Monday, February 10, 2014

Human Dignity

Roughly ten years ago I took some classes at a culinary school.  One of my favorite classes was my pastry and bread making class, which is a bit ironic given my later Celiac diagnosis.  That, however, is not the point.  This class was taught by this talented and incredibly kind chef.  I learned a lot about baking from him, but the more important lessons I learned were about the value of work and of human dignity.

This particular chef had been born in East Germany.  He talked about the limitations that were placed on what kind of work he would be suited for.  Not every young person was permitted to go on to college or pursue technical careers.  He hadn't wanted to in any case.  He loved to cook and bake.  He wanted to be a chef.  This pursuit was supported by his family.  

And then the Berlin Wall came down.  Germany was reunited.  His family, once divided, was able to move back together on the Western side of the country.  Suddenly his dream had criticism.  In West Germany all young people were encouraged to study math and science.  They should want to go to college and become doctors, engineers, or academics.  Whatever they chose to do, nothing was lower than a job working with one's hands.  Chef was mocked, ridiculed, and paid horribly despite having a great education.  (And baking the best bread I have ever tasted)  He eventually moved to the United States.

In Germany, he was not valued even though he provided a service that was vital to the economy.  He was seen as a lesser member of society because he worked with his hands rather than in a science or math field.  (I would argue that proper baking involves an understanding of both science and math).  He was taken advantage of and oppressed by the larger society for not conforming, despite his skills being necessary to their comfort and lifestyle.

Though this chef found greater success here, we are no different.  We live in a country where CEOs of large corporations make as much an hour as their employees will make all year.  This is while many of these same employees need to work multiple jobs or rely on food stamps and medicaid.  Arguments are made that the work being performed is somehow 'lesser' than other jobs and careers.  It is not.  All work is work for the betterment of society.  All of it is necessary for us to continue to function.  The person who does back-breaking labor to pick fruits and vegetables for the tables, the person who prepares it in the kitchen, the person who serves it, and the CEO who runs the company are all necessary.  Just as the person who manufactures an item, the person who stocks it, the person who rings it up, the person who manages the store, and the store owner are all necessary.  None exist without the other.  All should be honored and valued.  All should be paid in a manner that they can feed their families.  None of them should be looked down on by those of us who depend on all of them.  

All people are worthy of respect.  The human dignity of another is in no way diminished because of what they do for a living.  They deserve to be able to make a living doing it.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Post-Online Dating

I met my lovely and very private boyfriend online in late 2012.  Knowing how adverse he is to any internet presence, I'm a bit shocked he signed up for an online dating site.  I, on the other hand, use multiple social networks so I suppose it isn't much of a surprise.

I communicated with several different people before I met He-Who-Desires-Privacy.  Most of whom I did not meet.  At some point during email exchanges or while texting before setting up a date, I would feel uncomfortable and decide not to meet some of these gentlemen.  All of this was more than a year ago.  I had not given any of it a second thought, until this January.

Not long after New Year's I received a text message from a number I didn't recognize.  It addressed me by name, apologized for not contacting me in so long, and asked how I had been.  I apologized and said I didn't recognize the number and asked who I was speaking to.  It turned out that this was one of the gentlemen that I had decided not to meet over a year earlier.  I politely told him that I had met someone and wished him well.

I find this dumbfounding.  I wasn't interested in meeting this person months earlier.  I was no longer on the dating website.  What made him think that things would have changed?  Why would he have kept my phone number?

But then it happened again.  In the last month, a grand total of four people that I decided not to meet (for various reasons) have attempted to contact me.  It's starting to feel a bit like a conspiracy.  I simply cannot understand this mindset.  These are people I did not even meet.  They are people I barely talked to.  And yet, here they are, more than a year later.

I can understand contacting someone you actually met and had a relationship with.  Perhaps we want closure or want to try to reconnect.  But someone you don't know?  More than a year after a pretty basic conversation?  All I can say is that I'm glad I didn't decide to meet these men.  I'm really glad I met the one that I did.