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.  
Please continue.

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 table?" 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 future worker. 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, for now. 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 you there?" 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.