I realise that this image may be considered quite old fashioned by today’s 24/7 media standards, however I had to wait a while before writing this blog post since I was writing on this topic for one of my undergraduate assignments.
The image was taken in November 2011 at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) where members of the ‘occupy’ campaign had travelled to protest on the campus. The photograph depicts the incident where a police officer pepper-sprayed the students who were accused of blocking the path from police access, a picture which roused a lot of attention due to the disposition of the officer.
The officer is shown to be walking at a slow pace, with one hand by his side and a calm posture. The cop in the background facing the camera is also shown to be collected, clearly there is no sense of panic or urgency with the officers. It is for these reasons why many have taken issue with the way the police behaved on that day, including one of the developers of pepper-spray:
“I mean, look at the guy. He’s not braced for imminent attack by a foe; he does not move with tension as if navigating a hostile environment. He’s administering punishment, and his face says: “Meh.” (Jardin 2011)¹.”
This got me thinking about the ways in which emotion plays a part in our working lives. The emergence of sociological literature dealing with emotion in work was spearheaded by Alrine Hocschild’s the managed heart (1983). Since then, there has been numerous examples of emotion in work, most famously the forced attentiveness in airline workers – but also the negative displays of debt collectors.
What I felt was interesting about the above image, is the distinct lack of an emotional display – or at least, the attempt to hide any emotion. With the many recent clashes between Police and protestors, the question of how the police both represent themselves – and are classified by others has increasingly been on my mind. Have the days of local community ‘bobby’ past, or do they exist but only when they decide it is safe to emote kindness, empathy and compassion?
In my research on this topic one issue has consistently probed my imagination, what should our expectations of emotion be? Should I be disappointed by a lack of interest on the part of the shopkeeper when I am purchasing items, or should I be frustrated by the forced smiles of sales people? At what point should our expectations of emotions in human interaction meet the realities of paid employment, and exactly how can this be controlled and measured?
¹Jardin, Xeni (2011) ‘The pepper-spraying cop gets Photoshop justice,’ The Guardian [Online] Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/23/pepper-spraying-cop-photoshop-justice