Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dole boy 2

About nine years ago I decided to go off the dole. 

It was the morning after the long incumbent but dulling Red government of Helen Clark lost out to Mr Key's shiny new Blue version willing to have a go at our behest. Apart then from the previous evenings gameshow of 'Democracy has Talent' it wasn't unlike most mornings of late where first orders were getting down to the Winz office  to play with computers and look like I was searching for work.

 But this morning the resident Bigman, the sergeant major type, called us all outside for a talk and proceeded to blame us lowest of the low, us lepers of the consumerist ethos, that it was all our fault: that, emphatically and with the gusto, this soapbox mini tyrant (and all bottom up purveyors of the bureaucratic kingdoms know each office always has at least one staff member with a seething subconscious anger utilised to play with fear as a motivational tool) had the audacity to vent his frustrations saying that because we basically didn't have the will and or the skill to enter the workforce that the Great hope of New Zealand had been vanquished.
What utter rot! And I just could not see myself remaining as cannon fodder on which this type of man could feed his almost berserkerish self contempt. I would not play a part in enabling this type of behaviour. And why? It's because even whilst I've always enjoyed my self determined rascalism flitting through the system able to keep it fun, this episode was too disturbing, too scarily real somehow, and I just couldn't dig deep enough to balance off my easy non-chalance with a system that really has to work for others, that survival wasn't a mere game, so I ran, I escaped.
Nine years later and here I am trying to get back in, what a puzzle it is. What an absolute maze of interconnections between governments departments, banks and other newly branded mills of number crunching post modernism's which can only be made by deft use of both a cellphone and a computer to the extent you almost need a benefit just to get on the benefit. 

Okay, I've made it a little harder on myself after five years ago getting thrown out of a dealer gallery in Parnell, as I'd followed up the art thing again after leaving the benefit world and by luck and not a little scheming, plus a finally embraced conviction to stop playing to the audience and dumbing myself down for cash, I'd ended up cohorting with a slightly swarthy chap in charge of a space who'd been born and bred, alike me, close by the fuming stacks but had had a brilliant father who went from garage invention to full blown industrial competence and so lifted the family unit out of the doldrums of the working class, and given these freedoms he played at art and let me try out for his stable, be a fledgling colt.

History has a way of repeating itself, especially when you kinda don't want it to, so a year or two goes by and it's fun having money again, becoming a practiced racer, coupla falls, a few injuries, but nothing major and I've actually just had my first big race and I won! But this ain't horse racing and the one big difference is it's more like stock trading. I create the stock and the trader trades it. In my case though the trader says it's worth trading but I can't be bothered. Seems my trainer, back to the horsey metaphors, decided my old injuries should come back to haunt me, I was over them but it seems he wasn't so it was lesson time. Bastard! That, taking time to learn proper where you are and what's at stake, is a provision I hadn't seen. I'm still on the wrong side of the tracks and I'd burned all the candles on this one, the pastures, on home farm, were bare and I'd promised prime fertilizer! Oh well, play with the big boys, take the big boy whacks.

Humble pie, hmm, nice.

The storm settles and I'm at the gallery one sunny day, having accepted my fate that a house up on the hill is still somewhat a ways off but a doable thing in the long run when out of the blue, my boss man and benefactor sees one of his own benefactors come ambling onto our chosen field of play, and I, being quickly sidelined, watch him scoot across the pasture and play out a loathsome display of bowing and scrapping... what? Flashback to that cool Otara winter morning but it's a sunny Parnell day and here's my own tyrant  becoming a genuflecting pauper... and the same dread was on me, the same hyper reality that was fight of flee, something that needed acknowledgement but I just couldn't see beyond feeling scared... boogie man under the bed stuff. A wound from the way backs opening up and bleeding fear.
Somehow though I'd learned something along the way, some wisdom had found me better prepared, some course in battleground medicine, 'cause I conned the conman, I got my deposit back and I was outta there. More on this later maybe, still a bit of a state secret.
Decided I'd  become ambitionless, meditate heaps and heaps and see if enlightenment were possible. Oops, that's right I did go back to school for a year and play with Mud, clay technology I think it was called, which was fun until they, all these upper middle class housewives playing at craft, kinda cottoned onto me being a proper artist and the games of both belittling and applauding that skill set began. Those potters have a real problem being labeled crafts people… and who even cares!
That outta the way, and honestly, and in hindsight, it was more about student allowance than it ever was about getting a skill, then it was three years chopping firewood and collecting water. The bare minimum of life action to sustain as much as possible a non-action life.

Now, which is incidentally much bigger and wider these days, here I am attempting to sign on and all I have left is a license. And this, my only verifying document, I'd lost a year ago and as I tried to get another, and needed some full size piece of paper (a long form birth certificate) from a government building in Canada, which at the time was engulfed in blizzards not seen in decades, it became a story about relatives and justice of the peace's battling arctic conditions, as I myself battled across phone lines just so box ticking could be done on this side of the world. This would have enlightened a more cognisant soul that bureaucracies had changed somewhat since my explorations began in being desireless.
I am, for my sins, quite the life long on and off again member of the fraternity known as unemployed, so getting into the office, Winz, and being recognised, was easy. In out no problems but the next morning turning up for the lecture and being told this load of about twenty pages had to be got through in twenty days, or we start over, and that if successful at completing all this then a meeting would be scheduled and if everything was above board and proper… then we'd finally be signed to get payments, I knew it wasn't going to be simple.
Now I'll go back even further in my own life, to set the scene, as a on off dole bludger with all kinds of intermittent attempts and often failures at self employment, feast or famine my lot as it were, and so one can imagine that kind of life doesn't really give one a very reliable set of reference markers as to whether one is actually quite clever, this given some of my business ideas worked rather well, or stupid… as failures seemed to follow on quite naturally after successes. 

I felt I needed a baseline because the normal rules of what success was just didn't seem to apply. By then I'd already been on TV, nightline, a few times for my exploits in Art but I'd read this thing somewhere that as an artist newpaper bits were good, magazines were better but if you got to TV you'd be rolling in it... yet I wasn't at all.

And one thing I figured that might at least give me a touchstone was a measure of intellect so I went off in search of IQ tests, as this seemed a fairly obvious way to measure such things, but a first reconnaissance of the yellow pages, this was like back in ‘94, revealed doing such to be very expensive things that only happened in surgeon drive in Remuera so I dug deeper and found out about Mensa, their test was only ten bucks and if you passed you were a genius, top one percent for your age and all that. 

And I passed, Good golly, not merely clever but possibly a potential genius,and it was almost scary... bugger! All those books I'd read in my earlier years about the great and the glorious, those vanguards of progress I'd hoped to emulate in some small way, little ol' me might actually be standing on some well lofty shoulders. But then again, the whole hand to mouth thing was still ever present and I'd spoken on the phone to one or two members of the club and that brought me back to earth quite nicely. It seemed genius level IQ is far less about saving the world than it is about living in the world and saving yourself... and if theres one thing I've always intuitively understood, I understood that.

Here I am then, writing all this down and I'm not a writer. Except I am because I'm writing... That's kinda how I've always done it, not pretending I am what I'm not but deciding something is worth investigating, some skill it might be worth having, so I do it. Get prepared as much as I think I might need to then jump in and see what happens. That's, then, where the genius thing tends to get complicated. I get into these weird and wonderful explorations of whatever, get a few skills under my belt and then the fun really gets going and, often, before I know it I've used up all my resources and I'm penniless... But thank God we have this welfare state, this beautiful, beautiful caring and sharing enshrined in our sense of being a Nation, because people like me, despite our best efforts to try and be useful in some way, we make mistakes, we end up needing help.  

So as our Prime Minister recently advocated during a TV bit standing out the front of Winz "Just go to Winz, go in those doors, all help is offered". So that's what I did but arriving on that second day and sitting through a lecture and going away with an almost incomprehensible maze of connections to be fabricated in digital airs that even myself, who many years ago found the Mensa test fun, it's like it's already wanting to be thrown in the too hard bin.

And what scares me is that they know this (and even more that they don't!), that these planners and scammers, spin doctors and witch proctors, at logistical levels have created within this systemic overburdening of an individual's need to be defined as a card carrying member, when they are least able to carry out these required duties, a maze of box ticking complexities that they know full well how many fall off to the waysides.

 That all these departments of the public service, at some level of defining themselves as leak proof so that not a single tarnished penny gets away from them and ends up where it isn’t supposed to go, have created such a perplexity of connected digital relevances to be ticked off as appropriate to their needs to define a reliable and efficient machine they can trust, that even trying to enter it and make use of it’s supposedly offered possibilities seems almost impossibly difficult.

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