The Grim Reapers’ Grave Diggers…aka…Happy Halloween.
(Photo taken by me in China Town. Seems about right.)
“Satan is real working in spirit.
You can see him an' hear him every day.
Satan is real working with power,
He can tempt you an' lead you astray.”
--The Louvin Brothers, “Satan Is Real”, 1959, Capital Records.
In American lore once upon a time a man would decide he no longer was a child, picked a career path, and worked towards building his own life --while creating a family along the way. It wasn’t always easy, sometimes downright gritty, with oil on his face and dirt under his nails -- but he was determined, and fought for it because after all he chose it; both for the good and the bad.
Sure he hated his boss who lived in the fancy part of town and had the sweetest wife at home, and the sluttest secretary in the office. Plus he drove a Cadillac, and that automatically makes his a real asshole. But at work the man would always bite his tongue while the slob babbled until the day ended at five and he came home to his small suburban home with the flag flying high on the front lawn – greeted by his daughter whom he would kiss on the forehead in the sunshine, walk inside, pinch his wives ass as she made dinner, and just bask in the simplicity of a day’s work toward a life time of comfort.
But America has a way of taking a good thing and expanding upon it until it topples and becomes obsolete; rusted and rotting in the clutter of other failed goods. A vast wasteland of ideals, products, fads, ideas, phases, and even old Cadillac’s stinking to high heaven of greed, and power. The smell is of the worst kind, so bad it burns noses and rots minds. It’s the smell the maggots love and draws them to.
So the wastelanders living in the stench unite and start building upward, out of the disgusting odor, on a magnificent ladder reaching to the stars. It started small but over time it grew higher and higher as wisdom and order helped move things along. Generations went by and the wastelanders became hipsters and smell they were building away from was long gone, and the stars are within reach; but as the smell fades so does lessons that are left in the rot. Soon the builders, generations later, fall, and everything started again. Much as Sisyphus in Greek mythology ,we come so close to getting that rock to the top of the hill only to watch it roll back down again.
What if one day you woke up to realize you had unknowingly been working for the devil? Not maliciously or ever knowingly; but rather a job of opportunity, never really investigated. Does anybody really know who they work for, anymore? What would you do? How would you survive? Where would you run?? Job’s are in short supply, and God ain’t hiring anybody these days, as he’s over staffed as it is, and Jesus it’s hard to find a good carpenter!
Sure there are the lucky few who know the owner, or are lucky enough to work directly for an owner, but very few of us are anything more than a number in massive pyramid scheme, or a gear in a deeply evolved machine. We know are boss, and they know their boss, but nobody really knows the boss. Everybody seems to answer to somebody enslaved to the unknown. The only true freedom is death, and that comes at too steep of a cost. Plus no guarantees and all sales are final.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not calling all corporations evil (just most), and its true somebody has to make money. Order and structure and system allow us to grow. But if you believe in evil, then the concept can take on life in a business just as it could in any human since we are the breath of industry. I don’t know if I work for the devil or not, I’m not that privileged of a man to receive or possibly even comprehend what is happening at the top. I’ve never been a fan of heights and I get high enough on my own in these lowest of times. But I have seen the devils minion. Never a tail and horns, but rather a fat man in a suit teaching desperate sales slaves how to make old ladies cry by pretending their husbands’ are dead. After all it’s the ladies who out live the men. It maybe our only saving grace in this testosterone fueled megaplex of megalomaniacal mice and men. But this isn’t about them and to Quote Dylan they are, “Only a Pawn in Their Game.”
You see the fear Democracy always worries about is that one group, person, or company becomes more powerful then the workers, government, or collective mass. If that happens the system topples and all balance is lost in a system of checks and balances. Right now with information as free as it is, and money being gobbled up by the few, the tower is shaking and swaying with a wind storm in the forecast.
I know of a company that deals in the death trade. I won’t use their name, not to protect them, but perhaps to protect me. I’m not scared, I’m just desperate, two very different twins. For the sake of dramatics, let’s call them the Grim Reaper Corporation or GRC for short.
With massive money and massive power GRC whom owns a lot of cemeteries and funeral homes spends a good portion of their money lobbying congress and donating to politicians. In many ways they are re-writing the rules to favor them and expand their powers. So everything I’m about to tell is perfectly legal. Ethical? Probably not. Dignified? Definitely not. Shrewd and deceitful? Probably. Greedy? Absolutely. GRC is staffed with the best lawyers to fight against anybody who opposes them and has some of the highest ranking public servants on their side, including the last President of the United States who intervened on their behalf a time or two while Governor of Texas. They seldom break laws instead they just shit all over them while funding the creation of new laws to make sure they control the game, the world, and the workers.
Does law exclude the question of right and wrong? Good and evil? Greed is steam, its force, its blunt and when controlled it powers humanity and hammers in the nails of civilization. When greed is controlled completely, it, as does all force, becomes a weapon. Greed is in no short supply at GRC who find ways to use its workers like slaves and disallows them to find comfort or security in their jobs.
Every good grim reaper needs a good grave digger to finish the job and finally let a soul rest in peace. The grave diggers occupation is tough; both mentally and physically and just like the postal workers they work in the blistering heat, the brutal cold, the rain, the snow, and all of God’s temper tantrums. They are dirty in appearance, smart in mind, and respectful to everybody they deal with. It’s not for everybody, but for these guys it’s everything.
I know of a cemetery where four guys are employed to work all the burials, sometimes as many as 6 in a day, often times scheduled right on top of each other. It’s dangerous as they use heavy machinery to dig the graves and then place in a thousand plus pound concrete burial vault inside the tight holes they’ve measured and perfected as in a business as final is this mistakes are not allowed. Two of the guys who work at the cemetery one we’ll call Frank and the other we’ll call Hector have working at the cemetery since they were in their teens, and this is the only job they have ever had or known. Just like the old tales of the old world American worker.
Frank is a bit older in his forties. while Hector is right behind him in his mid thirties. Both kids when they started, now longer in the tooth and grayer and lesser in the hair. Over twenty plus years of doing the same job they have become masters of their craft, and know the park backwards and forwards and of course underneath. Their loyalty and dedication over the years has resulted in a decent wage they have worked hard for. Both men own homes, cars, and are responsible members of society.
About two years ago they made an average of 25 dollars an hour. A good and fair wage (GRC charges the family over 1,500 dollars to dig the grave) in today’s world, which has allowed them to leverage a comfortable setting for their families and themselves. A salary they worked their entire lives to achieve, and depend on. However last year GRC (who bought the cemetery around three years ago) stepped in and told them that they were making too much and the gravediggers (who are union) and GRC went to war.
GRC cried poor, which is interesting because they own land, and no matter how bad things get land always holds value. They said these guys made way too much money, and their salary should be capped at 18 dollars an hour where they stood firm in their two hundred dollar shoes. Now imagine you have a mortgage and a set fiscal cycle you balanced, and now all of a sudden without warning you are dropping 30% of your income because some guys said you had. These are the times we live in.
It was terrible but these guys were union and could always strike. So GRC being wise to the world of negations took all the superintendents aside and offered them a sweet deal to leave the union working directly for them leaving their brethren behind. They did, and a strike was avoided as leaderships head was cut right off with a knife that cut flesh and bone like a warm knife through butter. All that was left was a pool of blood and a salary cap that hurt these men severely. No question if the devil is real he danced a jig in the shadow of the moon light slipping and sliding and laughing in the pool of blood.
But what choice do they have? Where are these guys, who’s only qualifications and entire life work was digging graves, going to get a job that pays 17 dollars an hour in their first year, a year after taking an eight dollar an hour deduction? The handcuffs have been tightened to the pole and all they can do is take the beating until their master bores of the game or figures out a cheaper way to get their jollies.
In their mid thirties and early forties they men are dinosaurs in a world hurting so bad jobs are everywhere but none of them pay. An over inflation of education in our culture made the college degree as valuable as the fleeting American Dollar, in the lords year of the little date and time in the corner of your computer screen. If fired or laid off, these men’s lives would forever change most likely for the worst.
So they did the only thing they know how to do, and that’s work hard and get the job done. Sure the pay was lower but the future was scary and the jobs market a horror and something was better than nothing to stay in their professional homes. We are creatures of habit who seldom like change. The grounds staff, which at one time was upwards of fifteen man had been reduced from six, now down to four workers after a few layoffs Two experienced and two not. Thousand pound concrete vaults rushed into holes, rushed from burial to burial, these guys are asking for an accidental death and everybody knows it. Yikes. It’s dangerous and it will go bad, and they know it, but it’s what GRC wants and they always seem to get there way.
Now this year rolls around and the negations start up again. I’m not inside the negations, and none of the ground guys are talking. My information comes from what’s leaked from passing comments from no name people. What I’m hearing is the ground workers are asking for a one dollar raise and two extra workers to increase safety, and let them save a little face from the beating they took last year. Absolutely not says the Grim Reaper! Not even an option. As a matter of fact the always grim Grim Reaper wants to take away a few of the grounds guys days off, and eliminate overtime all together. Meaning these four guys are going to be forced to work twice as fast, to get the already large work load done, in less than forty hours.
So a strike is looming but probably will not happen. You see GRC is smart and they know how to play the game and run loops around guys who spent their entire lives in graveyards instead of law library’s and corporate seminars. GRC wants to maintain the cap while giving the other two guys who are not yet at the cap raises. This makes these workers happy now, who are unknowingly cutting off their future, while screwing over the guys who have been here their entire lives by avoiding a strike since it splits the workers, and GRC will win again. The tactic creates resentment and a dangerous work atmosphere which the GRC has very little concern with. Let them fight, let them be fired, let them be replaced by a lower wage and lower skill set worker. It’s their plan.
“Take the beating or look elsewhere,” the evil man smiles knowing once again these men have nowhere to go. The devils tactics and the greed that protects him is clear. What we can do to change it isn’t. Were all to scared of losing anything to help these guys who are losing everything. Tuesday is Election Day and before you vote I ask you to look at the candidates and find out where their money is coming from. Tracking the dollars is as important if not more important than tracking the issues. Because who are they working for? You, who just votes, or them who fund money and whip people to vote?
So what do you do? What does any of us do?
Happy Halloween 2010.