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(1) Permanent Warehouse of Souls

On 25 February Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras spoke out against ‘the transformation of our country into a permanent warehouse of souls’. In the wider context of vastly increased migration into Greece from the East, Tsipras’ comment was directed specifically at European heads of state continuing to ‘act at summits as if there is nothing wrong’ while tightening border controls along routes into northern Europe – effectively demobilising migrants and turning Greece into the European Union’s storage bin for refugees.

Upend the marathon road north from Athens to Macedonia.
Raise it and plane it to the perpendicular.
Now it’s one long tall shelving unit of previously scattered souls,
Scanned and ready for despatch; if only we knew where to send them.

Heads in a noose because really what’s the use; or perhaps half-grown men, migrants from Pakistan, half-hanging themselves in order to gain our full attention.
Near-suicide – noted.

Note the consistently quiet desperation of migrants crowded into Athens’ Victoria Square. Whispers and murmurs building occasionally to bouts of ululation, before subsiding again.

Looking down at those uninvited beach boys,
Who paid good money to have themselves washed up on Mediterranean sand,
Some hard-pressed Greeks can only hear this sound wave as bar-bar-barbarism.
And who can blame them?

(2) Life and Soul of the Warehouse

‘Wandering around for 10 hours scanning and stowing items really does eat away at your soul.’  This former warehouse worker at Amazon’s Dunfermline depot reports ‘long hours with depression guaranteed.’

Surely preferable to the threat of deportation, as above; although another Amazon ex-employee declares she would ‘prefer to starve rather than go back there again’.

Later this week a Scottish government minister is due to remind Amazon managers of the benefits of paying employees the ‘living wage’ which has been calculated at £8.25 per hour in Scotland. Many Amazon staff in Dunfermline are currently paid the national minimum wage of £7.20 per hour; and some ‘temporary associates’ have reported rates as low as £6.10 after wage-deductions for transport costs.

Meanwhile other subscribers to the unofficial worldwide warehouse workers’ forum note the satisfaction of coming together to do a good job under pressure, offset by the highly demoralising effect of what they regard as favouritism on the part of Amazon managers.

(3) Beyond The Warehouse

“There is nothing we like so much as to be taken from the warehouses in East London where we are billeted on the banks of the Thames, and brought to the great mingling thing which is the Royal Exchange.

“Our destiny is to enjoy the communion which comes about when the fruits of the whole world are entered into infinite exchange, one with another. In London, the universal emporium, this occurs so often, so frequently and so intensely that all our existence is coloured by it, and life itself becomes a social occasion.

“How I pity those poor people left behind in the warehouse, sorting and shelving, lifting and carrying my kind, and keeping a double-entry book to account for our progress.

“Equally piteous is the condition of our producers. I mean the humans continuing to reside – if existence is counted the same as residence – in far-flung corners of the world, who took pittance as payment and waved away their property rights along with the English ships bound for London.

“You will have guessed that I myself am no such person. Instead I am a thing, any thing of value which can be exchanged against money; namely, a commodity, created elsewhere but recently imported into eighteenth century London and stored in one of its newly built warehouses.

“For I am the Quality, and mine is the social life of things.”

With apologies to Joseph Addison (1672-1719), author of ‘The Royal Exchange’, Spectator No 69

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