It seems that for some people, calling up their union rep is somewhat akin to answering an online dating ad. It’s the same refrain anyway – “I never thought I’d be doing this”, “I’m not really this kind of person, you know”. As though the union rep is going to judge them for requesting help or information, like the potential online date is going to think you’re a loser for answer their ad. How strange, the things we are embarassed by. In both these examples, it is the asking for something – assistance, a date – that shames the subject. As though we are supposed to sail through life without ever asking anyone for anything, and to do otherwise makes one weak.
It’s the sickness of individualism pervading every corner of our society that causes this of course – the same disease that shouts “pensioners are greedy!” and “I don’t want to pay for your kids to go to school!” The social doctrine of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” that’s impossible to avoid, coupled with the mythology that wealthy people (and corporations) got there through their own hard work rather than corporate welfare and inheritance. And it trickles down, of course, like a Regan-era crumb into every aspect of our lives so that many people from my generation no longer recognize that they owe something to their parents, or that at one time it was normal to converse with your neighbours across the fence rather than ignore them.
I’m ranting, I know. But it pains me to have someone come to me only when they are crying and at their breaking point because for months (or years) they have been harassed or denied benefits that rightfully belong to them. And it’s always the same thing – people don’t want to come and get help because they are afraid of being judged in their shakeiest moment – and so they wait until their health is compromised or their job is on the line before they make the call. In some cases they don’t call at all, and after the fact I hear about people who have been dismissed because they were too ill to come to work, or who could have stayed at work if they had been accomodated as required.
It’s just a basic point really – asking for help and helping others is a good thing and neither of those things makes you a loser. There is a time at which we all have to take responsibility to help ourselves of course, but it’s in conjunction with everyone else that we do so.