This year has been extremely difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The difficulty has been exacerbated by the Government’s mishandling of the crisis, which looks set to worsen with the withdrawal of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end of October.
The Job Retention Scheme, fought for by trade unions and employers as the means to avoid an immediate collapse across sectors and mass job losses, has provided welcome support for the 9.6million people who have used it. The Government have already tried to remove it in April and again in June, and it was only extended to 31st October because of public pressure. We are still in a global pandemic and the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases is very worrying. Many businesses are unable to trade as normal. Millions of workers are still reliant on the Job Retention scheme and are now facing an agonising worry over the future of their jobs.
The Government needs to support workers and businesses to avoid a catastrophic wave of redundancies and job losses. Other major economies have committed to long-term furlough schemes with Australia and Ireland’s schemes lasting until next March, while Germany and France’s continuing until December 2021. There is now widespread support for a common sense extension to this life line for workers and employers.
I urge you to call on the Government to change course and extend the scheme to at least March 2021 and to create a sustainable plan for the future including support to:
The economic and human cost of mass unemployment for years to come is unthinkable and it is the responsibility of the government to prevent. Extending the Job Retention Scheme would cost a fraction of the £500bn used to bail out the banks during the global financial crash. The Office for Budget Responsibility projects a nightmare scenario of unemployment spiralling to 4.1 million by the end of the year, with 1.3 million people going straight from the Job Retention Scheme to claiming Universal Credit. And unemployment in a second virus wave could hit 14.8% – close to one in every seven, higher than France, Germany and Italy.
We are far from through this crisis. Cutting the Job Retention Scheme now would significantly damage our economy in the long-run, devastating key sectors with a tide of redundancies. The human cost would be devastating.
I appreciate your urgent support in this matter; we must act fast in order to protect the futures of our businesses and employees. Urge the government to extend the Job Retention Scheme.
In the order of prompts, today should be a reflection on the Hero's Journey. Turns out, I already did one a little while ago. So I've turned to the next prompt, which concerns friends. I'd like to quote the prompt verbatim.
From ancient times, men developed their manhood within a group of other men. Do you have a gang of friends who push and support you? If not, how could you make some good friends?
If we strip away the 'masculine' parts of this, it boils down to a good question about the nature of the people I surround myself with, and what they do for me, and of course what I do for them. Instead of literally listing and "reviewing" my friends (which would be creepy, yes?) I want to take the opportunity to reflect on what my social network actually means to me.
I am incredibly fortunate in that, with a few exceptions, I've always managed to find myself alongside some close friends. It's very rare that I've been sat wanting for raw social contact, and often in my late-teens/early 20s I'd actually have to make excuses in order to get time alone. I've also been lucky in that I've very rarely had to explicitly call in favours in terms of care from my social network, although they've almost uniformly jumped to action when they saw I was ever in need.
At a foundational level, this is incredibly heart-warming. For the most part, I know that if I ever stumble that there'll be some form of informal care thrown my way at some point (I use the term informal meaning not state or otherwise professionally mandated, not sure if that's accurate!). On the other hand, I very often feel isolated from others (as all must do sometimes I suppose). Specifically, I often look to others as peer mentors a la Hero's Journey mechanics, and I make a heavy use of symbolism in my day-to-day life. Whenever I bring this up in one manner or another amongst various circles of peers, it inevitably invites discomfort and occasional light-hearted mockery of my mannerisms and 'eccentricities'. Whilst I understand that this is a crucial part of bond-forming (when done in a circle of friends), often it still leaves me feeling alienated as I continually find that the way I engage with my life and with others' is disregarded by them as relatively amusing. To take an example, fundamental things like my drive to wake early and engage in physical strength training is mocked as "a waste of energy" by some circles, whilst they can somehow justify sitting and binge-watching Wrestling as if that is the pinnacle of self-determination.
At yet another level, my slide (some would argue that 'descent' is a more appropriate term…) into Communism and Marxist philosophy has somewhat ironically resulted in alienating me further from peers that I once held in high esteem as moral guides. I do engage in several Marxist and Communist circles, but these have been mostly limited to online activities since the scene around Newcastle (with occasional exception) is pretty dire. I am from a relatively rich nation, with a white cisgender background, I live in a city with a strong multicultural presence (probably weak compared with other cities but whatever), and I have spent the last 6 years of my life in higher education. To say that I am surrounded by liberal ideology is an understatement. Up until recently, this was a boon, and gradually afforded me the social and mental faculties to begin the reflection and study that eventually lead to my Socialist leaning. My point, though, is that my leap to the left and subsequent growing disdain for Liberalism has resulted in a tangible feeling of alienation from those I spend physical time with. I can go online and enter a world of glorious revolutionaries, but on a day to day level I feel ideologically isolated from those who form my close friends and colleagues. At first, the debate around various topics was fun and engaging, however as I began to debate more serious issues I felt the alienation further. Things like defending violent protest was met with looks of disgust, which is fine. I get that. These are relatively non-mainstream views and they require defending, it's just that when I did defend them (inelegantly, admittedly as I often find it difficult to vocalise my exact line of reasoning), the response to my defence was relatively hollow but more specifically echoed as I was outnumbered. I felt like I had to make a decision between continuing to argue whilst outnumbered 3-1, and risk ruining a series of incredibly close friendships, or backing down and looking like my ideas were half baked. Since my need for social contact vastly outstrips my desire to be proven right, I chose the latter. In defence of my friends -- my internal conflict was my construction, and I may have misread the situation and consequences of further debate.
On another note, my liberal friends provide a good way to break the Marxist-Leninist bubble I can sometimes find myself in due to my directed readings of philosophy and news online. I get exposed to some pretty good things, which I have to reconcile, that I otherwise wouldn't if I exclusively hung out with Commies. My colleagues at Open Lab do this for me a lot more than other friendships, though. To that I am eternally grateful.
I need to tie this post off now, and produce a positive message for myself. In summary, I have a series of really close friends. On whom I know I can rely for pretty much anything, pragmatically, in terms of support. In contrast, my mannerisms and political philosophy have resulted in feelings of alienation from them as I cannot engage with them on those terms. I am feeling starved of co-located contact with like-minded Commies, and every time I use the word 'Comrade' it rings hollow. To rectify this, I am seeking to become more involved in local Communist and Cuban and Palestinian Solidarity groups (there's a lot of crossover), whereas before I just attended a few meetings here and there.
Onwards and upwards eh?