Sunday, June 8, 2008

Life as a Slave

1: Drudgery, Toil
2: Submission to a dominating influence

Officially Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, but the masters of servitude have been unable to resist the appeal of wealth and power derived off of the backs of others. Modern slavery has taken on a more subtle and devious approach, but its effects on the lives it touches is no less tragic and devastating.

The consumption society that dominates American culture is perpetuated by major corporations and the government. Its goal: to entice the masses to spend their paychecks on new cars, clothes, electronics, and toys. Companies skillfully use marketing – product placements, targeted advertising, and celebrity endorsements – to create perceived “needs” in the minds of American consumers. The government sends token “stimulus” checks to prevent any slowdown in consumer spending and discourages savings through taxes on wealth (capital gains, dividends, and estate taxes). Banks lavish financing and debt on consumers to facilitate the demand motivated by the innumerable societal influences that drive consumerism in America.

You might wonder how consumerism is related to modern day slavery. According to Wikipedia, slavery “is a social-economic system under which certain persons — known as slaves — are deprived of personal freedom and compelled to work”. Consumerism compels those who lack self control and the ability to see beyond the constant barrage of propaganda to spend beyond their means and accumulate overwhelming debt all in the name of keeping up with the Joneses. They become burdened with onerous debt and are unable to break the shackles of consumerism, all the while enriching the wealthy elite and filling the government coffers. In order to satisfy their needs and financial obligations, they become trapped in a vicious cycle of work for the very people that profit from their behavior. Modern day slaves toil at the crucible chasing a fleeting dream of financial independence. Until America wakes up to the value of thrift, savings, and wealth accumulation we will continue to live in a society dominated by consumerism and burdened by overwhelming debt, trade deficits, and currency depreciation.