalism trait, not a trait of us commune folk. Fight the SYSTEM that ALLOWS ‘get a leg up’ inequality and servitude. Abolish economies and ALL ownership. Remove the devices by which children tug-o-war and place each other into servitude. Stop the rat-racing. First, we need to study empowerment addictions. Sometimes they are also called ‘control freaks’. They are seen to use the word ‘my’ real often… as these type are ownership junkies. EmBANKers. Sort of like snowBANKers, only they do it with free marketeer coupons and entitles of ownership, and not with snow. Its hoarding… like all bankings and savings.

    Paragraph 6: “a scheme as pyramidal as the culture that propounded it, has proven itself fallible, bankrupt, immoral, unsustainable – outright stupid.” Exactly correct. A ‘get a leg-up on each other’ pyramid scheme. You can investigate how I feel about pyramiding… more… at the bottom of http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/10/leaked-iran-paper-based-on-intel-that-split-iaea/

    Paragraph 7-end: How to enjoy REAL (non-greenback-controlled) life while watching a felony servitude-infested pyramid scheme collapse. (See back of USA dollar for Colombian Freemason pyramid scheme symbol.) (See USA gov located in District of Colombia for even more irony) (See Google IMAGE SEARCH for ‘pyramid of capitalist’ for a poster made by IWW that proves SOMEBODY knew that capitalism/economies/ownershipism was a herd-control con/sham… way back in 1911)

    Frank, its fun to TRY to change one’s purpose for living… from servitudal doing of a ‘job’, into community and nature-saving purpose. But, the billing attacks can cut you up into little pieces in more than one way. The worry-about-future (fear for survival) alone… will make you gut-wrenching sick and your teeth will fall out. (am there). I’ve been staunch anti-capitalist (anti-economies/anti-ownershipism) for over 20 years now… and its not a whole lot of fun. I have to mooch pretty hard… to keep the billing attacks under control (thanks, parents). For fun, I study nature, and ESPECIALLY… communing. I watch animal and insect tendencies to fight over food, or be territorial, or hoard, or share, etc. I have a whole squirrel study group happening on ‘the’ front porch of ‘this’ apartment. (Notice I avoided using ‘my’. Good commune-think/talk). But, the mooching of bill-attack shields… to fend-off the cost of bare-bones living… hurts pride, hurts health, hurts general attitude, hurts trying to find fun things to study/do, hurts nutrition, hurts love-thy-neighbor commune-ity and trust, and in general, it just hurts.

    And I don’t have family to try to feed, clothe, and healthcare!!! To try to enjoy one’s self and one’s greater purpose… in the face of gruesome monetary oppression (survival coupon rationing)… is not quite as happy-go-lucky-easy as you might be proposing.

    Most of us commune folk don’t want jobs (slots aboard the competer’s religion called capitalism)… but we COULD use a few more of those green AmWay (American Way) survival-continuance coupons. But, capitalism is an earn’n’deserve system… yikes. Monetary discrimination is a-ok… as its rampant within the pyramid scheme. I wish more people would have avoided joining the thing initially, as it wouldn’t be such a hard-to-kill monster right now… as it crumbles.

    Good piece, Mister Smecker. Lets get that website of yours… fleshed out now, eh? :) You sound like my kind of people, and I wouldn’t mind hanging-out with you via “co-operatively living in functional sustainable communities”. I think we’d get along just fine, I do. Keep up the good thinks and scribs.

    Larry “Wingnut” Wendlandt
    MaStars – Mothers Against Stuff That Ain’t Right
    (anti-capitalism-ists)
    Bessemer MI USA

  2. lichen said on July 23rd, 2010 at 4:56pm #

    Good article. I agree, people shouldn’t isolate themselves in shame and misery regarding the fact that they no longer work at the local bank or grocery store; we can create new cooperative movements, community gardens, seizing of empty housing, new theater, music, life by turning the other way from, indeed, the poisonous factories formulating products which cause cancer, and from the pathetic identity politics of the “working class” that condone wage slavery and forcing young people to work.

  3. Don Hawkins said on July 24th, 2010 at 5:01am #

    Thanks to big oil and coal lobbyists and their buddies in Congress we will continue to send $1 billion a day overseas to buy oil, China will continue to race ahead on clean energy taking our manufacturing and construction jobs, forcing us to rely on China Inc. for our renewable energy needs, and condemning us and our children to live in more polluted communities. Forcing our soldiers to fight a war we keep funding paying for oil on one hand and with lives in the other.
    http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/aquintero/shelving_the_climate_bill_-_an.html

    And condemning us and our children to live in more polluted communities yes you can sure say that to say the least. So what just happened was it the GOP here in the States well no. The big plan cap and trade will not work and yes they all know that. I believe we all do live in the it is what it isn’t world the system demands it and has reached a level that is incredible to watch once you know. The human’s at the top of the it is what it isn’t live fairly well in a strange sort of way again to say the least. For most of us to live simple lives as we do and try and fight the it is what it isn’t world that is on 24 hours a day is a tuff one. Let’s see in North Korea it’s on 28 hours a day in China like us just 24 hours a day this is a tuff one. After this energy bill was shelved I thought I noticed a few people in the main stream media lose a little of that arrogance just maybe started to rethink a little. Unfortunately to make a try a real try the rethink part means to face the problem not with drones or nuclear weapons, noise generators but with reason, imagination and just how much of that do we see in the first part of the twenty first century status quo will not work.

    The Ruling Class does indeed hold a monopoly on productive property. Writing in the July/August 2010 issue of Z Magazine, in his article “Hitting the Class Ceiling”, Rob Larson explains that, “higher unemployment puts employers in a stronger position relative to workers, who are afraid to join the jobless.” What this means, Larson avers, is: “higher productivity and lower wage growth for workers and, therefore, higher profits” for private industry – giving some vertical mobility to the stock indexes. Frank

    Vertical mobility you can’t make this kind of stuff up then again maybe you can at least for a few more years as a few very few sail off into the sunset with probably a stop in Las Vegas.

  4. Don Hawkins said on July 25th, 2010 at 3:38am #

    Practice endogenous growth (growth from within); create walkable, bike-friendly downtowns; turn lawns into gardens and/or participate in your local community garden; pick up a trade; barter; join your local Transition Town movement; forage for wild edibles; make musical instruments out of things you find in the trash and start a band; boycott the corporatocracy… The things one can do in a time of (f)unemployment are endless.

    With all this (f)unemployment going around, there is now more time to get out in the local community, relocalize, meet new people, foster new relationships, grow food together, find food together, restore land bases, take a break, hop on a bike, go swimming, watch the land come alive with animated life and then, resume community-based work. Frank

    At the height of the storms, Chicago’s 911 center was receiving about 1,000 calls an hour for assistance, authorities said. The storms flooded about 25 viaducts citywide and blocked portions of nearly 150 streets, Water Commissioner Thomas Powers said. Chicago sun times

    Floods caused about 142 billion yuan ($20.9 billion) of economic losses this year and 38 billion yuan of losses since July 8, according to the government statement today. Almost 645,000 homes have been destroyed and 7 million hectares of farmland damaged this year, it said. bloomberg

    Severe and persistent drought held southern Russia in its grip in June and July 2010. Low rainfall and hot temperatures damaged 32 percent of the country’s grain crops, said Russian Agriculture Minister, Yelena Skrynnik on July 23. This satellite vegetation index image, made from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows the damage done to plants throughout southern Russia. A previously published image of land surface temperatures shows extreme heat in the drought region at the same time.

    The drought affects more than Russian farmers. Russia is the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter. If Russia isn’t able to supply as much wheat, the world’s overall wheat supply will drop. With less wheat on the market, wheat prices will go up. As of July 23, wheat futures (the current price for wheat that will be harvested and delivered in September) had risen for four consecutive weeks because of the expected drop in supply of Russian wheat, reported Bloomberg. NASA

    Let’s just see this year how it all look’s by November as I sort of keep track of stuff Worldwide and it appears to be adding up. Not crops or the destruction caused by heat, flooding, drought and extreme weather in general but our minds in old twenty ten forced to live in it is what it isn’t World in our face relentlessly 24 hours a day is the part I fight and really isn’t that hard once you see it granted you must remember don’t forget. Here in the greatest nation on Earth we are told the American people don’t want this or that and of course Christmas in July the new thing and could we call that it is what it isn’t? The climate bill in the first place was a joke on the human race it will not work and yet they couldn’t even pass that so what is a person to think I guess the decision has been made to not try as the American people don’t want it of course we were all told first why we didn’t want it with a little something called it is what it isn’t some might even call it bullshit. Amazing to watch once you know. So maybe what Frank wrote meet new people, foster new relationships, grow food together, find food together, restore land bases a real good idea and let me add get some boot’s and just maybe some ear plug’s. Boring this will not be although that it is what it isn’t in our face relentlessly 24 hours a day does in many way’s try and keep us bored in la la land so to speak in Old Clowntown USA. Shocking isn’t it.

  5. Don Hawkins said on July 25th, 2010 at 4:24am #

    Mary Kesel of Clemmons, who was shopping at Sears, said that the Christmas in July program is good for shoppers who are worried about stores running out of their favorite items.

    But she said that July is too early to do her Christmas shopping. “Maybe in November,” she said. winston salem journal

    If you turn on the Weather Channel this morning they are having a beach party in Fargo now if we combine this with Christmas in July program we will probably be on the road to recovery. The greatest minds in human history are hard at work there is a plan I see it all now.