THE NEW SLAVERY
an essay written 3/26/02
If you are reading this, you are most likely a slave. The demographics
of people who have web access and have time to surf make it very likely
you are exactly the right person to read what I have to say.
Let me write it again. You are a slave. If you are like most
people, you probably read that sentence and don't understand it or
believe it. You may think of slaves as African Americans in the
US in the 18th and 19th century, or even in Brazil and Sudan today.
Some of the more educated readers know much more about
that kind of slavery and its history than I do... You probably say to
yourself, "I don't feel like a slave. Who is enslaving me? I have
free choice! -- I have real freedoms."
You are not a slave with shackles or chains, but you still cannot get
away. You are abjectly subservient to influences completely beyond
your control, and those influences pervade the thoughts, actions, and
assumptions of you and most everyone around you.
This essay is written after a several year journey of self exploration
-- thinking, talking, and learning about human behavior.
Systematically examining the influences that lead to thought
patterns and assumptions about how and why we live as we do. To be
frank, the conclusions have led me to the simple (and hard to
reconcile) conclusion that most people are entrapped within a way of
life that makes them miserable, and most don't even fully realize it.
What journey? First, stopping the din of propaganda and thought
control from marketing, entertainment, and corporate news media: basic
media abstinence. Extensive travel inside and outside the US for 1-3
month periods in each location. Having the financial freedom to stop
working for going on three years now. Reading and discussing a ton of
other people's assessments on the human condition. Writing and
learning all I can on why people are or are not happy with their lives.
I just said people are entrapped within "a way of life". I'm talking
mostly about western culture -- and to lesser extent, its incarnations
throughout the world. Western culture is explicitly swallowing most
of the world. More specifically, I'm talking about the prevalent
culture that has developed over the last 100 - 150 years since major
commercial industrialization occurred in the developed world.
Let's get more specific. The two major fronts here that work in
concert to create the way of life that I'm talking about:
corporate/commercial culture and government run amok. First, I'm
talking about large corporations and marketing. I'm talking about the
assumption that companies have to keep growing or die. Second, I am
talking about a completely broken political system where our leaders
and their decision are regularly chosen and controlled by significant
financial interests, enabled solely because of corporations. I am
talking about vast majority of people taught to live striving for
externally defined goals that are, by definition never attainable. It
leaves hoards of people working very very hard and consistently
miserable with their situation.
Ask yourself this question:
Why do people work as much as they do?
There are lots of answers. They have debt. They have to save for
retirement. They have to save for kids' education. They want better
homes, bigger cars, the next PDA. Some even like work. Everyone
works; if you don't work hard, something must be wrong with you. And
then -- if you take the argument far enough, I always get, "well, you
have to eat; if you don't work, how are you going to put food on the
For most people in Western culture (you know, the one swallowing
the rest of the world as you read this), its not a question they even
have time to consider. They have to work. They have no choice.
To have a better life, you have to work harder, right? That's what
the glorious education system (in the US at least) teaches every
The inescapable message that western culture tells you is this:
To succeed, you have to own everything.
Its a message so prevalent, no one really even needs to say it --
it's in every marketing message you see. Its wrapped in the daily
activities of all the people around you, all striving to own more.
There are a very few people who benefit greatly from everyone working
so hard. I'm really not too concerned with the inequity of wealth
distribution. Yes, it sucks to see failing companies who have
shareholders loosing their shirts pay the CEO millions in salary and
bonuses, but I will leave that problem to the crooked politicians,
No, I'm pointing at something bigger. I want you to look at the sum
total of human commerce. Pretty much all companies. Most people
don't really understand how destructive companies are to the essence
of human existence. Companies exist to organize the actions of large
groups of people to make profits. The broken, inverted political
system (that clearly now exists now to control instead of serve)
perpetuates corporations through legal systems designed to support
their existence. Corporations collect money and power, from all that
is outside themselves. With a few hundred years of honing the system,
now companies do it very very well.
Bigger yet are some ingrained cultural assumptions of "normal life"
that, when examined closely, don't make any sense. The most glaring
senseless assumption is that we should have enormous corporations,
driven solely by profit aggregation, driving the behavior of most
people. It is our current culture that enslaves individuals to a life
we would not choose under different circumstances.
The last few hundred years is a small speck on the history of human beings.
What is so troubling is that the culture in which we live has been
bent around the assumption that "business is good." Threats to
current business systems are met with legal controls to perpetuate
jobs and money collection. Many parts of what people believe and how
they live, shop, spend, etc. are all directed toward keeping companies
growing and profiting. It's not a conspiracy. No one is engineering
the system. However, the trends are very clear: People are
working more than they ever have in human history, and have
a quality of life that is the worst they have ever experienced.
Here again is one of my opinions that you may not understand or like.
I believe it wholeheartedly.
People go to work, they get paid. They work harder, they move up, and
are paid more. But in the end, it is the bottom line of the
company that benefits from all that hard work. Yes, there are
exceptions -- self employed, sole proprietors, partnerships, lots of
exceptions. But its the big and growing companies that garner all the
money and the power to control people's lives: legally, polically,
finacially. Lately, I've even gone so far as to think I can
satirically answer one of the fundamental questions of religion and
philosophy: "Why are we here?" It would appear, after long
examination, that we are all here to aggregate influence and money for
companies. The sum total of what we are "supposed" to be doing, as
taught by cultural example, is simply that. It would be a sad legacy
for humans to have come so far on the evolutionary track and the net
result is simple perpetuation of intraspecies competition.
To make it worse, people everywhere in our world are completely
miserable with this situation. Ever wonder why we drug ourselves
silly with opiates, designer drugs, alcohol, and other poisons? Ever
stop to consider how many people are depressed? No one I have ever
met feels normal or at ease with their position in life. If you are
still reading this thinking, "but I have a great life! I have lots
of money and I can do what ever I want!" ask yourself honestly
--"How many other people toiled or lived a miserable existence to put
Before you start jumping down my throat about things I wrote here, I
do know these are not new ideas, and I certainly don't claim ownership
on many things I have and will present here. What has been so
amazing, is that when I talk to people, most people sooner or later
understand and agree. Instinctively, they believe it. Most are
shocked, some are sad.
Many ask then, "how do we fix our culture?"
That is a much, much larger discussion. Have it with your friends.