Are you one of the growing number of people being made reduntant? You could start signing on, and get to work on your CV.. or you could go the other way and become the UK's most talked about anarchist. That's what Charlie Veitch did...
More and more of us are losing our jobs these days. So what’s the correct way to behave when you’ve been made redundant?
The first thing you need to remember is that losing your job is a bad thing – this is a point which needs to be emphasised. This is not like that time at school when the boiler broke down and the headmaster sent you all home and you danced and skipped around with blissful ecstasy. No.
You are an adult now and losing your job is one of the worst things that can ever happen. You need to fully appreciate this because, if you don’t; you too could end up like Charlie Veitch. And you don’t want that.
Charlie Veitch didn’t see his redundancy as a bad thing. He saw it as a release from a lifestyle and a world that he didn’t much like. And then he started acting silly. And the next thing you know he has become one of the most dangerous anarchists in Britain – according to the tabloids. So dangerous, in fact, that the authorities had to lock him up during the Royal Wedding just in case he tried to do something…anarchic.
And if this can happen to Charlie, then it can happen to any of us; because here we have a middle-class lad who had a comfortable job in the city. He worked as a financial adviser. He was normal. He got up and went to work. He came home, had his tea, watched telly and went to bed. And he did it again and again; for seven years – just like any normal person. It was only in 2009 that he was given the boot and started to behave like a maniac.
You are an adult now and losing your job is one of the worst things that can ever happen. You need to fully appreciate this because, if you don’t; you too could end up like Charlie Veitch.
Instead of attending CV clinics and exploring ways to adapt his skill-set for the requirements of an ever changing global marketplace – he bought a megaphone. And with the help of a friend called Danny Shine he set up a group called The Love Police. They would go to public places and annoy people – officious police officers and security guards mostly. They would hug passers-by and hold up signs saying ‘Everything is Okay and ask people to question their attitudes to work, money and authority. They filmed these events and put them up on You Tube and they became popular.
So Charlie slammed the door shut in the face of a career. His life is now devoted to attending protests, giving talks and generally making a nuisance of himself. These days you’re likely to find him alongside hundreds of other ne’er-do-wells at Occupy London. Here’s his take on redundancy.
How did you cope with losing your job?
For me it was a sense of relief more than anything else. It was probably a couple of years overdue, if I’m honest. I was working in financial services, in sales, and I hadn’t created much revenue for my company in the last few years because I’d already ideologically bombed. My mind had left the building.
So losing my job was something that felt like a relief. Because when you’re earning good money in the city it’s really difficult to have the balls to just quit everything – it’s a scary prospect. But there was so much that I wanted to do and things that I wanted to say – particularly with the film making side of things.
So suddenly I find myself being made redundant and getting a four grand pay-out and basically being told to piss off – which was great. It was over. That’s when I bought a camera and a megaphone and started doing the Love Police stuff.
If I hadn’t lost my job, I don’t know if I would have been able to make that leap. I’d like to think I would have jumped ship at some stage but it’s hard to say. But I appreciate that my case is different to lots of people in similar situations because I didn’t have a family or a mortgage and I hated my job and I hated the corporate world.
“Losing my job was something that felt like a relief. Because when you’re earning good money in the city it’s really difficult to have the balls to just quit everything – it’s a scary prospect.”
Did you try to find another job?
I did – sort of. I guess there was a kind of aftershock from spending so long in the corporate world.
So after I’d started making the videos and doing the Love Police stuff I was still going to the occasional job interview. I was still putting on the suit and trying to say the right things. What finished it off for me was going to one particular interview and they asked me what I’d been doing since redundancy. I told them about the Love Police films – because it was something positive; something I was proud of. And it showed that I hadn’t just been sitting around on my arse.
The feedback I had was a rejection letter and advice to never mention my films if I ever wanted a job. So I just thought – well, fuck you. Fuck everything you stand for. And that was the last time I went through the indignity of putting on a suit and performing like a monkey for some managerial type.
How did you manage financially?
I was pretty gung-ho about that side of things. I never thought too much about the practicalities or the long term implications. I was more interested in just living each day like it’s your first and your last and hoping for the best.
But I also made a decision that I wasn’t going to pay back any of my overdrafts or loans or credit cards. So debt kept me going for a while. I was a financial adviser and had a good understanding about how those things work. And the more you know about money and finance; the less any of it makes sense. I decided that I wasn’t going to give a shit about it.
I started to get more and more letters and phone calls from the bank. And that ended up with me walking away from about £13,000 worth of debt. People think that you’ll end up in jail if you get into debt, but that’s not how it works. The bottom line is that if you can’t pay something back – you can’t pay it back.
Did you miss having money?
I always felt that any hardships were better than returning to that fake kind of existence that I had experienced in the corporate world. So it was a challenge. You have good days and bad days. Sometimes I panic about it all but that’s okay. It’s good to be scared sometimes. It’s about taking a leap of faith.
When you work for a corporation, you’re basically being held by the balls. The system holds all the money and if you aspire to wealth or a successful career, then you’re going to have to play by their rules. But as soon as you step away from that game, when you have no interest in fame or money or power or owning a big telly; then you can start to be free. It’s a kind of psychological and philosophical awakening. It allows you to see the world differently.
What happened when your loans ran out?
I was lucky because the Love Police films were popular and people liked what I doing so I was able to support myself partly through donations. But I also had to do other things to make ends meet – I sold some footage to the press and I gave interviews or went on discussion panels – which I would get paid for. At the moment I’m also working with a friend who’s a cameraman and we’re making films for people.
Why don’t you dress more like a protestor?
Well, I don’t look like a crusty dread-locked guy with a dog on a string, if that’s what you mean. And that’s important because I don’t want to seem threatening to people. I want them to listen to what I’ve got to say. So when I’m at a protest I try to dress smartly.
I think it’s good that this resistance movement that we’re seeing now looks young and dynamic and – normal. This is not about a small fringe element any more. Take a look at the people who are getting involved with Occupy London. They’re not just people on the outer edges – it’s normal people. It’s a feeling and a belief that is entering into the mainstream. It’s something which can’t be ignored.
What advice do you have for somebody who has lost their job?
I don’t know. I’m not the right guy to be asking. Losing your job is such a personal thing. I was lucky. I had no commitments. No mortgage to pay or kids to look after. I’m pretty good at expressing myself. I don’t suffer from shyness and I’m okay with being a bit crazy. But not everyone’s going to be like that. So taking the route of a maniac with a megaphone isn’t going to be for everyone but, I guess, we’ve all got something we’re passionate about.
I think people should use it as an opportunity to think about what they really care about. It doesn’t matter what it is – it could be fishing or spirituality or robots or whatever. But something that you’re truly into – and not what society tells you what you should be into. And allow yourself to become fanatical about it. Throw yourself into it and see what happens. It sounds a bit corny but there’s that saying: “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”.
I think there’s a lot of truth to that.
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