Friday, April 21, 2017

Labour & Pop Culture: Streets of Philadelphia

This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture is “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen. The song is from the soundtrack to the move Philadelphia, which was the first mainstream film to address AIDS.

The film centres on a gay attorney (Andrew Beckett, based on the real life story of Geoffrey Bower) who is fired from his firm, allegedly for incompetence. Really, he has been fired because of his disease. Beckett wins in the end, just in time to die.

I picked this song because next Friday (April 28th) is the National Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured at work. Ceremonies will be held in Edmonton in Borden Park at noon.

While we most often associate workplace injuries and fatalities with acute injury events (falls, crushes, explosions, etc.) or motor vehicle accidents, occupational disease is a significant and often unrecognized source of injury.

Workers with occupational diseases often have great difficulty gaining compensation of their injuries (diseases are complex, having long latency periods and murky causality). Many workers with occupational diseases also face discrimination, much like Tom Hanks’ character in Philadelphia.

Social isolation and depression often ensues. Springsteen captures the psychological effect of this well:
I was bruised and battered, I couldn't tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I heard the voices of friends, vanished and gone

I was bruised and battered, I couldn't tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
Saw my reflection in a window and didn't know my own face.
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin' away
On the streets of Philadelphia.

I walked the avenue, 'til my legs felt like stone,
I heard the voices of friends, vanished and gone,
At night I could hear the blood in my veins,
It was just as black and whispering as the rain,
On the streets of Philadelphia.

Ain't no angel gonna greet me.
It's just you and I my friend.
And my clothes don't fit me no more,
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip this skin.

Night has fallen, I'm lyin' awake,
I can feel myself fading away,
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss,
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of Philadelphia.

-- Bob Barnetson

1 comment:

  1. Bruce resonates so well-I had forgotten how powerful both the movie and song were. Part of the strength of the movie and song I think came from shock over how a worker could be treated, how discriminatory, how cruel, how inhumane...And I wonder today if we expect so much less of our employers that we are less likely to be shocked over how workers are treated and how little care or compassion is shown. I think our expectations of employer employee relationships have changed significantly through years of abuse and shifting value of workers and jobs as entirely disposable.TW