You ever think about the names we use for bureaucracy and for those positioned at the top? Get your mind out the gutter, please. I’m talking tags like “the Top Dog”, “The Man (or Woman) in charge” or what is my personal favorite, “The Poohbah” (dating myself I know but think Flintstones).
And when you consider the working-class bottom half of the equation, the most interesting turn of phrase I can think of is “button on the coat” as in, “he’s the last button on the coat”. I like it because it allows you to express the true precariousness of a position as in, “he’s the last button on the coat and he’s dangling”.
And the other reason I like it is because it’s an apt metaphor. Who out there among us hasn’t felt as if he or she was dangling by a thread at some time or another?
People and buttons; it’s a funny thing. We both need to be attached to something. It’s a button’s job to hold everything together, to make the coat perform as the integral fashion unit it was intended to be. Likewise with people; we need to belong to family, to share associations with friends.
And in the workplace, we want to feel connected, engaged, a part of the whole. It’s even profitable to do so. Studies have shown that when engaged, employees are more productive, have a direct impact on profits, safety and overall customer satisfaction. In such a way, each of us corporeal and plastic has value. It’s when we’re each set aside that the trouble begins.
You see what happens when you don’t button your coat correctly, when the connections aren’t
aligned or in sync. You don’t button it up right, it doesn’t do the job it was supposed to do; i.e. keep you warm and make you look good while doing it. If you neglect to mend frayed threads, it stresses the coat further. The next thing you know, you lose a button or two and have to replace them with mismatched newcomers that simply don’t fit the garment. Fashion chaos ensues; the coat is hung up in a distant closet, you take steps to try to regain your reputation.
People aren’t much different. If the threads of our human relationships aren’t mended, we fall off of or stray, sometimes dangerously from the family coat. And if we’re lost, sometimes it can ruin the “coat” to a point of no return. And if we feel ignored, forgotten, we have evidence now of how such marginalization can kill.
On Monday, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said the death rate of middle-aged White Americans had increased a half-percent each year from 1999 to 2013. The deaths were mostly from suicide and drug abuse. The cause though was less clear and researchers speculate that the economy, particularly the 2008 recession, may have played a big part in it. This comes at a time when the death rates of all other demographics are falling, as well as the death rates in other global countries.
If I may be allowed to speculate, such is the price of trying to “take your country back” when your country was never taken from you in the first place. It’s the stress of disassociation and trying to accept the political lie. Somewhere along the line, middle-aged white Americans forgot that they were attached to the same coat that we all are attached to; the United States of America. As such, they’re just another button lke the rest of us.
Moving forward, I guess for peace of mind know the coat you’re committed to. Respect the coat you belong to and all of its workings, especially the buttons. Reach out to all of those last buttons and make sure that they’re held firmly close to the garment, everywhere in life. Remember we’re each of us, one and the same, all different sizes, shapes, textures and colors, part of one great big long coat: the human race.