Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You Stay Foolish, We Stay Hungry

So I had a day off yesterday - even though "teachers" usually don't get the day off (apparently they're not "labor", nor is anyone who works for the government, a distinction that I find ridiculous), I did because most of my students are corporate clients. If they have the day off, so do I. So, yay for that.

I spent the morning roaming the demonstrations taking place at CKS Memorial Hall, as well as a smaller one over by Taipei Guest House (台北賓館) and took a few photos. I didn't stay long at CKS, though, because my friend Cathy and I were starving and wanted to get lunch. We spent more time at the smaller demonstration, as it was organized by her teacher.

One good thing about being a part of a smaller protest - it's easier to get quoted in the paper. And I did!

Yes, that's a quote of me speaking Chinese (they cleaned it up a little I think, I don't remember exactly). It wasn't translated. So clearly my speaking ability far exceeds my handwriting ability. It sounds more like I'm complaining about my own work hours and salary than I'd intended, at least if it's not read carefully, but that's more on me than anyone.
I really was there for my friends, students and acquaintances. My salary's pretty darn good. My working hours, though hectic at times, are acceptable (and if they're not I have the power to do something about it). I am free to take long vacations if I wish. But I know so many people in Taiwan who work themselves to exhaustion - 7am to 11pm, meeting rehearsals before meetings, regular Saturdays, months and months without a weekend off (sales reps have that problem), and they're expected to be enthusiastic and energetic about it, to even agree that it's necessary, to never complain, and to continue delivering at peak performance. "We have to," they often say. "It's not fair, but that's my workload."

And what do they get for this? Salaries that have not kept up with inflation. Salaries that won't allow even white collar workers to buy homes in Taipei City. Salaries that I, personally, would laugh at if offered for the amount of work expected to bring them in. You want me to work how many hours a week, for NT $40,000-$50,000 per month? Enough to live an OK but not extravagant life? And that's considered a good salary for someone with experience? You want me to break my back for that? And to like it (or at least put on a reasonably convincing show of it)? You offer me that, and you can take your job and stuff it.

I feel I can say this because I'm not trapped in that grind. I hear this sentiment a lot among my students, and yet it's always followed up by some super humble comment about how it "has" to be done, it's "important", it "can't be avoided", and how they still want to do the best for their company. Which I'm sure they do, but deep down I think they're afraid that if they don't tack these things onto the end that I'll go tell their bosses. I won't.


A few photos:

This is more for my students than myself.

I don't know what she was protesting about - something about Buddhism, and doomsday, and didn't really make sense. 

My friend's protest signs for Ma's "Facebook page"

This game was supposed to symbolize the wealthy keeping money and resources from the poor, but hitting them with longer work hours

People wrote all sorts of things on this huge poster of Ma's Facebook page. If you can read Chinese you'll be amused by some of them.

過勞死 and 財神請道我的家門口 are mine (yes, I know I wrote 財 wrong). I did not write the paper in English.

No comments: