As I glided to a near stop while approaching a stoplight in Mae Sot, Thailand, dense thudding sounds took over my conscious mind. A group of men (likely Burmese migrants) were busting up a former concrete structure, essentially barehanded, and likely still are as I write this — one blow at at a time. Thud! Thud!
The reddened digital countdown timer dangled over the intersection, while my jaw dropped upon also witnessing this maddening scene. If only I could convey at this moment the overall energy that was encompassing that intersection.
I was experiencing this after dropping a friend off at the International Organization for Migration. Yes. I was in-search of a cozy, air conditioned coffee shop to do some “work” of my own, mainly to cultivate potential partnerships for The Dignity Amidst the Rubbish Project, a civic journalism initiative using the photo book, Dignity Amidst the Rubbish: Hour by Hour with a Burmese Migrant Community in Thailand, as a fundraising mechanism for supporting Burmese migrants in Thailand.
To the point: It’s now hot season here in Thailand. While I have largely adapted to the Thailand climate in my four years of living here as a photojournalist, it’s certainly not the time of year that is ideal for hard labor toil under the relentless Thai sun.
I watched one man strike the small mountain of concrete — thud! Lift. Thud!
As not much happened to the human-size block of concrete he had just channeled his energy into, his shoulders dropped prior to his entire upper body further slumping forward and inward slightly. The look on his face, and the intensity of his overall energy, was like, “I am so tired of this…!”
He paused, as though having made up his mind to put that sledge hammer down and start walking, somewhere; anywhere but there. He reluctantly repeated his nearly affectless toil. Thud!
Perhaps he was being inspired to continue, as the younger man working above him on the pile just kept pounding away. He seemingly had a different resolve, determined to just do what he has to do and not think too much about it; lunchtime-rest would come soon.
I was visualizing in my mind a sledgehammer machine, and how it makes much more sense to have a human being operating a machine, not being one.
But no! Someone out there has graciously granted these men the task of dismantling a concrete structure with friggin’ sledgehammers! This is complete, senseless, utter madness from my perspective. What is it with this world around us?! This has got to stop.
Being a tall, skinny caucasian man from the United States, born into a privileged position of a loving family, a publicly funded education system, health care, and a support network, I have such a deep appreciation and reverent respect for marginalized people, who have to take this treatment from other people, and work like this to (barely) survive, just because they were born in one country versus another. This, is injustice.
Is it yet beyond time in this current state of the supposed evolution of the human species, this “development,” that we begin taking a closer look at what is happening around us, and actually do something about it?
True power exists in societal unity. Let’s support each other as a global community by banding together to create our world the way we really want it to be. There are more of us than there are of those who are at the helm of this global market system, and there remains much good in this world for us to feed off from.
I believe that our human world is heading in the right direction, as the foundations of greed that have been dictating us for way too long are crumbling and the light which powers everything around us is shining brighter…