I’m having another, and final, go at Jobcentre Plus-Fuck-All this week. It felt about time, it being a good 4 or 5 weeks since I last had a pop, other than the sheer incredulity of last week’s bonus post. (As an update on that, they have continued to insist that I visit them for one final and nostalgic instalment of their job-seeking wisdom which I’m due to receive tomorrow morning, and frankly the excitement is killing me.) Let me be clear. I realise that I’m pursuing a symptom and not a cause. That Jobcentres do not create the mess or the despair that they are charged with trying to mop up and deal with. I recognise that for Jobcentre staff it must be a thankless and depressing task, and probably the last thing they need is to read the bitter outpourings of an unemployed blogger.
Well, I’m sorry about that, but outpour bitterly is just what I’m going to do. There is a real problem in my view about disentangling cause and effect. Jobcentre managers will doubtless be saying that the things I’m about to rant on about are the effects emanating from causes which have their roots in the bad and angry behaviour of their “customers”. Thus the fact that there are, quite literally, several hundred CCTV cameras across the four floors of my Jobcentre is doubtless to protect Jobcentre staff from physical attack, and equally doubtless there was a history of physical attack before the cameras were installed. I wonder.
What I do know is that being so comprehensively spied upon is enough to make even me want to do something worth watching like, I don’t know, perhaps pissing in the stairwell. I alight on that possibility less randomly than you might think, because on every floor there is a toilet marked clearly, “For staff use only”, and firmly locked. I have no idea what an incontinent benefit claimant is supposed to do, and I daresay that on application someone will allow you into the pissoir of your choice. That’s not the point. The sheer aggressive unwelcomeness of the Jobcentre is as much stimulus to anger as it might be protection from the anger thus provoked.
This “architectural” aggression seems to legitimate the bureaucratic aggression which as often as not spills out from Jobcentre staff, and even more so, from the army of security guards that glower at all and sundry. I’m a peaceable fellow at heart, and unlikely to administer more than a withering look or a sarcastic riposte. But the Jobcentre can stir wild and violent urges even in me.