Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Unemployed? Try articulating your ennui with an essay

We’ve all seen their forlorn figures loafing outside our places of business, holding aloft their wispy, Comic Sans-formatted curriculum vitae, hoping to catch the eye of Maude from human resources. I realise your first instinct is to think: ‘Those poor matrics” and then demand that government create more jobs.

But let’s take a closer look at the integrity of the new job-seekers themselves. It is a well-established and empirically proved fact that teenagers are, after hadedas and hadeda-admirers, the most annoying species in existence. From the ages of 12 to 17 these odious creatures impugn the good standing of adults with shrill accusations of ‘squareness”, ‘h8ing”, ‘not getting them” and ‘inappropriate touching”.

Mr and Mrs Square
Yet once they’re out in the big bad world and trying to make a buck, guess who they expect to create — presumably out of the ether — jobs for them? That’s right, Mr and Mrs Square. My, how the winds have changed.

If I were a vindictive sort, I’d say send the whole ungrateful lot of ’em to Robben Island, have them fight it out to the death and reward the last one standing with a compulsory 10-hour lecture delivered by Thabo Mbeki, titled ‘If I Were Still President”.

But I’m much more mature than that. Like you, it upsets me deeply to see throngs of youth hanging around aimlessly on our street corners, lowering our property values. How do we fix the problem? Do we rope in the egghead policy wonks? I think you’ll agree that the last thing we need is more empty rhetoric about public works, foreign investment and internships. Wouldn’t it make a pleasant change if the solution came from the ranks of the great unsalaried themselves?

Conveniently enough, I also happen to be unemployed but, unlike the youth, I am surprisingly relatively okay with it. I’m sure you are asking yourself: Where does he find this Zen-like calmness about a savings account that has about as much activity as Leon Shuster’s ‘new ideas” folder? The reason, very simply put, is that I have two, count ’em, two degrees in philosophy.

Philiosphy degree equals unemployment
Apart from the usual spiel about ‘critical thinking”, ‘knowing thyself” and ‘women with bangs will think that you’re cute”, the most crucial factoid to know about your philosophy degree is that you will probably never find gainful employment with it. To belabour my point needlessly — the first tenet of philosophy — getting a degree in the Big P is like being awarded a black belt in not being able to get a job.

What I would like to suggest is that if we aren’t able to provide jobs for matrics, then at the very least let’s equip them with the psychological readiness for unemployment. That’s right: introduce philosophy into the school curriculum. Instead of the much touted maths and science, let’s rather immerse our learners in strong espresso, Turkish cigarettes and intense philosophic debates about whether Julius Malema’s brain is in a vat.

I should be clear that my plan for philosophy classes is intended to be implemented in the township and not, I repeat, not in model C and private schools. We still require the model Cs and privates to provide the people who will actually run the country and populate its economy. Philosophy isn’t going to be of much use to them. If it all works out my New Deal will allow us to preserve the power structure and give the masses the tools to articulate their current angst, despair and ennui in essay form. It’s win-win.

Making philosophy work for you
Thus, instead of fretting and whining about jobs, rioting and troubling our very busy government, matrics, like me, can spend those long, empty, moneyless days combining a love of philosophy and WWE wrestling in creating useless lists like these:
Philosopher Finishing Moves:
The Aristhrottle
The Wittgenspine Buster
The Figure Four Ankle Locke
The Reverse Spinning Kickegaard
The Top Rope Over-the-Shoulder Thoreau
The Pulling Down of the Lyotard
The Feuerback Breaker
The Unemployment Clothes Line

Pravasan Pillay’s book of comic monologues, Shaggy, co-written with Anton Krueger, will be ­published in 2011

Vote for an informed choice

We’re dropping the paywall this week so that everyone can access all our stories for free, and access the information they need in the run up to the local government elections. To follow the news, sign up to our daily elections newsletter for the latest updates and analysis.

If our coverage helps inform your decision, cast your vote for an informed public and join our subscriber community. Right now, you can a full year’s access for just R510. Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Local elections 2021: A visual guide on what to expect

What are the biggest election issues where you live? M&G explains all

South Africa must approach its energy transition pragmatically

A sensible climate policy must balance the imperative of decarbonisation, socioeconomic policy and security of supply considerations

Steel strike: Workers struck while the iron was hot

After almost three weeks, labour and employers have reached a deal — setting the steel industry back on its path to recovery

Why handing over ICC suspects could help Sudan’s transition

A failed coup in September, weeks of brinkmanship, and a looming crisis in eastern Sudan have laid bare tensions between civilians and military leaders

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…