Notes from the New Underground: Our Profound Disconnect

A friend here in Walnut Creek went to the hospital last week with panic attacks after getting news that she had been turned down for a job. She’s been out of work for more than a year, sent out hundreds of resumes, is working with recruiters and has been called in for first, second and even third interviews more than a dozen times.

She had such high hopes for this interview. The job was in a field in which she has lots of experience. She knew the industry well, and liked that the company focused on green technologies. The interview took more than five hours, and involved one-on-ones with various people in the company hierarchy. She felt nervous going in but hopeful coming out, believing that she had really connected with several of the key people.

But, no, the job would go to someone else. My friend was left to pick apart all the things she might have done or said wrong. She wondered if there was something in her personality. Maybe she was nervous and talked too fast. Maybe, she not smart or attractive enough. Maybe she didn’t project confidence, and maybe, in her early 50s, she is  too old.

In any event, she fell back into a tailspin of insecurity about her fiances and massive self-doubt about her desirability as a worker and as a human being. Would she continue to feel this desperate and alone the rest of her life? She also sensed something more terrifying going on: a change in attitudes among employers and companies. She started to see how employers, who hold all the cards in this economy, treat applicants like her with something beyond disdain. It’s a cold indifference, recklessness and disregard for common courtesy. Her observations should be  terrifying to anyone who claims to care about living in a civil, just society.

This woman is a hero to me, more than a lot of people we tend to call heroes. She’s still trudging along in a cold, reckless and indifferent climate. She’s doing her best to keep up her spirits and sanity. She gets to wonder how many more times she’ll face rejection and where her next paycheck is coming from. She reads that the Bay Area is enjoying a high-tech boom but she’s not part of that so she’s screwed. Her unemployment is running out — or maybe it’s not. She can’t get any clear answers. Her nest egg for her retirement is running out. And her health benefits are running out.

It’s simply becoming ever more clear, as the financial crisis of 2008 lingers into 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and onwards, that we’re living with the aftershocks of a horrifying disaster that has been  as destructive to the fabric of our  national society as 9/11 was. It’s also destructive to our local community, though you wouldn’t know it walking around Broadway Plaza.

Maybe 8.2 unemployment isn’t that bad, although it’s not great is you’re one of the unemployed or one of the underemployed. And it’s not great compared with other industrialized countries, save for Italy, France and, of course, Greece and Span.

Unemployment in the United Kingdom was 8.2 percent in March, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. I bring up the UK because it is ground zero of Libor, the latest multi-billion financial scandal perpetuated by the business elite and Wall Street.

Silly us. We thought they heard learned some lessons in integrity and responsibility following the collapse of the global economy.

Guess not.Ten years ago, we had Enron, then the U.S. sub-prime mortgage debacle; then Bernie Madoff. More recently, we’ve had to live with a botched trade by JP Morgan that has swelled to $5.8 billion. It’s just incredible, the ongoing sagas that expose  the rotten core at the heart of the financial industry — and the extent to which government regulars colluded in this corruption mostly by not paying attention.

Now we have Libor, something that I don’t really understand, but it involves an interest rate with international reach that could engulf many of the same players in previous scandals: JP Morgan Chase, Citi, UBS and Bank of America.

Where will it end? Something about this Libor thing has really me feeling dispirited — an angry — even though it’s a mess I don’t really understand.

I think about my friend. There’s no clear connection, I know, except that the two situations reveal a profound disconnect in our society between those who have power and responsibility in our society — and who abuse it — and the rest of us left behind. 

2 thoughts on “Notes from the New Underground: Our Profound Disconnect

  1. So sorry to here about your friend. We just went through a whole year of unemployment as well, and boy is it hell on earth! My husband took it on like a full time job, and was highly organized, and for the better part of the year, he wasn't even getting any leads!
    He also had the interviews that went several levels, before being told no yet again. He is also the same age group as your friend, although I keep hearing this from all age groups.
    You really know who your friends are at this time also!
    Long and short of it, he was finally rehired back at the company that he worked at for 14 years, before he got laid off back in 2006. He had to take a slight pay cut, but is very happy in the position, and very grateful just to be working again.

    I hope your friend lands on her feet, and I keep a constant prayer for all the unemployed people out there, we have been through it at least three times now, and it is just the worst!


  2. The libor scandal in U.K. is driven by politics, in reality it enabled loans to be given to individuals in a difficult enviroment. As for JPMorgan unless a shareholder who suffered?


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