All day, every day, I meet people with virtual blinders on. Last week, in order to help out desperate family members against government reprisals (the details are private) I accepted a menial job in a sweatshop for which I am totally overqualified in terms of education and professional experience but physically underqualified due to bad health. The task is to de-staple, de-eyelet, de-booklet thousands of paper sheets each day to make them scannable. The papers are banking files. It’s unbelievable how many inches of papers are put together for a single person’s single credit by bank clerks many of whom also plaster them with countless staples, metal eyelets, and so forth only for other people to get paid a minimum wage to remove all those troublesome metal pieces again prior to digital scanning. The hand-breaking job reminds me of the movie scene of two guys digging and tossing the dirt into each other’s holes. This dumb job is quite symbolic of the socio-economic system of today in which we modern humans waste away our lifetimes.
One of my colleagues told a local bank branch director that his workers place way too many staples and such on their paperwork requiring a lot of work to remove them again. The director’s only response was laughter. Rather than musing about instructing his clerks not to waste so much time and metal that only raises the banks’ costs for scan preparation he just laughed.
That, too, struck me as quite symbolic of our warped culture which I described recently as a modern form of pharaonic culture with the divinely placed god-kings at the top, the merit-placed high priests and administrators on the rung below, the likewise merit-placed middle class, and the undeserving, dumb, shameful riffraff of serves and slaves at the bottom. It is this mentality which upholds and keeps growing our gaping inequality. I suspect the bank branch director quietly imagined the scan preparers as beetle-browed, good-for-almost-nothing, chimps or Neanderthals who’s rough hands can surely handle astronomic loads of eyelets an staples and who deserve nothing better to do with their time, a life-time no less limited than his and his clerks’. He has no idea that I have a Masters degree (that would actually be a Ph.D. if I hadn’t fallen victim to professorial infighting where I studied) plus the equivalent of a second Master’s Degree from back when I added enough pedagogy to become a teacher. He would never imagine that in my youthful golden years I did web development work for NASA, nor that my colleague who told him about the staples has an MBA and once worked as a programmer, or that a young man who works at this dumb job at record speeds studied economics. So much for the beetle-browed Neanderthals.
Currently, pressure is coming down from the company management to increase our work speed. It’s to be up by 20% on Monday, and in a few weeks the work volume is to reach double what it is now with only a few more hirees. Those of us who can’t physically keep up with the demanded speed have been informed (in front of everybody) that we will be replaced if we can’t get faster. It’s a selection process driven from above with no concern for anything but the profits of the company owners and upper management, and the workers about to be kicked out are… maybe you can guess… the old ones. Only physically perfect youth will survive the selection process. And what will become of them once they get old…?
Do any of us ever get old?
Where are all the old people? One never sees them. Young and middle-aged people never think of the horrors of aging they are sliding towards. The pain and sorrow of being caught inside a body that no longer fulfills our will. The growing helplessness that awaits so may of us. Where are old age communities where aging people could move to have the support they need and still some kind of life? What about the tail end of our lives? It is hidden in care beds we cannot escape from, in senior centers, hospices, or the homes of relatives who quietly suffer alongside us as we wither and die, getting our adult diapers changed in secret, our realities hushed up and hidden from the rest of society lest we come to realize that we are completely unprepared for the tail end of our lives…
Instead, company owners and upper management focus on maximizing their profits and push pressure down on those below them. Middle management folks think of advancing their careers and annual vacations in beautiful spots on Earth, and bottom-dwelling workers struggle to survive.
Where is our awareness of our life cycle and short-livedness? Where is our awareness of our dark future and the dark present of so many of our fellow citizens? Why does a man who spends his working hours in exhausting or even painful work and collapses for several hours after coming home to recover from his exhaustion earn too little to make ends meet while someone else sits all day in a comfy leather chair in a nice, air-conditioned office and receives many times the other guy’s income? We all have only 24 hours in our day. We all are people. When we work, we all strive to contribute to the general welfare and all lose valuable hours from our day. Why then these great gaps in pay? (not to mention the richest of the rich who don’t work at all, just suck profits out of their worker’s paychecks or tenants’ rents, or debtors’ interest payments)
Instead of making ever more people incomeless via automation, we could turn ever more work over to robots and improve life for everybody. Instead of pinching endless paperwork with eyelets and staples and then unpinching them again so that banksters get ever richer from the bank loans dressed up in all that paper and metal, instead of these stupid and underpaid activities, we could build old age communities for the eve of our lives, improve our medical abilities for a healthier and more livable life especially at old age, perhaps even eliminate aging entirely and rearrange our economy and birthrates to allow for such life extension. Instead of fearing and hating on desperate refugees and migrants, we could make human life safe and prosperous around the globe. Instead of building drones and bombs and murdering people worldwide, we could build life-sustaining technologies and infrastructures. Instead of driving our climate over the cliff, we could transition to a sustainable industrial culture. But to do any of these things we have to take our blinders off and begin to see what life is really about. Not profits. Not money. But life! Including that of our fellow humans, and our own future as well.
P.S.: Because of this rather pointless time- and energy-devouring job I have been able to write less than usual and the Political Awakening Video Weekend may show up late and markedly shorter than usual. Please understand that my days are also limited to 24 hours. Plus I have a sick relative to take care of, a lot of that awaits me tomorrow. Best wishes to all.
Ending Note: To get the word out, please widely share links to these posts. You can also help in other ways (including much needed financial support). And don’t forget to sign up for notifications! Together can we change this messed-up world.