Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Day Laborer Love" -- a reader responds...

Between living and surviving, I believe many of us steal such precious moments when we can. To feel alive, looking for contact with another human being, even if that contact is only physical, even if it's just sharing some words or just a glance of the eyes in the streets. What touched me most about this little match story, as Arnoldo calls it, is the tenderness mixed in with the most absolute weariness of the person who is telling the story. I was deeply moved by it in spite of the story being only a few lines. I'm still trying to sort through it... What I feel is the absolute exhaustion of life between labour, the survival mode of my parents as migrants and so many family members and friends, refugees I struggled with, and the folks I struggle with now in Mexico. It speaks to me of our unglamourous lives where we steal moments to write our romances in these little gestures at times. These are the love stories of those of us who can't take our girl out to the fancy restaurant or plan a surprise weekend for our guy. We live our loves through our shared exhaustion, our shared histories, our shared alienation sometimes, and hopefully our shared struggles. Our ways of loving are a part of our identity. The love and tenderness that come through to me in this short story are so regular that they are powerful. Despite the rather crude words used to describe the sex and the woman's body, what I feel most is the tenderness... and an almost edgy desperation to connect in the midst of survival mode. What a tribute to someone to say that one worked just to see them! What a tribute given the absolute weight of what work is in the prevailing economic system and at what personal cost one works! Thanks Arnoldo. Still reflecting on this one...

Mandeep Dhillon is a woman of East Indian descent, born and raised in Canada, and currently living in Mexico. She works as a social justice/community organizer, writer, and doctor, struggling in solidarity with indigenous communities in the movement for justice for migrants and refugees. She identifies most with anti-authoritarian movements to build popular power.

1 comment:

  1. ONE: I wrote "Day Laborer Love" because relationships, all of them, have become almost totally subjected to and/or vassals of the systemic drive to accumulate wealth and power. How do you tell this story in 300 characters or less? A recent New York Times review of "AFTERSHOCK The Next Economy and America’s Future" by Robert B. Reich, provided rich examples that I would proffer to explain what I was trying to get at in my Matchbook short story. How do we survive living under different forms of neoliberal capitalism? Calling them "coping mechanisms," the Reich wrote, "First, women joined the workforce, giving families a second income. Then husbands and wives put in longer shifts, creating a species of family called DINS — 'double income, no sex.'" Although I was not imagining "Americans" in general, I was writing of families who aren't even considered DINS because of the color of their skin and their income levels. The break up of the working class, the outsourcing of jobs and the lack of living wage employment, has transformed everyone into day laborers. Some may object to being labelled "day laborers" because they don't stand on street corners waiting or asking for work. Day laborers may work a few hours a day, maybe a week or two and even a whole month if they're lucky and survive on that. But they work two or even three jobs to survive. A day laborer is another name for a contingent worker, a contracted laborer, and a "consultant" that gets paid maybe more but still piecemeal and still maybe only for a few hours a day. A consultant, a contract employee is a day laborer regardless of the gilded concept or label you may prefer. And the soul is drained at work or work that barely pays for survival and all our relations suffer for it. The NYT review went on to remind us that as a result of DINS and other unfreedoms, we are sleeping 2-3 hours less per night than our parents in the 1960s. As a result new dependencies have emerged: sleeping pills, anti-depression meds. Americans spent a an incredble $23.9 billion on sleep aids So we work more, make love less, sleep less, earn less, have less "free" time. How do we get out of this?