Sunday, May 31, 2009

"I'm melting, melting, oh what a world!"

It's 50'c outside and the gardeners are wilting under the palm trees. It's only 10am but the sun is high and fizzling. The sprinklers intermittently squirt inches of water onto the dry grass and cars driving by do so slowly as their tires attempt to meld with the asphalt. It couldn't be a more typical hot Gulf-state June day, and the windows are fogged up with condensation while I'm sitting on the inside wrapped in an oversized hoodie. The AC men told me to keep the temperature below 15'c or otherwise the system would shut down with the heat, so I sit in my arctic and climate-destroying home while I watch the garderners limply rake through the hard and mud-caked flowerbeds and the water men unenthusiastically roll barrels of water to everyone's door.

Just watching the men working outside made me feel like I was in violation of a few labor laws, and every shiver I gave reminded me of how the AC churning at high voltages was probably in violation of a few environmental (Al Gore) laws too. Though I've commited no outright crime other than living here, I feel as though I'm an accomplice in the mistreatment of the workers and the environment. I want to protest that I'm an innocent bystander, but how innocent are you when every visa stamp into the country is like a loud vote of approval on the way things are run? Every country has its problems, but being limited in how you protest and address these problems can make you feel helpless, and finding no way to solve that, responsible. There are organizations out there working hard to find ways around the stringent and confusing laws to give workers the right to be inside when it's 50'c outside, or the right to keep your papers instead of giving them up to your sponsor, or even the right to retain standards like C98 granted by the ILO. Until the day I can work with these organizations, I'll give out bottles of cold water to the workers outside my house. It doesn't solve any problem of indentured workers in big way, but it stops me from being completely helpless in giving a break to a few guys out in the yard in a small way.