On Work and Workers

February 2022

I am an excellent worker and a natural servant. And when I say ‘servant’ I mean I don’t mind being subservient. It does not break my spirit. I am comfortable taking orders and getting work done. I am able to work long hours. I never shirk, I never steal, I never lie. I am good tempered even if I am dead tired. I can work alone or within a team. This sounds like a cover letter and I sound like an ideal worker, but I am presently seen as undesirable, a bit too much of a risk.

I have always enjoyed working. I like the structure of an organized goal and the satisfaction of finishing projects. I don’t need an outside authority to make me work, I have enough self discipline to be a freelance writer, but there are elements of being ‘employed’ by an organization or business that I really enjoy. I like the imposed structure, where my actions a part of a bigger system, all of us working together. I like being a ‘good worker’ and I think a lot of people share my sentiments. It feels good to belong and to feel useful. The very best part of ‘work’ is the camaraderie with your fellow workers. The friends you make while in the trenches of ‘work’ are for life.

As a freelance writer, I have always had to ‘work’ for an actual living. I have had many jobs, arts administration taking the most hours for the least pay, and ‘serving tables ’ being the best pay for the least hours. So for many years, on and off, I have worked in restaurants. During those years I discovered that one of the very worst customer types is the middle-class liberal who is uncomfortable with the relationship of customer and server. This customer believes they are supporting the worker by being self conscious about the nature of the job, but their discomfort does not express brotherly love, in fact, it highlights their acceptance of the class system.

Whether they express their discomfort with excessive gratitude or demands for perfection, it is evident that this customer believes that the blue-collar worker is lower in the hierarchy of success. And who is the best customer? I can say with absolute confidence that the best customer is someone who has served before and may have a shift in their future. They know who they are, and they are not embarrassed by the fact that one person is working, and the other is resting.

I remember a fresh cool morning during a hot summer in the 1980s, zipping up to the patio on my bike, hopping off and locking it up. Familiar actions, repeated about six times a week. With my black waiter’s apron tied around my waist, I headed to the patio to set up. I grabbed the keys, unlocked the patio furniture, and wiped down the chairs and tables; no time to waste. It was a beautiful day and as I swung the heavy furniture about the chains scraped along the sidewalk and through the metal chairs, a sound I can hear even now in my stored memories. I stopped for a moment to watch a chickadee search for crumbs and became conscious of my surroundings. I looked up.  All around me workers were shifting into gear, delivering supplies, opening other patios, sweeping streets. The birds were singing, the day was starting, and I was right in the middle of it. It is a beautiful thing to be alive, I knew that then, and I know it now.

Two years into this COVID scene and the ‘life saving vaccine’ has been injected multiple times into the majority of the population and people have never been so sick, stressed and unhappy. Businesses have closed, people have lost jobs and careers. We are looking at increased suicide rates, bankruptcy, and painful division among families and friends. Young people are living in a dark cloud of cynicism that makes our seventies nuclear anxieties and despair look cozy in comparison. Though we all know that some people have made a lot of money during this ‘health crisis’, many of us are broke and broken. For the people who worked though the lock downs and made sacrifices to keep working while others stayed home, trust in established institutions like the government, the judicial system, or our medical system, is at an all time low.

But when we locked down our society and powered up our computers, the real workers never stopped working. They delivered food, they drove trucks, they worked in the grocery stores, they worked in the hospitals. The workers had to keep working while the elite bought expensive masks and ordered endless supplies online to cheer themselves. The workers were working in amongst the people and working for the people before the lauded vaccine. Did we give them raises or value their work? Not at all.  And now, when hundreds and thousands of workers are rising up to petition the government to drop the mandates and the passports, they are being villainized as extremists, racist and misogynistic. It is an age-old prejudice against working people. The working people are valued as stalwart and even deemed essential, but they do not get a say when it comes to their governance. They are not heard, they are herded.

With time we will see that our attempts to thwart the COVID19 virus were inconsistent and ineffective. We will see that we should have done more to protect the elderly in the long-term care homes and more to strengthen our healthcare infrastructure. We will see that we should have developed better care for patients in the early stages of COVID, possibly sparing them from the hospital care. We will find the roll out of the unreliable home self care tests laughable. We will see that the vaccine passports and mandates did little to change the course of the virus. With time we might even improve the mrna technology so that it causes less serious side effects but by then how many people will have been sacrificed?  

I applied for work recently, at a grocery store, and although the owner said I had a great demeanour and would put me on the cashier, he never called me back. Now he avoids talking to me. Did he look at my Facebook page and see that I chose to be cautious regarding the untested shot? Did he see a post about COVID vaccine damage?  Did he see that I support the truckers’ demands? I have to assume he did.

I don’t believe the grocery store manager thinks I am a threat. I don’t believe that he thinks I will make other people sick. It is more ideological than that. It is my character that is under question. I did not comply. I did not sacrifice and take the shot for the perceived common good. I am selfish and anti-social, as popular as a pacifist in a time of war. And the punishment is to take work away from me. This is a form of excommunication from our society.

The freedom to work is one of the fundamental rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If you take someone’s ability to work away, you are causing undue pain. The financial pain is one thing: they cannot support themselves and they could lose their home. But it also causes psychological pain because you are banning them from being part of society. They are excluded and isolated. Humans are social animals, dependent on each other for existence, so being thrown out of the herd is a serious punishment. The crime had better suit the punishment. But wait, do the vaccinated still get infected and spread the virus? Yes. And are the young and healthy more at risk from the vaccine than the virus? Yes.   

We have a federal government that has taken our main income away and threatened us in bold unapologetic statements. Suddenly everything feels unsafe. Will they take our savings? Our pension? We can’t work. We could lose our house. We could lose everything. I spent an evening cleaning any ‘unacceptable’ posts off my FB feed from the last two years. While friends were chastising me for supporting a ‘fascist right wing’ movement, I was censoring my speech to protect myself from the present government that censors the media and seems to control the police, the banks, and the judicial system.  

In censoring myself on Facebook I am acknowledging that the social media platform is not a place to be open and honest, nor is it a place to search for truth. We all know of someone with a cheerful Facebook page that is actually seriously depressed. But it has now become common knowledge that employers check Facebook, and the police do too. It is a surveillance system.  This will not affect you until your interests or opinions become ‘unacceptable’.  

My vaccinated friends and family are living in a state of naivety and innocence I no longer feel. They feel safe and protected because they chose to comply with this particular demand, but the next demand from the government might catch them unprepared. What if your support of an environmental group suddenly makes you a terrorist? Will the government have the power to take your job, block you from getting a mortgage, take away your driver’s license?

Facebook can be a silly heart-warming place where people try to cheer each other with silly memes so I left some of myself on FB, the Meg people feel fond of and humour. Meg with the cats and the kittens. Meg with the pretty pictures of the beautiful natural world. A photo of a good meal prepared with love. A poem. Something that celebrates life and loving life.

It’s a platform where I can post something funny and relatable that makes someone else feel less lonely and sad. I left part of myself on the Facebook because I am, at heart, a sentimental people pleaser. That’s why I was such a good waitress. When I was serving a lovely dinner to a customer I felt pleasure in their happiness. I am good at living vicariously and that happens to be an essential skill right about now.

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