The Diary of Joaquín Magón Entry 16: An Organizer Defined
As I look at the desolate power of a voice that cannot be heard, hands that can lift a million crates, eyes that can see through lies, and smiles that bend like the crescent moon our mothers worshipped, I see that the hope is at times as thin as the space in between strawberry rows that flow through the ground like tuned guitar strings.
I see that the backbone of the Salinas Valley exists because workers sell their backs, their health, their lives to be able to wake and breath and celebrate life. The more I see them, the more I realize that they are never meant to survive. It is a work so difficult that no human can do and is instead reserved for tools and for tools to work the fields one must dehumanize workers to make them into tools.
Their swift movements are poems that rhyme with their dreams. Their struggle is a selfless struggle where to sweat is to gain the right to put food on the table for their children, their husbands, their wives — who may or may not even live by their side.
No, they are not meant to survive. They are meant to be used like saws, grind through life like saws, lose their sharpness like saws, and rust and are thrown away like saws. They are dehumanized, forged into tools, fed seeds of fear that takes root within and makes them believe that if they have a voice they are the only ones.
While it is the job of the employer to dehumanize the farm worker, to turn them into cogs in the machinery that makes them rich, it is the job of the organizer to re-humanize. To make a worker remember that he is more than just a worker, that she is a mother, a sister, a brother, that she does deserve more.
We must remember that the root of the transformation from human to tool is fear, and one cannot undo such a transformation by trimming at the edges of fear but, rather, by uprooting fear all together.
So here is the question for the organizer: how does one humanize the dehumanized and lead that worker to organize other workers and re-humanize them as well?
Being an organizer means being patient. It takes an ability to shut up and listen, and to find a worker’s story, history, fears, dreams (for their children, for themselves). And it is only when the worker begins to open up and trust and that both the hand of the organizer and the worker can uproot the fear that has been gnawing away at their soul. It is then, and only then, that a worker can mobilize to organize his or her own company.
But remember: people are not static; they are not the screwdrivers put away in a box, to be found again tomorrow. They are a complex mix of thoughts and feelings. And when one is working to re-humanize, one messes with that fear that dwells inside them. Their attitudes, their opinions of the organizer and the movement can switch in a second.
And when an organizer has successfully re-humanized one worker, that organizer can move on to re-humanize the next (which can take some time in a company that may have more than 300 workers). Like I said, even if the worker believes that the conditions in his/her company can change, that worker may think he/she is the only one. After that it is time to connect the dots: worker X knows these workers who know these workers who know those workers and so it becomes a snowball.
The momentum gathers, and we have a movement of re-humanized souls re-humanizing souls (or to put it another way decolonized minds decolonizing minds).
As I look at the desolate power of the voice, I begin to hear how truly beautiful the worker is after she has been re-humanized, after he has been decolonized. Because they value themselves, their lives, their work. It is an unforgivable sin to convince a person that they are only tools and that they are not worth more than that; it is unfair to take advantage of humans that have migrated from a foreign land looking to live and only to kill them and bring them back as a tool.
The organizer, above all, is that person that can lead a worker through this metamorphosis that can change everything both within themselves and in their own companies.
The Diary of Joaquín Magón” is written by Jesús E. Valenzuela Félix, a reporter from Coachella living in Salinas and working for the United Farm Workers. He contributes blogs regularly for Coachella Unincorporated.