Work makes you crazy. Or something. That's what a recent study of the Canadian workforce tells us. Around 44% of Canadian workers face or have faced mental health issues which have impacted their work, their work environments and their livelihood. The study seems not to differentiate between stress and mental issues caused by the workplace and those that were preexisting before said employment. And that's what I want to talk about.
How many people have worked in an environment where they felt completely safe? Safe to be themselves? Safe to dress as they pleased, speak their mind on issues no matter their opinion or personal politics? Safe regardless of their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion or any other factor that may differentiate them from the ruling class? If you're a white, heterosexual male, you probably answered yes. Actually, you probably answered something like: "Yo dawg, work sucks, but nobody gets on my ass about shit like that, nawmean? They just fuck with me when I'm late 'cuz I was at the club real late last night and I'm all hungover and shit. Fuckin' slave drivers."
For women, people of other races and religions and LGBTQI folks, the workplace is much scarier. At best, you're treated like a curiosity, especially if you're the only one of your particular group around. You'll probably be tokenized, asked questions about your group as if you're the spokesperson, be pandered to and talked down to. Your co-workers might try to "relate" to you. All of this is unwelcome and makes one feel like an outsider, an other. But, it can get much, much worse as I'm sure most of you can attest to.
Because even though discrimination in the workplace is technically illegal in Canada, well, not everybody gives two shits about that fact. And that's putting it mildly. Workplaces are rife with slurs, catcalls, derogatory names and jokes, unwanted physical contact, threats and violence. White, heterosexual males don't have to fear this stuff. They're usually the ones that're behind it, protecting their precious "freedom of speech" and being "caped crusaders in the war against the PC bullshit ruining this country" and whatever. Meanwhile workers of any marginalized group feel the inequality, knowing that their coworkers resent and hate them, chalking up the presence of minorities in the workforce to "quotas" and "affirmative action". And people aren't making the connection between oppressive environments like this and mental health issues? Really?
There's a bigger picture getting revealed here. Mental health issues in the workplace can be tied directly to rising rates of self-harm and the increase of hate crimes in Canada. There is a war going on here at home. And it goes on in homes and at workplaces and in public places and in private places. The war is against the oppressed groups, the people who already have it hard enough. Women, homosexuals, transgender folks, aboriginals, Afro-Canadians, Muslims, Jews, Indians and Hindus, and all other groups that aren't of the three pillars of the ruling class: White. Heterosexual. Males. These are your bosses, your supervisors, your rule-makes and rule-breakers. These are the people that hold your employment and livelihood in their hands nine times out of ten. These are the people that want you to laugh at their jokes, accept their workplace pornography and let their bigotry run amok. And if you oppose them? Well, look at the job market these days. They hold the power. But they need workers. Can we, as a workforce band together and demand better for everyone? Can we hold our brothers and sisters of all races, religions and identities high and demand the equality that would create not just safe workplaces, but safe communities, neighborhoods, towns and cities? Is this power in our hands? Not without organization and camaraderie within the ranks, no. But, if we can foster understanding with one another as members of the non-ruling class, and if those of us that fit the bill of the ruling class refuse to perpetuate the oppressive behavior, if we can stand up for the oppressed too, really stand up for them with no fucking ulterior motives, then maybe, just maybe change can come about. It's a longshot, but doing nothing will accomplish nothing. As long as we live in this society, we need to work. Our jobs shouldn't be the cause of so much misery and pain.
I stand behind any worker of an oppressed group who's ever taken a stand against a racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted employer. I stand behind any worker who actively tries to make a workplace more inclusive and friendly for all workers. I stand behind employers who implement and believe in their fairness and workplace protection polices, who actually protect their workers for the right reasons. I stand behind you, and wish there were more like you. It is you that should be the norm, and your example that should be followed. Thank you to all the brave employers and employees out there, working hard not just at their jobs, but at making their workplaces better. You are all truly heroes in this society. Thank you, really and from the bottom of my heart.