Working Man's Death

Working Man's Death

A documentary on the extremes to which workers will go to earn a living. In today's technological age - is heavy manual labour disappearing or is it just becoming invisible?

Physical work was once celebrated with hymns of praise. But workers today must be content with encouraging one another that their hard work is better than no work at all. This series looks at the state of physical work in today's world. Work that is dreary, demanding and at time dangerous.

Episode 1: Heroes

 

When dawn breaks over Kawah Ijen, men with bamboo baskets slung over their shoulders and torches in their hands emerge one by one out of the darkness, only to disappear into the white sulfur vapors of the volcano later. We visit east Java in Indonesia – where men climb steep paths amid pungent vapours carrying a heavy load of sulphur rock from the mouth of a volcano.

The sun is already out by the time they reach the "kitchen." The "kitchen" is the place at the edge of the hot, blue-green lake at the bottom of the crater where sulfur is mined. The "kitchen" spits, hisses, billows up in clouds of hot caustic vapor. Here molten sulfur flows through long clay pipes, touches the air, and hardens in a matter of minutes. Orange puddles turn into pale-yellow, jagged-edged chunks and slabs.

Equipped with long iron rods, the men stuff a cloth or the sleeve of their jackets into their mouths, and dash up the slope and into the biting fumes. There they break off big chunks of hardened sulfur. After a few minutes of this, they are forced to take a breath. They cough and spit, but keep on working.

Episode 2: Ghosts

 

The Port Harcourt slaughter yard is a labyrinth of people and animals. The entire area is actually a market, which lies between the zoo, a bridge in the middle of construction, a river, and an area where multinational corporations like Coca Cola and Shell have settled.

The grounds consist of a few huts, a large covered market hall, a cold storage room, a corral for the cattle, pig pens, a pool table sheltered by an awning, a mosque, a few shanties, a slope leading down to the river, and the places where the slaughtering is done.

These places are a large paved surface "The Slab," where the cattle is slaughtered, skinned, and cut into portions, and a charred elevated platform for roasting the beef heads, skin, feet, and whole goats.

First, the young assistants of the goat butchers and goat roasters bring in the animals. The goats make the most noise as they are being led - all tied together - to the slaughter yard. You can't tell if they sense what's in store for them; maybe it's just uncomfortable to be pulled around all tied together like that.

Episode 3: Lions

 

It's snowing in Shamorgar, a little Pakistani mountain village near the border to Afghanistan. Ramadan is over. The harvest is in. Corn, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes are being stored for the winter.

It's calm in the village. A blacksmith is repairing hooks, rakes, shovels, and plows. The owner of the general store opens for business. The muezzin calls to prayer. His voice echoes across the vast landscape.

The Pashtuns are big, proud, and strong. The men speak softly, are seldom loud. They themselves say they can perform the most grueling tasks and are not afraid because they have been chosen by Allah to do so.

That's why they are generally the ones who make the long journey from the mountains in the north to Southern Baluchistan. Here they scrap huge ships. Piece by piece they cut apart the gigantic hulls until all that remains are small sections of steel plate.

Episode 4: Brothers

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Ratings: 8.00/10 from 6 users.

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Comments and User Reviews

  • dmxi

    reminds me of my old demolition labour ,which i gladly don't miss !up to
    70 hours a week with regular minor & the odd fatal injuries but the pay was ok!

  • slpsa

    Everyday you come out of the hole is a good one. The Mining sector is now my second career. Albeit, you would not catch me in a mine like the ones shown here, but suffice to say, I have been to three backwater places on the globe where it was pucker factor 9.9 the whole time. My sphincter was sore after those ascents and descents, never mind the general work conditions and safety procedures. I received extra pay for those three jobs, I actually negotiated on a sat phone with my boss, getting the dangerous super heavy duty pay package from the top of the header for the elevator shaft, I absolutely refused to go in that hole unless the man was upping extra dough. It was probably the scariest work site i have ever been on through a lifetime of engineering work. The job I do pays very well, but for laborers in some of the Countries I have been to, it is literally for pennies a day, risking it all for their families and themselves, to eek out a rather low scale existence. I made a lot of friends while there though, being a charitable kind of person, I partially payed for and helped build playground equipment for a local school and its students through a work program that my company partly covers the cost of. These people deserve better money than their state sponsored mining industries pay them, we are sub contractors, and nothing more, we have no say in what they get. A lot of these men look much older than they are for good reason. Having the living sh*t scared out of you everyday can age a man quickly.

  • Andy Reynolds

    interesting comment - bet you would be worth buying a beer :)
    stay safe - andy, uk

  • slpsa

    I may take you up on that, I have some friends in the UK, in Bournemouth and Manchester. I plan on visiting sometime in the future. They owe me a few cold ones for some old bets.

  • dmxi

    ahh,manchester........most beautiful metropolis of this decaying
    world!haven't been back in 10 years,miss it!

  • slpsa

    Aaahhhh yes. The soddy mancs are not far removed from the potato farmers that inhabit Wales.....LOL. The sheep and cows in Wales can hear a zipper at 50 paces doncha know lad. Bloody mancs are not far behind at all. This is the type of friendship we have, it insists of me insulting them at every turn, while they call me a moose shaggin canuck whenever the opportunity arises, which is, it seems, every 4 minutes or so. Good lads they are anyways, off topic as it is.

  • dmxi

    och,not necessary off topic when one beholds manchesters industrial
    history ,where labour was hard,dangerous & under-paid!with pride,
    the turn of the centuries economy was made possible on the pain-ridden backs of northern souls !out of date,maybe...but not off topic.

  • bringmeredwine

    Hey! from North Bay slpsa. Thanks for telling me about this site.

    Loved this doc and it ended too soon.

    Despite their horrendous job, these miners seemed so sweet. I thought they'd act hard and bitter.

    I cringed watching them dig with out safety glasses, and those tight spaces - eeeks!

    Imagine the boys in Sudbury having to work under those primitive conditions?

  • bringmeredwine

    See my post slpsa about Working Man's Death. Just wanted to let you know I've been gobbling up these docs.