Ham is a minimum wage employee.
He does have a silly name. He’s got a minimum wage job. What could his job be? Bartender, cashier, call centre worker? Does it matter? Be honest! Where did your thoughts go when you found out that Ham had a minimum wage job?
I will tell you where my thoughts went. I was glad to distinguish myself from Ham! I felt sorry for him because I have had many minimum wage jobs before. I worked at a fried chicken place, a shop, a bar, a hotel, a pub and I worked really hard and I received a minimum wage for each hour I worked in these places. If I got ill, like that time I had the swine flu, I had to stay home, ask my friend to pick up some antiviral medication because I couldn’t get out of bed, and I received no money for the time I was off sick.
I no longer have a minimum wage job. After the minimum wage jobs I got a marginally higher than minimum wage job in the mental health field. At some point I practically lived in the supported accommodation project I worked at, as my job included sleeping there a few nights a week, sandwiched between the walls of a tiny room and two back-to-back daytime shifts. I didn’t get much sleep during those nights, because either the fire alarm would go off or someone was distressed and I had to calm them down, or the police were called. I received even less than minimum wage for the night-time hours. I received slightly more than a minimum wage for the daytime hours when I was helping people clean their homes, wiping up wee off the floor, but also doing interesting things as well, like going running or swimming with them and visiting them in hospital when they weren’t well.
Most of us would agree that being a minimum wage employee is not great. It often implies you do the kind of work most people really need done, yet prefer not doing themselves. It also implies that you don’t get sick pay or job security or any of the other ‘perks’ of having your basic human needs met. Yet, most minimum wage jobs are indispensable for the functioning of society. Actually, most unpaid jobs are even more indispensable, like caring for our loved ones, bringing up children, doing the housework. And but also: who the fuck decided that a person’s value should be contingent on the ability to do a job in the first place? We are creatures that for some mysterious reason emerged from the life stream on this tiny planet in this endless universe, and we experience things, feel things, create things and love things for fuck’s sake! We haven’t even found any other similar creatures in the universe yet! Each one of us is a rare miracle!
But we don’t have time to think about that. We try our best to rise above the misery of Ham. We try to get higher-than minimum wage jobs that we spend 40 hours per week doing, leaving us just enough time to buy some food, maybe cook it, eat it, do the washing up, have a poop, brush our teeth and go to bed to wake up and do it all over again. We drink over the weekend to detach from the endless monotonous low-key fuckery of it all. We have won! We’re doing so much better than Ham!
We’re not though, are we? We have to sit (or move) in prescribed ways for 7.5 or however many hours each day, whether we feel shitty or happy or neutral and invariably perform a series of tasks we’d rather not do if we had a choice. Even if we would do some of them provided we had a choice, we definitely wouldn’t choose to do them in the same way that we are made to.
I’m not saying we have to be happy, because demanding or expecting happiness from life creates its own kind of misery. But we need meaning and we need connection and we need to understand each other and see each other and talk about what we’re going through, what worries us, what we’re afraid of, what we enjoy, what gives us pleasure, and most of all we need to witness and be present for this total shitshow of a time that we live in!
So let’s find some joy in all of this. At least have a little fun with Ham. Do a small dance to the track Square or laugh a little with Fishish. Go for a walk or sit down and enjoy some delicious sounds from this album. Drink in the juicy pink and green colours of its cover artwork.
There is beauty and truth in recognising that we’re all Ham. Maybe then, instead of trying to be marginally ‘better’ than him, we can just be humans that are collectively going through some shit and are trying their best to stay alive, and on top of that even to stay kind sometimes, despite the shitty systems and experiences and all of our pain.
And so maybe then we can connect at least, and feel like we do, and we did, and we will, because we do
Sentry | A Minimum Wage Employee Named Ham