YOLO, Unemployment and Concentration Camps

Since leaving university, I myself and several of my close friends have experienced bouts of depression whilst being unemployed, but can a lack of nine to five really be what’s getting us down or is there something else that’s actually missing?

It’s wasn’t until I recently picked up the book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl that I realised that there is an actual term for this condition known as Unemployment Neurosis in which being jobless is equated with being useless, and being useless is equated with having a meaningless life.

Being jobless = Being Useless + A Meaningless Life

In the book, Mr Frankl refers back to a similar condition seen in the concentration camps during the 2nd World War in which prisoners who had lost all hope would stay bed bound seeking short term pleasures such as smoking all their remaining cigarettes and consuming all their weekly food rations in one sitting. Viktor would explain how these people were suffering from the deadly “Give-up-itus” and would likely be killed within 48 hours once the guards had taken notice of their truancy and laggard behaviour.

“People have enough to live by but not enough to live for, they have the means but no meaning.” – Viktor Frankl

Believing that their lives had no meaning made it much easier for the prisoners to choose short-term pleasures because they were unable to visualise a future worth living for.  Unfortunately in today’s society we’ve given credence to phrases such a YOLO (You Only Live Once) as some sort of mantra for a life well lived but what we’re actually saying is that I’m not taking responsibility for my future self because I don’t see a future self.

“Every single day you wake up, if you’re going to have energy, you gotta start with that vision!” – Eric Thomas

YOLO and its popularity in our culture is a damning realisation of the fact that many of our fellow youths, just like those held captive in the concentration camps, have lost sight of or have yet to find meaning or a purpose for their own existence, leading to impulsive destructive behaviour and un-pursued goals.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

So, just as a nine to five may seem like the answer to all your problems whilst you’re unemployed, without a meaningful why for what you do you’ll never have the vision or energy to the things that matter. Yes you do only live once, once to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Find your why first and the rest will follow.

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  • lizard

    I see how no job, no sense of work life future career what will I do can lead to bummer malaise. But to equate unemployment w being in a death camp in which odds are 90% you are going to be gassed starved or shot, guess what? You act like you have no future in this case, because you ACTUALLY DONT HAVE ONE! Youre not leaving aushwitz alive

    • Cem

      Hey Thanks for reading, I understand what you’re saying it’s a big leap from the gas chambers of Auschwitz to the current unemployment situation but it was a way of helping me to express my point. In the book, Viktor Frankl states that those who held on to / found hope and meaning had a greater survival rate (even if still very slim) because they learnt to adapt to the situation and find ways of pleasing and working in collaboration with the guards. As he puts perfectly, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

      – Cem