On a bright Swedish summer day of 2012, I walked into a the small Joe Hill museum in his birthtown of Gävle.
The story of Joe Hill is that of a young man who crossed the Atlantic in 1902 with the hope of a better life. After loosing both of his parents, he needed to cater to his own future. Appalled by the precarious working conditions in place in the New World, he soon became an active member of the IWW, an inclusive workers’ union, open to female and foreign labour force.
Joe Hill was convinced of the power of music and lyrics as a means of conveying important messages to peers and thus became a prolific song-writer for the workers’ cause. His turbulent life ended tragically at the age of 36. He was accused of murder, submitted to a very controversial trial and finally executed in November 1915 in Salk Lake City. The trial and execution are considered to have been an efficient way of eliminating a popular activist. “Don’t mourn – organize” was his motto.
Walking out into the broad daylight, I could not help but feel sad for the injustice suffered by a young person sacrificed as a pawn in the name of his beliefs.
At the beginning of the 20th century, workers’ unions asserted the right of those performing the actual wealth-producing toil to own and control the means of production. This claim is as topical and utopic today as it was back then.
Since then, large numbers of people in the west have landed on the soft cushions of the middle-class, and concerns over the fate of the working class have faded into oblivion. Reaping the wealth produced by capitalism, our views of the world and of our own situation have changed.
Fundamental principles of human dignity are ostracised as marginal thoughts, labeled as belonging to some extreme political persuasion.
However, the core of the problem is the fact that we have been brought up with a fragmented perception of the world that surrounds us. Behind all the layers of right, left, center, low-class, high-class, socialism, and capitalism, there must be some long-standing principles that make up our dignity as human beings. Principles that are inherent to life in society and independent of boxes created in our minds and projected into reality.
If we could wake up from the lethargy of brands and tags, maybe we could live our lives in a more balanced way. Asserting our rights to be happy and wealthy in a non exclusive way, respectful of others.
What is happening in Greece at the moment is a great example of what takes place when the vultures of the markets are unleashed in the detriment of true politics.
There are many aspects to the coin. On one hand, the crisis was inevitable. A state impoverished by corruption, and a system favoring the powerful and wealthy was doomed to collapse.
However, the way the crisis is handled is definitively not beyond critics. Austerity measures with dubious support are proposed by the outside and implemented by a puppet-show of politicians. Money has to be produced fast. But how can a failed system be corrected if the weaker strata of society are punished and left without recourse? How is this so much talked about development going to take place. By whom?
I am really not that convinced about the intentions of the European Union to stand united in diversity and support the principles of prosperity and peace on its entire territory.
Big German companies are involved in bribery scandals, war equipment is sold in quid pro quo arrangements to the Greek government at the same time as the Chancellor is going back and forth on the financial support in dramatic negotiations.
It seems that there is no will for a real political solution. Some analysts even claim that Germany may announce a referendum on the euro on the occasion of the 2013 elections.
Capitalism, market economy, plutocracy, debtocracy, dominate the vital space of citizens….
In the meantime, people around me have stopped watching the news and are happy with the mild weather so far. With petrol prices soaring at around 1,30 per litre, people are looking into alternative solutions, including wood, air-co, pellet stoves and natural gas (not available in all parts of Greece). Heating costs are just impossible for a normal household to bear.
During last year’s harsh winter, my friend and her family slept on mattresses in the living room, at a comfortable distance from the pellet stove.
On the other hand, 3500 persons have killed themselves in acts of desperation, pushed by a stagnating economy and the untouched realities of their personal dramas.
The basic salary is currently set at 586 euros (collective labor agreements are soon to be cancelled by the disputed loan agreement), and a rental apartment cost at least 200 euros a month.
An unsolved survival-riddle for many in these days when applied mathematics are in full swing.
“And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God, Ecclesiastes 3:13″.
Old time-classics never fall out of fashion. Hopefully fads do.