ECONOMIC SLAVERY

Aug. 3, 2012

ARE YOU A SLAVE???

 

        I often like to ask my students, "Is there slavery in the United States today?"  The answer I hear most often is that there isn't except for those cases of prostitution, transient workers, and other cases that are usually considered to have unacceptable working conditions.  I propose that this is not only incorrect but can lead us into making some very poor decisions.

 

        I currently carry a "Tracfone".  Now, I'd love to have a "smart" phone of one brand or the other but I had to decide how much of my freedom I wanted to surrender to convenience.  I have a laptop and a PC with internet so the "smart" phone would be redundant especially when I have a computer at work with internet access.  I pay $150 a year for all of the minutes I will use during the year.  Why, because I use my phone for calls that are needed. I do miss out on all the inane twits from those twittering their life away with information that will not improve my day or make me more efficient.  I do not enter a coma, oblivious to all around me, because someone "commented" on my facebook entry that the moon was beautiful last night. I do not walk around with my phone strapped to my ear or head down texting more inane nonsense to people who I'll see in two hours. I know, "Al, you're just old fashioned and out of date."

 

        That may be correct but I am not "enslaved" by my phone in my personal life. However, that is not the focal point of this blog.  My slavery could be much worse and much more insidious. You see, you pay a large chunk of your disposable income to allow yourself to be enslaved by that "smart" phone. In effect you are leading yourself down a path that may well lead to even more crushing enslavement.

 

        When I relay this next illustration to my students they often gasp and even state out loud that I am a horrible human being.  Here's how it goes in class.  I usually select a student of color, for obvious reasons. I then ask them if they think they will ever be enslaved. After some discussion about how they would never submit to such a thing I ask another student what type of car they would like to have. Then I ask another what type of cell phone they want. The discussion continues along these lines until I feel I've gotten all the students thinking about "what they want".  I then return to the original student and ask him/her which of the items he/she would like to have. After they have answered I explain that I used to celebrate with employees who bought a new car or got a new "smart" phone and would even go out to the parking lot to "see" the car or would have them show me all the neat "aps". Why?  I'd then look at the student and tell him that I loved it when he/she did that because now "I owned them". You see they were now committed to payments and debts that meant that when I wanted them to do a disagreeable task or work on a holiday or weekend I knew they couldn't refuse.  They were ENSLAVED.

 

        I know many very intelligent, educated, and successful individuals that don't realize they are enslaved by their toys.  I once heard a fellow employee expounding on how he couldn't make it if his wife didn't work and how they probably wouldn't take a vacation because gas costs were too high and they couldn't afford to go.  He never considered that he and his wife each had an automobile, both had smart phones, they had a fishing boat and a four wheeler, and lived in a huge house in an upscale neighborhood (all of which were on mortgage or credit).  They were enslaved and couldn't even enjoy their income so that they could take a vacation. Worse, I know that individual was unhappy at work.  His life consisted of day to day misery which to this day hasn't changed.  His bosses never worried about losing him and could not care less if he got promoted or not because he was "owned" and they could direct their motivational considerations toward those who weren't.

 

        During this same lecture I often ask my students if they have ever seen anyone go to one of the payday check cashing offices in town.  One of my young students said her father did that every week.  I told her to go home and tell him he was stupid. I then explained that if it was only $2 it was $2 that was limiting their freedom. We then usually discuss ATM charges along the same vein.  The basic rule we adopt in class is:  Only an idiot pays someone else to let them spend their money. If you do you are simply putting one more link in your economic slavery.

 

        I hope this has given you something to consider.  Am I rich, no.  But, I'm also not enslaved to my toys and debt. Oh! I just bought a fishing boat for my retirement. I paid cash.

 

MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT - GRUMPY