The Newly Jobless, including One who took Drastic Action

With the Beatles‘ recent popularity with generations who weren’t even around the first time around, you’d think that love is all you need. However, we live in times where even that sentiment, as lovely as it is, is not enough to counter the malaise of this recession. One of the feature stories in this month’s Atlantic Monthly, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” paints a grim future for the American job market in the next few years. The New York Times, not to be beat, is doing a series about “The New Poor” (coming off an era with the new rich) with a similar article: ” Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs.” The Atlantic Monthly makes predictions about the cultural changes to come while the NY Times takes a closer look at the systems in place to deal with unemployment and how they’re ill-prepared for this crisis. With the grimness pointed out by both sources, why not laugh at the futility of paying off credit cards on Cracked.Com.

Losing a job during these times is painful, but losing one after a several year probationary period can be quite infuriating. Last week, Amy Bishop, an assistant professor of biology at University of Alabama in Huntsville, shot at her colleagues at a department meeting, her motive largely that her tenure was denied. She was described as eccentric, which isn’t unusual for a professor. Academia is full of misfits. At the behest of her attorney, the assertion is made that she is crazy, therefore not responsible for her actions. Of course, the insane are full of rage and literary aspirations, as it has been revealed that she wrote not just one, but two novels, one of them reflecting her anxiety over tenure denial. Perhaps if she read “Life after Tenure Denial” right on time, the whole massacre might have been prevented. Or, maybe not. Unfortunately, for Bishop, life after tenure denial most likely means behind bars or in the mental hospital.

While “going postal” is never right, the anger in investing so much time to gain job security, in this case tenure, is understandable. Tenure track, unlike the typical probationary period of 90 days, can take a few years for the department to evaluate and decide if they want to retain the professor.

In this age of disposable employees, a New York Times career column (which really should be on Monster) tells us how to make ourselves indispensable to our workplaces. So cheery, optimistic, and guaranteed to get you the axe. Watch your back while following that piece of pop wisdom. You never know who else is trying to keep their job.

If you want to wait out this crisis until it’s over, you might want to consider this mid-1930’s idea.

2 thoughts on “The Newly Jobless, including One who took Drastic Action

  1. Don’t forget the tale of Joe Stack–to all who knew him, he was a calm, not-crazy, amateur musician and computer engineer who, last week, flew his plane into an office building where 200 IRS employees worked. He had to start his life over three times thanks to money problems. Sure, it was the IRS being dickish that pushed him over the edge, but really, if the job situation had been more stable, if he were making first-internet-bubble-wages, I bet he’d just have put up an angry, anti-IRS website and not used an office building as a plane-sized catchers mitt. Money has a depressingly stabilizing, even tranquilizing, effect on people.

    Stack’s story and your post remind me of the anime series “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.” The main story arc concerns a single vigilante who inspires (through no direct contact) a series of copycat terrorist acts. I’m worried that Stack and Bishop are going to inspire more folks to follow their example. Honestly, I’m more worried about domestic terror, than Al Qaeda. God forbid there should be someone like the vigilante in GitS: SAC, because he used branding and marketing to capture the public’s attention, spawning a fanboy movement, as well as copycats.

    We’re entering into a very cloudy phase of American history. I’d be lying if I thought we’d definitely be coming out better on the other end. It seems to me that things will only get worse. There’s a huge amount of irony, I think, in the media and government telling us the economy is improving while jobless numbers are still absurdly high, and systemically, nothing has changed with American business or the economy. Banking regulation still quite minimal, outsourcing to other countries still legal, how are we supposed to come back from this?

    OK, I’ll shut up now. Enough depressing stuff. I’m going to go play with my cat now.
    .-= ThePete´s last blog ..Bob Herbert, Rina Cutler, @StoweBoyd and me on repairing/replacing American infrastructure… =-.

    1. Professionally, I have a great deal of empathy for Amy Bishop because I’ve worked as an adjunct instructor and the job market for academics is at an all-time low. Getting a PhD, especially from Harvard, is damn impressive. She invested a great deal of her time in that endeavor and tenure track. Even with someone advising her to look for another job, the thought may have gone through her mind that where is this new job going to come from? We’ll never get the whole story, but I do wonder if someone (or a few people) on the faculty and/or administration didn’t like her, so they found whatever reason they could to get rid of her. So she had a padded resume. The message in our job seeking culture is to play things up so that we “sell” ourselves. Academia is no different, though they’re much more hypocritical about how stuff like resumes, letters, curriculum vitae, the whole song and dance of interviews work than the HR departments, who clearly can’t be bothered with a resume that speaks for itself and will jump at one that has that overbuffed sparkle.

      What you mentioned about Joe Stark definitely puts a human side to the plane bombing of the IRS office building. While what he or Bishop did weren’t right, both definitely felt very helpless with their job situations and overall their finances. Our contemporary culture tries to put all the responsibility of these things upon people, heaven forbid that someone actually having a job is at the discretion of the company that hires them. With the whole IRS audit, he may have wondered how come they couldn’t cut him a break. Hell, it might have even interfered with his business and his ability to make money.

      We really need a change – a whole lot of change like what your post listed in the Comment Love above.

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