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The white cow and the whip

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

I see the image of that white cow kneeling, as if asking for redemption and hear the whistling noise of my grandfather’s whip hitting her flesh.

I see her, kind brown eyes flooded with tears, looking into mine and begging for help. I was just a child, but I would pour my whole heart into trying to push the carriage along with the animals, hoping for a miraculous success that would put an end to all the unwanted pain and suffering.

But the heavy load wouldn’t move an inch no matter the effort!

I hear my little voice asking my grandfather to stop hurting her because she obviously cannot move forward with such a heavy load and his voice answering:

You’ll see that she can!”

And every single time he was right. Heavily struck by the biting whip, the animal would make the humongous effort and the carriage would move over the hill. He knew that she could, he knew that when struck by pain and suffering any living being can end up crossing unimageable thresholds.

But what I could never understand was: Why?

Why do people believe that achieving results by the force of whip, through inflicting pain and suffering to any living being is acceptable?

Why couldn't we just consider not crushing other souls to get the results that we want?

Why couldn’t those loads just purposefully be made less heavy?

Why couldn’t the loads of any living be purposefully made less heavy?

How can we enjoy achieving success at the price of betraying our own sense of humanity?

Why do we put material possessions and achievements above everything when life on this planet could be so much better for every single one of us if only, we would choose to live our lives from a place of kindness?

Decades away from that moment in the “glamour” of my London life the image of that poor white cow would never leave my mind as I felt that same situation repeating again and again at most of my jobs.

The difference was that now I was the one at the end of the whip, feeling its metaphorical strike again and again over my own flesh, only this time I was not alone. I was joined by an entire category of human beings pushed daily to the breaking point by incompetent, or most of the time, just ill-advised management.

Management which would not only believe that reaching targets excuses any means but would also miss the fact that the same targets sought, were made unachievable by their unethical practices, and by the way they treated their most valuable resource: their people.

Completely senseless rules that would have a crippling effect on people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Doors that needed to be kept open in the middle of winter as if customers would not be able to find them when closed, resulting in numb bodies purposelessly and repeatedly hit by the incessant cold for hours upon hours for absolutely no reason: pointless!

Malfunctional heating systems and freezing rooms where despite terrible conditions people were being pushed to meet targets and expectations when undertaking manual labour, even though they weren't feeling their own bodies anymore.

I recall the painful sensation of my frozen fingers trying to wrap those blessed sandwiches in slippery plastic bags while feeling so numb that I had almost no control over what my fingers were doing.

People in cancer remission with an already compromised immune system, being forced to use toxic cleaning substances, without protection equipment, because those provided were so worn and torn to make the entire process even more dangerous with use.

People finishing work at 1am being forced to return to work at 6am, not because there is any real need for this, but because someone just does not care enough to pay the slightest bit of attention whilst making a rota.

I remember the scandal when one of my colleagues was caught sleeping in a closet because the time in between his shifts was barely sufficient to be able to make the travel home back and forward to say nothing of the pointless waste of money on public transport.

The righteous indignation and the harsh judgment from the same managerial team, which denied him the right to use the staff room overnight, because you see, minimum wage paid employees have no rights.

They have no right to be respected, no right to be supported and no right to sleep in an empty room for a few hours while their superiors have all the rights to make them work in conditions that could easily affect their mental and physical wellbeing.

I also remember that young pregnant girl, shamed, and threatened to be sent home because she had been caught crying while cleaning empty hotel rooms, found in a state of depression and despair, her crying was met with the inhuman attitude of her superiors. I do agree that crying employees do not give a good impression to customers, but inconsiderately kicking a person when is already on the floor is no example of either ethical or efficient management practice.

I know from experience that a good word and an understanding ear can be much more effective in stopping tears and improving performance than threats and harsh judgment ever could.

I remember my colleagues complaining about crippling back and hip pains due to the fact that the working equipment had been positioned in unsafe ways and the floor of the place where they were forced to spend long working hours was uneven forcing them to keep their bodies in unnatural position for most of their working day.

I also remember the numerous customers asking what kind of an idiot had come up with our unusual and unsafe working system and how avenged I would feel seeing these strangers arrived from very different corners of the world and very distinct cultural backgrounds exhibiting a much more profound sense of humanity and respect for human life than my employer ever could.

I also remember myself almost crying inside at the idea that no matter the reality that I was confronted with most of my days, there were still enough beautiful and humane people in the world to make life on this planet worthwhile.

I remember that lovely lady so enraged with the rude behaviour of my colleague from the bar telling me that I shouldn't accept such unpleasant attitude. You see she was some kind of wellbeing counselor and her job was to provide a happy working environment for the companies she was working with. I remember how amazed I was by the simple idea that some companies care about their employees wellbeing just enough to hire a person that can help them provide that.

It seemed to me much more like a concept jumped out of a fiction book than a probable reality.

Still, got fascinated with her person and wondered what would the nice lady say if she knew that this person she so blatantly judged had finished work just a few hours before starting again and had under his belt way more than the maximum number of hours allowed by British law per week, hours worked in terrible circumstances in a place lacking any kind of proper management and continuously understaffed.

Is it even ethical to ask kindnes, respect and strong work ethics from a person that is not receiving any of it from his superiors and whose body and mind are incessantly hit by stress,humiliation and frustrating helplessness during long working days?

The paradox is that while every single day at most of my jobs I would be met with dehumanising circumstances I would also everyday keep meeting countless kind and beautiful people in appearance strongly concerned with the state of the world, human rights and even my own health and safety.

Two parallel realities that I would only ever be able to reconcile in my dreams.

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