(Earning a) Living on the Edge

"There's somethin' wrong with the world today..." so starts my favorite Aerosmith song, "Livin' on the Edge".   There is also something wrong with this photo.

We were driving back to the office along West Avenue last Wednesday when my workmate-driver stopped the van so we could witness how this man crossed high tension wires so quickly by sliding a rope held on both his hands over the top-most electric wires.  But we were not really marveling at the man's acrobatic skills as we were about the sorry state of the country's economy, an economy where people are forced to literally walk on high-voltage wires just to earn a living.  Just imagine the height of those suspended wires.  Just imagine how easily his foot could slip or how easily the rope could slide from his hands.  There is no lightning nor a storm but look at those low, dark clouds.

After the short sideshow, my workmate continued to drive saying "and that guy is most probably a casual worker and the regular guys are down here somewhere just chatting and puffing their sticks," and right he was -- the other guys were just chatting and puffing, not even looking up to check how the guy up there was doing.

Laborers all over the city, in fact all over the country, are so exposed to danger, without proper protective equipment, and paid below minimum wage.  In fairness to contractors and employers, I know that workers themselves violate safety procedures and protocols a lot, if not most of the time.  I guess it's because workers are not trained to protect themselves.  They work without proper safety shoes, head gear, harnesses, goggles, etc. because they are not paid enough so they could buy equipment; or because employers, instead of investing on wages and protective gear, pay hefty un-receipted sums in order to obtain government licenses and permits.  Workers are also just happy to earn a living.  Workers do not have the consciousness that as human beings they deserve the dignity of getting paid according to what they deserve under the prevailing wage orders and the dignity of working above sub-human conditions.

The Makati construction gondola accident earlier this year was not an isolated case.  There are so many such accidents that are happening and that are waiting to happen.  And there we were watching, but hopefully not waiting for something bad to happen to that poor tight rope walker.

We didn't wait to see if the man was going to cross to the next electric post.  As we kept talking and driving I also mulled over the summary of my issues:  the inter-related problems of  poor Philippine economy, worker compensation, working standards, living standards in general, and private and government corruption.

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” -- 1 Tim. 5:18 (ESV)

Masterstreat your slaves with justice and fairnessbecause you know that you also have a master in heaven. -- Col. 4:1 (NET)

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