Are you a duo citizen, residing in the Stalinist Soviet Union during the day, the United States evenings and weekends?. Your days are filled with intrigues and the threat of intrigues. Paranoia and purges are the order of the day. You hope your name isn’t on the List. Others disappear, increasing your fear, but at least it wasn’t you this time. To paraphrase an astute commentary of the Third Reich’s rise and maintenance of power, when they came for them I did nothing. I continued in my indifference as they came for more and more thems. Finally I became a them. When they came for me, those left were as silent as I had been. But this has nothing to do with you. You would have stood up to Nazi Germany. Hell, everyone who wasn’t there would have, just ask them. But that 2 bit Stalin you have to answer to each workday is another matter. He’s really frightening. Besides, you have no time for ideals. You have a family to support. Just as profit makes cowards of business, the checks they provide do the same to the workforce.
You hope time passes quickly while the sun is up, so you can return to the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. It’s Uncle Sam versus Uncle Joe. We won the Cold War, but this one isn’t going well. It’s been said that the hours between 9am and 5pm are anything but democratic in the United States. But at least 5 pm does come and you’re right back in the good old USA. But are you really?. Does the trauma of the day leave as the sun sets?.You can try to drink Stalin out of your head, or adopt some of his tactics, yell at the kids, let off a little steam. But Joe is persistent. He has settled in permanently. His dacha inhibits a good part of your mind now. Those freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution only apply to government power. Employers can legally make your life a living hell, as long as they do it within certain boundaries. All the pride you hear expressed by others in the freedoms and greatness of America, mean little when you’re only here in body, your mind and spirit residing thousands of miles away, deep in Eurasia, 50+ years in the past.
Others prod you on. If it’s that terrible, get another job. You know they’re right. So you plot your move to another company or self-employment, determined to become a full citizen of America. But the legacy of the day intervenes. Depression, self doubt, questioning whether human nature is horrible and there’s no escape anyway, immobilizes you. All your energy is expended surviving the day and analyzing it during the night. Besides, you’re getting older. Employers say they don’t discriminate based on age. Everyone knows that’s untrue. But it’s impolite to call people liars, even as they’re lying. Maybe you should adopt an attitude of optimism. After all, didn’t Stalin eventually relent?. Well yes. He died.
The effect of the workplace is so great on an individual, so determinant of who he or she becomes, it’s surprising one’s occupation and employer aren’t listed on their tombstone. They only inform us of your loving relationships to relatives. But whether you’re a loving husband or wife, father or mother to this or that child, is often the result of the treatment you receive as you labor to support them. Your feelings for them may be the same regardless of where you work, but you have to feel a joy for life to express love properly. Perhaps we should acknowledge that fact at the end. Make our headstones accurate. I’d like to see, “Here lies John Bartlett, loving employer to the staff of the Johnson Corporation”, below his familial ties. And of course other markers will inform cemetery visitors, “Here lies Joseph Stalin. He got the job done. Now he has some explaining to do.”.