I fear that many of my co-workers are so high on recognition and glorification, they can’t see the real danger they’re in. It troubles me to hear about people like Jason Hargrove, the Detroit bus driver who died less than two weeks after a passenger coughed openly on his bus, or about how New York City’s hardest-hit neighborhoods are low-income and full of the working poor. I’m afraid that when a grocery-store worker does fall ill, the measures taken in response might lack transparency.
Cashiers and shelf-stockers and delivery-truck drivers aren’t heroes. They’re victims. To call them heroes is to justify their exploitation. By praising the blue-collar worker’s public service, the progressive consumer is assuaged of her cognitive dissonance. When the world isn’t falling apart, we know the view of us is usually as faceless, throwaway citizens. The wealthy CEO telling his thousands of employees that they are vital, brave, and noble is a manipulative strategy to keep them churning out profits.
I have immense gratitude for my job. I love my co-workers like family. I respect the company that has employed me and given me excellent health-insurance benefits for more than 16 years. The anger I have is not toward my boss, or my boss’s boss, or even that guy’s boss. It’s toward an unfair system that will never change if we workers don’t question the motivations behind such mythmaking.