By Kirstie Pursey
Modern slavery might be a strong word, and I am not comparing our suffering to that of actual slaves. However, there are parallels. Understanding these can help us escape and have true freedom.
Much of the work that people have to do could be considered a form of modern slavery. Working long hours for a minimum wage is an exhausting and soul-destroying way of life. In addition, many people have to take additional jobs to make ends meet. Meanwhile, big corporations are raking in huge fortunes on the backs of their workers.
Working these hours causes health problems and breaks down families and communities. Often these big companies also use practices that are harmful to the environment and exploit people and resources worldwide.
It’s hard to escape these kinds of working conditions when there are bills to pay, and it is a struggle to make ends meet. Many people don’t have the luxury of finding more meaningful work, taking time off to retrain or starting their own business. Because of this, many are stuck in these conditions for life.
However, the number of new businesses starting is growing at the highest rate ever as people wake up to the idea that making big bucks for someone else is never going to make them happy and fulfilled. People are also creating non-profits and charities whose aim is to make the world a better place rather than exploiting people and the planet to create profits for the few.
Much of our hard earned cash goes on paying an endless round of bills. We have to pay for our heat, light, water, medical care, and other utilities. Many of these bills are not optional and there is little choice between suppliers. Most of the big utility companies are own by a few big corporations and they avoid too much competition. Basically, they can charge as much as they want. We are trapped, by the need for a job, into living in expensive cities where rents and utilities are high.
However, there are smaller, more ethical companies that are trying to change this landscape. By choosing to support smaller more ethical companies we can make a difference.
If it wasn’t enough that many people have to work long hours to make money for big corporations, they then end up giving much of that money back to the businesses to buy their products.
Big companies own most of the stores we shop from. They have made it easy and convenient to buy their products in huge stores, malls and online. Of course, we have a choice over how we use our money. However, our desire to spend, spend, spend is fuelled by advertising that plays on our fears.
Advertising is designed to make us feel flawed and inadequate. Adverts hit right at our irrational fears of not being good enough. They then sell us a product to fix this perceived flaw. We end up feeling that we will never be adequate unless we buy the right clothes, furniture, cars, makeup and so on. Our hard earned money soon disappears and yet we still don’t feel happy. Of course, the advertisers have already come up with another fault they have a product to fix. And so the cycle continues.
Those of us with children have additional pressure. Children and young people are particularly susceptible to advertising and peer pressure. And as parents, we want to see them happy and fitting in. When our children say others will make fun of them if they don’t have the latest sneakers of gadget, we feel guilty if we say no. So we rank up the overtime yet again at the expense of a quality family life.
This is a hard problem to solve. However, being aware of the effect of advertising and choosing smaller, more ethical companies to shop from wherever possible could make a difference.
If we ever fall behind on our bills, we soon get into debt. This is one more way for big banks and corporations to take even more money from us. Even if we don’t get into debt because of bills or overspending, we are likely to need student loans, car loans or mortgages at some point in our lives.
Debt puts a huge strain on relationships. Couples argue about money more than just about anything else. Money worries are also stressful, causing mental health issues. For some people, whose debts have become unmanageable, suicide seems the only way out. Tell me that this isn’t a form of modern slavery.
You may wonder why we all put up with all this. Perhaps the main reason is that the big corporations and the rich elite also own most information sources and play a large part in political activities, too. They control the information we receive and convince us that this is just the way the world needs to be.
Change seems virtually impossible when the ordinary person is up against corporate giants. However, new sources of information, social and political groups and charities are beginning to make a difference. The elite are afraid of the ordinary person’s power. This is why they attempt to divide and conquer us. But the more we work together in families, communities, states and countries, the more we can escape this modern slavery and create a more equal society.