You have been invited (at a risk of losing your unemployment benefits) to an activation meeting. You haven’t had an income for two years and it’s now time to get you active. A representative from the local social security office and the government employment office will also attend. They may come from further away if those departments in your town have already been closed. Your job is to come and listen to what is to be done to you, and then to do what you are told. You also have an option of refusing, in which case you lose your unemployment benefits and will need to apply for a social security handout, which will be cut by 20-40% for being difficult. (In Finland you can be punished twice for one crime, and in Finland unemployment is a crime. There are at least 30 000 vacancies for the half a million unemployed job seekers. What are they waiting for? There should only be 470 000 job seekers and no vacancies, and those 470 000 would be the laziest of them all, so they should be forced to work for nothing. Clear?)
They call it activation. This is a term often used for positive purposes. You can activate the economy (if only). You can activate an old account. One activates things. Or groups of people. We speak about activating the youth, but you seldom hear anyone say: “Bill next door should be activated”. Peace movements and armies have been activated. Activating is not something a citizen does but something that is done to him as a part of a group. In a way activating means making people passive, making them obedient. Would you like to prove this? This is how.
When the letter arrives, your first reaction may be rage or panic. You may get headache, feel sick, your hands shake and your words stick into your throat. You should use this negative energy into something physical you enjoy. Chop some fire wood, rake leaves, beat rugs, or go for a long walk. Just don’t go to bed that evening before you have made a rough plan which you can polish later. It’s wise to write this on the first day because your adrenaline is then high and you may be able to think outside your usual patterns. A little bit of anger helps your creativity. Frustrated anger may prevent you from sleeping, and after a sleepless night your thinking will be even slower than usually. So act without a delay.
Make a list of your skills. What do you love doing, what have you accomplished? What would you do even if nobody paid you (and believe me, they are not planning to)?
Imagine your town as a group of people all working together for a common goal. Perhaps it’s a distant goal, but try to think of you all as having the same purpose, to create a better life for everyone in the community, for you also, and with your help too. Forget all labels they try to stamp on different groups; public servants, entrepreneurs, job seekers, the elderly, the young people, alcoholics, children, wage earners, politicians. Think about each person as someone in a particular stage in their life with their unique qualities, needs, dreams and rights. What kind of whole do all of you form together? What can be improved? What can you do to improve things and what can you suggest that someone else might do for common good? The longer list you come up with, the easier it will be for you to pick something you would like to volunteer to do, free of charge.
Make an activity plan in which you list services you’d like to offer to the people in your community. If you wish, limit the beneficiaries to other job seekers, pensioners, students, council departments or members of a group or association. Or if you want to help everyone and anyone, tell so. Ponder how you could prevent your work from being misused. You don’t want to find yourself working for free, making something or repairing something or whatever your work may be, only to see it being sold on for profit. You don’t want to make yourself a unpaid slave for someone more greedy than you. You don’t want to find yourself in a position you could not leave without losing your unemployment benefits. You are a free citizen. At least you think you are; can anyone be a citizen in a registered corporation? Are you in fact a part owner, or a mere piece of stock in Suomen Valtio (Finnish State), business registration number 0986674-0?
Now, when you arrive at the meeting, don’t let the public servants’ standard roles confuse you. Treat them as if they were Finnish citizens, equal to you, and they may start treating you likewise. They have had their share of threats and blame and mock and bitterness. Your bright attitude may come as a welcome change.
Tell them what voluntary services you would like to offer your community. Do this at the beginning to lead conversation to the direction you want. If they agree that you have found work that is good to be done and that you wouldn’t damage anyone’s small business or waged position by doing it, they could get enthusiastic about your suggestion. They promise to introduce your plan at the council meeting and they thank you.
Then comes a crucial point. Even though you have been without a paid job for two years, you have now shown willingness and ability to take initiative, to co-operate, to do something. What’s the verdict? Is it one of these two options:
1. “There are no job vacancies at the moment, so I guess you’ll need to stay on the benefits, but we accept your volunteering with gratitude. Let’s try for three months how it goes. Let’s think how you can keep us up to date of your activities, and how this could lead into your employment later on.”
2. “We will let you do the activities you have suggested, unless it begins to take up so much of your time that you no longer would be ready to take on full time work (which we pretend there could be), in which case you would no longer be entitled to unemployment benefits. But now, let’s talk about your actual activating. Voluntary work is fine, for what it is, but we cannot supervise you if you work by yourself, or if you work from home, so it wouldn’t fill what’s required by law. Our town has organised a few activities and you can choose which of them you’d like to start doing. You could come and entertain the residents in the old people’s home, repair bicycles in the local slave sweatshop, or, if you prefer outdoor work, we offer street sweeping, or shovelling of snow. Which of these would you like to start doing? We want you to do this rehabilitation eight hours a day, five days a week (the law, which is said to take an effect from the beginning of next year orders long term unemployed people to be forcefully ‘rehabilitated’ for at least four hours per week). Of course you won’t be able to look for work at the same time, but it doesn’t matter. We know there are no jobs for people such as yourself, and we can’t let you roam free any longer. Half a million unemployed people with plenty spare time are a threat to the structures of this society. If one day they stop obeying, it can all come crumbling down and result with a community where everyone is equal. This must be prevented.”
Perhaps I exaggerate a little, but I’m sure you understand why. You have discovered and presented useful things you can volunteer to do at your own time, for no payment, for the good of you all. How could supervised enforced activity be better for you than voluntary work would be?
For a normal human being supervised forced labour is never the better option than voluntary, self directed work with his own schedule. When politicians and public servants decide that a citizen must choose an enforced supervised activity instead of work they would do voluntarily of their own initiative, they are not acting with our best interest in mind. Their goal is not a person’s employment or wellbeing but to further impoverish him, enslave him and make him even more dependent of government handouts.
If job seekers are allowed to work without restrictions in something they find meaningful and which benefits their community, and if they work for free, are entitled to unemployment benefits, we prevent the labeling of them as dependants. The unemployed will get a more positive image as a resource, a part of society, useful citizens, poor but industrious people.
If they want the growing army of the unemployed to seem negative, reluctant, lazy parasites, they must be forced into something that is clearly useless, killing of time, humiliating. Job seeker must be allowed to work for himself. He must not trade his services. He must not study, unless he is forced to – in that case he must. He has to be trained to accept his position humbly because the only thing he still has to offer to the society (to the stock holders of the corporation called Finnish State) is his labour. That labour must be got under control and he has to be humiliated to accept his gradual descend to slavery for the benefit of large corporations owned by the corrupt elite.
What do we want? We have been kidnapped to work on a pirate ship and we are sailing somewhere in the ocean, not knowing where. We are controlled by a small group of armed pirates. Our only way to return home and to freedom is to take over the ship, all together, peacefully. A single protestor would be thrown overboard. If one protests, the criminals can punish all the rest, to make them police each other. You can’t do much by yourself. Together freedom is easy to realise. Peacefully. Openly.