Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In the news: 500 Starbucks outlets in the US closed down

"What, Starbucks, yeah, it's okay if they close down" would be our initial reaction to the news. But when we realize that the next part of the news is about the the loss of jobs of thousands of workers, it's as if we will just say. "Okay, I'll still go to Starbucks for the sake of those who will lose their jobs." The Starbucks story isn't as simple as that, of course. But that is another story.

Loss of jobs is like loss of one's dignity if we view it from the eyes of the unemployed. In countries like the UK and the Scandinavian countries where those who lose their jobs are given state support, the burden on the jobless seems lighter than the jobless in countries without state support. But whether the unemployed is coming from the UK or another country with state support, the same feeling of bruised dignity is present. The difference is in the degree of pain according to the unemployed from the first world. "In fact, it is better to be unemployed in third world countries because they are many there than to be unemployed in the UK", according to an unemployed British I have talked to. "In poor countries, where almost 50% of the 50% who are poor are unemployed, not many people will look at your joblessness very negatively," this British said. And he continued: "In a first world country, the unemployed are less and their presence therefore are obvious. In fact, there is a denial of the reality of poverty in the first world. This is the burden of the poor in a rich country."

The thought of thousands of Starbucks employees losing their jobs leads me to think of the issues of the unemployed as the issues too of people with secure jobs.Anybody can lose a job any time. Life's surprises can never be predicted despite the extensive studies on the theory of probability.

What are the issues of the unemployed then? As someone like me who have lived and worked up close with the unemployed, the following are their issues:

1) The loss of income comes like the loss of a limb or a loved one. So, the pain of having lost something is ever present.A caring society will not judge the unemployed
harshly when they get some support from friends and family or from the government.If the support comes from the government, there's no reason to be ashamed of it as the taxes that have been deducted from the salaries when the unemployed were still having their jobs came from their sweat. But reality is uglier than the theories of solidarity and a humane environment. Society is very harsh on the unemployed. Distrustful even. It is as if the unemployed suddenly just want to stop working and make themselves a burden to others.The core of the issue of unemployment on the personal side is the bruised dignity of the unemployed.

2)A sagging sense of self-worth grips the unemployed whenever they are in a circle of
employed friends and relatives. Because the structural dimension of unemployment is
seldom the discourse in gatherings, the personal angst of the unemployed manifest
as aggressive behavior.

3)Why it is a common occurrence that the unemployed is perceived as arrogant
and hard-headed and therefore gives rise to more and more new social problems like
drunkenness and unreasonableness is precisely because of the restlessness and inner
"unpeace"caused by a perceived exclusion of what is supposed to be their inner

Unemployment, more often than not, pulls the floodgate of personal and social
problems. I wish the Starbucks employees in the US will really be taken into the
other branches that the management said can still be taken in.

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