I Have No Status – Part II
I have this little red notebook. It has to be red. It has always been red. In there, I write inspirational ideas, snippets that I have come across and will need to remind myself of later. In there, also are little things I have learned, rules I must remember to live by and goals, for future works or ways to manage my lifestyle. Tales of Prince Vijaya and his mother, a rather amorous North Indian princess who seduced a lion and consequently gave birth to him, lie next to quotes like this:
“Time was elastic; space was a spinning wheel. All time, past or future, real or imaginary, was pure presence. Space transformed itself ceaselessly … Time was a pliable substance that weaved an unbroken present.” Octavio Paz: In Search of the Present, Nobel Lecture, 1990.
“Triumphing in life comes above all else from being useful to society.” Hugo Chavez, from a book he read as a kid.
Healthy people support others and often make sacrifices in order to do this.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE – appreciate the beauty all around you, appreciate what you have, freedom and joy, give this to others.
The shiny exterior of other people’s lives, what they present and the reality of the small sacrifices we make from day to day, the things we accept without trying to change. We have to try to change them, not for ourselves but for those to come.
Today you could cut me open and I would be made of ideas.
Sad as it may seem, this little book is my most prized possession. If there were a fire and I managed to save only it I know I would be okay. Without it, I would have a sense of loss that no amount of searching and toiling could ever exactly replace.
It’s a record. Not of my ‘uniqueness’, individuality or eclecticism, no, it’s record of my struggle to communicate, to truly understand and be understood. It’s a record of my undeniable humanity. It connects me to you and you to me. And that’s what I am reaching for and I believe there are others like me. We are a generation who are willing to share our highly personal, even private experiences in order to not only connect but to share, in the name of that true desire for understanding.
This idea of being a special, unique, individual is divisive. It encourages exclusivity and competition. One for one and none for all. It’s not helpful and it doesn’t hold any solutions.
I have no status, I realize, because I don’t believe in status. I believe in people.
I also believe in the power of people. I believe that now, with access to so many ways of communicating, instantly, with so many, we have more power than ever. And that it is our duty to advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves. Imagine, if we all looked for opportunities to do this. We see something unfair, unjust and we say simply, I will not accept this.
I work for a great organisation, in a basic job, that I don’t mind at all. I work with a lot of refugees, many of them have worked there for a long time. The organisation is no longer creating permanent positions with all the trimmings. This has created a massive division between the casuals (who are on a zero hour casual-on-call contract) and the permanent staff and between the ‘old’ casuals, some of whom have been there four years, and the ‘new’ casuals. Some of the permanent staff have the attitude that they can treat the casuals however they want, as they have no benefits, and therefore are somehow worth less.
The casual who has been there the longest is a Greek girl who works very hard and never says no to any shift offers. She is a very reliable, thorough worker, but she has some kind of brain injury that means she suffers from occasional fits and sometimes has difficulty controlling her emotions. I have been there four months and have never seen her have a fit. Among the workers the rumour is that she will never get a permanent position because of her medical condition. She does not know this.
I am already slowly changing the culture of my work. In that, when I first started there almost everybody was incredibly rude in the way they spoke to one another with the excuse that English was their second language, and they were especially rude to new staff. I spoke to individuals about this and encouraged them to use the basic please and thank you and after witnessing what I had come to know as typical behaviour the supervisor spoke to them about the way they speak to one another warning them that it could be construed as ‘bullying’ and that they could lose their jobs.
The Greek girl and I are both Union members. This Greek girl is one of the worst for competitiveness because she thinks that if she can undermine the capability of the other casuals then she will get all the shifts. But of course, it just doesn’t work like that. There are other politics at play in my workplace, some to do with the traditional setup of the place, some related to ethnicity and a good helping of plain old nepotism but one step at a time. But my point here is I am going to advocate for the Greek girl with the help of the Union. My work doesn’t know that yet. It’s unjust. She deserves fair treatment.
But the thing that really bothers me is, if all of us, regardless of whether casual, permanent, ten years or two months service, Greek, Albanian, Vietnamese or Australian, if we all got together and advocated for one another and for ourselves then our workplace would actually be a place that upheld the values it purports to uphold and, what’s more, we would’ve given, not only our workmates, but ourselves, the gift of power.
Something worth fighting for. Together.
About duendest (Tina Cartwright)Tina Cartwright grew up on the East Coast in the South of New Zealand. She lives and works in Melbourne. Her children’s picture book, Kiwi and Scorpion, was published with Penguin NZ in 2008. She edited and translated Taking Latin America Home – a self-published anthology influenced by Latin America which raised funds for the Sweet Water Fund in Nicaragua.
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