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Unemployed with a Graduate Degree

by ANDREW SMOLSKI

I recently left graduate school after completing my MA in Sociology. Since then, well it has felt like staring down the barrel of a gun. My wife is pregnant and I am on the job hunt. Its crunch time, the clock is ticking and I am getting anxious. What about a paycheck, food for the baby, and a night out with the wife from time to time. Gas, healthcare costs, even a haircut becomes a nickel and dime episode. Lucky for me my parents have put us up and the baby will even have his own room.* Even luckier, I have left school with no student loan debt, thanks to sheer luck, parents who refused to saddle their son with debt and a little bit of planning. I do not have it too bad. Yet, I am still a statistic.

I got a friend; he graduated with a criminal justice BA. Poor guy hit the job market right when the financial crisis was making mincemeat out of the public sector. He had interned for the parole office, but there would be no job for him there. No one needed him in the field he desired. He had debt, a lot of it. He had to take a job and a job in sales was what he was doing before the degree and what he could do after it. There went his dream of being a lawyer, his dreams of working in the legal system attempting to make change (both monetarily and morally). He as well is a statistic.

Our fraternal brothers and sisters in Egypt feel the pain of being unemployed; same for my Spanish, Greek, Italian, and Portuguese brothers and sisters. We followed the path laid out; went to university, studied hard in a specific field, and then found out they weren’t planning on employing us. Well unless we got a degree in business administration, very well educated in managerialism or the gruesome post-managerialism of Google where the office becomes your home. They said you are free, free to choose a job already chosen for you by a cruel labor market, driven by a calculus ruling out any idea of autonomy or self-determination. We are all a statistic, a statistic of debt, a statistic of dreams torn asunder by a reality uncaring.

See, this is when you realize the point of corporations is not to employ people, but profit. There is no focus on actually employing people, instead it’s quite the reverse. Mergers for lay-offs, pay cuts for labor and a pay raise for the capitalists, and increases in stock prices on the backs of stolen pension funds. The inverted proportion between wages and profits goes on; Marx rings true a century later. And yet, they blame me for my unemployment. They say, “Well, you should have chosen a different field, one where there is employment.” And the freedom they tout means nothing here, not a damn thing! You have the freedom to choose what was already chosen for you.

So, here I go channeling Proudhon:

To be unemployed is to be demoralized, dejected, depressed, rejected, and humiliated every time an HR representative sits across from you during an interview judging, evaluating, analyzing, and objectifying you without knowing, considering, understanding, or empathizing with the fact that you are a living, breathing, talking, walking, and social human being who has needs, wants, desires, and dreams. To be unemployed is to be at the mercy of a system that measures your worth based upon a sheet of paper outlining what you can do for them, because what they can do for you or society is never a concern. To be unemployed is to realize you are a commodity, you are commodified, a nothing except labor power, and labor power unexpended means zilch to the capitalist system, just as the unemployed are considered abominations, horrendous malformed caricatures, who live the immortal sin of being without productive use to a system obsessed with infinite growth of profit. That is your unemployment, to be a zombie, neither alive nor dead, but merely meandering through life. THAT IS YOUR ENSLAVEMENT TO THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM!

But, alas, we can take solace in one thing. You leave us on these streets long enough and we will never have to be the worker burning both sides of the candle attempting to unravel an ideal with which to beat the snot out of your system. No, not this time! You do not realize you are giving us time to think, to organize, to build, and fight back. I may feel dejected and demoralized because of my marginalized unemployed position, but only for now. Slowly, my brothers and sisters are developing the rudiments to a society that works for us and not for profit, not for Mammon.

Call us the new undertakers of the bourgeoisie. For out here, with not much else to do, but submit job applications, we have time. PRECIOUS, SWEET TIME! Time to plot when we have our backs against the wall and there is nothing left to do, but fight back and not back down.

* His name is Luca Bradley Smolski and he is expected Sept. 9th, 2013. 

Andrew Smolski is building his own micro-politics of desire little by little and brick by brick doing his part to rebuild the dreams of the oppressed, such as himself, for multiple better worlds. He can be reached at andrew.smolski@gmail.com

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Andrew Smolski is a writer and sociologist.

CounterPunch Magazine

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