I’m currently transitioning out of a career I have had for the last 15 years into a new arts based one.
The move is from community service and anthropology, to speaking, writing and comedy performance. It’s a big deal for me. It’s the thing I didn’t do because I was young and believed what everyone around me said.
“Arts jobs aren’t real jobs”
“You’ll never make any real money“.
Ironically these were people who would pay to be entertained while simultaneously running down entertainers, artists, writers. But they didn’t want me in the role of an entertainer.
Now, I’m not sure what real jobs or money are anymore because in my experience real jobs and money have meant:
- More stress
Arts work is honest work and is as real as you get. I am reminded here of David Graeber and Bullshit Jobs. Jobs created to maintain the status quo – i.e. keep the poor, poor, and the rich, rich. Community service in recent years represents that – at least that’s been my experience of it.
You think you are doing something useful, but you are not and I am going to explain that. I no longer feel that community service is honest in Australia. Sorry if that is offensive to you but this is why I feel that way:
- Successive government’s stripping away funding for human services. So now you have to compromise so much that you get assaulted at work because you can’t provide a quality service on a shoestring anymore. Government then blames the victims (the clients) when it’s them that are suffering the most and just in need of support. Disadvantage is not a disease and it’s almost now normalised that homeless or jobless people will be automatically aggressive and we community service workers must deal with that or leave. Which is what I will eventually do.
- Casualization of workforce. Funding cycles are so tight and funding so limited now that there are really no decent pay and no decent job securities attached to community service work. There are a few, but even if you have a stable position, you don’t have a stable workforce to manage the rest of the programs. And what workforce you have is so under-qualified or under trained because you don’t have the resources to support their professional development. 85% of your time as a manager is spent trying to get the workforce prepared to work with nothing in terms of resources. Then you ask them to work with the most vulnerable whilst only being able to offer a partial service. It’s setting up people to fail.
- Hypocrisy and burnout. Numbers 1 and 2 mean burn out rates are high. Government hypocrisy is a major cause. Imagine sitting in a funding meeting for a vital human service in front of 3 government public servants who are paid collectively more to mismanage non-government contracts – more than the money you are asking for a team of 8. They usually have very little understanding of the issues but dispense “wisdom” in true Sir Humphrey style.
So I’m going to make political statements through art forms. I’m going to lift peoples spirits and assist the vulnerable in another way. Through art, writing, comedy. It can change minds and move opinions.
Community service for me is still part of who I am and it’s a while off before I can leave altogether. But I don’t feel it is honest work anymore. I don’t feel like I can continue to watch the hypocrisy. I am not unaffected by it and it’s endless.
Maybe I will end up living in a cardboard box. But it will be a well decorated one.