Being a Worker
It’s not too far into the afternoon when my phone screen lights up. A call from an unrecognized number. While I have been used to dismissing most unrecognized calls as spam recently I know who is calling me this time. I applied for a job recently. A familiar rythym begins and I cut to it by returning the call, saying who I am and that I had just been contacted for a phone interview. I hash out my resume once again, despite it being entered already into their system and submitted by upload I list off the many jobs in disparate places I have held. A phrase sticks with me “Well we will try to get you in as soon as possible”. Get me in, get me into a place where I can work and get paid. She hangs up and returns to her no-doubt long list of potential employees, and if I did accept that kitchen job at the height of Covid (so far) my first day would be another familiar expierence. A new room, and new people, no doubt one manager or even several and the employer speaking to us all at the beginning. “Team” or maybe the more awkward “You all” or even the sickeningly claustrophobic “Family” will soon begin to ring out and then within minutes the seeming excitement of a new fraternity fades as we leave to enter the kitchen doors and start a series of tasks wich will be repeated again and again until were fired, layed off, quit or die.
I speak simply on what this is like because it is a simple reality of the majority of people. Well, thats not entirely true, the majority of people are employed informally and their day to day reality consists of starker anxiety, confrontations and explicit oppression. But standing next to something we’re trying to see in the distance like a hidden truth, we often miss it. The fact is, our lives are stamped with this condition, and our soul, to be simple, becomes entwined with these happenings of labor, these layoffs, these hirings, these tasks, these managers, these walls, these commutes.
That phone call, is a nagging question. Will you take this job? I don’t want to, I could use another week to myself and the vagueity of your coming months has a certain, if hazy, appeal to it. But it comes down to a fact of money. I need money to survive. I need money to exist in the social structure that wraps around this planet. The luddites and the frontiersman can have their niche, smug from their fragile positions that support only a few, but the majority of people like to entagle themselves in life with relations, family, and active participation in the social fabric. “Live” has a sullen meaning now, as base survival, and not as an engaged, participating person with a wealth of oppurtunites for the refinement of all their human faculties.
To facilitate my living, I work for employers. The majority of people work for employers. We all subsume ourselves to another for the facilitation of our lives. These words might be so blunt it makes some pipe up with remarks of “you make it sound so vicious”, “It really isn’t like that, most people enjoy working”. Remarks that have no substance or rebuttall for I am stating the reality of a thing not my personal affectation to that reality. You can be friendly with your employer and enjoy your work. But nothing has soured that enjoyment which only happens with a stroke of luck or after years of patience and hard work faster then a snappy moment in the workplace which reveals a reality. That you are a worker, you are here to facilitate your life, and that thing, the job, is at the behest of your employer. This is an ever increasing nature of employment. Some are lucky to expierence the other duality of this nature, that employers require workers . All the money, investment and loans they have put into their place of business, their equipment, management, legal side of things is wasted if there is no one to perform the work which makes those things productive.
I imagine a world without workers. The cafe’s are quiet and abandoned, early birds lost at what to do. Packages at the doorstep stop one day and the dilemna of emptying your overflowing trash bins become a revolting barbarity as you imagine all the destitute places you could dump it. The store isn’t stocked, no security guards, no pharmacist, I wont drone on. It’s clearly a world that doesn’t operate and is impossible at such a fundamental level it resembles images of apocalypse. I also try to imagine a world without employers. It’s probably harder. I never see them. I imagine in that world workers showing up to the places they spend everyday, that becomes a home wether they like it or not, and getting on with their shift. And when they go home, or they’ve found out no one is in charge, conversations about keeping on as normal would start. Infact not much would change at all. In a place where there are only workers I would probably speak more candidly about what could be improved, to the people who do the work, we might ask ourselves if we want to take time off or leave and feel no need as there is only more to gain when working for ourselves, together.