Are kitchen jobs still worth it?

Even before COVID-19 flashed it’s teeth, the value of working in kitchen jobs was diminishing, and it’s not getting better

Let me be clear: cooking is a beautiful thing, whether it is the little dance that comes with combining ingredients, or the aroma of spices doing what they do best. However, moving this into restaurants is something that doesn’t translate all too well. When the server puts down a dish in front of a consumer, it’s all too easy to forget that there was a team in the back that had to prepare the ingredients, for the team on shift to put it all together.

These kitchen teams are falling apart. As a whole, the restaurant industry has seen a massive decline in staffing since COVID-19 joined the party. Following shift reductions and pivots towards takeout and delivery service during lockdowns, many industry veterans departed, and many have not returned. While it would be easy to place the blame on government aid like CERB, the reasons are actually much simpler. Government benefits have mostly subsided and many positions are still empty.

In a recent conversation with a coworker, I was told that this phenomenon is not particularly related to the coronavirus. There are an abundance of reasons to avoid working in food service positions, even if you love cooking. For starters, it’s hot, the pay is low, stress often runs high, and kitchen staff generally don’t see much of what servers get to take home in tips. Throw a mask mandate into kitchens that are poorly ventilated and you’ve got some poor working conditions. Having worked the grill at a steakhouse this past summer, I can say with confidence that the mask becomes a wet rag with ease.

So, what’s the deal? In my own observations from peers in the industry and interactions with management teams, I can say that everybody just wants to keep their heads above water. Supply issues have reduced the number of menu items, and operating costs like rent, utilities and food prices have all gone up. This has created a predicament for restaurateurs who are trying to put together teams of competent employees while also trying to make some profit, if any.

For a while now, average restaurants have hired people they know they can get away with paying less: teenagers! For the business, this makes sense from an economic standpoint. You can get away with paying them minimum wage with the lure of potential tips and occasional free food.

The caveat is that you get what you pay for. Throw a bunch of 17-20 year olds with little-to-no experience into a busy kitchen, and see how fast things can fall apart. When orders start flowing in without pause and servers are calling out how much longer, they can start making mistakes and food starts getting sent back to the kitchen. The culinary assembly line can slow down, and can very easily fall apart if not for one or two leaders keeping them afloat.

This mass shortage of people willing to work in kitchens and at a high level makes this a good moment for industry veterans. In comparison to the skills of an everyman, seasoned kitchen people’s skills are highly sought after because even if they command a higher salary, restaurants can feel comfortable putting this money into capable hands. That being said, the key workers here have more leverage to ask for more from their employers compared to their teenage counterparts. After all, restaurants cannot be run without people in the back who prep the ingredients and those who put it all together during service hours.

Amidst the lack of people who want to work in a kitchen and the lack of people who know what they’re doing, people with veteran experience can demand more from their employers when negotiating terms of employment. More work-life balance and higher wages are usually at the top of the list, although work-life balance is harder to strike when restaurants everywhere are short staffed.

Though it would seem that wages would absolutely explode in response to the shortages, that hasn’t been the case. While some chain restaurants with corporate backing can afford to trickle down some extra compensation, many independent restaurants and chains alike have not moved their starting wages. As a whole, the notion that restaurant wages are rising mostly applies to kitchen lifers who have stayed in their original posts, or those who have been headhunted by other desperate kitchens. The average kitchen employee is not seeing any noticeable increase to their rate of pay.

What seems to have happened is that people who were laid off in the initial shutdowns have found jobs in other sectors, and rightfully so. This past spring while working at a new kitchen job, my personal qualm was: why should I work under these conditions for 15 dollars an hour, without breaks or free meals, when I could be making minimum wage by working anywhere else? Then, at least I’d be ending when I’m supposed to and get to leave my shift without being all sweaty and stressed. For example, at 40 hours a week, the difference in pay between a minimum wage job and a 15 dollars/hour job is largely negligible. When the toll of demanding restaurant work is weighed against a small difference in pay, minimum wage jobs end up being better in the end for those that can afford it.

Is there an answer to the problem at large? Is there a way for kitchen jobs to appreciate after trending downwards for so long? Having worked in a handful of restaurants since I was 17, and still working in one to this day, I can say with certainty that things are relatively bleak. I’ve worked in low, middle, and high-end places, but the bottom line is that all of these are trying to survive. I can cut them slack in that regard, but my coworkers and I are still people. We have goals, families and lives that transcend the kitchens in which we converge to make our living.

Making things better for both people and these businesses is a tricky balance to strike because it centres around money. Regardless of wages soaring or sinking, kitchen culture is never going to die. A bunch of slicked and sweaty people sharing cigarettes after dinner service is something that has stood the test of time.

If coworkers truly make the job, then those bonds will continue to mould regardless of what these kitchen teams are composed of. That kind of camaraderie amongst people who are in the service industry is not going to diminish over the lack or surplus of a few dollars an hour.

People are still leaving though, and kitchen teams are getting thinner and thinner — with the idea that things will return to normal being the only element holding them together.


Graphic by James Fay


It’s time to reject unpaid internships once and for all

Unpaid internships exacerbate the rampant inequalities in our labour market

National Football League (NFL) reporter Jane Slater sparked the ire of young journalists all over the Twittersphere earlier this month when she promoted an unpaid internship position. After receiving an avalanche of responses on how unpaid internships are unethical, unsustainable, and exploitative, she responded that this was simply the norm and that, “There is a reason not everyone makes it in this business.” She continued, “I don’t have time for those of you who don’t understand grind.”

While Slater’s unwavering commitment to the practice of unpaid internships is baffling, she wasn’t exactly incorrect that they are omnipresent in media and journalism fields.

Although no career field could ever be a true meritocracy, unpaid internships are pushing us further and further from that ideal. This is because to even be able to work unpaid, you must start out with a base level of economic security and privilege.

A student who needs to pay their own way through university or support dependents would simply not be able to allocate their time and labour to a company not willing to pay them. This leads to a culture where the only people applying for these entry-level internships are those who already have a financial leg up.

Additionally, working for free can put interns in precarious situations. Despite the fact that, as of 2019, all interns in federally regulated industries, including unpaid student positions, received standard worker protections, there are still many interns across Canada left without proper protections. This ruling did not account for federal civil service jobs or positions under provincial jurisdiction. Thus, the burden of adequately caring for their unpaid interns is placed on the employer, who often has little incentive to provide anything above the bare minimum needed to not get sued.

Not to mention, the mere concept of unpaid internships perpetuates the notion that one’s labour can be removed from their pay. The more a young person gets used to not being paid for their work, the less they’ll value their labour as they move into positions later down the line, which may lead to them not properly advocating for themselves.

Full disclosure, I have worked an unpaid internship. I am privileged enough that working for pay part-time over a summer and interning the rest was enough to sustain me. Looking back, I hate myself for offering my labour to such an unethical system, but at the same time, it’s what I was told was common, if not necessary, to have a career in media.

Yet, I now believe that no internship, no matter the prestige, would be worth selling out my labour for free. I can no longer in good conscience prop up any company not willing to pay their workers a living wage, because when privileged people feed into these systems, they’ll continue functioning regardless of backlash. There are so many resources such as Concordia’s Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO) or Career and Planning Services (CAPS), that make it easier to find paid opportunities and avoid falling victim to the unpaid internship scam.

If we all as students reject the concept of unpaid internships wholeheartedly, the industry will eventually be forced to follow suit.


 Graphic by Alex Hutchins


Hustle culture and toxic productivity are ruining your brain

The grind never stops, they say

A day in my life: wake up at 7 a.m. and grind. Some days, my “hustle” starts as early as 5 a.m. if I work a morning shift that particular day. Other days it’s 8 a.m. if I want to “sleep in.” I eat breakfast and start my day with planning and getting work done until I leave for work most afternoons. After work, I come home, do more assignments, work on different projects and repeat the whole “grind” the next day.

As the name implies, hustle culture is the social pressure to constantly be working harder, faster and stronger in every area of our lives. It’s the idolization of workaholism and the mindset that you should be overworking to the point of exhaustion.

This way of living is driven by capitalism, and big corporations and social media perpetuate it. Everywhere you look, people are constantly posting and sharing their “hustle” and “grind.” It’s not uncommon to hear things like, “sleep is for the weak” or “never stop hustling.” This has the potential to cause people to feel pressured to overwork because of this ingrained idea that excessive work means success and the only way to survive in this world.

Successful entrepreneurs love to glamorize this toxic culture.

When asked by a Twitter user about the number of hours one needs to work each week to “change the world,” Elon Musk, founder, CEO, CTO and chief designer of SpaceX, replied that it could range from around 80 to over 100.

Another example is Ross Simmonds, founder and CEO of Foundation, a content marketing agency. He said, “The hustle brings the dollar. The experience brings the knowledge. The persistence brings success.”

I can’t help but think that this culture is dangerous for students, especially, and people like Musk and Simmonds are setting up such unrealistic and unhealthy standards for the people who idolize them.

A study published in Occupational Medicine in 2017 suggests that longer working hours are associated with poorer mental health status, and increased anxiety and depression symptoms. Long weekly working hours were also associated with reduced sleep time and increased sleep disturbance. These results confirm the importance of maintaining regular weekly working hours and avoiding excessive overtime work in order to reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.

We live in a society where overworking is praised, and it needs to change.

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Stress in America 2020 survey, Gen-Z adults, ages 18 to 23, reported the highest levels of stress compared to other generations.

Last semester, I practiced this hustle culture religiously and compared other people’s achievements to my own. I struggled with balancing being a full-time student, working 20 hours a week, and keeping up with my side “hustles.” I believed that the only way to succeed was to constantly work without taking breaks.

I started to feel guilty for resting; that’s when I knew I internalized toxic productivity.

Toxic productivity is when no matter how productive you might have been, there is always a feeling of guilt for not having done more. To me, this looks like developing unhealthy habits like skippings meals, not drinking enough water, and not sleeping enough. Anxiety attacks and breakdowns were part of my daily routine.

The hustle culture is pervasive, and it left me emotionally and physically drained, and most importantly, disconnected from reality.

This philosophy is extremely harmful because it drives other students to burnout, too.

On an Instagram poll I created last week asking my followers whether they believe hustle culture is toxic for them, 51 people voted yes, and 13 people responded that they were alright.

James Taylor, a first-year Economics student at Concordia University, says that he struggled with balancing his four classes, working 20 hours a week and his side business of making prints.

With the current world and technologies like Facebook and Instagram where people always seem to compare each other to one another, it’s forming an ‘I must hustle, or I’ll be eaten’ type of environment,” Taylor explained.

David Nguyen, a graduate student working on his Master of Business Administration at Laval University, also agreed and said that hustle culture can be avoided with the right mindset and approach.

I think the key balance is finding a balance between hustle culture and straight-out sloths. Both extremes are toxic,” Nguyen suggested. “Work at your own pace, but you’ve got to put in the work,” he added.

As Nguyen said, it is all about balance and taking care of yourself. Kiana Gomes, a first-year Journalism student who owns a newly-started bakeshop business, said that her hustle isn’t toxic. According to Gomes, it actually motivates her to work harder while making sure to rest.

When asked how she managed to work 12 hours a day during the Christmas break making chocolate bombs and cakes, and delivering them, Gomes said, “I was obviously tired and a little anxious, but the rush I get from success is worth it.”

While some can manage the workload, the mentality is overall harmful. I think it’s important we understand that “hustling” is not effective but dangerous to our well-being. Productivity is not bad; over-exhaustion is.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

Isolate happiness when working alone

While many Canadians suffer the toll of social isolation, one man spends six months working in near-total solitude every year, and loves it. Experts explain why.

“I’m able to see in my six months of ‘solitude’ something super positive. It takes time. The first weeks when I’m alone here, it’s strange,” says Gabriel Lanthier, in his fourth year as manager of the University of Montreal’s Laurentian Biology Station. In this role, he spends November until May working alone at the rural site, managing, repairing, and maintaining the 16.4 square kilometres of land.

In turn, during the summer season, it’s all hands on deck, as Lanthier manages a team of eight who run the site that houses many active research experiments and University of Montreal classes, hosts students who are writing theses, and rents the space out to private events.

Lanthier monitors an ongoing research project that assesses the impact of a 3 degree increase in soil temperature on vegetation growth long-term, as compared to the present soil temperature levels. In 2009, the Quebec Government announced that a 28 square kilometer plot of land, which includes the Laurentians Biology Station, would become a protected territory as a “biodiversity reserve”. Here, researchers mainly in biology and geography, conduct experiments. Between 1967 and 2014, researchers concluded 33 doctoral theses and 164 masters theses at the site.

Why does he love solitude?

“We underestimate in everyday life our need for space, for tranquility. We’re all on a rolling train.” He continues, “People often stop at the point where they’re about to break. The hard end.”

Lanthier was hired to work in an isolated region in the Lower Laurentians, 75 kilometres north of Montreal, where he lives with his partner and their two children. His lifestyle for the winter months — quiet, solitary, and slowed down — reflects the “new normal” introduced by social distancing laws enforced in Quebec, especially for remote workers, to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Lanthier cuts down trees that obstruct a trail in the woods of the site. “Working alone, the job is super varied,” says Lanthier. “If it’s a problem with personnel, if it’s a problem with clients, if it’s a problem with scheduling, or a problem with the machinery we have, doing reparations. All year I solve different problems. That’s my job.”

According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of Canadians experiencing poor mental health has tripled to 24 per cent since 2018, and young people are hit hardest over recent social distancing measures. Further, “Over half of participants report that their mental health has worsened since the onset of physical distancing,” according to the study.

Burnout culture is not a new phenomenon. In response to a rise in stress and burnout among Canadian labourers, Quebec has been working to expand its legislation protecting worker’s health to include mental health as well, according to Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Magazine.

Recently, experts have warned of the psychological strain that essential workers face during this time, which can ultimately lead to greater risk as employees, facing exhaustion, are more susceptible to mistakes.

According to a Statistics Canada report, those with the most education are more likely to hold positions that can be done from home, illustrating that “The risk of experiencing a work interruption during the pandemic might fall disproportionately on financially vulnerable families.” Further, it poses the dilemma for those working in low-paid, high contact industries, such as the service industry or factory work, whether or not to absorb high risks by working in person.

So, is solitude really the culprit of this swelling unwellness, or is it merely a symptom of something else?

Lanthier attributes his wellness in the face of solitary winters to three things — he likes his job, he works outside, and he slows down.

Lanthier walks along the trails of the site, which has 7 lakes, and multiple rivers and streams passing through. “I think we underestimate in the everyday life, our need for space. The need for tranquility,” says Lanthier. “The only advice I’ve got: go outside, take in the air, and especially during Covid, put on your running shoes and go jogging 10 minutes. 10 minutes will change your day.”

Meaningful work is a central factor to job satisfaction. That and “mastering, leadership, balance, influence, achievements and colleagues,” according to the Happiness Research Insititue’s 2019 Job Satisfaction Index.

This research studies Danes’ work satisfaction, identifying three main issues that workers faced in 2019 — managing the “work-life balance,” “stress,” and fostering a “sense of identity from their job.” The research found that meaningful work offers labourers a stronger sense of job satisfaction, which in turn heightens their happiness.

“Me, I’m in paradise,” says Lanthier. “I’m sure it’s not the same situation if you ask me to work in a four-and-a-half, no windows, semi-basement, for eight hours in front of a computer. I would not have the same appreciation of isolation than what I have.”

According to the theory of logotherapy developed by psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl, humans derive happiness from meaning — through purposeful work, relationships, or suffering, as explained in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” first published in 1946.

The connection between human happiness and meaningful work has a long history, with a body of research behind it. Sustainability is a welcome recent addition to the conversation by experts in happiness.

“I really think a sustainable economy needs to be built on meaningful work,” says economic historian Dr. Kent Klitgaard. “I don’t think you can have this kind of degraded job that everybody hates and you do it just to buy consumption goods that wear out quickly and don’t make you happy.”

The principle that we can be happier if we work less and slow down is on the rise amongst professionals working to scale back human consumption and invest more in well-being.

“We can have better lives, I’m convinced, with a lot less material and energy consumption,” says environmental economist Dr. Christian Kerschner.

The connections between slowing down, engaging in environmentally sustainable activities, consuming less, and happiness are detailed in a United Nations commissioned Sustainable Happiness report, conducted by The Happiness Research Institute.

According to the report, “The literature on voluntary simplicity provides abundant illustrations of persons who, by virtue of engaging in simpler lives, experience increased feelings of satisfaction and meaning. In other words: less stuff equals more happiness.”

“We have been very comfortable materially, but also if you look at our society’s emotional and psychological health,” says Kerschner, “we are not doing so well.”

What does meaningful work have to do with consumption? Since technology has replaced many — largely manual — jobs across industries, economies have found new uses for this labour force. These jobs tend to be mundane, dead-end, monotonous, with tight deadlines.

“I ask myself at what point is it healthy for the human mind? Something very routine — like a recipe — already established. Every day, 40 hours per week, for 20 years?” Lanthier asks. “Put it in an isolating mold, all alone, I would go crazy.”

Among his varied duties, Lanthier is responsible for doing office work, such as bookkeeping, managing staff during the summer, and confirming reservations with clients. “I’m a bit of a hybrid between intellectual and manual and that’s what I found in this job,” says Lanthier. With an undergraduate degree in psychology, and a master’s degree in biology, Lanthier finds this position taps into both studies. “I believe you don’t just learn things in school. In touching, in trying, in failures also, that’s all a part of learning. When things don’t work, we learn,” says Lanthier. “My work gives me the opportunity to touch on very diverse things and I learn every day.”

The duality of Lanthier’s job — a busy summer followed by a quiet winter — taps into his need for a challenge, change, and allows him to grow his skills manually as well as interpersonally.

While routine is a very healthy practice to maintain both bodily and mental health, Lanthier has a point. A job where you do the same thing every day limits how much you can learn or be challenged. “For work to be meaningful, it needs to stimulate me, fill my life,” says Lanthier. “My work needs to help me grow, evolve, progress.”

“There’s studies that show people in the U.S. are working more hours on average than any generation before. So that leads

As part of his duties, Lanthier walks the trails located on the reserve, taking note of any evidence of animal activity, such as canine tracks. He also searches for evidence of human activity, which is forbidden, to ensure the preservation of the land and protection of any research taking place.

to the question,” Kerschner elaborates. “Is this really life? Is this really wellbeing?”

Some are finding their wellbeing comes from an active engagement with community and sustainability.

One collective-living community in Denmark began to examine the food waste in their home. With a separate trash can for food, the residents can see “direct proof of what food waste costs them each month and what they save by reducing such waste,” according to the Sustainable Happiness report. With less waste-based financial strain, workers need to earn less money and work less hours to afford a high quality of life.

Kerschner hopes that through this experience in social isolation, collectively, society can work to strengthen community ties, and register how important connection is for our health and happiness. When we liberate our time by working a little less, we create more time for the things that matter to us, connecting with our communities, and helping each other.

There is an understanding in mainstream social consciousness that sustainability is incompatible with abundance. On the contrary, cultivating abundance does not need to be expensive.

The Sustainable Happiness report stresses, “To completely unleash happiness potential, it is important to dispense with myths and misconceptions such as the false choice between sustainability and happiness.”

Through community initiatives, sharing, and connecting, abundance can be very cost-efficient, sustainable, and joyous.


Photos by Simona Rosenfield, taken on December 2, 2020

From fall trends to corporate transparency: fast fashion at Jean Coutu

How a trip to the pharmacy opened up a world of questions

I rarely leave the house these days; partly because of the colder weather, mostly because of the deadly pandemic that most people seem to be taking less-than-seriously. One of the stops I absolutely must make, once a month, is to the pharmacy.

One Saturday, I was getting my medication refilled, and regardless of how much notice you give the pharmacy, there’s always a five-minute wait. Those five minutes of limited freedom to roam the aisles, avoiding other bodies and following little tape arrows along the floor, feels like a luxurious return to a somewhat normal routine.

Rack of sweaters at Jean Coutu

It was in the final corner of the store — behind the snacks, the assorted phone cables available for purchase, and the passport photo studio — that I noticed a clothing display. To someone who hasn’t been shopping in a while, my excitement was palpable. My excitement exponentially grew when I noticed a familiar tag on an item I had been seeking all summer: the perfect knitted vest. To my surprise, it looked like this item had gotten lost along the way to the nearest H&M retail location. How did this cute little vest end up in a Montreal pharmacy?

Earlier this year, several major fast-fashion retailers came under fire as a result of their failure to fulfill their orders to garment factory workers in Bangladesh. H&M was named as one of the major brands with the largest number of postponed or cancelled orders. The retailer was later absolved from this public relations disaster by working to compensate suppliers for finished goods and goods still in production. If finished goods and orders were fulfilled by H&M, why did this vest end up in the bargain clothing section at a Canadian drugstore?

Perhaps part of the reason that H&M remained relatively unscathed by this incident is a result of the brand’s positive public relations campaign about the transparency of the corporation’s supply chains. Following the reporting on the cancelled orders and unfulfilled payments, there was a flurry of articles focusing on H&M’s commitment to transparency of supply chains. This commitment to transparency is part of the brand’s turn towards sustainability, but the company lists a total of 261 suppliers in Bangladesh alone, making it difficult to pinpoint a specific supplier who could have produced this item.

H&M is undeniably a global brand, with production taking place in 40 countries across the globe, and retail locations in most major cities. The company purports a commitment to transparency and sustainability, and is celebrated in the media for its forward thinking approach. What is sustainable about a fast fashion brand with a surplus of goods and a supply chain that includes one in five countries around the world?

It is because of the scale of this retail giant that this goal of transparency is largely impossible. Despite the abundance of information on their website, it is impossible to determine what supplier created this item. The product is not listed on the H&M website, and as a pharmacy, Jean Coutu doesn’t exactly have a system in place for transparency of clothing suppliers. Despite reaching out to the corporate offices of Jean Coutu, I was unable to find anyone who could clarify where this item came from. Still, the familiar little tag makes one thing abundantly clear: the claim that H&M paid for all of its cancelled or completed orders cannot be true.

H&M is ultimately a corporation that prioritizes profit before all else, and the majority of the brand’s corporate social responsibility is a side effect of necessary marketing campaigns and shifting demographics. Late-stage global capitalism is wildly unpopular with many consumers, and as a global retail giant, H&M is poised to be hit the hardest by this social shift.

The company’s willingness to internalize this discourse of sustainability could be interpreted as a step in the right direction, or as a sinister commodification of environmental activism. Ultimately, I think COVID-19 has brought forth the destructive capacity of global capitalism, the ability to destroy business, and the ability to end lives.

It is a testament to western privilege that I am able to write and research an article about the transparency of supply chains, rather than live the reality of being an unpaid labourer struggling to survive on a bag of rice. I am afforded the luxury of aimlessly wandering pharmacy aisles and delightfully discovering a garment that has travelled further than I ever have. A major corporation worth billions of dollars found that they overestimated their seasonal profits and failed to consider the impact of COVID-19 on spending. If H&M is the industry standard for transparency, the company will continue their corporate legacy of empty promises to sustainability.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab, photo by Meagan Carter

Clog in the machine: Orcs need a union, change my mind

This is a piece of satire.

Human rights and standards shift from government to government, yet we express little outrage at the abhorrent living and working conditions of the most vulnerable in our population, Orcs.

Orcs, the fictional species depicted in the prolific Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, are the victims of unseemly living conditions, human rights violations, and a shameful smear campaign that paints them as the oppressor, not the oppressed. They are practically bae if you like that victim of eugenics, foot soldier in a series of wars they don’t belong in, life expectancy akin to a fruit fly-type vibe. Incidentally, that is my type.

Orcs are born prisoners of war, by virtue of their existence alone. They emerge from this sickly, poorly ventilated stew of a lab-womb as fully developed adults for one purpose, and spoiler: it’s not to discover their love of arithmetic or sailing.

The sole purpose of Orcs is to serve soldiers in their master’s war. To this end, they’re born adults and male. No, their first word isn’t “Mama;” it’s “master.”

Orcs had their childhood bred out of existence like it was a coiled tail or floppy ears on a dog. Childhood doesn’t serve the war effort, so why bother? We have child labour laws, but somehow, Orcs don’t qualify for these standards. Is it because they’re born with all their adult teeth?

Everything about Orcs orient them to war. When you’re born in a dungeon-cave-laboratory, you don’t really want to call the Orc stirring your placenta-mud soup “Mama” or “Papa,” not even “comrade.” It just doesn’t feel right. They don’t have family, and that’s intentional. It’s so that they won’t have something personal to live for.

Female Orcs were also bred out of existence by eugenic practices because they did not serve their master’s war effort. When there is no love in your life, you’re more likely to march to your death in a war you only heard about around lunchtime.

Forced sterilization is such a horrible form of evil imposed on Orcs, as it impacts every corner of their existence. It’s also a human rights violation, according to the Geneva Convention. Canada, did you catch that? Ideally Canada would not do that, but you know how the saying goes — countries will be countries.

The Stanford Prison experiment studied the phenomenon of abuse in instances of unchecked power. We learned from this study that wrong actions don’t define Orcs’ personhood, violent circumstances do.

Take the shocking incidences of crimes against humanity inflicted on the prisoners held by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib during the polarizing Iraq war. American soldiers inflicted unbelievable mental and physical abuse on prisoners, from humiliation to blatant torture. These soldiers are labeled “a few bad apples,” and we carry on without criticism of the harmful structure that elicits these behaviours. When Orcs carry out similar atrocities, apples are just “bad” and structural context, again, gets lost in the shuffle of who to blame.

Orcs don’t have a cultural identity outside of war. All Orc names are about being good at war. One Orc leader is literally named Azgog the Defiler.

The languages Orcs speak are not their own, but are designed to facilitate war. Their system of governance is solely fear-based, with threat of punishment around every corner — all stick, no carrot, and the language they use, also created by their master, functions to organize war efforts, and nothing more. Orcs aren’t given an alternative, let alone a pension for their long career in defiling.

Orcs are a clog in the machine, and we are trying to pour Clorox down the drain. Considering all the fighting Orcs do, they weren’t given a fighting chance. They’re barely given a bathroom break. What are they, Amazon warehouse workers?


Graphic by Lily Cowper

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