My take on London's Riots

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sfhyouthforum
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My take on London's Riots

Post by sfhyouthforum » 9 Aug 2011 11:18

I should be watching the riots with a smile, rubbing my hands like a good capitalist. Despite recession cuts to key services such as libraries and parks, this secures my line of employment as a specialist youth worker with excluded teenagers. But of course I don’t. Instead I watch in horror as fires blaze, burning the livelihoods of thousands of workers’ homes and businesses. Up too, burns the hard work of council staff, probation officers, teachers and people like me. Instead, I witness joined up working on a scale that deifies local authority boundaries and outsmarts a frustrated and tired police force.

You’re probably trying to get your head around it, just as much as people like me, who work with these young people on a daily basis. You’re probably a little frightened too. And angry. And some people are no doubt reverting back to the comforts of parents and grandparents attitude to black skin. But before those people start shouting ‘send them back’ or ‘lock them up’, here’s an insider’s perspective.

Party politics aside, Ken Livingstone in the absence of Mayor Boris Johnson, said on the BBC that these are a generation of young people with none or little job prospects, and a future set in play leaving them worse off than their parents generation. The old folk are screaming at me right now, ‘we had nothing in our day’. Exactly. There was nothing of the materialism displayed to them that we witness in our society. These are not the times of Sunday Best. These are times where wardrobes are full of clothes, many with labels attached, unworn before the fashion trend switches from floral to ‘this season’s must have big print’. British Weather may be volatile but unlike Primark, a season still lasts around three months.

Pitted against this unprecedented materialism are the adverts for it, and I don’t mean the seconds of flashy super slender white bodies painted gold, rubbed up against oversized bottles of perfume. I mean programmes like My Sweet Sixteen and Cribs, which show the fantastic wealth of over consuming youth. Then there are the indirect images in teen shows where all the actors, if American, drive convertible cars to and from school, and if British, push every boundary going from sex acts to drug use, all in the latest choreographed outfits from the highstreet.

As a youth worker, what I can’t do is blame these shows, alongside every second rap video showing men, not children and teenagers, but grown men flash their platinum chains, sitting on their shiny cars, telling us to Get Rich Or Die Tryin. No it’s certainly the responsibility of the individual not to run down the street to Currys, or Comet, or Morrisions, when their blackberry pings ‘cum now bruv’. But I didn’t run down the road and it wasn’t because a dishwasher I need is too large and too heavy because I still would like to own a digital projector. No, it is because I am a stakeholder. I need this community and feel like this community needs me.

David Cameron always had a huge job on his hands to try and convince a groomed nation of individualist capitalist consumers that Big Society is where the party’s at. Running services as volunteers ain’t going anywhere when the real work requires more than time share of the local library. Every single youth you witness steal trainers and clothes, is a failure by all of us to engage them. The chasm between young and old is unforgivable. As I wrote in my dissertation on ASBOs when upping punitive punishment was seen, as usual, to be the answer: ‘Adolescents are not hooded monsters who naturally seek to intimidate or harass. They are young people with energy and time but little experience. Adults are people with lots of experience, but little energy and time. Somewhere a swap needs to take place.’

What we all witnessed last night was the ability of a hardcore of ringleaders to whip up groups of youths all over London into a frenzy. Just like whispers fly around a school playground to come see the fight happening in the back playground after school, thousands of opportunists heard the Pide Piper’s’ call to grab what you can.

The answers as to Why? will come from the disengaged young people who are from those same estates and income scale, who chose to stay home last night. Whose parents watched them like hawks to see if there was even the slightest possibility of their involvement in knowing the sorts of kids that go out and steal goods for fun. Why say no, when the sheer scale of those saying yes, mean you won’t get caught? And to those abstaining young people without loved ones, I take my hat off to you.

Yesterday’s riots and looting spelt a new era of youth uprising and rebellion. There is no doubt about that. They started a war, not with local residents, though my friend’s car was firebombed, the same car spread over today’s Telegraph and the BBC websites. They started a war with police. In my role as a youth worker, there is not one single black teenager I have worked with that says they have a good relationship with the police. Even those who know the police are there and that that is a good thing, still complain of stop and search, wrongful arrest, intimidation.

In an era of positive discrimination, we subject thousands of British youth to continually tick ‘black’, ‘black’, ‘black’. So what if your skin is black? It’s skin. Why not eye colour? Hair colour? With every X in the box, the subjectivity of the youth is that they are in a different box, set in a different column, set in a different space on the page from their peers. Then drop down from the statutory level, and look at how those forms have affected the private sector workplace. Have you ever stood outside Bank or Liverpool Street station to play ‘spot the black person’? You should, it’s really fun. And yet, as the suits all march over London Bridge this morning, the last thing on many minds will be, I’m going to get in touch with the male mentoring programme. Something needs to change.

On a macro scale, some would say these riots have roots that go way back to time of slavery. That black people have always been mistreated by white people. That the United Kingdom, far from that, is a broken Britain, full of broken ideals and dreams. When the riots broke out across countries like Syria, Tunisia and Egypt, we patted ourselves on the back for being a stable democracy. When the riots broke out in Paris, over ghettoised communities, we patted our London on the back, for being tolerant. We have a clear problem of integration here, not solely with the black community, but with the disillusioned, the unemployed, the poor. Many government programmes and services are being slashed too deep and too fast, and yet in the midst of this London’s top architects compete to build London’s most expensive postcode. As billionaires pop up around us, the desire to be rich and famous grows too. Like an overstretched rubber band, the patience of these young people snaps the moment a backdoor entrance opens up.

The media are already saying the riots are by ‘ethnic minorities’. To do this only widens the chasm. Britain might as well be saying they’re not British. But they are. Some third and fourth generation British. This is certainly a British problem.

Then the catalyst incident itself. Whatever his history, shooting a man twice in the face. The face? Twice? Identifying the body in the morgue must have been the most terrifying experience for the family. The police, it is reported, dealt with the family in the business as usual approach. The man in question, linked to Yardie Gangsters, therefore the family left to accept his fate. Now comes reports, the officer in question was never shot at. That the bullet is police issue. Any Safer Neighbourhood Team work ruined. Any policing within the communities trust broken. Answers are certainly needed. But riots and looting are not answers to those questions.
So what happens now? What next? What can we do? Before Britain panics hysterically, I want to offer you a new approach. Not every young person you saw on the news is a criminal. Most were opportunists. But there are a hardcore collective of criminals who hijacked a peaceful protest and showed the world they can mobilise a malleable bored mass to wreak havoc.

Parents and loved ones at home need to show their children stealing is wrong. As responsible adults, we need to make a stand and hand the goods back. Yesterday I saw loads of teenager running up my street with stolen goods. They’ll have taken those goods home. It is up to their loved ones to stop them enjoying the fruits of their loots. Look under their bed. In their wardrobe. And hand them in.

These young people won’t care what the police think. They won’t care they are called criminals or thugs. They feel it already. They wear all their designer labels proudly these days. But if someone at home tells them Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa never stole Nike trainers from JD Sports to protest against injustice, they may listen. Someone should tell them that they are being exploited by people who only pervert their problems further. Who talk of an illuminate, of impenetrable Britain where poverty will only get worse. Then we must learn from our elders, who went through rationing, who wore their Sunday dress, week in and week out. In that craziness needs the healing power of loved ones to teach values about being human, that new trainers may band aid today’s lack of status, but fade as soon as Nike bring out its latest £105 pair of Bangladeshi-women-working-for-£17-a-month shoes. Inner confidence and an outer vision.

David and Boris: you won’t win the battle unless you offer these young people some of what you give your own children. They’re smart. They know your inherited wealth isn’t earned by you. That most wealthy people sit on money that someone, somewhere once got from exploiting others. That landed estates were once commons. That our chancellor will inherit £4 million, £1.4 of which is tax dodged. That their ‘good uncle’ is tired, over-worked, never sees his kids, or makes enough money to buy his own flat. Unlike Rosa Parks, they don’t want to sit anywhere on the bus. They want their own car, and we are giving them not even the slightest chance to realise this. Instead you scrap EMA and Connexions.

Viewing the ring leaders as mindless thugs is a huge mistake. American Rap has morphed into a new UK underground scene. Lyrics are ‘conscious’, set against the same enticing beats, now telling the young and the poor that bankers, politicians and police are keeping them down. That no matter what they do, the big house and car will remain locked away from them behind the stolen flat-screen as they watch MTV’s Cribs. That unless they stand up and take what they want, no one will be arriving to help lend a hand. They have seen that for fifteen years watching their mother struggle to feed and clothe them. And as families are pushed to the limit to pay energy bills, the moral fabric soon weathers when their teenage son or daughter chucks in a quick fifty made from last night’s cash and carry.

The lady screaming in Hackney last night said it and said it right. ‘Allow out burning people’s shops that they worked hard to start their business. You understand? She’s working hard to make her business work and then you lot wanna go burn it up. For what? Just to say you’re warring and you’re bad man? ...Get it real black people. Get real. If we’re fighting for a cause then let’s fight for a f-ing cause. You lot piss me the f*** off. I’m ashamed to be an ethnic person, ‘cause we not all gathering together fighting for a cause, we running down footlocker teefing shoes. Dirty teefs ya know! Cha!’ (http://www.metro.co.uk/news/871799-hack ... goes-viral)

This is the point. This divides communities. This harms communities. This is self harm. This is not a black peoples’ problem. This is our collective problem. This is not a gang problem. This is frustration that the ladder up is as real as a Dali portrait, as attainable as an Olympic gold medal. Keep sucking up the wealth. Keep squeezing the working poor. Keep the young unemployed and isolated and this will be a taste of what’s to come. Use the hard line approach for voters and fail in your responsibility as a true politician. Be angry as a resident and fail in your responsibility as a neighbour and a citizen.

Years ago Mr Cameron announced the solution and was laughed at but he was right to say ‘Hug a Hoodie’. As I said before, the answers lie in the kids that didn’t rise to the Pied Piper’s call. The ones safely tucked into the arms of a loved one, and a loved one can be anyone. Where parents are on alcohol and drugs, out prostituting themselves or living elsewhere; those that absent or indeed, in the shops looting, others are needed to take their place.

When we saw my boyfriend’s bike being stolen by two hooded monsters, we ran out to get in back. I saw the youth in their faces, and shouted ‘stop I’m a youth worker!’ After some reasoning he gave the bike back. My boyfriend walked back to re-chain to our friend’s bike, but I remained. I couldn’t just let them go without asking why? He told me ‘what man, I gave the bike back?’. I replied, ‘I don’t care about the bike. It’s just a bike. I care about you. What about you? What are you good at?’ He looked at me, his smaller friend silent the whole time. ‘What are you good at!’ I yelled. ‘Nothing’. Tears pricked my eyes. Familiar tears. The ones I leave the classroom sometimes to have in the toilet. ‘Don’t say that. Don’t say nothing.’ He had no words for me. ‘You’re better than this. You’re better than being a thief.’ He was silent. What he didn’t do was run away or get angry. He didn’t pull out whatever it was he cut the bike lock with and he didn’t jab it in me. He simply looked at me, without any answers.

So if you have a brother, a cousin, a neighbour, nephew or niece you know suffers neglect: now is the time to call more often. Now is the time to get them cutting your grass for pocket money. Taking them to the supermarket, showing them to cook a hot meal from scratch. Now is the time to introduce you to their teachers and listen to their dreams. Now is certainly the time.

Melissa Jane Knight, MSc, BA Hons, Specialist Youth Worker, SE London
Last edited by sfhyouthforum on 11 Aug 2011 08:05, edited 1 time in total.

sfhyouthforum
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by sfhyouthforum » 9 Aug 2011 15:22


Julius
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by Julius » 9 Aug 2011 16:29

I was reading your post with a lot of interest until you made the mistake of repeating something that has now been proven to be totally incorrect. That is that Mark Duggan was shot twice in the face. Your words... "Then the catalyst incident itself. Whatever his history, shooting a man twice in the face. The face? Twice?"

Surely someone of your education (BSc BA Hons) would do well to make sure you have the facts before posting incorrect information. As a youth worker, you should deal only with truths and not speculation as that really helps no-one.

Eagle
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by Eagle » 9 Aug 2011 16:59

I agree Julius.
We cannot spend hours making excuses for the inexcusable.

There is no excuse what so ever for this.

The Police should treat all violence and looting with an iron hand.

LizzieS
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by LizzieS » 9 Aug 2011 17:07


jimbob_greaves
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by jimbob_greaves » 9 Aug 2011 17:08

So just because you claim a mistake was made (which you also fail to back up in any way) this means the whole of Melissa's post is invalid?

Her's is the most coherent response I have read or heard. More coherent than anyone in power has been able to give.

I have posted a link to this thread on Facebook and encouraged everyone I know to read it.

Well done to you. I for one agree with this post. Understanding the reasons behind an incident such as this does not mean you agree or condone it but that you understand why it happened.

Take a moment to think about what is being said before you poo-poo it out-right what you claim is an inaccuracy. Regardless of how many shots were fired there is very little argument that the shooting was a major catalyst for the unrest that has resulted.

CaptainCarCrash
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by CaptainCarCrash » 9 Aug 2011 17:11

Eagle wrote:I agree Julius.
We cannot spend hours making excuses for the inexcusable.

There is no excuse what so ever for this.

The Police should treat all violence and looting with an iron hand.
Indeed,

Some very sad scenes in Croydon with shopkeepers I've known since the 70's having their business burned down.

The police need to put a stop to this loonacy.

And if they can't handle it, which I doubt they can. It's time for rubber bullets and tear gas.

I personally wan't to see the Army deployed and if more of this cazy mental sitting in a desaster movie does not stop then that's what will happen. The Police have lost control and the government seem at this point to be inaffectual. I know they are brave and I respect that but we need to see this stopped.

They're all on CCTV and no doubt will be captured.

All in all it's pretty insane.

LizzieS
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by LizzieS » 9 Aug 2011 17:14

I've just clarified the Mark Duggan situation with that BBC URL (posted in haste without a comment). Not getting involved but wanted to clear up the facts!

ALIB
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by ALIB » 9 Aug 2011 17:23

I could argue from another viewpoint that the OP obviously hasn't done his/her job properly and isn't suited to his/her current line of employment.

Me. I don't care for the reasons why. That can be done later, with a cool calm head.

For the moment i would want the police to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy for any feral scum causing a publice disorder. Just my opinion, like, innit ?

Eagle
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by Eagle » 9 Aug 2011 18:37

Well said Alib , the more the better.

Julius
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by Julius » 9 Aug 2011 18:52

jimbob_greaves, here is the link to back up my comments. The IPCC state that Mr Duggan was shot in the chest (4th paragraph):

http://news.sky.com/home/uk-news/article/16046775

Don't get me wrong. I agree with some of the points that Melissa raised. However, if you are claiming to speak with some knowledge and authority on the subject, you really should make sure that you have all the facts and where you do not, do not speculate based on rumour. That's all.

CaptainCarCrash
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by CaptainCarCrash » 9 Aug 2011 21:54

Apologies for spurious apostrphe, I do that a lot for some reason :roll:

Pantwetter
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by Pantwetter » 9 Aug 2011 22:13

I'd also like to take issue with the OP mentioning the 'fact' that news agencies are saying it is minorities doing the rioting. Rubbish. They are going out of their way to avoid mentioning the obvious. On another note I see there is a London media blackout it seems. Should have done that last night

[ Post made via Mobile Device ] Image

fishcox
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by fishcox » 10 Aug 2011 10:26

Along with everyone else, I was also shocked and horrified by events over the past few nights, and immediately thought that the only answer was water cannons, spraying the offenders with a coloured dye, and plastic bullets.

I still believe - in the short term - that gangs who go out looting and setting fire to their own community, should still be subjected to the harshest possible punishment.

However, having listened to a number of voices over the past few days, and having read the OP on this thread, we DO need to understand WHY these things happen; if we dont, then we have no chance of ever breaking the downward spiral.

Successive governments have done nothing to improve the situation, and it has worsened over the past 25 years.

Couple this with the so called 'aspirational' television such as Cribs and the like (which make me seeethe - and I'm a reasonably well educated and broad minded 47 year old) and you start to realise that the people behind these riots come from nothing, have nothing - but most frightening of all - have nothing to lose.

It's a long, slow process, which can take years to make even the slightest difference - and takes thousands of undervalued and underpaid people like Melissa - something we are unlikely to get, given the way cuts are being made. By the way, most of the cuts havent even started to bite yet - wait until that happens.

leaf
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by leaf » 10 Aug 2011 11:01

I too think that was an excellent post by Melissa.

I cant believe some seem to think one mistake regarding the details of the shooting dead of Mark Duggan by police negates her entire post!

This thread aside, since this all started my eyes have been opened by 'friends' and associates rantings via facebook and twitter, bigotry alive and kicking.

mikeinsydenham
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by mikeinsydenham » 10 Aug 2011 11:35

As the owner of a local business myself - Purelybeds - I want to show what happened to those unfortunate firms who were targeted by the yobs on Monday night in those places not mentioned in the national news - namely Sydenham, Catford and Lewisham.

http://www.purelybeds.co.uk/love-sleep

Tim Lund
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by Tim Lund » 10 Aug 2011 12:28

I'd like to give an alternative take on these riots, although I'm not saying it's mine - but it would be an important part of any overall view I took. For that, like most other people, I'm still trying to take on board the significance of it all ...

So - the alternative take is what an economist might say. Normally I like to be rude about economists, because I work alongside them in the City, and they never seem to think about the insights of other social sciences such as anthropology, sociology and psychology. Notoriously, it was a social anthopologist, Gillian Tett, who was the stand out journalist in the run up to the crash of 2008 who was able to predict what would happen. I also have a bit of a down on social sciences in general, because they all tend to factor out the moral element - human beings are looked at as automata who respond to various pressures, whether economic incentives, peer pressure, or purely individual factors such as the need for self-esteem. For me, we should all be responsible, and we all have some ability to choose between right and wrong, regardless of how little elbow room is given us by our social situation.

With such reservations, economists would be well worth listening to here. On the macro level, economists will point out the enormously strong - negative - correlation between growth and criminality. The coming cuts Fishcox mentions are part of why the growth will continue sluggish for years to come, and other things being equal, we can expect more such criminality. Of course other things don't have to be equal - that's the space where policy makers with insights from all these social sciences can operate, and individuals transcending their social situation by acting morally - maybe as Melissa suggests, showing them to cook a hot meal from scratch. It's not impossible - it's being done by some tough cookies on the Hazel Grove Estate.

On a micro level, economists will say that the problem is that the market for jobs is not working - or at least not as we would wish. Melissa's post touched on this in a couple of places
‘Adolescents are not hooded monsters who naturally seek to intimidate or harass. They are young people with energy and time but little experience. Adults are people with lots of experience, but little energy and time. Somewhere a swap needs to take place.’
and
get them cutting your grass for pocket money
In fact, many passages in what she wrote were about how the young and marginalised use their time, and how they respond to economic incentives - so maybe not so very different from those she spots at Bank, Liverpool Street, or walking across London Bridge, presumably on their way to 'proper' jobs.

Economists' reasons why the market for jobs is not working will be of two types - first that the regulatory burdens of taking someone on are too high, and second that the incentives for people starting into work are too low. I am actually looking to expand my company's business from being just a one man band, but there is absolutely no way I will take anyone on as a regular employee. Other businesses, who might think of taking people on for relatively low skill work will not know whether they will add as much value as the minimum wage - and so decline to create 'proper' jobs. It's all very well suggesting pocket money for cutting the grass, but how do people move from pocket money to a London living wage?

The second reason is that if anyone takes on a proper job, they will not only have to pay tax on what they earn, but also deal with the complexities of HMRC, which for a someone starting out can be quite a challenge. They may also lose various entitlements, so that the net effect is that they are not much better off, and possibly worse off than if they used their initiative to find rather dodgier work.

There are many other reasons why the market for jobs does not work, beyond these that economists focus on, but sorting them out will be an essential part of any long term solution. I'll just mention one of these other reasons briefly - people's obsession with formal qualifications - Melissa Knight, MSc, BA Hons. Do you remember me recommending Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society to you recently - and as recommended to Mike here? Illich's argument in a nutshell was that employers should not be allowed to discriminate when hiring people on the basis of their schooling - jut on how well they could do the job.

Note also that I talk about the market for jobs not working, rather than the need to create more proper jobs, which was an alternative as long as governments could easily borrow more money - maybe because those lending them money believed the jobs created would actually create value. But, like it or not, those days are over, and the task of policy makers must be to make markets work better, and not lazily adjust some dials on a macro-economic model.

Finally, a reminder - I do share your disgust at rich tax-dodgers. I have worked with some, and their lives seem to me a moral mess. Two broad responses are possible - the moral one of simply failing to be impressed at how many racing cars they own - even to laugh at them - and the policy one, including eliminating the dodges, and making the markets in which they operate work better in the same way as getting the market for lower paid jobs work better. But let's just stop there ...
Last edited by Tim Lund on 15 Aug 2011 08:05, edited 2 times in total.

Stefan
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by Stefan » 10 Aug 2011 12:31

Melissa, your take on the riots was the best piece I read anywhere on the net - I too passed it on to other people to read

maestro
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by maestro » 10 Aug 2011 14:28

Attempting to analyse the profile of a typical looter would be an interesting exercise. I bet this is the first of a few surprises........


http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/ ... hildren.do


Here was where he was caught looting.........


[youtubes]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGOaWsrk2BY[/youtubes]

mosy
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Re: My take on London's Riots

Post by mosy » 11 Aug 2011 01:04

Tim Lund wrote:I'd like to give an alternative take on these riots, although I'm not saying it's mine - but it would be an important part of any overall view I took. For that, like most other people, I'm still trying to take on board the significance of it all ... {clip}
Not sure how to reply to a person so hope the above is acceptable as an identifier to your post in its totality although I've "clipped" it.

Even back in the mid 1980's it was both expensive and time consuming (read form filling) to take on permanent staff. Casual staff on few hours and easy to fire became the norm (even if on the books). Now, small companies often just don't want to know. It's not possible to work for free even for big companies (and hasn't been for years) to get job experience due to H&S, insurance requirements, internal politics etc.

A typical comment (paraphrased) is that "We would employ you from your CV but you don't have experience". Q: "How do I get experience?" A: "Not my problem, goodbye."

Are there any answers out there to that one for young people? I know a few in that boat.

Thanks in advance for any ideas on that Catch22.

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