After writing my recent piece here on Apple I decided to expand upon the topic of corporate slavery and bring that issue right to our American shores. Slavery has of course existed for thousands of years, but probably brings to mind most vividly thoughts toward the era of slavery within the United States and the civil war as I hinted towards with the previous article’s logo. Not just limited to foreign countries, modern slavery is alive and well right within our borders.
The enslavement of African-Americans was horrific, yet that should by no means be a bar by which to accept or refute modern abuses. Child labor is slavery. Just because they aren’t paraded across a stage in chains does not make it anything less. The slavery in the South was glaringly overt. The genius behind modern-day slavery is that it requires no locks, chains, or bars and we apply for it of our own free will. This is not a reality limited to Chinese sweat shops. The United States has the most brilliant corporate ball and chain ever invented – healthcare.
In this country we no longer work just so that we can eat and maintain some sort of roof over our increasingly indebted heads, we do it because if we get sick and aren’t employed we are completely screwed. To have a doctor do no more than walk into a room with you can easily cost $150.00 or more without insurance, and god help you if he writes a prescription. The result, to maintain any measure of personal health we must shackle ourselves to an insurance company. A company that dictates what care we will receive and when we will receive it, not the doctors. A company that decides when we should just get on with it and die because we do not meet quarterly profits. To afford this astronomically priced service of not dying we must hold a job that offers health insurance as a benefit. And now you find yourself in a much more clinching position at work; if you ever feel the want/need to quit that job before finding employment with a comparable health benefits package elsewhere, you’re right back to being screwed – praying you remain healthy until you find employment benefits again. We live in a country where it is legal and possible to get cancer and die because you do not work for the right people. That is not the slavery of the Deep South, but it’s still a form of slavery, if at the very least an unsavory option: Work, or die.
If that chain doesn’t fit quite properly around your neck well enough to keep you at work, in come the bankers and credit card companies. I remember being offered my first credit card at the age of 18, for two thousand dollars. The interest rate was merely a variable 25% base interest rate, with a $100.00 annual fee. I maxed it in a matter of months, and spent years trying to even just cut that debt in half. Now I needed to work harder to pay for things I had already bought. And that was only the first of the credit lines and offers thrown my way. You cannot buy a house without a mortgage, most often for a term of 30 years. A car is often five (because you aren’t buying that with cash either on your lavish middle class salary).
We are a country enslaved to our debt. If we are not working for the insurance companies, we are working dutifully for the banks. The Sheriff of Nottingham takes another coin. You may, of course, rent a house, but as anyone knows that has been in the renter’s market, you often end up paying twice the price of a mortgage a month to maintain living conditions half as bearable. Student loans make college a professional investment fund with decades of debt piled up that grant criminal-like returns for social servant positions such as teaching and any profession not ending in Doc-tor or Law-yer.
We are slaves to our greed. Commercial interests never cease in the attempt to make us slaves to our desires. Materialist consumerism keeps us working later hours for that bigger Christmas this year, or so that our children don’t have to made fun of at school for their lack of name brand shoes. We live in a country that heartily fosters this want, where the lines between entertainment and marketing have never been thinner. People watch the Super Bowl for the ads. They want to buy James Bond’s watch. A Kardashian’s cellphone.
If you still don’t believe that corporate America is secretly working you like a little bee, sit down and look at your budget after expenses each month. A vast majority of this country has next to nothing left after just paying to not die, and a staggering count more cannot even make monthly ends meet. A country that once only needed one adult per household to work now most often requires two.
Past benefits such as vacation time and yearly bonuses have largely vanished (while executives increase both every year). People that used to have a sense of ownership and pride in their place of employment are now often used up until they can be spat out for newer, younger stock. Even our futures are enslaved, as forced retirement plans are subject to the corporate gambling of the stock market. The golden years are golden for someone, just not you.
What we suffer now is of absolutely no real comparison to the suffering of the African-American slaves of the past. But we are by no means free in a country that profits off of the sick and forces the elderly to work longer and longer because the rich played dice with their lifetime of earnings. A respectable retirement and health care services should never be considered a privilege by a civilized society. Unless you are free to get sick and free to grow old, you are not truly free at all.
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