Unemployment Cooties

Sometimes it seems people hate the unemployed.  I've written about it before, and despite my other ranting and raving, it's never quite cathartic enough to purge me of the pernicious disgust I feel over the sheer dislike people have for those without jobs.  I've mulled this over again and again – and amongst my many mulling I think I found at least one reason people look down on the unemployed.

They fear being like them.

Even in good times people fear being unemployed.  Unemployment means a loss of money.  Unemployment means a loss of meaning and position.  Unemployment means a loss of co-workers and camaraderie.

However, as people in many cultures feel the lack of a job means a failure of character, we also fear unemployment means there's some flaw in us.  Unemployment means there's something bad, dirty, lazy, non-productive.  Unemployment means a kind of evil.

So of course, much as people look down on others who share their very same flaws, people look down on the unemployed as they fear being like them.  They want to be isolated from them, they want to say they are not like them.

Honestly, it's like they fear that there are Unemployment Cooties.

A lot of this hatred-of-the-unemployed seems to be a case of people being absolutely afraid of being one of them.  Hating them, looking down on them, is a way ( a crude, ineffective, hurtful way) to deal with the horrible fear they feel, and a way to push them away.

Among us progeeks, I think we're in a slightly different situation.  Working to live our dreams and our interests, we may be more tolerant of unemployment and career issues because we are simply thinking a bit differently.  We may have enough differences with the unemployment-is-evil cultural streams that we're not affected as much (I've noticed more progeeks and would-be-progeeks I know are far more tolerant of people having unemployment bouts).  We may simply not be as aware of this mindset in the culture at large.

However we should be aware of it.  Dealing with the unemployed is important politically, personally, and socially.  I think the realization that there's a kind of self-loathing in people's hated of the unemployment may help us – and help us help others.

There are no Unemployment Cooties.

Steven Savage