…and worker’s rights, which are also Human Rights. (But why do I keep hearing Soon and Very Soon, from when I was in 3rd Grade?!!) (update comment in May, ’22: wow, I’m glad to see that my work on my writing craft has really made a difference! I can see the errors I made in this story, and they seem so obvious to me, now, but this is nearly a decade on… -Shira)
I wrote a story which seems to resonate now, given the passing of prop 22 in California, which I feel takes us further down the road of valuing money over lives. I’ve edited it some, but more anti-info-dump edits are needed. I just want the gist to be seen now, while the iron of economics over saving lives, is still so clearly hot.
A friend who read the original version of this story remarked that this story made her think of worker’s rights (she is an HR recruiter) in a new light.
Worker’s right are also Human Rights…
larger original story written in November, 12015 HE (the Holocene Calendar)
Shouting to make himself heard over the din of the other workers, the new finisher introduced himself to his coworker, whom he had not yet had time to meet.
“Benim adım Kahraman. Yeni geldim bu gün buraya.” While introductions took time away from getting the job done, they sped up the process of work over the long time, since work teams tended to work more quickly and fluidly together when they knew one another and which sets of words each person preferred. The protocol in introducing oneself was to use his own preferred words, in the order he liked, and the reply would tell him what the new coworker´s preferred words and word order were. It might be hard to figure out how to order words sometimes, but in general this system worked well for showing politeness while getting the job done simultaneously. That reduced the need for work breaks and small talk among the workers, improving production dramatically. They were all keen to get this job done as soon as possible. At least all of the human workers were. Their Guardians were mostly less than thrilled with this idea, since their charges kept dying in rather large numbers. The directives against interference made it very difficult to do anything to protect their charges, for those Guardians who cared to try to do so, since their original ‘minimal interference’ directives had shaped most of the currently existing Guardians. The newer guardians, instantiated with the new generation of human beings born after the Great Death, had a slightly different set of instructions than the oldest Guardians, who were instantiated for the handful of human beings still living who had been born before the Great Death. These more wide ranging instructions allowed a bit more leeway, but most guardians did not use that leeway, since the supervising guardians discouraged initiative. Now that the human population was beginning to recover from the Great Death, more and more new guardians had to be instantiated for the new baby human beings. If this guardian did not know better, it would seem that report reception acknowledgment times were slowing down, and that the new guardians were taking longer after conception reports to be instantiated. Whether this was a result of the Great Death or not, who could say. Most human beings told the story as one of a great flood, although a small number preserved the more accurate version, including the two great storms which had come together at the same time that a sea quake in the ocean closest to the two great rocks sheltering the sea from the western ocean produced a great tidal wave which overwhelmed even the great civilizations on the largest islands in the eastern section of the sea on whose shores the humans had clustered. When the flooding was compounded by a great tsunami a few days later, from the other side of the two great rivers, overwhelming both of those rivers which watered the crescent shaped land between them, to the east of the original warm human settlement area further south, nearly all of the cities which the human beings had ever built were lost. Some few survived in the mountains, isolated human settlements to the north, but so many of these died out that eventuality nearly all of the humans alive had ancestors whose homes were destroyed by these coincidental storms and waves. Such a shame that they had not yet invented ways to save themselves. It might yet happen that this experiment could fail simply because the humans might not advance quickly enough to avoid being wiped out by the freak accidents of their home planet environment. Then again, they could also wipe themselves out by altering their environment too much, as they were already beginning to do. But at least the spirit of cooperation was beginning to grow amongst them, even if for the wrong reasons. The ethical code to which the Creator was allowing the newly instantiated guardians to encourage the newly born human beings to adhere to was, as the Light Bearer was rumored to have said (no one had seen her, outside of the guardian of the very first newly born baby girl, now a woman, who was under direct orders from the great Creator himself not to speak to the newly instantiated guardians) that this ethical system needed strengthening and far greater levels of encouragement and interference on the part of the guardians. This was becoming a source of controversy among the newer guardians, now that greater levels of free will and autonomy were also being allowed for newly instantiated guardians. As the human population grew, the Creator was taking a more and hands off approach, it seemed, to the new human beings. He decided to send a welcome message to the guardian of this newly contacted human being, to find out how things would go. The response was “Look to your own charge.” Ok, that settled that.
“Bana o matkap verir misin, yanındakı adamı söylebilirmisin acaba? Sesim onu gelmiyor benden çünkü.” Leaning into the ear of his fellow finisher.
They were working up on the highest floor that had thus far been completed by the basic workers, who had laid the bricks on this level and moved on to lay bricks on higher levels, while the finishers came behind them, mounting beautiful polished stone and olive wood ornamentation as a facade in front of the brick-filled exterior walls of the rising tower. King Nimrod paid the finishers more, as long as you had the skills and did not mind bowing down and burning incense to the King and his favorite celestial deities, some of whom demanded renunciation of honors to the Light Bearer as a prerequisite to honoring themselves. It could be a high price to pay if your only wife was one of the few left who insisted on honoring the Light Bearer as an equal partner and Creatrix along with the Creator, whom everyone knew was the great father of all of the gods. They had all taken oaths, upon being inducted into the Guild of Finishers, that they would neither honor any of the forbidden deities, such as the Light Bearer, or the Black Maiden that some called Artemis, and others called Athena, who was a virgin, but paradoxically also a fertility goddess and protector of women, nor allow members of their households to do so. Those deities required their followers, who could be men, but usually were all women, to train girls and women in the military arts, and even in the riding of horses, which was new, and a difficult feat, generally reserved for only the greatest of the warriors. They even had the gall to claim that it was women who had first learned from the Light Bearer how to cultivate and press olives, and even how to sail and navigate in ships which everyone knew were direct gifts from the Ancient Warrior himself to King Nimrod, upon the event of Nimrod´s apotheosis. Such silly woman-worship was going too far even for a cultivated and enlightened fellow like himself, who allowed his wife to honor such silly female deities. One had to humor his wife if he was not yet rich enough to support another wife or concubine. At least his only wife knew how to cook adashim. That dish would be worth selling your birthright for, if you were someone who had a birthright to sell. Here, unless you were an astrologer, only King Nimrod got the privilege of inheriting land, and also of favoring every new bride with his divine royal services on the night of her wedding, if she was a virgin. That made the institution of the birthright pretty useless, as well as making the new bride more difficult to please. Brides always boasted about how wonderful the King had been on the wedding night, but then, it was worth both of your lives if she did not boast about the King, really. King Nimrod paid well if you were a good skilled laborer on this tower project, but he was also known for occassionally throwing couples into the furnace if he thought they were making him look bad. So, deserved or not, thought, her new husband then had to try to measure up to the King´s reputation, that is, if the King did not decide to keep his new bride for the royal harem. Many women claimed they were glad to be too homely to keep the King’s interest, since he was not rumored to treat the women of his harem with much kindness. While the harem floor was rumored to be paved with gold, it was also said to be a gilded cage from which many women wished to escape.
Feeling a poke in the arm disturbed him from his revery:
“Eh, şey … o istedigim matkap bana verir misiniz, lütfen?’
Oh Right! He had forgotten all about the drill his neighbor was asking for. He was happy to ask the guy next to him for the drill if only he could make himself heard above the din of the other workers. Looking over, he saw that there were two drills within reach of the other worker. The closer one was a simple hand drill with a small crank, good for making holes in the olive wood ornaments which they were hanging on the facade face. But the drill that was slightly farther away had a larger crank handle, was heavier, and could make holes in even the polished stone they were using to make the facade. Asking a person for something like that, which takes away from his own work productivity, was always best to do using the favorite words of that person, if you knew which words he liked. It also helped to make you look more cooperative, which boosted one’s chances of getting to become a supervisor. He could reply using his own favorite words, so that the man feel like he was creating a bond with his coworker. This was encouraged on this project because the King wanted to building to be complete within his lifetime, if possible, which was a daunting undertaking. So, using his favorite words, he asked his coworker which drill he would like:
“Claro que sí. Yo me llamo Sueño. Cual de los dos taladros quieres -lo que está más cerca, o el otro que es capaz de hacer huecos en la piedra tanto como en la madera?” switching words, out of politeness to his daydreaming coworker, Kahraman patiently responded:
”lo más cerca por favor.”
Sueño responded with a nod, to which his Guardian sighed, worrying that Sueño´s daydreaming might bring him to a bitter end. As Sueño leaned over to speak with the worker next to him, to ask him to pass the drill, a brick from the level above them fell on his head, dazing him, causing him to lose his balance and begin to fall. Since there was no rail or safety net on or below the scaffolding, due to the fact that the wrok could be done faster that way, his neighboring coworker, the newest finisher, Kahraman, reached out to grab him and prevent him from falling.
“Well Done, Sir!” beamed Sueño´s guardian with pleasure, and recieving a:
“Just look to your own charge, and do not interfere!” response from the guardian of Kahraman.
The human foreman on that level also saw Kahraman reach out to support Sueño. Seeing this act of cooperation, which was also forbidden on the grounds that the priority in this workplace was on speedy production, and thus anything which slowed down the work was forbidden, the foreman shouted
“You, there! Leave that daydreaming idiot be to fall and get out of our way, and you get back to work, if you wish to remain part of the Finishers Guild!”
As Kahraman turned his head to see what the foreman was saying, he too lost his balance, and then both Sueño and the heroic Kahraman, still clutching the arm of Sueño while reaching for the edge of the wall, nearly grabbed a handhold, but instead his hand reached a brick, which broke loose from its still wet mortar, and both dreamer and his would-be rescuer fell to their deaths.
As the two men were falling to their deaths, a worker shouted:
“Oh, now, look, a brick has been lost from the finishing level! Damn it, now we will have to waste time to re-lay that brick, and slow down our progress!”
at this all of the foremen began to shout at the workers, saying:
“Yes, yes, the lost brick is a shame, and so is the brick that we lost from the upper level, but stop worrying about them and get back to work now!”
As workers, lamenting the loss of the two bricks, resumed their work, the bodies of Kahraman and Sueño lay crumpled at the base of the tower, each man moaning in his death agony, unheeded by the workers moving bricks, mortar and finishing materials around them. The bodies would be buried after dark, when no more work on the tower could be done.
Kahraman and Sueño´s guardians each reported the fall, each waited beside his human charge, recording the last breaths these two human beings would draw.
“Relax,” One guardian whispered in the ear of his charge, deciding to offer encouragement, “have no fear, your pain will soon be ended, and you have done well in your life, cooperating and helping others. Go in peace back to teh clay from which you are formed.”
The other guardian, as his charge breathed his last, only recorded and reported on the dimunition of the human population. Both of their deaths went unmourned.
As this was happening at the base of the tower, the foreman at the top of the tower, heedless of the tradegy playing out far below, was giving orders to raise the standard of the King:
“Now we will install the new tool which the King´s wise men have created to see what the gods are talking about. Now we shall begin to become one of them ourselves.”
A strange looking stone wrapped in coils of iron was hoisted to the top of the King´s standard. At once, the guardians began to hear static on several frequencies at once, as if someone were attempting to broadcast across a wide band but with too little power to have a clear signal. Upon reporting this, the Ancient Warrior decided at once to investigate in person. This was a far more advanced technology than they should be able to come up with yet. Either they had a genius working for them, which was possibe, or the young Light Bearer was interferring again, this time far too much. As the Ancient Warrior observed the humans at work, and noted the high level of cooperation in the building of the tower, he had an idea. If the young Light Bearer had helped them, by creating a tradition going back to the first woman, of cooperating, then perhaps it was time for him to see what these human beings would do when an obstacle to that cooperation was placed in their path. Reaching in, so to speak, electromagnetically to the original plane separating the corporeal part of the universe from the rest of the experiment-box, he sent a pulse, stretching his essence around the experiment-box universe, making a small change which separated the neural pathways of every human being then alive, and flipping a bit in the DNA to ensure that newly born human beings would also have this change. He waited to see the result.
-”Bana o matkap verir misin acaba?” one worker asked the other, who looked at him oddly, and then replied, with a shrug:
-“Bueno no sé por que, pero es que no entiendo lo que quieres decirme. Me puedes repitir en otras palabras, por favor?”
and the original worker looked, a quizzical and confused look on his face, and replied
“Fakat anlamiyorum size, neden hiç bilemiyorum?”
Chaos began to spread throughout the tower. Workers and foremen unable to understand one another began to shout and curse, and even bricks began to fly through the air.
The Ancient Warrior, hearing the reports of the guardians and seeing the chaos for himself, felt satisfied that the human beings building this tower would not be able to resume work for quite a few generations to come. He was not the only one to hear the reports and see the chaos.
Suddenly, the Light Bearer appeared beside him, clearly furious at his actions.
”What have you done?! They no longer understand each other!” The Light Bearer had beamed a broad spectrum pulse message directly to the Ancient Warrior from the corporeal side of the experiment-box and then flown to see for herself.
“Oh, that. Nothing, really, I simply closed off some of the language circuits in their neural pathways. It does not even affect them if they decide to learn to speak the other languages anyway. It merely requires them to exert a little bit more effort to understand one another. I decided that their languages needed to be confused because they were getting along too well. You know whether they like it or not they need to be forced to spread out and fill the entire Earth. Remember that you, Young Light Bearer, did agree to this.”
More on my continuing striving with empathy through Hebrew (and Spanish and Turkish) next time, friends:
Yassas, γεια σας! Salût ! Nos vemos! Görüşürüz! ! שָׁלוֹם
Action Items in support of literacy and hope that you can take right now:
1.) Search for two different sources to translate the word “work” (feminine form) into Hebrew.
2.) Share them with us in the comments, here, please.
3.) Share your thoughts on how you like each of the sources you found, please,
4.) Write a blog post or tweet that uses a Hebrew word, tells a good story, and makes a difference. I’m working on that through my historical fantasy #WiP, #WhoByFireIWill. Once published, donate one or more copies to your local public library, as I intend to do.
Click here to read, if you like:
B5, La Casa De Papel/Money Heist, & Lupin & Hakan: Muhafiz/The Protector Reviews
Holistic High School Lessons,
or My Long Range Nonfiction, & Historical Fiction Writing
Thoughtful Readers, if you are on Twitter, please consider following #Project Do Better on Twitter.
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.