I find vintage labor practices and relations fascinating, so you’ll excuse the digression into discussing coal mining, and why it may be indicative of the situation we will all shortly be in.
Coal mining was the first true modern labor job. While difficult, it involved juggling multiple details, and the cost of failure was death and destitution for owning companies. One of the first major strikes in US history was a coal miner strike. Around their necks they wore red handkerchiefs as a symbol of solidarity. These were the first rednecks.
Coming back to canaries. The reason canaries were used in coal mines had to do with their sensitivity to various toxic gases released in the process of mining coal. The canary was more sensitive to the exposure to the gases than the miners, and thus if the canary died, it did so such that the remaining workers could escape the mine with their lives. I personally think, forced into that situation or not, that the canaries are kind of the heroes in that story.
I’m a canary, of sorts. I’m sensitive enough that dangerous practices tend to get to me before they do to others. Hence, as I sit taking my first health leave in seven years, it may be about to get quite a bit worse for everyone.
Humans in general are emotional and prone to exaggeration. Repeatedly over the last year I’ve heard from friends, family and coworkers; “It can’t get worse.” What they mean is they lack imagination, while I do not. It can get worse, and unless people act it will.
It’s a grim world out there. People have become secondary to material wealth, and the usefulness of human labor may be soon at an end. This is not doomsaying for the sake of upsetting you. This is a weather service of the current financial and emotional state of the species. The storm has been brewing for centuries, and only the action of prudent governing and managers has prevented it from reaching fever pitch so far.
I feel conflicted. There is a part of me, the compassionate part, which wants to see us pulled back from the brink. I know that going over that brink will mean more death and suffering. Then there is the pragmatic approach; maybe it needs to get worse before it can get better. I care little who dies, I’ve been dead for years and my body hasn’t caught on to such facts. Yet some people seem very attached to the whole living thing. They would be wise to pay attention to canaries such as myself. Yet, for all the admirable qualities our species might display, we have never been considered that wise.
To me, a semi suicidal middle aged man, the oncoming storm looks like freedom. It might just kill me, and that would be darn useful. I have no use for my fellow man, the economy, or nearly anything within my reach on this planet. Yet; people seem to value things. There appear to be people with great purpose and meaning in staying on this planet. I don’t understand them, but they have as much value as anyone else don’t they?
The struggle between myself and my employer is actually a negotiation of price. I hold that I deserve respect and to be considered competent when I am successful in my work. As such I think my value is greater than the $20k or so that they have invested in me. The requirements to achieve such ends however require that they become a more humane place to work, and thus may well exceed their investment, and even my relative value. Tis sad that correcting corruption is such an inconvenient circumstance that people lose value at the face of it, but such is the world that I live in.
A canary I am; nearly worthless, and my only worth that I feel I can offer is that when I die, it will be either followed by an adjustment towards greater health, or the death of those who forced me into such an uncomfortable situation as this.