Time For A Break



The Penthouse is perfect, complete with a view. There’s even a terrace with a pool for the crew. Great job, dogs! Our work is all through. Tomorrow we’re off. There’s a new job to do.

Build, Dogs, Build: A Tall Tail, by James Horvath

Work and the Aftermath of Abuse


For most people, work is central to their survival—it’s how they make a living for themselves and those they care about and how they pay their way in the world. Work is also about belonging to something larger than oneself, and the relationships that are part of the workplace support that sense of belonging. When work is recognized as central to survival and belonging, it’s a lot less surprising that many victims don’t easily get over workplace mobbing and go on to develop symptoms of PTSD and/or depression.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

Prison Industrial Complex


This article has a lot of good things to say: Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex, Color Lines by Angela Y. Davis (09/10/1998)


Prisons thus perform a feat of magic. Or rather the people who continually vote in new prison bonds and tacitly assent to a proliferating network of prisons and jails have been tricked into believing in the magic of imprisonment. But prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business.

Many corporations whose products we consume on a daily basis have learned that prison labor power can be as profitable as third world labor power exploited by U.S.-based global corporations. Both relegate formerly unionized workers to joblessness and many even wind up in prison. Some of the companies that use prison labor are IBM, Motorola, Compaq, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Microsoft, and Boeing. But it is not only the hi-tech industries that reap the profits of prison labor. Nordstrom department stores sell jeans that are marketed as “Prison Blues,” as well as t-shirts and jackets made in Oregon prisons. The advertising slogan for these clothes is “made on the inside to be worn on the outside.” Maryland prisoners inspect glass bottles and jars used by Revlon and Pierre Cardin, and schools throughout the world buy graduation caps and gowns made by South Carolina prisoners.

Education Lost To Labor



“You didn’t have the mind for school, anyway,” his father had recently observed. Abdul wasn’t sure he’d had enough schooling to make a judgment either way. In the early years, he’d sat in a classroom where nothing much happened. Then there had been only work. Work that churned so much filth into the air it turned his snot black. Work more boring than dirty. Work he expected to be doing for the rest of his life. Most days, that prospect weighed on him like a sentence. Tonight, hiding from the police, it felt like a hope.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo

From the epilogue:

The events recounted in the preceding pages are real, as are all the names. From the day in November 2007 that I walked into Annawadi and met Asha and Manju until March 2011, when I completed my reporting, I documented the experiences of residents with written notes, video recordings, audiotapes, and photographs. Several children of the slum, having mastered my Flip Video camera, also documented events recounted in this book….When I settle into a place, listening and watching, I don’t try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments. I just believe that better arguments, maybe even better policies, get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives.

Art, Poverty and Respect

When I was a kid, my family took one of those ‘great American vacations;’ traveling from Wisconsin to California and back again. While we were far from wealthy, I remember it as the turning point. Soon after, we went from ‘getting by’ and ‘things are tight’ to full-on-poverty.

While visiting relatives in California, my parents loaded the kids into the van and took a day-trip across the border into Mexico. Crossing the border was exciting. The desert was beautiful (even without air conditioning). Yet, what I remember most about Mexico are the tar paper shacks and the roadside stands selling folk-art.

People were living in flimsy box-frame structures covered in black tar paper. They didn’t look sturdy enough to store plastic boxes full of extraordinarily unimportant items. I can’t even imagine how horribly hot it must get inside one of those during a summer day. In the interests of full-disclosure, I must add that I never actually entered one of these shacks. My parents addressed my questions about these houses with short statements (e.g.: it’s just how people live down here) and refused additional conversation without further consideration.

Therefore, just like every other American tourist in Mexico, my family drove past the shacks and stopped at the road-side stands selling brightly painted pottery.

I clearly remember one particular pottery stand. My family wandered around, looking at the wares, side-by-side with other random tourists. I watched the people working. There were adults and teenagers carrying heavy items and looking exceptionally hot and tired, like people who were half-way through a workday at the local factory. There were also children running around, helping out here and there.

Based on the way people interacted with one another, my child-self concluded they were a family and this was their business (this was never confirmed). The pottery was the kind of stuff most people purchase during a tourist-stop in Mexico. It was very pretty and amazingly cheap.

At the time, the weariness of the workers stood side-by-side with the quality and price of the pottery. I kept thinking there was something important about all of this, but I didn’t know or understand what it was.

Recently, I stumbled across a large amount of brightly colored Mexican pottery at a second-hand store. As I went through the collection, choosing items for the Wild Raccoon Market, memories of that decades-old trip to Mexico came to mind. The hand-painted and nicely detailed images of people marching across a shot glass reminded me of those bone-weary workers making large quantities of tourist-art and selling each piece for a few dollars.

These thoughts continued as I sat in front of my computer. For my family, that cross-country trip marked a turning point. Soon after, we stumbled out of just-barely-lower-middle-class, and took a headlong spiral downward into poverty.

One of the first things true poverty will teach you is the importance of respect. It touches every aspect of your life and colors every relationship. It’s also strangely, and pointedly, lacking from the world of underpaid work. When you’ve worked your fingers to the bone (sometimes literally) only to drag your tired body home with less than half of what you need to pay rent (never mind everything else), the word respect begins to encompass a pie-in-the-sky fantasy of very simple lifestyle elements (e.g.: being able to pay rent, being treated with the basic respect due to any human being, etc.) frustratingly accessible only to those in the upper classes.

No matter where you live, working long hours to create something that is devalued because of a long list of arbitrary factors, is dehumanizing. In terms of respect deserved vs respect received, American poor and Mexican pottery producers have something in common.

I found myself staring at these lovely items and thinking about the ‘value’ attributed to them because they were (most likely) purchased for insanely low prices during a vacation in Mexico.

While this may sound a bit preachy and in-your-face (even), I challenge you to place the word respect at the forefront of your mind every time you decide to purchase art. Regardless of what you buy, where you buy it, or who you buy it from; all original, handcrafted art is the product of skilled craftsmanship. It’s not something that can be replicated because it was not created by a machine. Human hands touched, traced, formed, and changed this thing into an object of beauty. The person and the work deserve to be appreciated and respected.

Then, consider extending the same respect to the poor, working poor and workers everywhere; because the person and the work deserve to be appreciated and respected.

Just my opinion.

Take it for what it’s worth.


Huffington Post on Amazon.com

This article is one of many thousands (millions?) of examples of stories that begin with poor people, desperate for basic resources, taking offers of work and finding themselves enslaved. I can’t help but think that a livable wage, world wide, would take a huge chunk out of the human trafficking/slavery industry by eliminating the needs that make people vulnerable. It’s not a cure, but it is an absolutely necessary step – both for the reduction of slavery and addressing basic human rights issues worldwide (yes, that includes the United States and other first-world nations).

Human Trafficking Survivors Open Up About Horrors
The Huffington Post | By Eleanor Goldberg