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t just goes to show that you never do truly know the inner workings of

someones home life. Your colleague turns up to the office in an immaculate


suit, a crisp white shirt. Hair coiffed, ready to take on their daily tasks as part of
one of the most prestigious, diverse, challenging organisations in the world.
Hes on an internship programme that thousands of young people would give
anything to participate in, and all the while hes been sleeping in a tent.

Unpaid internships rig the system. Curb them, now


Owen Jones
Owen Jones Read more
Its easy to imagine what went through 22-year-old New Zealander David
Hydes mind when he was accepted on to a UN internship halfway across the
world in Geneva, where accommodation costs are prohibitively high. Four
words: Ill make it work. Because you do, or at least you try to, whatever your
background. Chances like this dont come along all that often.

Its a shame that, in the face of public uproar, Hyde chose to resign. Whether
he was under pressure to do so, we dont know. Often, when you take up an
unpaid placement at a powerful organisation, theres a tacit understanding that
you dont draw attention to its practices. Having young people living in tents
because you contribute nothing to their survival while they work long hours in
your office is not great PR. Especially not when your founding principles are to
defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve
human rights and justice in their own lands as well as in other lands. Yes,
perhaps there were things that hinted at Hydes situation a slight dishevelled
look, a slope off to the toilets to brush his teeth, the rucksack under the desk;
but coming out and saying it? Thats just not on.

Hyde is right. The UNs intern policy is not a fair system but this is also a story
bigger than the UN; bigger, even, than exploitative internships themselves.
Internships may often be the gateways to high-flying careers but for those who
are from disadvantaged backgrounds, the struggle to keep your head above
water doesnt end there. This story is about the things people do to make it
work within an economic system that takes no prisoners. Its the seam your
grandmother drew down the back of her legs to resemble stockings, or the
smile your dad painted on his face each morning. Its the vague answers about
what you did on your weekend, the running joke about the executive who lives
in his car, your secret cry in the stationary cupboard as you tug at your itchy
second-hand suit, the bed on your friends floor. In my case, its the car boot
sale in a field in Anglesey that paid for my internship at Vogue.

In the years since university, Ive come to regard the media as a kind of Hunger
Games assault course. You charge through the barrage, head first, as other
members of your generation fall by the wayside. Save for a small few, only the
well-off, the determined, or the lucky stay the distance. But its not just the
media everyones known someone who has been desperate to make it
work, for myriad reasons. It may even have been you. In which case, youll
know that its a struggle that incorporates many factors high rents, low pay
(or no pay at all), zero-hours contracts, stagnant wages, elitism. Wed be
surprised, Id wager, just how many people are swanning around offices giving
the impression of a well-ordered, professional existence, when actually theyre
living in a cupboard, or a garage, or a tent. Lets be honest: theres paying your
dues, and theres paying your dues.

This story is about the things people do to 'make it work' within an economic
system that takes no prisoners
It isnt just non-disclosure clauses and the fear of a disciplinary hearing that
perpetuates this culture. Something happens, I think, to those who, despite the
odds, manage to prevail within the rat race. Either, having made it, they feel so
unbelievably lucky to be where they are that they will not speak out, for fear
that they end up in their previous miserable situation (the terror of poverty,
especially when youve already experienced it, is a powerful motivator). Or,
they think well, Ive done it, so others can too. They become complicit and
start to believe that those who fail do so as a result of some inherent flaw
laziness, stupidity a lack of commitment. They start to believe in a meritocracy
that they nigglingly know, on some level, doesnt exist. We owe it to Hyde and
all those others struggling to make it work to condemn exploitative labour
practices. But until people are able to look beyond their own successes into a
wider world of poverty and injustice, the cycle of inequality will continu

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