You’ve heard the saying..
“Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you”
Well, I posit an adaptation:
“Character is how you treat those who serve you”
There is a snide attitude that exists among our extremely inter-connected and globalised societies: those who serve us are lesser. This is most prevalent from our views on what we would consider a part-time job or career route. Most of us would not take menial roles and the rest of us just try to avoid it.
We do not wish to serve others; even worse, we do not want to spend the rest of our lives serving others. That is a job for the failed people. Yet, it is clear that nobody chooses menial labour. Humans are not created simply to operate at a mechanical, sub-human level.
Even those who “chose” and revel in jobs that demand little mental stimulation are most likely placed in those positions because of unfettered capitalism that has made an inhuman choice, the only choice for them. Lets face it, nobody wants to do the same thing every day until eventual demise. Even those in extreme menial roles yearn for some kind of variation to their day-to-day responsibilities, and perhaps maybe some day a promotion.
Every one of us is unique and distinct in our contribution to the world. Martin Luther King. Jr once said:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well”
Indeed, this is a noble axiom. However, even this perennial quote is filled with contradictions.
The street sweeper’s capability to do “his job well” is measured by the level of greatness that is derived from the greatness of those artists, writers and music composers. I do not recall Michelangelo, Shakespeare or Beethoven living menial labour roles, and if they had spent their life doing so, would they have reached their level of greatness?
Therefore, to use individuals from privileged positions to judge someone of ostensibly low socio-economic status is nonsensical.
Anyway, my point is largely that most of us, especially the younger generations, look down on menial roles that would see us serving others. Certainly, there are some people who are proud to take on any role that renders their bank account a little fuller, but what is it about this condescending attitude that we have toward servors?
An interesting study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median fast food worker is about 29. A full 40 percent of minimum wage-earners, meanwhile, are in their prime working years of 25 to 54. This means that yes, fast food jobs may be the future. In fact, low-wage service work has been an exacerbating a trend that dates back to the turn of the century.
My feelings are this: we need to do away with this condescending attitude to near-servile jobs that are slowly but surely, becoming the future for our children in the developing world. Our idealistic aspirations about leaving school and landing our dream career may well be interrupted by a brief spell in the retail or fast-food industry. And there is nothing wrong with this. Our attitudes to those who serve us say less about them than they do about us.
My favourite thing to do is to address all those in server roles by their name. Yeah revolutionary I know. But, even the way we speak to them is emblematic of our deep societal flaw.
People in server roles have names. They lead lives outside of their workplace. They are humans just like you and I, and that means that they are not designed to live as robotic creatures who only utter the words “Hi, how may I help?” and “Thank you, is there anything else I can help you with?”.
Ask a cashier or fast food worker how they are, and look them in the eyes when you’re placing your order. Don’t text and talk. Show them appreciation for their role in aiding you with whatever you needed that day. Indeed, the way we speak to those who serve us is representative of how we view them, so if you speak to someone as though they are sub-human- they will feel sub-human.
And understand that people in server roles are not the “other”. It could very much be you in that position one day. So don’t patronise, pity or negate anyone in a server role, for server jobs may well be our future.