I went on a march with Socialists today, called ‘Youth Fight For Jobs’.
My friend N asked me to come the night before.
I was quite tired. It was midnight. He and my boyfriend had been talking about philosophy for three hours. I'd had a hectic week, and had just pulled an all-nighter finishing my feature about the traumatised soldier.
“I thought it might be fun for you Alex,” my boyfriend said.
True enough. Find the pulse – it's interesting. Uncertainty shouldn’t stand in the way. I'm pretty sure I'm not a socialist, but there’s something gleeful about cynicism at these events, like covertly cradling a monkey.
'See you at 11, then.'
So I went with N, his bag full of Socialist newspapers, and my friend S, who I reckon is more unemployed than most, because the £1 in his pocket is saved for ‘emergencies’.
We stomped across cold, crispy London with drum-beats surging behind us. I carried a banner with ‘REAL JOBS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE’ branded on it. My arms went numb to the elbows.
S: Yeeaaah this drumming is good
N [laughs]: You should learn to drum. Or hey, you should have brought your… you know, that little piano that you blow through.
S: My blowdicka!
N: Yeah yeah. Have you seen his blowdicka Alex? It’s very good.
Pedestrians grinned and snapped cameras, or stood staring. Taxi-drivers glowered.
One old man beamed blissfully at the sight of us. Young people, believing in something (anything)! Marching promotes optimism. I approve. We passed Big Ben, round face bouncing sunbeams.
“THE WORKERS, UNITED, WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED.” the cry goes up.
Pfft. I scanned my fellow marchers: floppy fringes, dreadocks, miniskirts, Che Guevara berets… me and my pockets full of shorthand…
We haven’t exactly emerged from the mines, have we?
“THE WORKERS, UNITED, WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED.”
N: You know, this slogan was invented in the 19th century. People have been saying this for more than a hundred years!
So when they said 'never', they really meant it…
‘What do we want?
When do we want ‘em?
My friends, we will march, and we will state the bleeding obvious. The Key Problems of Our Time are collectible it seems. Somebody handed out badges about climate change. My journalism tutor refers to regular protestors as “Rent-A-Mob”.
But the jobs market isn’t level at all, and that's well worth stomping about.
I mean, what can you do to get your head above the water in these troubled times?
My sister, with a Masters and a 1:1 English degree from Cambridge, wants to work with books. She has been bombarding publishers with CVs all autumn, but interviews have been fruitless so far.
She also tried to get part-time work as a Christmas elf in a department store.
If top graduates are struggling, where does that leave everybody else? Relevant work experience eats up time and money, those without support are at a disadvantage, because contacts are everything. The most lucrative young person I'm aware of got a banking job via his dad's contacts. Other friends are hauling themselves up through the heap, working harder than anybody else, for no money more often than not.
It's deeply unfair. I'm sure Capitalism is to blame.
So there's realism, and there's principles…
And there's marching - which promotes Hope. A good thing, basically.