Sunday, July 6, 2014

Not so proud any more (from Two Guys from Garfield)


June 24, 1980

 Maybe it's the heat. The radio is full of dire predictions, record temperatures and no sign of rain-- drought savaging this part of the country for two years running-- and all I get at work is dirty looks-- bosses staring at me like whites used to stare at blacks in the south, as unequal partners in this labor relationship. They like to think themselves superior beings, like the Germans in the thirties, industry owners seeing us as problem children, as gypsies, as Jews, as radical elements whose survival somehow threatens their profits-- as if to pay us decently meant some sort of degradation for themselves. If they didn't need us they'd turn us into lampshades, too-- wearing that same, brutal mentality in their eyes each time they see us. A few years ago, I stood on their side of the line, a night manager for a small cosmetic company in Fairfield, and was told outright by my superiors that I had to separate myself from my employees, that it wasn't a good practice to let the men think we were equals. It is an amazing load of crap they sell us when they make us crawl for our pay checks, as if they were doing us a favor by using our bodies and minds for their profits-- as if there was something inherently superior in their inability to get their hands dirty or bend their backs. There used to be a time when people could be proud of their labors, before the machines took over and made life an endless repetition of the same idiotic habits, our skills more and more closely defined till we have become part of the machine. We break down, we are replaced. We are rarely considered human. We are taught to think the next step down from where we are is the gutter, that there are others on the welfare lines waiting to take our jobs-- and secretly we envy the welfare people. Their indignity comes twice a month at the welfare office. They don't have the boss over their shoulder or on their back. They don't have the back-breaking bullshit to justify their checks.
 But its the same slavery. We hate them for laziness. They hate us because we have their jobs. And the people above us both breed that contempt, stoking the hate between us so we don't learn the truth, so we don't turn on the rich and steal back enough for us both to survive.

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