"You Cannot Seriously Claim That [the Unemployed] Themselves Bear Guilt for Their Destiny":

So says a German Green Party member at the end of this AP story:

[Thirty-seven-year-old Henrico] Frank ..., in his usual grubby clothes, nose rings and partially bleached, spiked hair[, ...] chanced upon Kurt Beck, chairman of the Social Democrats and assailed him for the government’s failure to lift people like himself out of unemployment.

Beck replied, “If you’d just wash and shave, you’d find a job, too.”

Two days later, Frank lopped off his locks, shaved his dark beard and removed his nose rings. Then he organized a news conference.

“I am ready to change,” Frank said, saying he was fed up with handouts. “I’ll take any job.” ...

Frank's public conversion seems to have led to some job offers; and while of course this likely flows from the unusual publicity this case attracted, I'm pretty confident that even a quiet change in apperance to something that signals affinity for tradition rather than for self-expressive exuberance would substantially improve an applicant's chances for a job. (Perhaps not in the few careers where self-expressive exuberance is considered especially important, but those are very much the exception.)

Green Party parliamentarian (and, at least as of 2005, "labour market spokeswoman of the Greens") Thea Dueckert, however, responded: "With 4 million unemployed, you cannot seriously claim that the people themselves bear guilt for their destiny." If she's making the claim that there are structural and institutional factors outside each applicant's control that make unemployment more or less likely, she is surely right.

But if the claim is that most of the unemployed can't affect their chances of getting a job, and thus don't bear some responsibility for failure to get a job (and thus some guilt for this failure) — well, that's the sort of attitude that I suspect would still further exacerbate unemployment problems, whether the attitude is held by the individual unemployed or by leading politicians.

Thanks to blogger and Boston Herald city editor Jules Crittenden for the pointer.