Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day or International Worker's Day?

So, how will you be celebrating this first day of May?  Will you weave ribbons around a Maypole?  Will you go to a demonstration in favor of worker's rights?  Will you bring a bouquet of flowers into the house?  Will you sing "Solidarity Forever" or "L'Internationale"?

I imagine that most of us will go to our jobs on this fine May Day.  Well, those of us in the U.S. will go to our jobs, if we still have jobs.  May Day is a holiday in many other parts of the industrialized world.

In my elementary school in the 1970's, we had a May Day celebration that focused on flowers and Maypoles, not on workers.  Looking back, I'm amazed that our teachers were able to rig together a Maypole.  We spent weeks practicing the weaving of the ribbons in the Maypole dance.  We had a whole Mayday festival.  Parents came.  There was a Mayday king and queen.

Ah, those good old pagan school days!

I have spent most of my life in climates where Spring came long before the first day of May.  In fact, in most places I've lived, Spring has shifted into Summer by May 1.

My inner Marxist would want me to give up all pagan celebrations of beauty.  My inner Marxist would demand that I transform the workplace.

How I wish I could.  My inner Marxist and my inner 19 year old have amazingly simplistic ideas of how the world works and how much power individuals have.  That's why I both love my inner Marxist and my inner 19 year old and find them frustrating.

And yes, it can get a bit crowded in my head.

My tired worker self goes through her days noting convergences that other people might not notice and making poems out of the connections.  A few years ago, May Day, Ascension Day, and performance review deadlines all converged, and I wrote a poem, "Conducting a Performance Review on the Feast of the Ascension." 

Conducting a Performance Review on the Feast of the Ascension

I have wrestled
with these forms—a modern
crucifixion—for over forty
days. I spend more time
trying to coerce
the software into cooperation
than I do in assessment
of employee performance.

Regulations require me to assemble
the same information across several forms.
Employees must cobble
together thick packets of proof
that they’ve done what the forms
report, although if they hadn’t,
the work would have ground to a halt.

How I wish I could ascend
above all this bureaucracy,
that I could shower
my employees with all the glory
they deserve. I long to welcome
them with praise instead of forms.

Alas, the modern workplace
has yet to be redeemed,
and so, I slog
through forms and documentation and rubrics and scales
of pay. I protect my cowering, stressed
employees as best I can.
I whistle “Solidarity Forever” as I complete
the tasks that must be done.

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