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Unemployment, Society’s Greatest Scourge

Unemployment, Society’s Greatest Scourge

“BBC o ho BBC!

BBC stands for many, many things!

BBC o ho BBC!

B ombay Bekaar-khao Company!”

That was a ditty some of us picked up when growing up as kids, without of course then knowing what it all meant! In time I was to realize the connection between the words of these lines to unemployment (and not to the British broadcasting giant!) which I presume was as acute then as it is today and were put together as a hint for an unemployed though able-bodied bully of the locality who had a wife, kids, and a secure roof over his head, not to speak of the luxuries of life, thanks to a huge dowry that came his way! If truth be told, the bumpkin never, ever worked for a living!

Unemployment - biggest evil of every age!

It is a well-researched fact that unemployment is connected with negative health consequences, leading as it does to stress-related illnesses and a lowered self-esteem as a result of unmet psychological and social needs in such contexts as: time structure, social interaction, personal goals, status, identity and societal recognition on the one hand, and uncertainty about the future, financial instability, and loss of vocational identity on the other. This explains why questions of coping become key issues.

As Jane Addams of  Hull-House fame and the first American woman Nobel Laureate [ Peace Prize 1931 ] says: “Of all the aspects of social misery nothing is as heartbreaking as unemployment.” The ugly head of unemployment has three dimensions that need to be taken note of: the individual dimension, the family dimension, and the social dimension.

Individual dimension – This dimension concerns two types of individuals, the first being the one who sincerely wants to work but can’t find suitable employment, and the other, the one who lacks the will to work. However, this dimension is often overshadowed by the family dimension as we shall see below.

Family dimension – Strangely, the weirdness of the Indian psyche whereby certain men are virtually encouraged, even goaded on, to refrain from making any effort to earn their livelihood is something not many understand. Amazingly, certain communities in India consider a boy-child born after the birth of three girl-children as ‘lucky’, the truth of whether he is lucky for himself or for the family being there for all to see! As for a girl born after the birth of three male-children? Unlucky to say the least! And boy! Such a girl is crudely made to experience that supposed ‘un-luck’ at close quarters. Considered a bad omen, she is ill-treated to the core, often denied the benefits enjoyed by the male children, denied normal nourishment and education, even as she is considered a workhorse of sorts, a maid to boot.

Now, take the case of Simon who was born after the birth of three daughters. Spoilt to the hilt by his mother and sisters, to the point of letting him get away with just about anything – not excluding murder! - he took school for granted, passing through each standard merely because of the teachers’ familiarity with the family through an aunt who was a teacher. As luck would have it, he managed to pass through his SSC Boards by the skin of his teeth. Piquantly, hardly had he begun to show signs of feeling like the UK’s Prince of Wales, there came along three younger sisters who were made to treat him like a king of sorts by the parents. So while Simon got in and out of jobs, just for the fun of it as he’d himself say, his elder sisters would pamper him silly, unabashedly calling him baba even in adulthood, and not letting him exert or strain himself, even as the younger ones literally hung on to every senseless word he blabbered and doing his bidding like there was to be no tomorrow! If at all an elder sister complained over anything concerning him, the parents would tell all the three elder girls: “He is your only brother – don’t grumble! If you get married and lose your husband you can easily get a replacement! But if you lose a brother, u can never get another!” As for the younger daughters: “He is your elder brother – you must do whatever he tells you.”

In time baba-Simon married a working girl brought to him by an elder sister while he himself had no qualms about remaining jobless, and had babies which were also, in time, looked after by an elder sister, while yet another sister would buy him the latest cameras [which he has never used till date!], mobiles, smartphones, tablets and what not, each of which cost a fortune! For his part, he’d whine about others not knowing how to run a business or bring up children, even if such whining meant biting the hand that feeds him! Finally, when an elder sister, on retirement started a small enterprise in his name, it was she who would spend her retirement going over to the office regularly to work her butt off in order to keep baba’s home-fires burning while he stayed home practically throughout the month with an excuse of some health problem or the other. For her part, she’d often pretend her ‘boss’ was very kind-hearted and has permitted her to report to work a little late on certain days! And as though to justify her action, she once cited the appearance of her parents in a dream, extracting a promise from her to look after their ‘ baba’ – not to mention his wife and family! Unemployment glorified! One would have thought playing dolls’ house was limited to siblings playing ‘mama-dada’ rather than boss-and-employee!

Add to this, the tradition of family property going only to the only son of the family and you know how deeply ingrained is the BBC culture in baba’s psyche. Needless to say, unless the parents of the family grow out of the cocoon of their psyche, ‘baba’ will remain a permanent member of BBC, adding in no mean measure to the rate of unemployment prevalent in the country!

Another case that merits analysis is that of Lavira and Regno. Marriage for him came with a 1-bedroom flat as dowry. Within a year of the grand affair that the wedding was, Regno lost interest in working and casually gave up his job while Lavira continued working and even bore Regno two sons. As if in keeping with the sentiments of the Biblical saying, “Like mother, like daughter” (Ezek 16:44), both sons took after their father. While the elder son joined the BBC after having worked for less than a year after completion of his graduation, the younger son simply refused to study beyond Standard X, embracing with open arms the prospects of remaining jobless the rest of his life with the BBC! Post-retirement, Lavira did soon get a job but Regno dear prevented her from taking up the offer on the grounds that if she continues in employment, the sons would refuse to work. To cut a long story short, the family is now a jobless foursome, surviving on Lavira’s pension.

Social dimension - The famous   counsel given by Polonius to his son, Laertes, in Act-I, Scene-III of  William Shakespeare ’s  Hamlet, before embarking on a visit to Paris, was: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend.” Apparently, Delize was all out to prove the veracity of the opposite of this phrase as is evident from the fact that after the birth of three children, hubby Carlos decided to opt for voluntary retirement, confident that the sum that would come in following such a step was steep enough to last a lifetime of growth for the entire family. But the lavish kind of lifestyle that the family led ensured that the kitty was soon empty, necessitating the distress sale of their 2 bedroom apartment, with her shifting to her mother’s with the kids and he into a wood-and-tin room a few miles away. It wasn’t long before penury ensured that “borrowing” was the name of the new game Delize had taken to playing with gusto! And the reasons for the act cut across all sense of reasoning – from illness, no groceries, short of onions and potatoes, school fees to be paid, bills pending, to booze to be bought for Mister Bekaar-khao’s birthday party, with reasons for not returning ranging from ‘no money has come in yet, so from where am I to return your money?’ to ‘Arrey - come on yaar! Where am I running away and where is your money running away?’ ‘But your borrowings have totalled 97,000 rupees already!’ ‘Only? What is 97,000 rupees, men! You give me another three thousand and round off the figure to one lac. And I’ll give you the full amount when my Petula sends me money for looking after her children whom I’m feeding fukat here!’ No prizes for guessing that Petula herself came in with a begging bowl for family alms.

The remedy…

Can one imagine the effect of such an attitude on society per se? It’s time the society, in general, woke up from its slumber and the Church, for her part, fully seized of the situation, voiced its concern from the Pulpit in attempt to change mindsets and to thus ensure that no Catholic per se remains unemployed, adding to society’s and family’s misery but strives for probity in family and public life alike!

It’s time families, no more as uneducated as those of yesteryears, woke up to just reasoning being the only deciding factor in ridding every aspect of family and social life of the scourge of unemployment.

(Published on 03rd February 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 06)