Sarita Sarvate

Eight-to-Five Treadmill

Nov 11, 2003

India Currents

BY SARITA SARVATE

Coming home from work late one evening re-cently, I found myself teary-eyed and ex-hausted. It was the day after the election and I was bemoaning the fact that we now had a killer-robot for a governor. I was sad, too, because summer had ended and autumn evenings were getting chillier and shorter. And I suddenly realized that I had reached a point in my life when my dreams would just remain dreams; that I would never have the kind of life I had once fantasized about. I would never perhaps be able to spend my days writing and thinking and cooking and tending to the children. I would never just be able to go out to my garden and literally smell the roses. I would never be able to earn a living doing what I love to do for free; namely write.

All these years, I had managed to escape the reality of work-life by working part time or working at home or finding bosses who allowed me flexible hours.

But all that changed recently when I got into a managerial position. Now I am expected to set an example for others.

Now I am on an 8-to-5 treadmill, with no end in sight.

And since I have to order my troops to carry out the edicts issued by the powers that be, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that we live in a despotic society where the chain of command is always from the top to the bottom.

Don’t let the superficiality of the corporate world dull you into a false sense of camaraderie and consensus. For, the truth is that in America, no one dares to tell the emperor that he has no clothes on any more. The bigger the corporate boss, the bigger the compensation package and the ego that goes with that package. So you sit in meeting after meeting, and watch people addressing each other by first names and acting as if they are all equal, while, in reality they are covertly pandering to the boss, and never, ever, telling the truth!

The sad thing is, the bosses who tell us to do the work often don’t do anything themselves. And what’s even worse is that the power to control trillions of dollars and billions of people is being consolidated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Once upon a time, we had what the liberals used to term the “military industrial complex,” which often ran counter to the machinery of the government and politics. But now, they have become one and the same people. Because, over time, the global corporations have wised up to the fact that if they can control the regulatory agencies, the Congress, and the president himself, they can rake in billions without worrying about offering healthcare to the poor or education to the kids or pensions to the old and the disabled.

And if they can influence the politicians to cut the taxes, and if, as a result, the government has no money to offer these services to the citizens either, then the rich are even better off. Because the workers, thus beleaguered, are only too eager to bust the unions and to take on low-paying jobs.

And the cycle goes on.

And somewhere along the way, the big conglomerates realize that if they can control the White House, why not control other governments of the world too? In the era of globalization, how long before Third World governments too are bought out by global corporations with the lure of paltry bribes lost in rounding errors of profits of companies like Exxon-Mobil? The Dabhol power plant project in India and the bribes Enron gave to politicians to reap excessive rates is a case in point.

And why is it that the people of the world aren’t speaking against the greed? Because, the voice of the public, the media, is also owned by the same folks who cook the books at Arthur Anderson and Enron and MCI and who give money to the political action committees. Take Dick Cheney, our vice president, or Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who also happens to be the son of Colin Powell, the victor of Gulf War I, and you see that we have become one despotic regime run by the emperor and his knights. But most people in America just don’t know it, because they are too busy commuting to work, and coming home late, and feeding the kids and flopping in front of MSNBC to get brainwashed, before starting the whole thing the next day all over again.

No wonder we voted for the “Terminator” for governor. Most of the public is too brain-dead to know the difference!

And all the time, our civil liberties are being seriously curbed under the pretext of threats from terrorists who simply happen to be people whose lands were once exploited and then abandoned by the same group of rich people.

And what’s worse, you can get thrown in jail for saying the kinds of things I am saying in this column if you also happen to be dark-skinned.

So I better shut up now before I get into an even worse kind of prison than the one I am in now, which is only within the confines of my cell at work.

Sarita Sarvate writes commentaries for Pacific News Service and KQED.