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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Job Clearing House

The more jobs one applies to the more one realizes that the system is set up for us to fail.  I recently started approaching my job hunting in a different way.  I was simply looking at opportunities through various media sources and searches, but then more recently I started focusing more on networking type of opportunties, volunteering, etc.  My chances suddenly looked up.  People tell you about jobs you might not have found otherwise, maybe you even have conversations with people about them.  They'll "put in a good word... blah blah blah".  But then what?  I still have no interviews.  Friends, family, acquaintances, professionals, etc.  It doesn't matter how qualified I am.  Companies have hundreds of applicants to hire from, if I don't have the job title on my Resume/CV, ten others might, and probably do.

This is one of the foundations of capitalism - a 'reserve' labor force.  That is why they always say that 4% unemployment is actually good for the economy.  This 'excess' puts the strength at the negotiating table in the hands of the producers rather than the laborers.  This keeps wages down, as if one person doesn't want that job for that wage, there is always another one that will.  Think sweatshop labor in the developing world, they'll take what they can get just to have a job - no matter how suspect the conditions are.

So... what can be done to better employ others while we wait for 'systemic evolution'?  I had a thought the other day about how the job search process could be aided.  As the current problem is that the people that you are applying to really have no clue of who you are or what your work capabilities are (other than the two pieces of paper that you sent them), why not find a way to neutrally evaluate people.  A clearinghouse of sorts that could act as an evaluator of personal ability for prospective employers.  A way for them to 'know' more about you specifically, the things that don't necessarily fit neatly into bullet points on a piece of paper.  It is people, not experience, that get jobs done.

I guess the bottom line for me is that my experience doesn't fit nicely into a cookie cutter.  I have lived in many places, had many different jobs, and studying a quite a few different things.  But I don't have the step by step employment history that seems to be desired.  Does this mean I am not capable of doing the job or even perhaps doing it better than others?  Of course not.  As a friend of mine said, "I can't believe that these people I work with have jobs and someone as capable as you does not."  But that's the system we live in.  Everything is subjective and specified.   Gone are the days when you would walk into an office, shake a person's hand, and deliver your resume.  They see you, they interact with you for a moment, they get a sense of 'you' - not the narrative you.  Everyone interprets things differently and one piece of paper is never enough to sum up a life's work.  

So how about it?  What if there was an neutral agency that would evaluate people and give them a score or evaluation of some sort to show there current day capabilities.  There could be an interview process, resumes, recommendations, whatever. This would give everyone the chance to be 'interviewed'.  To become more than a piece of paper.  If a person can never sit in front of someone and state their case as a living breathing human being, how can they ever differentiate themselves from others?   

The True Value of Work

What a world, what a world we live in.  As you may have seen from some earlier posts, I am not exactly making ends meet these days.  I am underemployed and not finding 'gainful' employment.  But does this really matter?  So what if I did have a job?  I have a friend that is employed in their career path, through a respectable institution, and still has to take on other employment.  They went to school specifically to train them for the career they are in and they have had great success in working their way up the ladder to a management position.  Yet even with this position, they still can't quite make the ends meet as they'd like and are in danger of having to move back in with their parents.  As per the 'American Dream' and our 'ownership society' they should be trying to buy a home, yet instead they are realizing that just making rent may be too much.  There is something tremendously wrong with this picture.

What happened to the days fifty years ago when an entire family could live well and own a home off of a single salary?  Today a couple that has no children is in a tough spot simply trying to obtain a 30 year mortgage, let alone actually be able to pay off that loan.  So many people are defaulting, or never buying because they just simply don't have the means.  And not because they aren't trained, experienced, or good at what they do, but because jobs just don't pay as well enough.  My friend works a full time job, and now has picked up random work on the side: part time retail, some coaching, and high school officiating.  They are looking for other opportunities, trying to not have to move back home, trying to buy a home.  But come on, why should a person like this, trained, experienced, and good at their job not be able to make a functional wage?  This is the true sham of American society.  That hard working, qualified people still don't make enough, still can't have access to some of America's cornerstone dreams.

We as a country are closing the door on ourselves.  In an effort to make our selves richer, we are in fact making the most of us poorer as the system increases wages slower than prices.  My friend received a 3 percent raise this year - as mandated in their contract - yet their actual pay went down as the cost of their insurance went up.  This is before they even had any money to consume with and inflation makes the cost of goods higher (usually averaging 3%).  Since the 1970's real wages have been shrinking and people like my friend are definitely feeling the affects.

So would it matter if I even had a job?  They have a job, a good one on a career path that they are trained to do, and having success in.  But this doesn't matter, it doesn't even pay what is an appropriate living wage.  Fact of the matter is, we are all in trouble no matter what.  Job or no job, we just don't make enough money.  Something has to change...

Friday, March 26, 2010

How far can you pee?

I think it is worth listening to this piece about testosterone, and its possible contribution to the financial crisis we're in.  It was music to my ears.  For years I have attributed much of our problems to men.  As a man I feel the inner drive and determining aspects of self that push from within.  Granted no two people are the same, but I have seen what I would consider the dark side of men, and I work quite hard to tame it.  I have been a very big proponent of balancing man and women, of realizing an egalitarian leadership structure for our world. 

I always come back to the James Bond and Tomorrow Never Dies quote from "M" when it was proposed to her that perhaps she "didn't have the balls" for her job.  To which she replied: "that means I don't have to always think with them".  It has to me forever been a a perfect example of some of the world's problems.  I think that men are too agressive and with the systemic instilations of capitalism this is being accentuated.  We grow up, harnessing and instigating testosterone based lives.  We bocome arrogant and far to self-assured and asertive.

This show itself spent time looking at the biology of financial traders and the male dominated society that the financial industry is.  Even as evidence was being sited that showed how diversity and gender equality in corporate and decision making processes tended to lead to better performance, many people calling and commenting seemed to brush this possibility off as gendered grandstanding.  But I will say this, my first job was in finance, and I can tell you it was so thoroughly testosterone/machismo based and overtly arrogant that I got out as soon as I could.  I have been that guy, and I don't see how it is truly productive and helpful for society. 

The dialog itself was great, however I did have one issue with it though.  When it was brought up by a caller that to start thinking that testosterone could do such a thing would eventually lead to drawing a correlation between this male arrogance/agression and political policies throughout the world.  That wars such as the one in Iraq could have fallen sway to such biological inspiration it was quickly dismissed.  Not even worth discussion.  I certainly think that this is not only discussable, but likely.  I distinctly remember George Bush's hubris over attacking Iraq and his personal vengence for Saddam Hussein, who had 'tried to kill his daddy'.  And in fact, more importantly, the foundation of modern international relations theory - 'realism' - is continually compared to a 'pissing contest', or a 'my dick's bigger than yours' scenario.  It is not only not a stretch, but is wholly realistic to think that with possitions of power being domminated by men that the world is a much more 'testosterone' based place.  More machismo, more I'm bigger, I'm tougher, I'm stronger, you're weaker, you're smaller, you're lesser. 

Fact is, that if the world could find a way to balance itself in terms of gender in leadership roles we would get A, a leadership representative of our population, and B, a softer, less aggressive political and social lifestyle.  I am not saying that people would not still fight, but a world with less 'machismo' would certainly be a safer and far more inclusive and inviting place. I mean after all, why can't we all just be happy with whatever it is that we've got, no matter what 'size' it is? 

Factually Unprecedented

I was listening to a speaker the other day and they kept refering to past times and speakers as authorities.  They refered repeatedly to the founding fathers and the constitution repeated and to the 'original intents'.  I realized something that I had been harping on for a while, but suddenly made sense.  We base our entire informational lives on 'precidents'.  The american legal system is based on previous decisions, previous interpretations of laws and the constitution.  Our entire science system is also based upon 'standing on the shoulders of giants'.  We use what other people have said in the past and turn their interpretations of life into 'fact'.  When someone quotes 'Sir' Thomas Paine, what does that mean?  Does it mean that an idea is automatically a good idea?  Perhaps it was and is, but it also could not have been and is not.  I see no authority in the individual that spoke and/or the concreteness of time in regards to an idea, but think that ideas should stand on their own merits given current contexts, times and places.

Think about the US constitution.  It is one of the great documents of human history, but so were many other doctrines and legal foundations.  Slavery, Colonialism, Manifest Destiny.  Every society seems to have its reasons/rationales for doing what they think is/was right or wanted to do.  Yet customs and acceptible principles always change with time.  It was just over 50 years ago that  various races were legally different and people of some were seen as inferior to others - this still goes on in many places, legal or otherwise.  On top of those social implications, one look at the technological changes that has happened in our lifetimes - the internet for one - and nothing more needs to be said about changing contexts. 

We live in a highly fluid world and with each moment a new idea or technology changes the way the world acts and sees itself.  So why then must we hold so much faith in our 'precedents'?  Why is it that we think that a good idea yesterday is automatically a good idea today?  The constitution was revolutionary, but the founding fathers were living in a completely different world than we are today.  Do we really want to go back and live 250 years ago?  Do we want to give up all the trappings of modern life - transportation, medicine, food, shelter, security (if it is safer today) - and go back to a time without all of the 'luxuries' of today?  To forget all the lessons learned up to today?  No, I think most people do not.  As times change, so to must ideas and so to must our concepts of what live is and should be.

The US constitution was written for different times, just as Locke, Hobbes and all those great thinkers of the past were.  This does not make their ideas rubbish, but it also does not make them sacrosanct.  Every day should usher in a new day, and with this new day we should take nothing for granted - no matter how dear it is to our hearts.  Even the US constitution has its flaws and its areas of misinterpretation in current day.  No precedent is 'fact', and should never been seen as anything more than the current days 'most likely' scenario, or even better yet, as today's 'most educated guess'.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Depressingly Real...

So many people in America right now are in dire straights.  They can't pay the bills, they struggle to eat, lose their homes, can't find work, whatever an individual's reason is, so many are truly struggling.  The toll that this life style takes upon an individual can be immense.  Most everyone seems to have some aspirations, goals, desires, things that motivate them and things that they would like to get out of life.  When a person can not attain these goals, or at least feel like they are working towards them in the right direction, it is very easy to get down and to even sink into elements of depression.  The true problem with this is that our society seems only to accentuate these issues.  The system that we live in singularly promotes the individual and the individual's primacy in affecting all aspects of their life.  All of the onus for success is put in the individual's hands.  If a person is hard working, diligent, and talented they can easily find a way to success.

But what happens when society itself takes opportunities away from this person?  What happens when through no fault of individuals themselves, the world crashes into crisis, recession, depression?  A person with no job, no way forward - yet still with dreams, goals, and desires - is forced to face that life of need and want every day.  They apply to job after job - each one bringing a huge glimmer of hope - only to hear nothing back.  Every job application a person puts in has a piece of their heart and sole inside it. They spend hours writing a cover letter, redoing a resume to specifically fit each job, references, samples, getting other people to proof read it all.  An entire day can be spent on one job application. 

What then happens when over and over again, they receive nothing.  No response, no "sorry we decided not to interview you", no nothing.  They are left with a littel hole in their heart where all that effort and all that imagining went into an application.  And it slowly festers until they come to an evolutionary place of realization that that job is not going to call.  Every day, every week, job after job.  Its like cold-calling; you don't know the people at these companies and they don't know you.  You keep trying anyway, dial after dial, but they aren't interested in buying what your selling - you.  They have 300 plus applicants from all over the country.  What makes your piece of paper any better than anyone else's?  If you don't have the job title on your resume already, best of luck.

But what then?  What happens when each day you wake up and have less and less motivation to keep that job search going?  You start new pathways, networking, volunteering, friends, family, starting your own business, whatever.  But then if things still seem not to move in your direction, what's next.  Hopelessness sets in, your on food stamps by now, you struggle to pay rent and bills, an underemployed existence, degrees sitting on the walls collecting dust, right next to your intellect and your heart.

There you sit, is it really worth it to keep looking for another job?  What is the use?  What is it they say? Doing the same thing and getting the same bad result is the definition of madness?  At what point do you just start trying to maintain an existence?  Maintain sanity.  When do you just stop wasting your time?

But the true problem with it all is that it may not even actually be up to you.  The road paved above is one of despair, it is one of depression.  That is where this story seems to end up.  But then how does that play out?  How does one pull themselves out of a depressed state?  No health care to see someone about it.  No motivation to keep pushing.  Even knowing what needs to be done isn't enough, because you still have to get up and do it.  A general feeling of hopelessness as no help is to be found.  This is what our society does.  It puts all the onus on us as individuals to make our lives successful but then truly and fundamentally affects us on a systemic level.  How do you harness the power of your intellect, courage, and drive, if the system takes it away from you?  How do you work hard as an individual when medically speaking you have lost the capabilities?

People in states of depression don't take initiative, they don't jump up and keep fighting, they dont' care about the American dream as they have been defeated by it so many times that they are tired of fighting the same fight and continuing to lose.  It becomes biological, not just mental.  Yet our system still puts everything on our own shoulder.  How do you rise up and keep trying to fight the idiotic fight when you don't have the strength to stand?  How is this possible?  How is this fair?  How can we do this to good people?   

Friday, March 5, 2010

This is a pretty tough road to get to 'Democracy'

So I have a general issue that I want to contact my representatives about and it is NOT easy.  I want to contact both my national senators, as well as the relevant federal representatives.  My issue is county wide and of a federal nature given the program (more posts to come on this one).  My county spans three congressional districts, hence three relevant congress persons.  Then I need to add in my State senators (of which the county has two), and then the local and county representatives.  No big deal right?  Just get all their email address and send out one email no?  NO.  The national and statewide reps have fill in forms to send emails through (seven).  Meaning fill in all my personal details for each one, then my issue, etc.  This is really time consuming.  The local ones though offer regular email addresses, this is of course makes it much easier to contact all of them - well done.

But how much of a difference can the local ones make?  Actually, I decent amount when it comes to what I'm looking to do.  But given my issue, while local government can change some of the implementation, my query is bigger than just smiles.  Thus I want to send a letter to ALL the relevant representatives, on all levels.  How much time should I have to spend to be able to try to be democratic, to take my part in "rule by the people"?  If the process is made to be so difficult as to limit its usage, how does one expect to get true governmental feedback?  Or maybe they don't?  After all, if there was more feedback our representatives would have to hire more interns to weed through the messages, and have more representative issues on their plate.  Less feedback, less concerns, equals more 'efficient' government right?

Dear Miss Social Worker

So this is a letter that I hand delivered to the intake worker at the Dutchess Country  social services building following my application for social assistance.  I also emailed it to 20 representatives in the area that covered this office and my local officials.  I got two email responses and one phone call.  One was genuine, one was canned, and one was a boot-strap motivational speech.  Democracy at work, and our prejudices and social services programs at hardly working.

Dear Miss Social Worker,

On Tuesday I applied for Temporary Assistance with Dutchess County Social Services and was rejected. I understand that I do not meet the criteria and accept that judgment whole-heartedly. Any issue with this should surely rather be taken up with my congress person and legislative bodies. However, what I have a tremendously difficult time accepting is the way that you seemed to approach both me and my application. Yet still, I do not write this for me, but for everyone else that comes in your door looking for help and that you will probably approach the same way.

I thought that you were rude, inconsiderate, assumptive, and downright judgmental, without bothering to know me or anything of my situation. Yet you presumed to, and treated me as if I was automatically trying to take advantage of the system just by walking in your door.

Upon being told that I was not eligible, I asked: “so what other services are offered for people in my situation?” Your response was: “So you are asking me what we can do for you?” I was a bit taken aback, as it seemed kind of accusatory, and responded “I... guess so.” To which you responded in what I took as a very unhelpful and almost aggressive tone “What you should be asking is what you can do for yourself.” Wow!  Let me tell you what I've done for myself and why you shouldn't treat people that are exactly what the programs you provide, and tax payers give you a salary to provide, are supposed to help.

For over ten years I have been working, gaining business experience in management, marketing, fundraising, writing, research, and development all over the world. Educationally, I am at the end of a second masters degree.  The first of which is from the 30th ranked university in the world, and the second is in Sociology and Anthropology – of which poverty is one of my main focuses. Since I returned to the US in late spring/early summer, I have applied for many jobs I feel that am well qualified for, only to not even be given an interview. All my study abroad/educational experience, and I couldn't get an interview as a study abroad adviser with SUNY New Paltz even with connections at the school.   In my last job I was the lead employee in obtaining a 2.2 million dollar private investment, and as a former Division I and professional athlete with dyslexia, I thought I would at least get an interview for a fundraising position with the Special Olympics in Wappingers Falls, yet I didn't.  All that academics and athletics background, yet still no interview with Marist as an academic adviser for athletes. This last position received 152 applications in 7 days – the position was accepting apps for 2 months.   I have been applying for work, both in the area and the city, and not even getting interviews.   In my last position I was 'Senior Analyst, and Head of Research and Development' for a company trying to provide medical evacuation services to wounded people in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For all intents and purposes I was the number two person in the company and running day-today operations – all of the jobs I am looking at here are good options, but it is not like I am holding out, waiting for a similar job to my last.

I picked up part-time work (all the hours they'll give me) selling running shoes in a specialty store in New Paltz (a forty minute drive for a ten dollar an hour job).  I worked on finishing this second degree in my spare time, looked for work, even started trying to write a book.  Yet I realized that in the world we live in, and especially in this type of global economy, that if I want to be able to guarantee employment for myself and my future that I can't sit around and wait for others to 'give' me a job – I will have to provide it for myself.  Thus I have added starting a business to my work load, and am trying to learn websites, find a designer that will work for free, and continue to research and write content for the site. To make ends meet I am adding officiating of Women's Lacrosse (a sport I have never played), but this won't show much income for a few more months.   I am volunteering in local government doing organizational and administrative work, and tried to volunteer with non-profits and specifically with the Dutchess Community Action Program.  I almost got a job with them when I went in to apply for food stamps.  Funny how it was the only interview I've had since I've been back in the US and it was because they randomly liked me enough as I applied to ask me in for a job interview!! With luck this may work out if the position will actually get funding and exist.

So you ask me what am I doing to help myself?  Well, even being learning disabled I almost have two masters degrees, I've worked hard for over ten years, and am putting in seven day weeks and many 12 hour days balancing work for pay, volunteer work that may network me into a job or community, and entrepreneurial work that may allow me to never ask for assistance again.  Yes, I could probably take a High School kid's job working fast food, but if I did that, when would I be able to apply for work and get out of the 'cycle of poverty'?

Social services, are designed specifically to help people like me.  People that have come on tough times and just need a little help to get 'over the hump'.   Your assertions offended me.   My whole goal is to try to make a difference in the world, and I've been pushing and driving myself to do this for almost two decades.   I am working at 8 am and usually at 8 at night, every day – just ask my girlfriend how much time I have to spend with her.  I should be exactly the person that both you and the system want to help.  I will be a success story. Yet even with all this, I am not upset about me not getting temporary assistance.  I am upset for all the other people that won't get it and for how they will likely be treated by you – like criminals trying to take advantage of the system.

In 1996 we decided to 'end welfare as we know it', and as a result there aren't the support services that the rest of the industrialized world offers.  We leave people in need to largely fend for themselves.  And the worst part about it – and I was sad to confirm all the studies I had read that cited this – is that people are treated in a way that makes them not want to come back and ask for help again no matter how desperate things may get.  The whole goal of Social Services in this county, and maybe even country, is not to 'help' people, rather to try to have as few people as possible on the roles.   I was treated like that by you on Tuesday.   You did not want to help, you did not want to care, you did not even want to show me the respect that any human being deserved.  Perhaps you feel no empathy for people in need, maybe you think you are above the people that you are supposed to be helping.  Perhaps, the job itself has put this presumptive toll on you.  But if any of these are the case, then you should leave your position.  If you believe that everyone there is there to cheat the system, and you then treat them as 'criminally' minded, then find new work.  Because you are not only not helping people, but you are both hurting them and humiliating them.  And some – this must seem so hard to believe – but some, are actually working their tails off just to try to stay afloat in bad times.  Hoping that this hard work will pay off and leed to good times.


Timothy D. Weldon

PS. If you do decide this isn't the job for you, I've enclosed my resume. If you could please pass it on to the appropriate people I'd appreciate it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

All Inclusive Democracy

Just a quick thought on... yes, democracy. I was just watching a newscast on Iraqi elections and saw that they have early voting for those in hospitals and prisons. Perhaps this is just about the workers themselves, but it brought up an issue that I have had for a long time with US democracy. How is it that if you are convicted of a felony crime in the US that you lose your right to vote? And I believe the same thing with a dishonorable discharge from the military. These people still live in the US, they are still US citizens and will be counted in the census, yet they are not allowed to participate in democracy!

Democracy is rule by the people, not rule by certain people, or the people that the powered structures and people deem 'best' to lead the country. It is in fact these people with 'dissenting opinions' on how society works that should be the essence of who's opinions need to be heard. People that have lashed out against the rule of law, are the people with the most to gain by change, while those in power are those with the most to lose (perhaps why those at the 'bottom' are being muted). Obviously it is not an issue that many people are fired up about as our society preaches non compassion for 'criminals', but they are just part of the system and deserve a voice within it just as much as anyone. They should be heard – at least, that is, if you want to claim that you are a democracy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Poverty's Toll

The concept of poverty brings up a tremendous amount of passion and judgments. Most people have an opinion on either how people got into poverty or how they could/should get out of it. But lets put that part of the situation aside for a moment and focus on the actual situation itself (After all, there are plenty of people struggling right now because of a global economic crisis more so than any one thing they have done on their own). What is the actual toll on not just a person in poverty, but what the scenario can mean for their families and their other relationships as well.

Poverty itself is a situation that few people would willfully enter into given a more lucrative option. People want comfort and security in their lives. Poverty takes financial and living security completely out of the equation. Comfort is mostly subjective, but 'subjective' mostly given the surroundings a person lives in. If poverty is 'ok' socio-culturally then that person may be fine with it. If poverty is looked down upon by society then a person may end up ashamed and want to withdraw from that place of humiliation.

But the real toll of this situation comes in its effects on other people, families, and personal relationships. Most people are capable of handling themselves, finding a way to make it all work. Trouble usually comes when they have to look in someone else's eyes. A person looks in the mirror and they know the reasons for their situation, but look in your spouse's eyes, your children's eyes, mother's, etc. That is when things become tough for most people.

But the struggle in this situation does not end with one individual's humility, rather with what it does to these relationships with others over the longer term. Little money for a few weeks or a month – not such a big deal perhaps – but months, years? Look that spouse in the eye, its not the self humility that becomes tough, but the strain that 'life' comes to be under. The stress of the bills, the food, the housing, etc. This type of stress is felt by everyone – not just the one without the job. And sadly this is disproportionally felt by children. More than half of those in poverty in the US are children. It is not their fault, nor can they do much about it. But that does not mean they don't struggle just as much as anyone or feel the direct affects any less than an adult. Kids are as subject to external and peer pressures as anyone – if not more. If they go to school and they don't have things, they need special lunch assistance, they can't go places or do things after school that others may be able to, they feel the same shame, the same humility, but when they look in the mirror they don't see the same reasons the unemployed parents do. They just see the embarrassment, the dissatisfaction, their parents that can't seem to provide fro them. Some of these kids, turn this into blame and resentment. An estranged familial relationship the circles out of control from child to parent and back. And who is to blame? If a parent is laid off due to an outsourced job to Indonesia, is the parent at fault? Does it matter to the child? Maybe not.

Spouses are not much different. When a person commits their life to another person they look to that person for support, love, etc. But what happens when one person is not able to support their end of a bargain? What kind of strain does this put on a relationship? Is it easier to love in prosperity than in poverty? We all want to share in joy and success, but difficulty and despair are tougher to deal with. And then what happens when choices have to start being made, tough choices? There is no going out, little time with friends, no money spent of 'leisure' things or activities. When does that person become less worthy? Life becomes stressful. Which bill do you pay this month, can you make rent, is today meat or veggies? Should we cut out or down the health insurance? What kind of decision making positions does this put people in, and in-turn what kind of pressure is a relationship put under? Choices between 'necessities' can lead to arguments, disagreements, fights. If you don't have to make those tough choices, would a disagreement ever takes place?

I am not illuminating anything new here, poverty is felt by all, even those that don't realize it or ever see it directly in front of them. From loved ones, to children, to simple friends, to strangers, society is wrapped up in its affects. It is important to recognize the pain, the pressure people come under, and it is important to try to understand this feeling and sympathize with it. A person in poverty is struggling inside and out. This is where we need to start our thought process rather than in spending so much time trying to assess blame for 'why' and 'how'. In doing this we forget about the 'what' that is happening. People in society – and their families – need society's support, not their pity, their indifference, or malice.