Tethering

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“Somewhere a vital connection is made.”  – Elastica

I’ve always think of comparisons between a leash and a headset, that’s why I never wear one at work.

To me, the headset symbolizes my generation; we’re tethered to what we do.  The calls made to us, the videos whose words we transcribe, the tutorials we watch to write articles.  Tethered and chained, I guess, responding to orders like protocols and rules, working for what falls off the table of the global village.  An entire world-view, at least in metaphor, can be shaped by cubicles and high-rise offices, the connection between the computer and the ear.

Reading Mong Palatino’s privilege speech made me think of grand things that can help my generation.  The first thing that comes to mind is a Magna Carta for BPO workers: one that outlines the rights of a BPO worker under his or her unique situation in the realm of labor.

I think of struggles for proper wages and benefits, fair working hours, better working conditions, the right to health insurance, the right to organize.  and the right to security of tenure.  A meaningful document.  Yet somehow, the fire of that idealism is tempered by a cold, hard dose of reality; the business thrives here precisely because of the things that are not here.  So much so that we kind of take that reality for granted, that the way things are is infinitely better than the way things could be.

And so, a cycle of capitalism continues.  New forms of oppression, new forms of subjugation, new forms of domination.  We’re back to the same-old-same-old that keeps everything in place, the things that make everything stay the same.  A tethering, so to speak.

Yet what do I know, anyway?  These are the tasks of policymakers, of a previous generation, both of whom already betrayed us anyway, that’s why we’re here.  It is not without a hint of bitterness, and with every hint of truth.  Never mind who spoke on it.  We need it.

I’m a writer, and it’s not my business to make policies or to moralize, or to make a homily from the pew.  The most I could do is describe.  I could only describe people my age living on cigarettes and energy drinks.  Automatons; robots in the factories of the information economy, turned human by beers and coffees they can scarcely afford.  Like machines, they break down, and like beasts of burden, they keep working, and you find yourself, one way or another, neck-deep with them on it.

Workers defined by ID numbers, by protocols, by whatever ailment they get from working.  A slow process of surrender: surrendering things like rights because of onus, and the animus developed from working conditions… in the end, just anathema.  It’s not how you go, it’s when you go.  Usually, it’s when you give in.  When you give up.  When you don’t, you stay.  Tethered.

Headsets, protocols, rationalizations.  Is there any hope?  Perhaps a Magna Carta for BPO workers.  Something concrete, something we can lean on, something we can pin our hopes and dreams on, before even that is taken away by the way we live, and the way our environment makes us live.  That in the process of a voiceless generation that uses its own voice to make a living, there should be a movement and legislation towards rights that our forefathers held so precious: pay, dignity, justice, fairness, better working conditions, the right to organization.  Things that are not here may make business better, but these are things that should be here by virtue of a history of struggle to get them to the workingman.

The epigraph to my Dumaguete writers’ workshop manuscript reads from the last words of Franz Kafka in The Trial: “‘Like a dog,’ he cried, as if he meant the shame of it to outlive him.”  Perhaps this is what a failed generation has to bear and has to resolve: a better way, a path out of kennels.  A way out of a connection defined by tethering, to be human beyond the San Mig Light and the Starbucks frappucino.

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