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Down at the Low Dive Cafe, Part 4

By Arthur J Miller

Dil got up from the table, went over to the counter and talked to a man sitting there. They then both walked back over to the professor's table and sat down. Dil spoke; "This fine gent we call Bindle Bill, for when he came to our cafe he was carrying everything he owned in a bindle."

"Bill was a tool and die maker who found himself out on the bum after what your world calls the new reality of economic globalization."

The professor then asked the following demeaning question. "What responsibility does the working class have to changing itself in our new global economy?"

Bill grew red in the face with anger and then stated; "Look Professor Brain-dead, working people have no responsibility to your new anything. To us there is nothing new about being exploited and robbed."

"When I was a young man I went out and learned myself a trade, that being a tool and die maker. I went to work in a shop where my skills were refined to their specialized needs. The shop was an old AFL union shop that had been organized back in the '30s. I was active in the union and became a union shop steward. In the early '80s the company told us that times were hard and that they needed to cut back on our wages and benefits in order to stay competitive, but that when times got better they would make it up to us."

"Into the '90s things were really booming, but the bosses, not only did not share with us their increased profits, they started to outsource some of our work and laid off some of us workers. This, along with the fact that due to inflation we were even making less in wages than when we had our cutback, led some of us to decide that when contract time came around we would take a stand. We turned down the company's offer and hit the picket line."

"The great AFL-CIO did nothing to help us but told us strikers that we had their sympathy. The bosses brought in replacement workers and kept the shop working, though not very efficiently. After seven months on strike the company offered us a different contract which we went for . . . but a few months later we were all laid off and the company moved the shop to Mexico."

"The government paid for retraining and since there was no work in my trade, I retrained as an auto mechanic because I had always liked working on cars. But since I had no work experience, I found out that the shops did not like to hire on people my age to start at the bottom."

"Not finding work in the auto shops I tried to find work anywhere that I could. But no matter where I went, all I heard about was my age or how with my skills I would quit as soon as something better opened up."

"In time I lost my home and had pawned off damn near everything I owned. I pulled down what day labor and longshore casual work I could, but my situation kept on getting worse. I traveled from town to town, always hoping for something better, but never finding it. Then one day I wandered down this here street and ran into Harry who brought me into the low dive for a bit to eat. Now I work at fixing the endless number of old junkers that find their way down here."

"We were fools to trust the bosses and bigger fools to trust the business union that cared nothing for us when we no longer had money for dues. I found out the hard way that we, working folks, only have ourselves to count on."

"The so-called new global economy is only another scam by the bosses to greater exploit us working folks. The bosses are now organizing themselves internationally, so that is what we need to also do. Then we'll start sticking it to the rich with everything that we got. The way I see it, there's a war between the rich and the poor and things ain't never going to get much better until the poor win that war."

Next Dil brought over a man who appeared to be Hispanic. "This here fine fellow we call Desperado Juan. His name reflects the fact that your society views him as an 'illegal person'."

The professor wonder why these people had admitted to him things that could be used against them? Well maybe they trusted him. For it is part of the job of a good researcher to win over the trust of those he interviews in order for them to open up and speak freely. The professor rationalized that he was a very well educated man and that his natural superiority was working wonders and commanding respect among these uneducated lower class people.

"I would like to ask you how you view the social ramifications of being an illegal alien in a country where you are unwanted?"

"In my homeland I lived in a village where most of the people have always been poor. Even though we had little there was a strong bond among all of us. In order to survive we were forced to work for a rich landowner. It always seems that the rich are never satisfied with what they have and always want more. The more that the rich have the less the poor will have."

"When the landowner announced that he was cutting our pay, we decided that we had no choice but to resist him. The landowner reacted with violence from his armed thugs and then the government came to his aid, calling us terrorists and bringing in the army."

"Many of us were arrested, including myself. We were taken to a prison where we were tortured and those they thought were our leaders were never seen again. After two years in prison, I was released and told that I should never return to my village. I was told by relatives, in a near by village, that my family had disappeared, as did many of the people of my village, and that the landowner had brought in new poor people to work his plantation. They told me that the army told them that I was on their list, and if I returned to the region that not only would I be killed, but also, my relatives would suffer the consequences. They told me that they would continue to try to located my family and that I should head north."

"I made my way to the U.S. and worked in the fields as a farm worker and later was able to work as a laborer on construction sites. At one construction site a union rep. tipped off the INS agents and I was caught in a raid. I was again held behind bars as if I was some type of criminal."

"Knowing that if I was deported back to my country I faced the possibility of being killed, so I told the agents that I came from Mexico and was deported there."

"I made my way back to the U.S. and was more careful not to take jobs that white Americans would want. I am illegal in my country and I am illegal wherever I go. The better people look down on me as if I am some type of inferior life form."

"My ancestors worked the land long before the rich landowners laid claim to our land. That theft they called legal. The landowners exploited my people and I, and that they called legal. When we tried to do something about it we were arrested, tortured, disappeared and some murdered, and that they called legal. I was forced to travel to a foreign land, hiding out and taking whatever work I could. There I am treated like a criminal and deported, and that they called legal. The rich are legal in most everything they do, no matter how much harm they do. Since all those things are legal, I am proud to be illegal, proud to be an outlaw, a desperado. And I will continue to be such as long as the rich scum rule our world. For as long as one class has more than they need there will be another class that has less than they need."

"Some times the poor are called illegal for no other crime than just being poor. But throughout the lands, from far and near, the desperados of the world are a great number to behold, and the day will come when we raise up together and pull the fangs of the rich vampires out of our necks and end the days of them sucking our blood! And when our have gained the power, the only ones to walk upon this earth as illegal with be the former rich and their hired guns."

Those last words made the professor uneasy because he had always viewed myself as being 'well off'.