Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The day the music died

I was just informed by the powers-that-be at the place where I've worked for 4 years that I was no longer allowed to sing or hum while at work, because it is "unprofessional."

Maybe I could understand it if I had a god-awful voice and if the patients were complaining that they were coming in for back pains, but leaving with ear pains.

But that's not the case. Nobody lodged a complaint against me. On the contrary! Not to brag, but my coworkers regularly say they like my singing, that it brightens the place up, and that I have a good voice. Besides, I have a good-enough rapport with my coworkers that if one of them politely asked me to stop, I would immediately (half the time I'll just start absent-mindedly humming a tune and won't even realize it til I'm well into the second verse).

Why do I sing (and sometimes whistle) while I work? The reasons are manifold.

I sing in order to retain my own sense of humanity during those eight hours of the waking day that I don't really control -- indeed, when someone else really controls me. When some unaccountable, unelected bureaucrat can tell me what, when, and how to do something, whether right or wrong, and I have to do it.

I sing to mitigate the indignity of being paid just above the poverty level by one of the world's wealthiest institutions.

I sing to block out the incessant chatter of my bigoted coworker, indefatigably spewing forth disdain for people on welfare, people with eating disorders, the elderly, immigrants, unions, Muslims, antiwar activists, etc., etc.

Most of all, I sing as a way of saying, "My body and mind might be trapped inside these sterile walls, beneath these inescapable lights, bent towards accomplishing a monotony of tasks, surrounded by a group of people as utterly alienated as I am from one another and from themselves (each expressing it in their own unique way); all these things may be so, but at least my spirit, my soul, my yearning for beauty, humanity, universal freedom -- these things will still be mine. You cannot have them, too!"

Well, apparently they can.

As someone once said of that jealous God, the Capitalist, "he demands of the worker not just his labor-power, but also his very soul."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011