My father was furloughed this week, which means he has been given (paid) 3 weeks off work due to the lack of business his company is receiving. It has hit him quite hard, and this experience has got me reflecting on the role our paid work ( wage labor if you’ll indulge me) plays in our lives. It seems ,from my immediate experience, that our livelihoods unfortunately define us: how we spend our day, the contacts we make, even in extreme cases personality traits that we exhibit. Work, and our dependency on a steady flow of income, defines our worth. What happens when the rug is pulled from under you and your income is not certain, is truly testament to modern bonds of slavery that bind working class, usually POC, to dehumanizing systems. Essentially what my father’s company is saying to him is ‘you’re disposable and of little intrinsic worth in the conglomerate which is our organisation’- how can we live in such a manner when our livelihoods negate our humanity and worth? The truth is through necessity- to pay bills and provide sustenance for loved one. Using a force of humanity to prop up an inhumane one.
The psychological and physiological repercussions of such a mode of existence is truly frightening. The body is constantly on ‘crisis management setting’, where consistent levels of stress detrimentally affects an individual’s mental and physical health. Prolonged exposure to instability impinges on a person’s ability to slow down and enjoy the moment of living, as everyday is framed of one of survival; it is impossible to bask the the beauty of having the sun on your back and the loved ones who surround you when there is a positive feedback loop of self deprecating thoughts in your head . Rather than seeing this as a 3 week holiday with a financial safety net, my father’s brain circumvents logical consideration and holds onto the idea of redundancy, losing ones income and way to provide. Praise to God that we live comfortably and my father being made redundant wouldn’t put us on the street, therefore what concerns him isn’t one of us not being able to survive without fundamental needs- rather, I hypothesize, the cleavage of a sense of identity he has tied to his work which is manifesting in uncontrollable anxiety.
I don’t know how the near future will pan out for my family, and can only pray that things iron out. However what I do know is that I abhor these systems in which we are forced to work, where our individual humanity is negated. Every bone in my body wants to walk up to my father’s boss and slap him in the face, but alas by striking the limb you cannot destroy the juggernaut. We need new frameworks to exist in, societal and personal (the two are interlinked). The latter we can sustainably cultivate, whilst the former is harder to change. Frameworks where we can reward ourselves for our sheer humanity, living,breathing and loving our comrades.