Music

Svalbard on the Plight of the "Unpaid Intern" (premiere)

Photo: Lee Scoresby

Svalbard turns pen into sword via single from English band's upcoming, It's Hard to Have Hope.

Bristol-born Svalbard releases its latest album, It's Hard to Have Hope, 25 May 2018 via Translation Loss (U.S.) and Holy Roar Records (UK). With elements of hardcore, post-rock and the darkest, charred edges of metal in its quiver, the group delivers a deeply angry, thoroughly thought-provoking number via "Unpaid Intern" (which inspired guitarist/vocalist Serena Cherry to pen a short essay, offered below). The perfect lead track from an album that covers a broad range of contemporary topics, including revenge porn (via the song of the same name), anti-feminist backlash ("Feminazi") and complications of life on Earth, 2018 ("Try Not to Die Until You're Dead"), "Unpaid Intern" speaks loudly to a generation tired of watching the world slipping into a dystopian reality.

It's Hard to Have Hope makes its convincing and devastating case in the space of 38 minutes, smashing eardrums and preconceived notions alike. Is it the best album of its kind this year? That remains to be seen. Is it the most ferocious? Quite possibly. The album may be ordered here (U.S.) or here (UK).


The Grinding Halt of Social Mobility

by Serena Cherry

We've all heard the argument, "What if the clever child with the ability to invent a cure for cancer cannot afford the education to do it?" Well, let's apply that worrying logic to all businesses (not just the university shaped ones).

What if the person who could maximize your profits / inspire your workforce / create an ingenious new method is…poor? And not "I can't afford a third cup of coffee on my way back to my parent's massive house" poor. Genuinely, debilitatingly poor. No family home to live in rent-free. No safety net of savings. Just a discouraged, blue collar worker, trapped beneath a landslide of endless monthly outgoings.

How will their talents be utilized when corporations only offer unpaid internships as a way in? What if the person who could be the key to a company's success simply couldn't afford to work for them for free?

Has it ever occurred to these discriminatory businesses that the missed opportunity might be theirs?

No, of course, it hasn't. If companies are perfectly comfortable with the word "unpaid", then we can't expect them to balk at the word "unfair".

Over 70,000 unpaid internships are offered in the UK each year. The majority who undertake them are reliant on parental support, with lodging and travel expenses often subsidized by mum and dad. Straight off the bat, companies with unpaid internship schemes rule out young people whose parents cannot provide. Those whose parents got divorced and now live in separate one-bedroom flats, with no space for their offspring. Those who don't have parents at all. These youngsters are denied crucial work experience purely based on their family background.

But really, it's their lack of initiative, right? Look at these eager, driven, competitive young people who did do an unpaid internship. Doesn't it speak volumes of their work-ethic, their determination, their ambition? NO. It means that they were financially comfortable enough to work for free. Being middle class is not a mark of character.

On the subject of the middle class, isn't it slightly alarming that thanks to unpaid internships the middle class are filling up every power position? They take the majority of political roles, journalist positions, jobs in the arts because they can afford to work for free in these coveted areas. Where are the voices of the working class in these job sectors? Well, you probably can't hear them over the grinding halt of social mobility. God forbid a desirable job would go to an 'undesirable' person.

It's not all opposition though. In 2017, Lord Holmes' called for a ban on unpaid work experience. He did not receive government backing. Meanwhile, at the Conservatives annual Black and White party, the most prestigious unpaid internships were auctioned off to party donors; who spent an average of £3,000 on a fortnight of work experience for their children. But that's probably just a coincidence I guess.

Why do they pay so much for an unpaid internship though? How has it been manipulated that unpaid internships are now considered the only gateway into white-collar work? There used to be other paths, right? What happened to those?

Unpaid internships are the new price of plonking a posh foot in the career door, but what is the cost? The voices, dreams, brains, and ideas of the working class. Unable to get a job because they haven't got experience and unable to get experience because they cannot afford to work for free, this cycle of exclusionary behavior spirals down to suffocate and restrict the poor. Let's face it; we may as well be born with a door slamming shut in our face.

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