September 14th 2011 – Wire brushing some metal railings

20 Sep

Much the same start as last week. Sign in be made to feel like an intellectual inferior (although I have at this point yet to meet someone here who does not seem like a brain-dead zombie) and then put into groups and stuck in the van. This time our destination is quite close but work is still preceded by cups of tea and coffee and does not being until about 11am. We are at a block of council flats which have a latticework of white metal railing zing -zaged around the grounds. We are told that they need painting, but before painting they need undercoating and before that they need all the rust and flaky paint taking off them. This seems reasonable I think, right up until I am handed a pair of old gloves and a flimsy wire brush. I walk up to the railing and have a go. It may sound strange but I actually want to work hard at this. I can’t help that this whole stupid mess happened, I can’t change the judges mind and I can’t help that I am taking one day a week off from my actual work (where not only do I earn more I actually do something worthwhile) to come to a probation office and do community service. So if I have to spend my time here once a week I may as well not waste it! Helping the community should be a positive thing I might gain some sort of satisfaction from making the place I live a slightly nicer place to be. But no. After 5 minutes with the flimsy wire brush it became very apparent that this was the wrong tool for the job. I had a brush when what I needed was a grizzly disc or a power sander. The wire brush did less than nothing I mean no matter how much elbow grease you put in it really did do fuck all! I decided to talk to the officer a different one from last time. He told me to shut up and get on with it. I did shut up and get on with it for another half an hour. It was like removing graffiti with the eraser on the top of a pencil. I called him over to show him why this really was a waste of time. He wasn’t interested and wandered off. It was now that I met and spoke to the first person doing this community service and had a proper conversation. He was a guy in his 50s and seemed quite intelligent we had apparently been busted for selling knock off DVDs, which in all fairness is a hard crime to commit, by accident but all in all he seemed like a nice guy. We both complained about how stupid this all was as we worked away on the railing still to no avail. And it was at this point that I decided that all this needed to be written down and sent to the government or a newspaper or something and it was my father who suggested I blog it. Why was I here? Well it was because in one capacity or another I broke the law. Ok fine lets accept that for the minute. Now let’s ask it again. Why was I here? Was it a mindless task given as punishment? Is that all it is? If it is that’s fine but don’t call it community service by the end on day two I would have done nearly 15 supposed hours and not a single one NOT A SINGLE ONE! was in anyway service to the community. Up until now the tax payers (which since the age of 18 has included me!) have paid to give people community service. We pay for the building and the staff and the vans and equipment and for what? For nothing of any value at all! This of course will change when they privatize the probation trust which then means that the unpaid work will go to which ever companies pay most for it and being of no possible use to the community again! It will in fact be legal slave labor at that point. The thing that got me so worked up as I stood there with my shitty little wire brush and a railing on irremovable rust was why if we could not be found relevant places to work and then made to work all the hours we were supposed too rather than do 4 or 5 in what is meant to be a 7.15 hour day. Why instead are the people here who don’t have a job, didn’t go to school and will never learn a trade being squandered with wire brushes and railing? The probation office building is a big one. Give them a choice! You can tickle a fence with a brush or get there at 9am sit in a classroom until 4pm and pass your English or math’s GCSE! Or learn some computer skills and get a recognized qualification at the end of it. Or be made to show up for some sort of apprenticeship to learn brick laying or plumbing. That would be community service wouldn’t it? Moving people off the dole and into work as tax paying member of society? Would that not keep them from reoffending much better than a wire brush and rusty rail will? Either educate and help the uneducated and helpless or give us something more meaningful to do than fucking NOTHING!

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