Friday, July 11, 2008
I work in a trade, in which, if management sees you smiling, they are perturbed, angry, paranoid and vengeful. They do not want men to enjoy good morale. They want their workers dutiful, cowed, beaten to submission, and insecure. Dismissal is often by whim and caprice. They revel in the exercise of power. They act as petty potentates and absolute monarchs, in their little worlds.
When the joyless, protestant missionaries came to the Hawaiian islands, and elsewhere in Polynesia, they were appalled by the natives’ nakedness. They were not naked by poverty. Those missionaries were not interested in that sort of well being. In Hawaii, the weather does not compel clothing. Clothing was for fashion and status. The aboriginal aristocracy wore capes and headdresses of extravagantly colored feathers. The protestant divines compelled the natives to cover up their nakedness.
The people did not envy, the protestants, dull, somber and uncomfortable attire. If they had to wear clothes, it would be the opposite, hence mu'u mu'us, for women and hawaiian shirts, for men.
The aloha (tradename) shirt is about the happiest shirt one can wear, though some examples are hideous and far from the ideal. There are also the tapa and the palaka patterns, that are probably more authentic. The full standard hawaiian shirt is marvelous: orchids and hibiscus like flowers, palm trees, colorful birds and the like. People of normal disposition, smile.
There is a minor tradition, locally in the trade, for hawaiian friday, probably via California. On hawaiian friday workmen wear a hawaiian shirt, the men encourage their brothers to do the same. This is subversive. The management does not provide us with clothing. Where there is a dress code on jobs, it is limited on the subject of shirts, generally to them having sleeves. I have heard of cases, where, collars are required. We have worked at sites, where the customer demands conformity to their code. It rarely, goes beyond, the above, for shirts. The rabidly, politically, wingnut Swagelock, supposedly, forbids union logos and slogans on clothes, lunch boxes and tool boxes. The sweaty Lincoln Electric discourages similarly, outside contractors, on like grounds.
Management and ownership find hawaiian shirts subversive. They are, and it is within our true and legal right to sport them. Fridays are also, the usual day, for dismissals. By co-incidence, I wore one to-day. An older black brother, very near retirement, smilingly says to me, to-day after lunch, “You have the biggest b**** on the job.” I asked him why, he pointed and said, “that shirt.” How sad. One other man wore such a shirt to-day, he was 62 or 3. Also by co-incidence, I was fired.