From my latest at Al Jazeera English:
When survival is touted as an aspiration, sacrifice becomes a virtue. But a hero is not a person who suffers. A suffering person is a person who suffers.
If you suffer in the proper way – silently, or with proclaimed fealty to institutions – then you are a hard worker “paying your dues”. If you suffer in a way that shows your pain, that breaks your silence, then you are a complainer – and you are said to deserve your fate.
But no worker deserves to suffer. To compound the suffering of material deprivation with rationalisations for its warrant is not only cruel to the individual, but gives exploiters moral license to prey.
Individuals internalise the economy’s failure, as a media chorus excoriates them over what they should have done differently. They jump to meet shifting goalposts; they express gratitude for their own mistreatment: their unpaid labour, their debt-backed devotion, their investment in a future that never arrives.
And when it does not arrive, and they wonder why, they are told they were stupid to expect it. They stop talking, because humiliation is not a bargaining chip. Humiliation is a price you pay in silence – and with silence.
People can always make choices. But the choices of today’s workers are increasingly limited. Survival is not only a matter of money, it is a matter of mentality – of not mistaking bad luck for bad character, of not mistaking lost opportunities for opportunities that were never really there.
You are not your job. But you are how you treat people.
So what can you do? You can work your hardest and do your best. You can organise and push for collective change. You can hustle and scrounge and play the odds.
But when you fall, know that millions are falling with you. Know that it is, to a large extent, out of your hands. And when you see someone else falling, reach out your hands to catch them.
Read Surviving the post-employment economy at Al Jazeera English