When Working for the U.S. Postal Service, the clock is king. If its at 7am when your shift begins, lunch at 11am, or 3:30 when the day is done, the numbers on that clock regulate and dictate the comings and goings of the employees on the workroom floor. For many, it even influenced emotions. Like when a tired clerk who has been systematically placing bar codes on packages for what feels like hours, pauses to cast her weary glance on the clock, only to find that a mere half hour has passed from the time she began the arbitrary, compulsory engagement, that is her job. She responds to the cue with a sigh and continues the process. Perhaps reminding herself that she is lucky to have a “good” job. Or, on any given day in the break room, you could find mail handlers talking family, current events, or politics, defiant in the 15 minutes of freedom the clock has granted. Or when management begins to hover and mill about, prompted by the silent arbiter; its time they remind their subordinates that break time is over. Everyone in the building is a staunch subject in the kingdom of the clock. The clock grants temporary respite, every day at 3:30. But, the work is never done.
My older brother, who was a supervisor at the post office, (and who also helped me acquire employment there) asked my why I hated working there so much.
“Toxic environment..” I said. “you never get any completion euphoria, or sense of accomplishment. There are only two levels of performance: adequate or inadequate. that’s why so many workers attempted to steal time, it was the only way to feel like you won. So if you could find a quiet corner to take a nap during work hours, it was a small victory”
I can remember punching out at the end of the day, walking out to my car and seeing a dozen of my coworkers in the parking lot drinking alcohol, just celebrating the end of the shift, I suppose. Reports would later reveal that this daily gathering was a part of postal culture around the Country. But, the toxic environment at the post office is not the fault of the employees. Administration and Management were also at the party.
Many people have asked: Why is there so much stress and workplace tragedies in the U.S. Postal Service? The answer to these questions is because the postal culture embraces and reflects core values that center on achieving bottom-line results with little or no regard for employee participation, respect, dignity, or fairness. Additionally, there is little or no accountability for the actions of top management in the Postal Service. Many postal facilities consequently have toxic work environments, and they can be a catalyst or trigger for serious acts of workplace violence, including homicide and suicide. The associated rewards system for behavior consistent with the postal culture core values, moreover, enables systemic organizational and individual bullying of employees at all levels of the organization.
-Dr. Steve Muasacco
I can personally attest to the accuracy of Dr Muasacco’s assessment of postal culture. But, how does this picture western culture at large?
In the aftermath of the global financial melt-down in the late 2000’s, many corporations, banks, and government institutions were under intense scrutiny. Among them was the United States Postal Service. And it did not look good under the spotlight of the media. While the postal service has been able to maintain its reputation of reliability, it has not been able to shake off the notoriety it gained back in the 80’s when a number of mass shooting incidents occurred within its facilities throughout the country. The term “going postal” is occasionally used even now, in the year 2017. The cause of incidents such as these and the toxic culture that was prevalent within the postal service has been theorized and debated for years.
Alienation of the worker
I lost my job at the post office shortly after the market meltdown in 2008. In Greece, by the year 2010, things had gotten so bad that people were not able to withdraw funds from their own bank accounts. It was around this time that the Ideas of Carl Marx started to gain popularity once again. That is when I first heard the words “Alienation of the Worker”…I was intrigued
The theoretic basis of alienation, within the capitalist system, is that the worker invariably loses the ability to determine life and destiny, when deprived of the right to think (conceive) of themselves as the director of their own actions; to determine the character of said actions; to define relationships with other people; and to own those items of value from goods and services, produced by their own labor. Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realized human being, as an economic entity, this worker is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the elite, who own the Resources, land, and equipment necessary to extract from the worker the maximum amount of monotary value in the course of business competition.
Many workers who feel this ‘alienation’ respond in differing ways. One may decide to find employment elsewhere. Another may be get motivated on that business idea they had been thinking about for years. Others just bear up and wait on retirement. But, those on the fringes of psychological and emotional stability, react in a very different way.
“I gotta get outta here”
August, 1986. After being reprimanded by two supervisors, Patrick Henry Sherrill expressed his frustration with the work environment at the post office where he worked as letter carrier.
“I gotta get outta here” He complained to his union steward.
Mr. Sherrill returned to work the next day armed with 3 pistols and his United States Marine Corps. Marksman training. He fatally shot the two supervisors along with 12 of his co-workers. 14 total. The Massacre would inspire the American phrase “going postal”.
The New Face of Terror
Portland Oregon, May 2017 While riding a commuter train, 35-year-old Jeremy Christian, threatens a young woman who is wearing Hijab. When his anti-Muslim rhetoric is not well received…He attacks, wielding a knife. Three men heroically intervene… they are all stabbed…2 of them die.
Northern VA, June, 2017. Darwin Martinez Torres, Chased down and beat a Muslim girl to death in front of her Mosque.
Alexandria VA, June, 2017. James Hodgkinson Critically wounded six Lawmakers at an annual congressional baseball game.
London, UK, June, 2017. Darrin Osborne Could be heard shouting “I did my bit, you deserve it” After he plowed into 10 people near a Mosque in the northern part of London. He also killed one person.
And the list goes on…
“Mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy” Ecclesiastes 7:7
If the toxic environment of oppression can make a wise person act crazy, what kind of effect do you think it has on an already “crazy” person? I’ve listed just four attacks to make the point. None were carried out by Muslims. But there is a common thread in attacks such as these. Whether it’s a Radical Islamist or an anti-trump liberal, everyone feels their own special form of alienation and oppression. Some people quickly point to some ‘other’ group as the oppressor. This perpetuates the alienation and isolation of groups and individuals. Further fuels the toxic environment that supports these incidents. All of the examples I used here happened in the couple of months leading up to the summer here in the United States. The clock is ticking…If there are no changes soon…its going to be a long summer.