Activism and... Unemployment

IssueNovember 2010

I don’t like the term unemployment because it is negative and stigmatising. Deliberately choosing not to be in conventional employment is a liberating choice, but there is not really a term for it.
The difficulty about not having a conventional job has been about having self-discipline with regards to paid work. Choosing to be in a state of low employment is about valuing time. I wouldn’t have been able to do Climate Camp or Bicycology if I hadn’t withdrawn from conventional employment in a profession. The decision was a deliberate movement in a direction away from the restrictions of working for other people.
I think because I am a technical person, I have felt that I had to do technical things to be an activist, which is a bit limiting. If I didn’t feel I had to limited to these skills I would perhaps think about the politics and issues more. I don’t feel at the same level as other people in terms of talking about politics.
Employment ties in with identity. Not having a career-type professional job or job title, means not knowing what you are, and what your value is, because people and society want to know what you do. There is a bit of an alternative identity with an alternative community but most of the time you are interacting with “normal” people. Also there is a thing in the activist community that doesn’t want people to be experts. The assumption is that everyone mucks in and shares skills so that is a bit awkward if you are doing one thing in one particular area.
Most people I know are generally in part time jobs in sympathetic or related areas, I can’t think of anyone these days actually on the dole and doing activism.
Man, 40s

I found out about Freeconomy from Mark Boyle who had read Lewis Fischer’s book on Gandhi and realised that money wasn’t the way forward. I had had run-ins with my landlords and found that everyone I came into contact with wanted money. So I pulled away from it all and became a Freeconomist.
It was very scary. Food is ok, being a grower and a guerrilla gardener. I felt vulnerable putting my trust in other people. If night is falling and I haven’t found shelter I get frightened. From day to day I offer my services in exchange for a sofa. It’s important to offer something back instead of it being a blagging system. It’s a way of building community on the basis of trust, love and compassion. We think that we can spend money and get these returns. Freeconomists are practicing solutions for humanity if the financial system collapses.
Emotionally I have got edgy and angry, trying to hold my mind together and questioning why I am doing this. But there has been the empowerment of kindness and compassion that I have met. One man’s library card is another man’s credit card. I read all the books I want and the internet in the library has been my form of communication.
Man 40s

Topics: Activism
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