2020, the year of working dangerously

2020, the year of working dangerously

Undoubtedly, 2020 has been a year of living cautiously. However, it was not necessarily a year of eating cautiously. Many people have confessed that they have been binging on alcohol and carbs, apparently to overcome the stress and depression due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also a year of working dangerously. Home-office meant working for endless hours, 9 to 5 was a thing of the past, almost like a remote history now. Instead, call hours have extended to 24/7 bases. There are no Friday night chill outs and weekends. There is no time to get fresh air, exercise, cook, or eat decently. The takeaway sector bloomed not only because restaurants were shut down but also because the white-collar officers working from home had no choice but to order online, all the time, taking a few bites in between endless zoom meetings and hourly assignments and deadlines.

I saw this happen right before my own eyes. My daughter, an attorney, who’s working for a top law firm in Turkey, was one of them. For the whole year, she got barely any sleep - six hours only, if it was a lucky day with relatively less work. She was not alone. The working from home phenomenon has ended up abusing young professionals tremendously - allowing no time for lunch breaks, even no coffee breaks whatsoever, while with expectations to finish an enormous amount of work in the shortest time possible. Many surrendered; news of office mates resigning from their posts was quite frequent, mostly due to instant decisions taken under pressure, even if the fear of ending up jobless prevailed.

Life was not that easy - sustaining such a life in 65-square-meter urban work holes, mostly underground with no daylight, like low-rent dungeons.

The consequences of a year of working dangerously in such conditions were numerous - gaining weight considerably, severe headaches, insulin resistance, and a prescription of antidepressants and sleeping pills. Ah yes, and the neurologist’s list of warnings about the need for exercise (Where?), proper diet (How?), and orderly sleep hours (When?). Believe me, a computer-locked life cannot mark a promising future for our young educated brains. This is no different than the working-class crushing cruelty of the industrial revolution ages. Workers of that time were like a cog in the wheel, and in our new age, the situation is no different where young professionals are nothing but just another brick in the wall.

So much for depression, and this is one part of the consumer side of the food chain. Interestingly, despite being strangled in such a vicious cycle, these young professionals are getting more and more aware of the threats facing the planet and the food world. Oh yes, when in jolly good times, they all indulged in plenty and abundance, enjoyed luxury as far as they could reach, traveled afar, and enjoyed business-fine dining, but now they feel there must be an end to such excessive consumerism. All the benefits of the glittery business world are gone for many employees. They work to pay their rents and to afford takeaway foods. This consumerism is what actually makes them a cog in the wheel, after all. It is a dead-end.

At the end of the day, we all need to see more of the producer side of our food rather than the consumer side. It is time to find virtue in the simple and the basic. Actually, simple food tastes far better in most cases, provided that the ingredients are right. But what is right? If you are an urban being, it is obvious that you cannot grow your own food. Then the right food choice is the one closest to you. Not necessarily geographically, but when the producer-consumer link is as direct as possible. We all know that it is not the producer that gets the profit from the food prices we pay; it is the intermediaries that market the food. When we find ways to buy from producers directly, we do not pay the added costs. Even if products bears the same price tag, at least all the benefits go to producers, and they have a decent income to sustain their existence. They can survive by our choice as consumers. As simple as that, we need to fortify our links as urban beings to rural communities by paying both respect and the price for the efforts made to produce whatever we eat.

Now, it is time to live the year 2021 responsibly!

Aylin Öney Tan,