I can’t help but get pissed every time people go on about the “heroism of essential workers” these days. What, after years and years of having no problem at all with nurses, farmers, grocery store workers, truck drivers and others being underpaid as hell, suddenly they’re “heroes” who valiantly choose to sacrifice themselves for the greater good?
Yes, there is no doubt about it: Sacrifices are going on all around the world right now. Just that most essential workers do not sacrifice themselves. They are being volunteered for sacrifice by those who exploited them, and continue to exploit them, even until today.
Isn’t supply and demand supposed to drive the price of things in a free market? This, after all, was the main reason why essential workers have never been paid properly to begin with. But now, that demand skyrockets and supply is dwindling because workers are suffering from preventable infections or dying preventable deaths in droves, are wages at least rising to reflect these circumstances? Far from it.
Some people are getting a few dollars extra an hour and are told to be grateful for it. Grateful for having a job at all, and not having to face private bankruptcy because they, like most people around the world, had to live hand-to-mouth this entire time.
Something is just fundamentally fucked up about all of this. Sure, politicians, corporations, everyone is talking a big game about our heroic essential workers right now. Those words sound great. But where are the actions to give meaning to those words?
Even basic PPE missing. Politicians worry more about placing blame and deflecting responsibility than taking appropriate actions. Even corporations that benefit from the pandemic, such as Amazon, can’t be asked to pay and protect their people properly. I could go on.
Ultimately, doctors, nurses, farmers, delivery people, truckers, grocery workers, and everyone else should just keep doing their fucking job, for pityful wages under even more pitiful conditions than before, risk their lives and be heroes for the very system that never did anything but shit on them.
If we really mean what we say when we call these people essential workers, then we need to put our money where our mouths are. But I won’t hold my breath.
5 thoughts on “Essential my ass”
Markus, I’m sure enjoying your honest blog! Lots of good reading!
Thank you Matt, I really appreciate that!
Completely agree. The labeling of “heroism” and “sacrifice” is so problematic. The right way to really “honor” these heroes is to pay them well, and provide enough safety nets not only during a crisis, but it should be the norm.
Incidentally, I was chatting with someone over Reddit about this. This person I was talking to was a nurse, and I agreed with her that if people truly appreciate the efforts and heroism of these essential workers, they ought to be receiving a living wage and sufficient hazard pay.
Sadly, we are in the Philippines – where you are expected to be thankful to even have an occupation that pays peanuts, because “magpasalamat ka at may trabaho ka!” (be thankful you have a job in the first place!)
(I’m not joking with the last statement; most of the older generation believes in that.)
Yes, Micah is saying that, too. We feel it a lot these days, as two of her sisters are healthcare workers.
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