Monday, February 13, 2012

The snow! Solidarity unionism forever!

The snow is here, and I am revived. At least that is how I feel. The last month has been good in some ways (lots of scholars' bowl events, some Wobbly action, reading, good times with good friends, etc.) but I have been under too much of a pallor to write. The lack of snow has been driving this North Dakotan crazy. I mean, there was the obvious problem of no surprise days off, which I had come to expect. But more to the point, everything was ugly and muddy and not really wintry. And I felt like even nature couldn't trump all the il will towards humans that is emanating from the political season, both the Republican presidential nominating process and the woeful, beyond despicable state of human affairs in Kansas. But the snow helps immensely. In the end, the world will be restored to justice and beauty and joy, and snow will fall as it is supposed to, and green shall come forth from the precipitation. I'm just not sure this can happen while the human experiment lingers on. I've been internalizing all the negative attention focused on teachers, and I know this. It is so bad for me psychologically and by extension all teachers. We are told daily that we are stupid, lazy, not doing our best, need to be motivated like rats in a cage, care about our jobs more than kids (?!?!?!?!?!), greedy, not deserving of a dignified life snd collective bargaining rights and a decent standard of living and reasonable amounts of control over our work environment. This is degrading, demoralizing, and vicious. Thankfully, the Kansas house of representatives decided not to publish our evaluations on line (new evals, mostly determined by student standardized test scores), as Saruman Brownback wanted. One small bright spot amidst new right to work laws, Arizona laws taking collective bargaining rights away from all public servants, the vitriol of both political parties towards the dignity of teachers. Now, this is surprising to a lot of Americans, because we have long counted teachers to be part of the middle class, part of the group that made it through education and hard work to have benefits, good working conditions, etc. until recently a lot of Americans believed that the people who work with our children DID deserve those things. But here's another part of this: much of America is sent these same negative messages every single day. I have joined the International Workers of the World, in part because the attacks on my work have opened my eyes to the attacks that most working people experience all the time. These assaults on teachers are shocking, and they are wrong, but they also remind me that people with less historic privilege than I have suffered for generations. The lie is exposed: I am like them, working for an oligarchy that would cast us off if they could, that will stop at nothing to keep power in the names of the capitalists. My alliegences are to all other workers, those with know-how and skills and needs that the capitalist system is not meeting or using for the good of everyone. Baristas and line cooks and Walmart greeters and dental hygienists and musicians and paraprofessionals and secretaries and adjuncts and homemakers and computer programmers and pastors and custodians all deserve those things, not just teachers. So I continue to fight for me and my ilk, which is all workers, not just for teachers. This is partially in my own self interest. As long as the baristas are not free, I feel guilt every time I participate in the exploitation of a latte at Starbucks. I just found out that my favorite guilty pleasure clothing store (Anthropologie. I know. Awful. But the clothes were sooooo pretty) contributed to Santorum's presidential campaign, and now all their clothing is, well, santorum-covered and the spell is broken and I will no longer seek out their clothing and participate in taking away my own rights as a woman. And ever since I slipped off the ladder to ultimate academic success and a PhD, I realize more how fragile all footing in such hierarchies is. Today I am a teacher, but I am just one budget cut away from seeking work as a barista. And, it's partially from my ingrained sense of what is right and good. Even if it weren't in my self interest, I would probably act the same, from some inbred idealism. Anyway, this is kind of a rant, but it is important, damn it. Which side are you on? I am on the side of the turning.