We, scraps of history

Paolo Ruta
Oct 24, 2019 · 4 min read

I work in shifts. Content moderation for Facebook demands our presence 24/7: I get to the office early morning and the colleagues from night shift go to sleep. I go out at 4:30 pm and other moderators start their working day. Here we are. A few thousands of underpaid workers baby-sitting millions of unaware Facebook users who buy their right to write on social networks everything crosses their mind. Simply to be part of the game.

In the morning I don’t want to walk. Especially during the cold Berlin’s winter. I prefer to wait outside my house door for the bus which brings me to Kleistpark, where I get the U7 to reach the office. By waiting for the bus I met this sixty-something-year-old man who every morning, at 05:50, tells me Hallo! by bowing discretely.

The first time we spoke to each other he believed I was from the UK. But I explained that Sicily is the charming damn place where I come from. And he got excited, like all the Germans with an appropriate cultural background who believe that Italy is the falling-apart-mother of almost about everything.

Every morning he takes advantage of my temporary company before the arrival of the person he is really waiting for: this sloppy woman, about fifty years old, almost featureless. She might be anything: a doctor, a yoga teacher, an office worker at the Bürgeramt. This woman comes and he stops talking to me.

All together we get on the bus while the two of them seat side by side. By standing up, I don’t understand if she is interested in him. It is clear that this polite courtship pleases her, but I don’t get her purpose: if it is only for vanity or because she returns the tenderness of this sweet curvy man, wrapped up in a velvet jacket, white hair like the Berlin’s winter sky.

I get off in Kleistpark while they stay on the bus. Who knows where they go. If they will ever change their way to end up in a motel room. I get on the U7 and cross the space. To Nord-West. The underground like the offals of this creature containing all of us like blood cells, bacterias, proteins, sugars; like the rests of the thousands of meals ordered on Deliveroo. You get on the train and feel this smell: undigested food, urine, gastric juices tormented by bad habits. I go through this urban intestine until the way out that for my little story is called Siemensdamm.

As a supervisor, I set foot into the office and the agents are already waiting for me. As soon as I am there they cheer up, because from now on all their work will be checked by me: this means they will not be wrong. They trust me. Even though I claim this job sucks. And they say nooo when I go home. Because getting wrong has its own entry on payslips. It is so that we are leashed.

One day we realize that one of our best colleagues, after two years of temporary contracts, will be dismissed. And all of us will end up the same within a few months. Some first, some later. Our market is going to move to a country where it is easier to exploit other employees.

We had hoped to make it. We had slaved over it only to be part of the game. But for this world is not enough to integrate us into the comedy of life. Now it has learned that hang us in the balance is more convenient than turning us into middle-class consumers.

To be honest I cannot do other than admire the smartness of Capitalism and its adaptability, like its creativity. It is not easy to spread the idea that everything is in the right place. Did you lose your job? Never mind: you will find something else to hate. And after that one, you will find another one. And go on. Meanwhile, everything seems normal: Saturday shopping at Tk Max, a new smartphone in instalments, low-cost holidays in Portugal, Netflix subscriptions, legal drugs from the pharmacy and the illegal ones from Telegram.

Almost you forget to be a poor person in the making. You don’t think about that. For a person like me, these were stories to read in newspapers. They were talking points for the Sunday family lunch, to remember with nostalgic feelings about the time we had Politics fighting for workers. I am a middle-class preppy, educated to responsibility. I didn’t know anything about precarity. But I have fallen into that. We all together have fallen into that. As working-class heroes. Scraps of history.

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Paolo Ruta

Written by

A curious Italian guy living in Berlin.

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