Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My curse

June 19, 1980

We all ache for fame.
But it comes with a price – something different for each person, something that often costs more than any can afford.
It’s a trade off most don’t even get a chance to make because they don’t get their shot at it.
But in some ways, each of these people I work with have a bit of fame inside of them, and I guess it is up to someone like me to bring it out.
They have stories to tell, yet give me only snatches of them, never anything from beginning to end, tales of birthdays and illness, events that mark off their lives like the pencil marks on the doorway my uncles did to show how much I grew, inch marks of existence no one will remember other than those they pass their stories onto.
Many take pride when they talk to me, as if they sense that I am in the midst of collecting these things for some future purpose that might well make the immortal.
Our bosses hate this. They do not like seeing proud workers. In this world, pride is misplaced, an obstruction – too much pride leads to resistance, even flight.
This world doesn’t function on pride, it functions on fear – the fear of being different, standing out, acting wrong, being fired, the fear that they might wake up one day to find rain on their face and no place to go to get out of it.
Their world is a cruel world, and they dare not make too obvious a mark except perhaps that last mark carved in stone which has so little to say about their lives that they might as well be forgotten.
My destiny, it seems, is carve a rich epitaph than the one they are destined for otherwise, to make sure that some piece of their lives gets told and cannot be erased so easily as the time clock card when they get fired.
I keep thinking of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero, a character that somehow haunts all such places as these, who walks in behind us to punch in with some invisible time card, sharing our day and our conversation, listening to our tales as I listen to theirs. They are all working class heroes, but they do not see themselves as such, even when they look in the mirror before coming to work. Theirs is the day to day struggle to survive, trying to carve out a bit of pride in this hard stone they’ve inherited as their live, even when in the midst of menial, often pointless labor.
Someone once called me a communist. I even say I am when I want to really piss someone off.
But I am not proposing communism, I propose only pride – individual dignity that values each of these people at the same level as the wealthy masters who hold the key to power.
The rich don’t pay their way in the world – at least not in sweat and bent backs, and yet they dare look down on people like these, they become the bosses the civil war was supposedly fought to free all people of.

But there is a pecking order, and a strange kind of social order that has one group looking down on another group, until the lowest of low have no one to look down upon but themselves.

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