Monday, September 28, 2009

Like Mundt said, "Brother is it Hot!"

I came across this CNN Asia news item earlier, courtesy of the 'dollars and sense' blog: "HR manager beaten to death by angry workers" And, this, from Alternet:
"Angry workers beat to death a human resources vice president after he laid off 42 employees at an auto-parts manufacturing company in southern India...four to five workers, belonging to a union not recognized by the company, barged into his office and beat him up with iron rods..."
Then, I came across this:
Why Jim Badasci 'Went Postal': How Bullying Bosses and Economic Devastation Are Behind America's Latest Workplace Shooting

"...Here's what happened last Tuesday: Jim Badasci, who'd worked at Fresno Equipment for 10 years, showed up Tuesday morning with a shotgun...the first thing he did was kill a fellow co-worker...Badasci, wearing a hunting vest filled with ammo, proceeded to "shoot the equipment" -- in this case, John Deere agricultural machinery...The really surprising part of the story is how four of the employees managed to stop Badasci from killing anyone else...Though few details have come out about how they managed to convince an armed killer to stop shooting...Rather than kill more fellow-workers, Badasci took his own life..."

"...Jim Badasci had been driven to desperation by a particular supervisor and the company's toleration of the supervisor's mistreatment...the supervisor had made his life hell, and unfortunately the company owners decided not to do anything about it, even though others had also complained."

The writer, Mark Ames, makes the following conclusion, which makes a lot of sense to me:
"Getting screwed over the way we have been these past 30 years is something new -- as are the workplace massacres, pitting employee against Company, which only started after the Reagan Revolution handed all power to the shareholders, and convinced the losers in that deal -- the 90 percent of Americans whose lives got worse in every measurable way since then -- that in fact it was in our own best interests to turn corporations into little Profit Gulags, where the inmates could be downsized at will, and mass-layoffs in the tens and hundreds of thousands became so common in good times and in bad that it proved Stalin's dictum about "one victim is a tragedy, a million victims is a statistic.""

Not sure how big-picture accurate it is to say that hardcore labor exploitation "only started" with the revanchists of Reagan Era "New Federalism," but i take the larger point for sure (the only correction being that the reality is even worse than Ames presents it...this is why reading Zinn's wonderful Peoples' History through to the end is a chore that devolves into such a leaden, soul-crushing slog).

And how much you wanna bet the Indian union inthe CNN story went unrecognized because it actually sought to do what unions are for--that is, make the kind of cut-the-shit shopfloor-democratic demands that stand up to illegitimate power at the scale of our daily lives. This, as the saying goes, is what democracy looks like. And the violent turns these stories take just manifest MLK's word of caution that "those who make peaceful reform impossible will make violent revolution inevitable". Not rocket surgery. Another relevant quote: "Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never did and it never will" (Frederick Douglass). The upper limits and general nature of these struggles are determined in the end not by the changemakers, but by the controllers of a challenged and untenable 'world as it is'.

Tempted to cite the tongue-in-cheek fumbling militancy of "El Duderino"--"this aggression will not stand, man" (or probably better yet, something from the Coen brothers' Barton Fink)--but of course this is serious and tragic stuff. Plus, there are times when falling back on dark humor, the "tragicomic" kind with with failure and futility always-already-embedded into its hostile rebellion...just fails to satisfy.


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