Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy International Workers' Day!

My fellow Americans, today is May Day! International Workers' Day! Do I hear a Huh? It's just like soccer. You Americans (actually, us Americans, now I'm a citizen - Hallo Arizona!) are so cut off from the world.
Here the closest politicians can come to supporting the masses is: "I'm for the hardworking middle class!" A dynamite slogan if ever I heard one. And that's what the Democrats have to say.

Here we should have International Capitalists Day! I see them marching below the rippling red flags of individual money making liberty... Anyway, I have a fond feeling for May Day having worked in a workers' paradise (the old Peoples' Republic of Yugoslavia) for seven years. The Yugoslavs, of course, especially the Serbs, were the last ones to celebrate working. They were much better at holidays. "Mary!" I was always warned: "Only marry a Slovene!" Slovenia was up on the Austrian border and full of quiet, hardworking husbands. I was down south with the Serbians, Albanians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Turks and gypsies.

Before eight o clock classes at the Faculty of Philosophy, we would all go down to the buffet to get started with coffee and a brandy. Then again for a second brandy and coffee; "elevenses" as my dear colleague Kornel called it. Even better was the invitation from the Chemistry department- they always had the real stuff in a drawer somewhere - homemade plum brandy from someone's village.

And then, at lunch time everything stopped and didn't start again till four. But in Belgrade it was the same. Yugoslav's attitude to work came to international attention when the capital of the Peoples' Republic became the first, with much fanfare, to welcome a McDonalds. So many Belgraders lined up to apply! It was all so bright and golden and western! But after a few months Mcdonalds was having a big problem. As the employees explained to the reporters: "They want us to work!"

That is, not put on the coffee, and slip out to the market to buy the vegetables and water melon for lunch, to sit down with Politika and check the football results. McDonalds wanted four solid hours, half an hour off and then another four.

Actually, coming from England, I am shocked at the American work day myself'. I've done a lot of jobs in my time, from kitchen worker, to Ministry of Pensions, to selling at Harrods, to working on a farm and everywhere it was ten (really fifteen minutes) tea break in the morning, an hour for lunch - and the tea break in the afternoon. Here? Grab a few minutes AM and PM and just half an hour in the middle.

I should be unfurling my workers' flag and arousing the masses. Don't Tread On Me! would be a good one too. Certainly the way things are at the moment, there should be a lot of able-bodied men and women just hanging around, free to march. So perhaps, on reflection, this is not quite the right year.

1 comment:

  1. With all of those breaks and drinking, it is a wonder they ever got anything done.