A Profile of a Modern British Man

At the back end of last week, fellow blogger JuliaM and I had some fun responding to this set of Tweets (you can read the whole thing here if you wish). I might be being a bit unfair picking on this chap in particular, but I do so because he’s indicative of a much wider problem. It starts with him complaining about the mess which is Universal Credit. That part I can well believe – it is a government-run scheme after all – but it’s the underlying story that is more interesting.

Where to begin? Firstly, I don’t know much about Aspergers and depression, so I can’t say whether these are real and serious impediments to getting a job or he’s just being a fanny. What I have noticed is that these afflictions seem to be rather prevalent among middle-class lefty political commentators; if people working on construction projects around the world suffer similarly, they generally don’t mention it. And I’ll note these disabilities didn’t seem to stop him getting a degree. As for anxiety? Well, that’s an unfortunate side effect of being alive.

Secondly, he’s only now finding out that a BA Honours Degree in Media Writing is worthless. He says his degree is appropriate for certain fields and in the same sentence says these fields actually require different degrees. He’s also only just finding out that media and journalism are difficult fields to break into. It sounds to me as though he didn’t bother doing proper research into what fields he wanted to work in, what the entry requirements are, and what the demand for such work is.

Note that he is calling himself a freelance writer. He complains most potential employers want experience. This chap is 25 and appears to have no relevant experience he can show an employer, which raises the question: what they hell has he been doing between 18-25? If he wanted to be a freelance writer, he should have got out there and done some freelance writing. Does he have a blog? Has he done any freebies to get his name about? Or is he just expecting to turn up in a job aged 25 with no experience on the basis of a worthless degree.

Also, if you suffer from depression and anxiety, is freelance writing a wise career choice? Freelance anything looks pretty stressful, particularly writing. “Freelance work dried up”? Was there any to begin with?

Then we have the idea that retail, customer service, and bar work are jobs university graduates take as they “break into their careers”. Well, back in my day these were jobs you did while you were at university. Nobody “breaks into their careers” doing bar work, unless you want to be a barman. It seems as though this chap, at age 25, has never held a job of any sort in his life. Now this might be due to his Aspergers, but the fact he seems unaware that students are (or were) expected to work in the holidays suggests that’s not the only factor in play here. The benefit of crappy student jobs is not just the beer money, it also gives you the beginnings of a CV. My first job was as a teenager scrabbling around on a farm. The farmer wrote me a reference when I got a formal summer job on a different farm. That farm’s manager gave me a reference when I applied for a job at Toys R Us a few months later. Flogging toys has little to do with picking cabbages and driving tractors, but when you’re 19 a letter from an adult confirming you can turn up on time and not steal anything is invaluable. My first proper job after university (aged 23) was something like the 6th or 7th job I’d held. If you’re 25 and trying to get your first job of any kind – well yeah, you’re going to struggle.

Here’s an anecdote for you. When I was working in Dubai I was in a crap job going nowhere on pretty rubbish pay. I desperately wanted to work in Russia and started applying for jobs elsewhere. I reckon over the course of a year I applied to something like 100-120 jobs, most of which I was suitable for. I got replies to about 3 or 4 of them; all but one said “no thanks”. The rest simply ignored me. But the one who replied interviewed me and gave me the job in Sakhalin which launched what passes for my career. As someone once said to me, you have to be in love with the word “no”. And as someone else said to me, you only need one job. Eventually something will come up, but if you start feeling sorry for yourself and “unable to go anywhere or do anything” you’re giving employers a clear warning of what sort of person you are.

Of course, it doesn’t surprise me he’s still living with his parents. Had “rent been an issue” he’d have got himself a job come hell or high water, instead of moping about the place complaining nobody will give him a freelance writer’s job. Yes, rent is expensive which is why most people – even engineering graduates working decent jobs – house-share for a while. No doubt this guy’s Aspergers prevents that, too.

Welcome to the world of work, son.

Awful hours? Sorry, what else were you doing with your time? You’re complaining about not having a job, yet turning your nose up at warehouse work? Why, because it’s beneath a nice, middle-class boy with a BA in Media Writing? See, if you’d taken that warehouse job while you were at university you’d be a floor manager with a forklift licence by now, and if you worked nights you’d be on double-pay able to do all your writing bollocks in the quiet periods. And yes, entry-level pay is awful – although it’s still minimum wage. The idea is you show your employer you’re worth something and move up the ladder. Why didn’t his father tell him all this years ago?

So our poor, suffering friend here wants a cushy writing gig because mundane jobs will cause him to go into meltdown?

At this point both Julia and I have heard enough:

What was interesting is how many commenters expressed sympathy with the guy rather than telling him to buck his ideas up and stop moaning. A number took issue with Julia and I, admonishing us for not being supportive to Mr Johnson.

Does everyone remember that post I wrote back in summer about modern parenting methods? Well, this is the result, folks.

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47 thoughts on “A Profile of a Modern British Man

  1. What he doesn’t seem to realize is we all have shit to shovel.

    He’s not the only one with problems and if he can get a degree he should be able to get a job.

    His situation sux but he needs to sort it. I always felt if after 12 months from your degree you haven’t landed a new relevant position the degree wasn’t worth while.

    For him its several years it no longer matters to an employer.

    I might be a arsehole though.

  2. This isn’t new, its just more public because of the Internet. In the recessions of the ’80s the laments were always that you couldn’t get a job without experience and you couldn’t get experience without a job. This often missed the point that the experience that employers were looking for was the experience of turning up and doing a job, any job, as you say above. Its why the evil Tories at the time put lots of effort in to policies that get people working in any job.

    The other point that is often missed is that most successful people have made sacrifices. I imagine many people wouldn’t work in some of the places you’ve worked even if they were better qualified and so are worse off financially. I could afford to stop work at 60 in no small part because in the past I’ve missed birthdays, anniversaries and one year my son’s nativity play (any parent will tell you important that is!)

  3. In the recessions of the ’80s the laments were always that you couldn’t get a job without experience and you couldn’t get experience without a job.

    To be honest, I can well imagine trying to find a job in the middle of a recession is bloody hard and soul-destroying. But we’re not in the middle of a recession, and we’re constantly told we need millions of EU citizens to fulfill vital roles in British economy. If Romanians and Poles are coming here to graft on building sites, there is no reason why a healthy 25 year old Brit can’t do it. I bet in the recession in the ’80s most unemployed young men would have worked on a site if there was an opportunity to do so.

  4. There is a problem in general with young men finding decent work, but that’s because a lot of the more manual sorts of labour have been eliminated. This gentleman seems to think any such job is beneath him so I’d say he is doomed to fail.

  5. If you have Asperger’s then the Media must be the absolute last place you would want to work. You would likely feel actual physical repulsion even reading about what is involved working in it.

  6. There is a problem in general with young men finding decent work, but that’s because a lot of the more manual sorts of labour have been eliminated.

    I bet if he banged on the gate of a building site in London, asked to see the site foreman, and asked if there was any grafting work available he’d be told to come back the next morning at 8am with a pair of gloves and work boots “and we’ll see how you get on”. That’s how I got my job on a building site!

  7. There is a problem in general with young men finding decent work

    Not people holding degrees in easy travelling distance of London though, with unemployment down to levels not seen for 40+ years.

  8. Incidentally, I had a look at a web site by an Asperger’s advocacy group for what Asperger’s actually is, and I reckon I ticked at least half of the boxes. Which means that either I might have it or their definitions mean about a third of the country does.

  9. Which means that either I might have it or their definitions mean about a third of the country does.

    This is excellent news. This means I can claim my blog takes equality of access very seriously, and is frequented regularly by differently-abled persons. You’re not an ethnic minority too, are you? BiG is keeping my numbers up in that column, but every little helps.

  10. For my sins I am manager of the apprentices my section at work. The Aspergers thing has become a real issue over the last 5 years or so with at least a couple of applicants for every intake claiming to have it. Usually HR ask if they want to come in to look at the place and do a few days work experience. At that point 90% of the time a nervous looking young man appears accompanied by an overbearing Mother who proceeds to tell everyone in earshot that little Nigel has Aspergers and is very very special. Once you get shot of the Mother you tend to find you have a very nervous but otherwise normal teenage lad. I have employed 2 or 3 of them with no problems. After a couple of months they go drinking with the other apprentices and ogle the admins. The spell of the overbearing mother is broken.
    In one case it didn’t work out but he was different and I came to the conclusion he was just thick. But no middle class child is allowed to be thick anymore and there must be a medical reason.

  11. I believe that Asperger’s has been taken off the list of recognised psychiatric conditions.

    Everything in that area is now classified on the Autism spectrum. Since just being male places you part way down that spectrum, the idea that what people were classifying as Asperger’s was a debilitating condition became insupportable. Autism, full blown, however, will mess with your life utterly: I have a fifty eight year old brother-in-law with that and he needs to be cared for like a three year old.

  12. There seems to be a remarkable number of boys in schools these days who not only have ADHD & dyslexia, but also Asperger’s all at the same time.

  13. But no middle class child is allowed to be thick anymore and there must be a medical reason.

    This.

  14. Just to add, depression, anxiety, aspergers and a career in media surrounded by duplicitous, lying shits that occupy the majority of that profession?

    He’s nuts………

  15. At that point 90% of the time a nervous looking young man appears accompanied by an overbearing Mother who proceeds to tell everyone in earshot that little Nigel has Aspergers and is very very special.

    As I suspected.

    But no middle class child is allowed to be thick anymore and there must be a medical reason.

    When I was in school, anyone who was a slow reader was automatically dyslexic.

  16. As someone who is reasonably high on the spectrum, depression can be a problem. Go to a doctor and get SSRIs.

    What is odd is someone with Asperger’s being attracted to creative writing. Asperger’s types are attracted to systems, machines, not people. When people with Asperger’s write novels, they typically write very bad fan fiction.

    And here’s a question: did this guy get a degree from one of the many ex-poly degree mills? Somewhere that really doesn’t give a crap?.

  17. Autism, full blown, however, will mess with your life utterly

    Of course, I’ve known a few.

  18. Edge Manager +1

    As I commented elsewhere, ADHD and Aspergers are just another card in the deck of victim hood poker played all too easily.

    Life is inherently unfair. This series of tweets seems like a whiny little spoon fed useless twin whose mother has pander ed to his every need instead of telling him to STFU, get off his arse and go and find a job. Any job.

    No hope for people like this and it really grips my shit that we taxpayers end up supporting him and similar bone idle little sods.

  19. Couldn’t he wash dishes? P’raps he should read Down and Out in Paris and London by thingummyjig. Bloody good writer, old thingummyjig.

  20. “You’re complaining about not having a job, yet turning your nose up at warehouse work?”

    That’s funny, my oldest came home about ten months ago and said that he wanted to chuck his graphics and marketing study because there wasn’t enough career options. He claimed that he wanted to get into logistics and warehousing as there was far more opportunity in that sector. Skeptical as I was I checked it out and found that he was right, so I supported him in this change. He scored a job in a progressive company that is growing, he is on the floor doing hard yakka, works an awkward shift 1pm to 9 pm Monday to Friday, is learning the rules of the jungle, making good money and maturing. He is now in charge of a bay and has saved up about $7k and we are working on a strategy to get him on a management career path in this field. He is as fit as a fiddle, looking at trading in his Nissan and upgrading to a Subaru, has a nice girlfriend and is pretty happy with his lot in life. He will be miles ahead of some of his twenty something cousins that are doing it tough at Uni when he gets to their age.

  21. He will be miles ahead of some of his twenty something cousins that are doing it tough at Uni when he gets to their age.

    Good for him!

  22. One of my mates did a degree in radio production and broadcasting, and surprise surprise, that’s a sector where if you have a degree, any application to a radio station is met with a “you’re overqualified” response. And not being transgender minority dashed his chances at the BBC, obviously.

    He lamented the fact for about 2 months after graduation before sucking it up and working in retail, doing voluntary hospital radio to gain experience. Then he noticed an absolute tonne of requests from the local automotive sector for project managers, so got himself on a PRINCE2 course with some savings, and eventually talked his way into a job after over 450 applications and 2 years of souless flogging of overpriced TVs. Fast forward 3 years and he now earns more than me as an engineer. Welcome to the game.

  23. I spent a student summer as a warehouseman. Bursts of furious activity when lorries arrived, spells in between when I could catch up with my reading. Kept me pretty fit for the next rugby season too.

  24. Technically autism and Asperger’s are the same thing. Kenner and Asperger independently described conditions which were later accepted as one and the same. However by convention individuals who are only autistic have Asperger’s and those with a range of deficits including autism are autistic. IIRC DSM IV lists somthing like a dozen symptoms of autism which may or may not be expressed, so there is enormous scope for creative classification. Also, class. Your kid is autistic, my child has Asperger’s.

  25. Working while getting a degree is no longer normal. There are many reasons for this, but I suspect the primary cause is that costs are so high that it is no longer feasible for a student to pay for their own degree.

    Everyone at school is being funded by parents or government loans, so there is no immediate pressure to get a job. This disconnect is also linked to the rise of protesting on campus – people who are paying for their own degree don’t have the will or desire to shit in their own bed.

    I suspect the “real world” is harder now than it used to be (property costs in particular), but excessive coddling of children is making an already hard transition near-impossible.

    It is also very difficult to take risks or improve yourself when too many safety nets are in place. Collecting $800/mo from the government while your parents pay living expenses is a pretty attractive situation in the short run.

  26. Everyone at school is being funded by parents or government loans, so there is no immediate pressure to get a job.

    I got a job because, being 19, I burned through my student loan and Dad’s money in a matter of weeks and was wise enough not to ask for any more. I learned to budget after that, sort of.

  27. I dunno whether I’m Asperger’s or not. Never been diagnosed – nobody knew about it when I was a kid – though I score fairly highly on modern tests. It slowed me in my career, definitely, as I couldn’t hack the management & networking skills required for management roles, but I did end up in a fairly senior tech role due to understanding bosses who valued my tech skills. It’s not been easy, no small talk, in the kitchen at parties, etc, but I learned to cope & capitalise, and eventually, to not give a damn: life’s too short!

  28. I’ve earned a reasonable living in the media for the past 20 years and I can’t even imagine what a ‘media writing’ degree involves. He’s been sold a pup…

    Bardon – logistics is an excellent business to get in to. Your lad will go far.

    On that note, I was talking to a chap whose firm is investing in logistics warehouses in Japan. Now Japan has full employment, very low immigration and yet the logistics business is growing due to e-commerce etc. That means warehousemen are very much in demand. Logistics firms have to provide top-notch facilities (a tea room like a gentleman’s club he said) and perks in order to get anyone in.

    Even so, right now I reckon six months as a drone in an Amazon warehouse would do me the world of good: no stress, no responsibilities and the chance to walk a couple of stone off.

  29. Snowflake city on that twitter thread though. This one from AL Kennedy: “So sorry we all let this happen to you. Mass failure of imagination and compassion. You’re strong.”

    Yeah, we’re all so very sorry for your poor life choices.

    I much prefer the guy who posted Adam’s tweet from 3 days previously, where he’s musing about which £450 phone to buy!

  30. Sounds like that nice lady with the alternative lifestyle got her dates wrong when she read his horoscope.

  31. Tim Newman on October 23, 2017 at 11:49 am said:
    Is Welsh an ethnic minority?
    It’s both an ethnic minority and a disability.

    Now hang on a minute: surely a blogger can’t include himself in his own diversity totals? That must be cheating…

  32. I’ll up the ante.

    I’m a Geordie so that counts as a speech impediment in most parts of the country. Especially when I’m excited or drunk (or both).

    Diversity and disability? Tick!

  33. Now hang on a minute: surely a blogger can’t include himself in his own diversity totals? That must be cheating…

    How else am I going to secure state-funding for my warblings when the oil money runs out?!

  34. Asperger’s is a thing. At the risk of abuse my eldest has it. They are different. Kids see this and so my son was bullied mercilessly in school aged 6. The Asperger’s child, and adult to a lesser extent, doesn’t understand how other people might be different to the point of not lying as they think everyone knows what they know. They have obsessions that others can’t fathom but which means they become highly skilled quickly if they are smart enough. However they are also easily distracted. The £450 smart one buying for an Aspergers sufferer is an ordeal as they obsess about all the minor details that neurotypical people will just ignore as unimportant.

    As someone pointed out above, Aspergers and a career in media/journalism don’t mix. Indeed Aspergers means you suck at the sorts of task required to get and keep a writing job. Either (a) the bloke doesn’t have Aspergers and has no skills in media as he has no job or (b) he has Aspergers and has no skills in media as he has Aspergers.

  35. There’s a thing about media writing. Yes, it’s a tournament, only those at the top really make good money. It helps to specialise (the number who know economics and then write about business being notably small ahem).

    However, it’s just fantabulously easy to get in at the bottom. No, obviously not on a desk at the Guardian. But Fivver and such sites are just jam packed with people offering $2 and $5 for blog posts. Sure, it’s shit work, terrible money. Yes, I have done it.

    And if you do in fact want to do writing for the media it’s a great place to do a few months of actually, you know, writing for the media. It’s a paid apprenticeship. For you’ll be a much better writer after having done 500 such pieces than you were before.

    That someone can’t find the job they want, sure, that they can’t find an employer, certainly, but that they can’t find freelance writing work?

    Bollocks. Demand Media (not sure if they’re still going or not) used to offer $15 for something that would take even a newbie only 90 minutes to do. Hey, it’s above minimum wage!

  36. It seems you’ve finally given poor Laurie some respite, Tim. I was beginning to worry you might be on a slow but inexorable slide towards monomania.

    This guy Andrew surely has expensive tastes but depression and anxiety (not sure about Asperger’s) can be hell – else why would depressives kill themselves every now and then? By the way, his Twitter feed reads like messages from another planet – lots of gaming and women’s wrestling.

  37. It seems you’ve finally given poor Laurie some respite, Tim. I was beginning to worry you might be on a slow but inexorable slide towards monomania.

    Heh! It’s not actually about Laurie particularly – or Oliver Kamm for that matter – it’s just they so personify an attitude I want to address, and they provide the handiest examples of what I’m talking about.

    This guy Andrew surely has expensive tastes but depression and anxiety (not sure about Asperger’s) can be hell – else why would depressives kill themselves every now and then?

    I’m sure it is…but I get the impression this guy’s Aspergers is not the root cause of his problems.

  38. Adam, not “Andrew.” My bad.

    Tsk! Would you at least remember the names of the lunatics I write about on here!

  39. A comment somewhat at tangents to the rest: It seems to me that the people capable of giving him some reasonable advice are showing him no sympathy*, while the ones who are showing him some sympathy are giving him really crap advice.

    * – not that I entirely disagree, you understand…

  40. On Asperger/autism.

    Two anecdotes:

    First- my mum was a special needs teacher, and her specialism was autistic spectrum disorder children. Who were exclusively male, as it happens. Her view (reinforced by a degree and 15 years practice) was that the vast majority of these kids were just boys, but the regime at school (especially the bit where schools got more funding for having children who were diagnosed with special needs) led to them being categorised as aspie.

    Second anecdote: I know several families (6, at a guess) who have autistic kids diagnosed. All these kids are in the 5-8 age range. Only two of those kids are anything other than little shits. The two who definitely are wired different are brothers. They are nice boys but not wholly of this planet. Their dad is the same.

    Conclusion? For the vast majority of cases- it’s a scam: crap parents’ vanity facilitated by a money grabbing education system. And it seems to medicalise normal boy behaviour.

    Just to show that I’m not a real disbeliever:

    None of these kids are anything like a programmer I worked with for a few months earlier this year. She was full-on Rainman. Brilliant coder, not suited to a work environment.

  41. To add my bit [belatedly] to this series of comments: I and my brother are both autistic. My brother is milder that I in clinical presentation; I am toward the more severe end of the diagnostic continuum. Both of us have extremely high IQs and autism runs through the paternal male line in our family. When we were growing up in the 1950s/60s no one knew about very smart autistic children, mostly boys, and this led to many such children being diagnosed as Childhood Schizophrenics up to the early 1980s because of their erratic behaviour. In fact many autistics of all levels of intelligence were diagnosed as schizophrenic rather than autistic. We are both fully functional in society and have always been gainfully and successfully employed. I have competed in sport to International level and am a classically trained clarinetist. My brother loves electronics and computers and loves a round of golf. I went into teaching [physical education] – I know nearly a dozen autistics in education – one is a Principal and also an occupational therapist and a psychologist. In contrast there are many bright autistics who have not succeeded in life because they did not receive sufficiently strict training in social skills from early childhood through to the end of adolescence, what the wonderful American autistic Dr. Temple Grandin called [in her case] “forty hours of Miss Manners lesson a week.” What she meant was that, in the company of people, she was expected to be civil and polite and she was explicitly taught good manners. Woe betide if she did not behave correctly. Our upbringing was the same: ex-military officer father – he was a perfectionist – and equally strict and ‘proper’ English mother: manners were taught and tantrums – I could make John McEnroe look like a saint – simply did not work to escape duties and responsibilities. In those days children were seen and not heard, meaning that life [home and equally strict private school] was always ordered. Many people allow the fact that a person has autism to be an escape from duty: “He’s autistic; he can’t help it.” and thus those people become handicapped behaviourally, not because they are autistic.

    Being autistic is not primarily a handicap if one is taught how to act in relation to other people. I have no time for ‘poor me’ autistics. I have worked professionally with over 2200 autistics in a forty year period and I well remember the surprise on the face of a 13 year old autistic brat [IQ 134] when he tried ‘I’m autistic, I can’t help it on’ me. My response was [in his face] ‘I’m autistic too and you will help it and do your work!’ Unfortunately this hard behavioural line has now been replaced with the “progressive” pity-based approach of the SJWs that robs individuals of any chance of self-determination and a positive self-esteem, but makes the SJWs feel good about themselves. [About 90% of behaviour presented by autistics is just behaviour – like other neuro-typical people present behaviour and manipulate others in society.] A spotty little careerist middle manager from a state government disability service told me a few years ago that I know nothing about being autistic or how to manage/teach autistics despite having worked with the most complex and severe behavioural cases for my 40 years in disability.

    Thank God I’m retired and thank God I was born to strict, old-fashioned parents in the 1950s. I would not have survived had I been born into a family of hippy, flower-power children of the 1970s. It’s all about parenting in the first 7 years or so. As the Jesuits said: show me the boy at 7 and I will show you the man.

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