There is a trend that has been nagging at me. Nothing so fully formed as to make an argument, but nagging, nonetheless. I’m not sure exactly what it is. So, I come here and work it out in text. Maybe it’ll help.
Because it is not a fully formed thing, it will help if I give some examples of what I am seeing and reading and listening to in the news media. These things, in no particular order, cause some unfathomable area of my brain to itch.
1) The first man to buy legal marijuana in the state of Washington was fired from his job. Not because he failed a drug test – as far as the story reported – or because he was high at work, but because his employer saw the press of him being the first person to purchase what was no a legal substance for personal use.
I don’t so much care what your views of legalizing marijuana – or any drugs for that matter – are. That’s not the point of this example.
The point of this example was driven home to me by the subheading of the article, which amounted to – for give the paraphrasing – what if it had been alcohol?
It’s a needful question. What if?
Weed was now a legal substance, available for recreational use in his state. If he availed himself of it, strictly on his off time, and had no security clearance to maintain, why should his employers get to say word one about it?
and then there’s this:
2) A school in California – I forget the name but I believe it is a private institution – had its teachers sign contracts wherein the teachers were contractually obligated to adhere to Catholic Doctrine, not only in the classroom, but in their private lives as well.
As it happens, in a diverse populace, some of those teachers are not even Catholic.
Now, the HMFIC said he’s going to walk back those clauses on the next round of contracts, but for this year – at least – they stand.
Stranger still is this:
3) The Supreme Court has ruled that Hobby Lobby can have the First Amendment Rights of a real person, and because of this, and the company’s so-called religious objections, they (the company) does not have to pay for (as part of their employee insurance package) contraception.
What all of these instances have in common is work (monolithically speaking) intruding into the private, personal lives of employees.
This, in no small way, bothers the hell out of me.
Work and life really should be two separate things.
(I know, some of you love your jobs to the point where your life is your job. Good for you. You’re in the minority. Most working Americans do not love their jobs to that degree. Hell, I love my job, and still don’t want it intruding on my private life.)
There was a time when life was work. You slept, ate – if you were lucky – and went to work, and that’s all you did. But that kind of life kills people; some in obvious ways, some from the inside out. Workers of the past fought long, hard, and sometimes paid in their own blood so that future workers (us) wouldn’t have to live that life of strenuous deprivation: work until you’re exhausted, sleep, repeat until dead.
I think it is a good thing that work has its own sphere that can be disconnected from life. It is important. We need time, to create art, to play with our children, to watch the sun rise or set. We need time to think, and to ponder. We need time to innovate and invent. We need time to engage in our political process. And we need time to engage with ourselves and each other. In short, we need time in order to have full lives that are not nasty, brutish, and short.
We need time not on call, not responsible to our employers – time to do with what we will.
I suppose the trend that has been itching at me, spurred on by those few examples above, has been of employers sticking their noses ever deeper into our private lives. Not all of them, mind you. Some employers still have a sense of decorum and human decency. But if you go surfing the interwebs for a while, I guarantee you’ll find enough examples of the kinds of intrusion I’m talking about to turn at least a few of your hairs white, overnight.
And it’s not getting better. Not in America, at least.
Increasingly, (especially with unemployment as high as it is) workers have been diminished to mere numbers. Profits have been put above humanity. (I suspect that has always been the case, broadly speaking, but didn’t it used to feel different?) And unscrupulous employers have made ruthless use of the reality that so many are unemployed that the workers don’t need to be respected or protected because they can always get new workers – people out of work for so long they’re willing to put up with just about anything to have a paycheck. (I know what that’s like. I’ve been there once or twice in my working life.)
Add together a few ingredients: High unemployment, stagnant or lower wages, lack of respect for labor, and work increasingly encroaching on one’s private life…
…I’m not going to venture what, exactly, this is a recipe for, but my hunch is I don’t want to be the one to clean it up when it all boils over.
Is there anything we can do about it?
Hell, I don’t know.
You really can’t teach good judgment and empathy. And if you could, I doubt those responsible for these types of infringements could or would want to learn those skills.
And the truth is, I could be wrong. This could just be a reaction to sensationalist media and its penchant for going with negatively biased stories. Or, it could be a peculiar quirk of my personality that reacts thusly to this kind of stimulus.
Like I said, I don’t know.
But it’s been bothering me.