Monday, December 18, 2006

Invisible Jobs

I had my windows cleaned yesterday. Getting a three story ladder and attempting not to puke while on it is not something I want to do. So I am sitting there watching television studiously avoiding looking at the guy cleaning my windows one metre from me. It was quite an odd experience but one we all engage in constantly.

Cleaners are generally ignored by office workers getting all the acknowledgement and recognition your intestinal microbes do. At least gut bacteria have ads on television cleaners are completely anonymous. This has consequences for security, areas normally off limits to all have cleaners pottering around in them. I doubt the security clearance for cleaning jobs is particularly high. Because we have an implicit “ignore this person” view of cleaners we have created a fairly obvious security hole. For instance I have had to let company electricians into secure areas that cleaners have full access to. Why is the cleaner more trusted then the electrician? They are not, they are ignored because we do not like the idea of someone cleaning up after us.

Apart from security concerns basic human dignity requires we be on nodding terms and say the occasional word to the people who intercept with our lives on a daily basis. Why should I care for the sufferings of people I never meet if I do not even acknowledge those I pass on a daily basis. Certain traits protect us from the overpopulation of our daily lives, ignoring people on buses for instance, but this is different.

Other invisible jobs exist where we hold those that do them in particular scorn. Most western nations have a vast number of invisible workers, lowly paid, non taxed, no health employment or voting rights illegal immigrants. These people work for below minimum wage and have basically no rights. They exist outside the law in that police cannot be called if they are victims of crime. This leads to a mafiaisation where communities of illegals set up their own police force. We set up sub societies with no rights who are exploited and open to organised crime because it suits us to.

If I visit a Proctologist I am pretty sure I will talk about the weather and perhaps sport, if only to illustrate my immense heterosexuality. Ignoring the issue at hand is understandable in this situation. However deliberate ignoring of jobs we do not like to think of ourselves doing illustrates a self inflicted blindness we have that has much darker consequences.


Max Radical said...

This is a serious problem. It was brought to my attention a while ago (triggered by a very good story I read, I'll find the name for you), and while it sounds very "I'm so great", I've made an effort not to be like that.

I'm on comment-exchanging terms with all the cleaners where I live and work, but more difficult is forcing myself to acknowledge with words that I'm not giving money to the homeless guy, rather than editing him out of my personal universe.

I still blank the hell out of campaigners and the religion-types we have here in Toronto (scientology and Falun gong), but that's absolutely fine.

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