Wednesday, July 25, 2012

JJ's Words of Wisdom Part II

"Maybe you make the blood spill into the other dude's boots, just to fuck with him."
JJ, describing pranks on the slaughterhouse floor with a twinkle in his eye.

I was privileged to get a private performance of life on the slaughterhouse floor. It really did the trick of removing any desire I had to participate in that process. I think when JJ lit his joint up and toked a bit and launched into his story I was the happiest I'd been in months. I thought, "This is the good stuff. This is priceless."

If I had videoed the performance I think I'd win an award but I'll attempt to relay the highlights. But I can't relay the tone that JJ used, the casual drawl that was impeded by the joint that was in his mouth. You'll have to imagine that part.

"What happens is the cow comes onto the killing floor through a metal trail. He don't know what's about to happen but some of em suspect something and they get mean, shitting, running, mooing, trying to escape, right? So, they come to the dead end and there's this guy sitting down in front of them on the other side of the bars, like he's sitting on a tractor so the cow calms down because he's seen men on tractors before. But this man has the cattle hammer and he puts it to the cow's skull and, wham, the pneumatic cylinder pops out and cow drops dead. Then the floor slides apart a bit and two legs slip into the crack and a man underneath him will latch onto two legs with a chain. If the cow didn't die then that's what the man up in catwalk with the rifle is for. He shoots the cow dead, but then there's a bullet and that slows shit down. Now remember that we kill and slaughter and butcher a cow every 90 minutes so we'll box up 18 cows a shift. So we're moving."

JJ pauses a moment to scratch the bed bug bites from the infested Salvation Army emergency mats. The sun is blazing and it's already 95 degrees at 8am. Nothing can survive in this heat. Joe, the person who picked JJ up off the side of the road somewhere near Dallas is relaxing on his back on a wooden truck bed. He slept in a wooden cargo box on the back of his beaten truck. He's rubbing his arthritic knee with an emotionless expression and says, "That seagull likes the top of that telephone pole" as he looks up in the sky. I'm rotating my right arm which has been severely crippled from the scar tissue in my collarbone calcifying. I can't sleep. Movement is agony. A mother with three kids is trying to comfort them on the street. The kids are screaming in the early morning and running around wildly. The woman grabs the boy by the arm and he cries. His mother tells him that's what he gets for not obeying her. It's an impossible situation that everyone ignores. Another mother walks up with baby on the hip. The two women talk in loud voices as the boy sniffles. A homeless man who wasn't allowed into the shelter because he was drunk sleeps in the bushes nearby. Two stray dogs run across the street. JJ continues,

"So, the trap doors open up completely and the cow swings down and the man with the chain metal apron comes up and slices the cow from here (JJ indicates the throat) to here (JJ indicates the hip) but don't hit the bone or else you'll be sharpening your knife all day. So the guts and blood and piss all come pouring out (here's where you can play a prank on your coworker and have the guts dump into his boots, hahah). What is left of the cow moves down the track and the leg man makes a little cut and then grabs hold with a hook and pulls all the meat off. In 90 minutes that cow is in a box in a refrigerator."

JJ's performance was as dramatic as any life or death struggle. He described the ways you could lose a finger, the hazards, the risk and the lack of reward. Joe also described life as a commercial truck driver where he worked for a year driving 3500 miles a week and was unable to save any money and he wasn't allowed to live in his truck on the warehouse property so he parked it at a state park and it was towed and he bicycled 90 miles in the Michigan winter to buy it back. JJ's career in the slaughterhouse was shortlived but he learned tricks with a knife that earned him a career as a cook. I come away from this story a little closer to a utopian philosophy than before. It's a crooked path and a futile path because no one ever sees their utopia realized but should that stop me? What has always bothered me is how a slaughterhouse worker gets paid $8 an hour for 12 hours of non stop work that is hazardous and dangerous and will culminate in bodily destruction and madness, but a lawyer or financial advisor makes $1.5 million punching a calculator...but would collapse in a heap of cow blood after 20 minutes with a knife in a slaughterhouse. Unless you can and have done all the "menial" jobs that pay $8/hr then you don't qualify to do a job that pays $250/hr. I'm crazy and stupid but the way I see it, the man in the slaughterhouse is holding a pair of aces and the stock broker has a broken straight...but the broker is bluffing that he has a royal flush. This is my Che Guevara moment as I visualize the entire world as a poker game where the winner doesn't always have the best cards but sometimes pretends he does. He bluffs. Because in a game where all the cards are face up the stock broker would be on his hands and knees begging the slaughterhouse worker to do that job. "I'll give you anything." would be his plea. It's totally fucking backwards that the slaughterhouse grunt is going to be as broke by the end of the week as he was at the beginning but the stock broker makes a cut of every failed transaction. That's all wrong and it's been my habit lately to tell people that the wages are too little for what we do and that we're more powerful than anyone knows.
There's a strike going on at the Caterpillar manufacturing plant in Illinois. I'm sure you all have heard of it. Basically, it's men who are worth $100/hr and are paid $24/hr being asked to make $15 an hour for a job that basically the entire free world depends on because it's farm equipment that an average stock broker couldn't operate if the Lehman brothers paid a trillion dollars for training. Because physically most people can not harvest lettuce or operate heavy equipment or drive trucks 3500 miles a week or slaughter cows at a pace of 18 a day. See? Physically there are people who depend on the kindness of laborers to do this work. When someone tells me these laborers do work that is "easy" I know that I have met a person with his head in his asshole and I inch closer to homicide. Labor work such as machining and food harvesting is not valued, but it is actually invaluable. Stock brokerage is actually overvalued and arguably harmful. These labor occupations are jobs that most people can not do because they are weak or old or lazy. But I'm not talking about emptying the slot machines of Bellagio tokens. This is essential labor to keep 313 million people alive. Not everyone can be a doctor who specializes in knee surgery...and furthermore, the doctor is being subsidized by the labor of his mechanic and the labor of the farm worker and the machinist in Joliet and the slaughterhouse cow gutter in Corpus Christi. The doctor's efforts can not be considered "more important" than the machinist's efforts and a grave injustice has been done when a doctor justifies his insurance fraud billing scams on "the cost of education". That is not a justification because everyone knows the cost of educating a doctor has nothing to do with the education and is completely a voluntary subsidy for research done by his professors and graduate students. That's how universities work...the tuition is funding research. The lectures and lab time is a nominal byproduct since the research tech happen to be in the vicinity of the classrooms. So, fuckhead, do not justify your mercedes benz that I have seen two men spend two hours detailing with high tech vacuums and air fresheners because you spent more money on your education than them. Their work is no less valuable than yours.

That's, unfortunately, the premise of Communism and every poor person eventually scientifically establishes that he is underpaid because...blah blah blah. Of course, who but an asshole would say, "I'm not worth more than $7.25 an hour to break my back building expensive buildings. Give me more weight to carry and less money because I'm dumb and I deserve pain."

Again, it's a bluff because the myth is that "someone can always come along and move Masonite sheets up 6 flights." Really? Anyone can do that job? I disagree and I'll tell you why: in the end the Masonite sheets must be where they belong. Lawyers can lose a case, doctors can lose a patient, teachers can flunk a student, but, when it comes to a dead cow, the meat must end up in a box in a refrigerator. There's no margin of error. My cable harnesses had to work 100% of the time or else the semi conductor equipment wouldn't work. I applied for a bus mechanic job and what do you think is the acceptable number of buses that I can have crash and burn? Take a wild guess.

So, I'm not done with my research quite yet into sociological failures and utopian pipedreams but here's my latest vision:
Equity in income because no job is more important than another. We all subsidize one another. The cost of education is irrelevant to your income.
No government official can be a business owner or have any conflict of interests.
All cards face up.
Union strikes are men bravely starving so their kids will not be spit on by companies. Choose your allies carefully.
Joe has been talking about a Constitutional Banking system so I'll add this one on his behalf: No More Printed Money.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.