KuBus 67: The Sudden Descent What it Means to be Unemployed

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1 KuBus 67: The Sudden Descent What it Means to be Unemployed Author: Per Schnell BA Euskirchen, a small town in North-Rhine Westphalia. Bernd Brück, a 43 yr. old father of two, on his way to the unemployment office. He s been out of work, barring one brief interruption, for fifteen months. Take a number and join the queue. What goes on inside of someone, who s been unemployed for so long, does he still have hope? Original sound, Bernd Brück At the very latest when you get back home again and ask yourself: Well now, what effect did today s visit have, could it have? Your wife is waiting at home, already in suspense, wondering if there ve been any developments regarding a job. The kids you don t know what you should tell them, where you ve been do they understand what s going on? Actually, all had once been well in the world of Bernd Brück s family; he had a steady job at the local savings bank. They were doing well, but there came a time when he felt, there must be something more than this. He quit his secure position and made a fresh start in a new field. He was contented but it didn t last long after three months he lost his job. It didn t take long for him to realise how difficult it is to find work on the open labour market Original sound, Carmen Rosen, Psychologist When the head of a family says I m going out again to look for work, I really want to find something, too He soon realizes that he s not the same man he was ten years ago when he went on his first job search. He s got that previous experience weighing on him and he s also under a lot more pressure: How does it look when I come home without finding anything again. Do they believe that there just isn t anything, or do they really think that I m a failure, that it s all my fault! He s under all this pressure and feels he has to explain himself at home, too. That certainly doesn t make things easier for him.

2 02 00 Original sound, Bernd Brück You find yourself being marginalized in the immediate neighbourhood, you see it in little, banal exchanges, for example: It s a summer day, weather s fine, so I thought I d go out and wash the car. Unfortunately somehow a few sprays of water managed to make it over to the neighbour s place and within two minutes the lady next door came out and said: Do you really have to do that now? You re unemployed after all, you have plenty of time to wash your car on other days! When I heard that I really thought, well, now things are closing in on you here, too Original sound, Ruth Brück (Wife) When my husband came home with the news that he d lost his job you feel like the world s collapsing, you become terribly afraid, existential fear, and of course you hope that he finds a new job as soon as possible. From then on everything revolves around job vacancy ads, applications that go out every day, the rejections that come in it s just really frustrating Original sound, Bernd Brück That phrase I knew it almost by heart: We re sorry, but again, after serious consideration, we must inform you that we have no suitable vacancy in our organisation at the present time! and as always the closing line: We apologize for any inconvenience, we wish you all the best for the future and remain, yours sincerely Original sound, Ruth Brück (Wife) Yes, there s been existential anxiety, because the longer the unemployment lasts, the more everything we ve built up is put at risk. You hope that the situation here will come to an end, that he ll find a job again and things here can move along Original sound; Theresa Brück (Daughter, 10 yrs.) Sometimes I was a little bit afraid that we d have to move out of the house because Papa doesn t have any money anymore. But that wasn t really so bad because I just didn t think too much about it Original sound; Christoph Brück (Son, 13 yrs.) I was actually afraid because we have less money and we can t buy as much. And it s hard to make the money last, we have to make sure that we have enough to live on When his worries aren t weighing too heavily, Bernd Brück looks after the kids.

3 04 45 Original sound; Theresa Brück (Daughter; 10 yrs) I can remember when Papa came home and said that he s unemployed and won t be going to work anymore. At first I thought: What does he mean, he s not going to work anymore! And then I thought about it and realised he d be at home with us more, and that s actually good. But later we noticed that Papa was more depressed. We were happy when he started to look for a new job after that Six months had passed and Bernd Brück had sent out more than 135 job applications when a coincidence finally came to the rescue, He d read an article about an agricultural machine company in southern Germany and contacted the managing director Original sound, Bernd Brück All of a sudden I got the word: In two weeks you start your new job!, but not like before, in my familiar environment I had to go 650 kilometres away from home to southern Germany, to a completely unfamiliar situation. New people, new mentalities, everything was new new countryside. But one thing was certain and one thing was important: I had a new job Original sound, Ruth Brück (Wife) Of course we were overjoyed that he had found an opportunity to work again, and that there was a change in the situation. On the other hand I was alone at home with the children; that was all very unfamiliar. We live here at the edge of the village, the fields start just beyond us and I have to say, there was hardly a night I really slept through. But you just accept all that as the price you pay for the job Bernd Brück had really made an effort; he d found the job in southern Germany entirely on his own initiative, had accepted the hardships of a weekend family life. But then the banks refused to give his employer s young company an extension on their credit, and that spelled bankruptcy. He was unemployed once again Original sound, Bernd Brück During the whole journey home I kept asking myself the question: How am I going to tell my wife, how can I break it to her gently, how can I explain it to her so that she really understands? It wasn t my fault - it couldn t have been - but I still felt helpless, I really didn t know how I should explain it to her Original sound, Ruth Brück (Wife)

4 I think I tried not to let it show, not to show him how afraid I was of total destitution. You ask yourself what ll happen if a change doesn t come soon Bernd Brück grew up on a farm. As often as possible he takes his children to visit his parent s old property Original sound, Bernd Brück When I compare my current situation with that of my brother, who took over our parents farm here, I feel a sense of wistfulness and I wonder what would ve happened if I had been able to take over the farm from my parents. But like I say, it was only a dream. Sometimes I do think I d be happy if I could turn the clock back, because it was always the life I knew, to be able to be here as son in the fourth generation and run the farm Peter Kleimeier lives in Berlin, he, too, is unemployed and that s a bitter pill to swallow, because he used to be high up the career ladder, the top manager in service-providing organisation. When he was asked to change locations, he felt it was beneath him, and instead resigned from his high salaried position Original sound, Peter Kleimeier There s that lovely saying Pride comes before a fall! - that was the case with me. And that was the beginning of the catastrophe, but that, of course, doesn t happen all at once, it s a slow process, a slippery slope that you slide down and it keeps getting worse. At first I had a whole lot of energy. I thought Okay, now you ll just take a little time out to look around and see which direction you want to go in. Nothing happened. At that point I asked people with some knowledge of these things Am I doing something wrong? And they said No. Now I don t know if they just said it to console me Original sound, Peter Kleimeier But that just made me all the more desperate, because then I didn t know what more I could do. That s absolutely the most horrible part of it, the endless amount of time you have on your hands. It s really rather dreadful when you don t get any positive feedback and you don t know what you should do with yourself, when you have to keep yourself occupied, when you basically put doing the grocery shopping down in your diary so you can say look, I ve got something to do! Original sound, Peter Kleimeier

5 You have no purpose, no responsibilities, perhaps you re more or less intelligent, you re capable of something, but no one need you that s what made me ill Original sound, Peter Kleimeier You begin to doubt I wondered if I had a reason to live anymore Original sound, Carmen Rosen, Psychologist "If there are no other sources of strengthening your self-esteem and your self confidence, then it is a really dramatic crash and it s not easy to get back out of the hole again. I think the higher the level of identification with the career or the job, the harder the fall is Peter Kleimeier wanted to work. He tried everything, received 170 rejections on 170 applications made. He came on strong at first; later he tried the humble approach nothing came of any of it. His search took two and a half years and he didn t find a job in the end. But he s made it nonetheless. He is now his own boss, working freelance selling the capabilities he applied in his former company on the open market Original sound, Peter Kleimeier Thomas Mann once wrote the lovely phrase I think it s from The Magic Mountain - There is no more hopeful moment than when you ve reached the lowest depths! because then there s nowhere to go but up. I believe that the humility, the new lesson I learned in humility, did my personality a lot of good and I also regained an appreciation of other things you know, when you work in management, somewhere along the way you lose touch with a certain level of reality not reality itself, I don t mean that but another reality, which is something I had to learn again End

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