One thing we all have in common is that we are human beings. But we are all varied in almost everything else. Our desires and interests run in opposite directions, our values and beliefs are non-conforming. Our habits and hobbies are never the same, our views of right and wrong are as different as black and white. We belong to different groups, clubs and organizations where we find a pool of friends.
Ye shall know a tree by its fruit and this is better understood to mean tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are. The company we keep and the groups to whom we belong indirectly define us and we define ourselves directly by our choice of friends. Every one of us is unique in our own way for each of us has just one life to live and I don’t see anything wrong with someone who is different.
My life is mine and mine alone, your life is yours and yours alone, and the same holds true with all our blood relatives, friends and everyone else in this world. I am different from them and they are all different from me. You are different from them and they are all different from you. We don’t have the power to cement these differences, we don’t have the uncanny ability to mold them to our fold and we don’t have the means to close the gaps between people too near and yet too far. Even identical twins are unique with inborn differences in their looks and appearance as well as their outlook on life. There are differences in the toys boys and girls play with just as there are differences in the kinds of food we love to eat. There is absolutely nothing we can do to eradicate these differences that are worsened by indifference.
As human beings we have strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices. We have sympathies and frailties that override our differences. We are feeble and weak for we cannot rely on our own strength to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. As human beings we need to grow up and not just grow old. But growing old is the only thing we earn without any effort while growing up is something we earn with vigorous and enormous effort. It is an uphill battle requiring us to push ourselves ever upward to the limits of human endurance. We grow up when we learn to live and let live, and when we become tolerant of others who are different.
We live by our wants and needs and we learn to let live by helping and serving others with our time and effort. To live and let live is not only our concern, it is the concern and the business of others. I believe that for those to whom much is given, much is required and that those who have less in life must have more in law. There comes a time in life when we want to be on our own and strive to be independent. But unfortunately we still can’t help being dependent on others for our wants and needs. Life is full of ups and downs. When we are down we need all the help we can get. And likewise when we are up, those who are down need all the help that they can get from us. Minors need all the help they can get for they are too young to work. The old need all the help they can get for they are too old to beg. Wittingly or unwittingly, they are not always in a position to live and let live under a state of dependency.
One way or the other we all need help from someone even as we are helpful to others. There are many things beyond our reach and beyond our means. We seek the company of a helper and the services of those who are kind. Both the young and old are so helpless to deserve the tender love and care of the kind-hearted. Children, the elderly and those chronically ill are so vulnerable to be in dire need of caregivers and caretakers. But more often than not, many of those offering to help are users. There is a thin line between a helper and a user and I have no doubt that many of us want to help but don’t want to be used. A helper looks at the health and well-being of the one under his care as first and foremost. A user will avail himself as something of a means to an end and will use any means necessary to achieve his ends even to the detriment of someone committed to his care.
I have worked as a wage earner all my life and that is why my heart is for the laborer even as my mind was owned by my millionaire employers whose trust I have earned. I am familiar with the impoverished conditions of the labor force and I have firsthand knowledge and information on the exploitation of helpers by users. I saw how an employer treated a laborer who was unprotected by labor laws. I saw how a proprietor treated a worker in his working conditions. And I saw how a master treated a maid and a domestic helper. My exposure to these pitiable conditions was unforgettable to be so telling. I don’t think there is a fair days wage for a fair days work when a maid or a domestic servant serves every family member for small amounts of money. I began to see how and why a servant is impoverished because of exploitation in a master-servant relationship.
Exploitation enables one to make use of mean or unfair practices to one’s own advantage. The poor are exploitable by the rich because of poverty. The strong exploit the weak because of their weakness. The well-educated exploit the illiterate because of their ignorance. The powerful exploit the powerless because they are helpless. The rich, the strong, the well-educated and the powerful are the exploiters while the poor, the weak, the illiterate and the powerless are the exploited. The exploiters have enormous bargaining power to dictate their terms and conditions of employment. Without bargaining power the employee helper, maid or domestic servant is entirely at the mercy of the user. Migrant farm workers and immigrant laborers suffer most because of exploitation.
A helper is a service provider which includes an employee worker, laborer, maid and domestic servant. A user is one that benefits from the services of a helper. A user includes an employer, a capitalist, a proprietor, a master and a wage payer. A helper and a user are so intertwined to permeate two classes of exploitation. One class of exploitation is financial exploitation. Financial exploitation is likely to occur during one-on-one personal care services for children, the elderly or the chronically ill who cannot take care of themselves and are unable to manage their own financial affairs. In financial exploitation the helper is the user and the exploiter while the person being served is the exploited. In financial exploitation the incapacitated person under care is ripped off, cheated and defrauded by the helper.
The other class of exploitation is labor exploitation. Labor exploitation is likely to happen in an employer-employee or master-servant type of relationship. In labor exploitation it is the person being helped who is the user and the exploiter while the service provider is the one being exploited. The service provider could be labeled as an employee helper, maid or domestic servant. The wage earner is entirely at the mercy of the employer or the master. Labor exploitation is prevalent in the working conditions of undocumented illegal aliens, migrant farm workers and immigrant laborers. They are impoverished by the rich, the strong, the well-educated and the powerful for they have no bargaining power. They are the unskilled workers making their living as helpers. With this overview I shall refrain from judging for judge not lest ye be judged. And I leave it to you to evaluate yourself based on your own doings as a helper or user.
PARTNERS FOR CHANGE. Undersecretary Joel B.Maglunsod and OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac, together International Labor Affairs Bureau OIC Director Mary Sol D. Dela Cruz, meet with the group of repatriated workers from Saudi Arabia who sought assistance in claiming their unpaid wages and benefits from their employers.
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