head, heart, hands: american slavery

27,000,000 people right now as we speak are slaves in the world.

27,000,000. That’s a lot. Texas has somewhere around 23,000,000 people. That means that the entirety of Texas plus Kentucky are enslaved somewhere around the world. They’re enslaved in the sex trade, they’re enslaved in the fields, and they’re enslaved in restaurants all over, and in fact right in front of us.

This is something that shocks me. To live in 2008 and to have all of the gifts and benefits that we have, and there’s people right next to me that very well might be unable to be free. That’s wild.

It begins to make me wonder about my freedom. I think that I’m free. I woke up this morning, got breakfast, wrote this article, went to lunch, did some more work, met with some people, and later I’ll do more work and go to bed. This is my decision; I could do nothing today if I wanted to, and it’s my choice.

And I suppose it’s become my choice to sell myself, too. This morning, when I had coffee, it was Starbucks coffee. I went to lunch at Bob Evans. I’m wearing an Old Navy Sweater and Jeans. I’m addicted to selling myself to things that I want and I like.

This is not to minimize the current amount of slavery, but I really wonder if, ultimately, any of us are really free. How many of us aren’t bonded by something else.

I graduated from Grove City College with a degree with Marketing, and if there’s something I remember most in our discussions there about being a good marketer, it was that if we kept going, we’d be given a lot of power. We’d have a power of influence in people’s lives. An influence in a part of people’s lives that’s particularly important – your money and what you want. The average American is bombarded by 3,000 advertisements a day, or roughly one every 20 waking seconds. My job, as a marketer, is to make my 20 seconds stand out in your mind the most. If you want my product, you’ll buy it, and I’ll make money, find products I want and buy them from another marketer.

What enslaves us to this system, I think, is that we really don’t need half of the stuff we have, we just think we do. I know this to be true on a personal level, as my emergency food supply also known as my love handles are testament to. Marketers, as part of the equation, make me believe my wants are absolute needs, and I, like lamb to the slaughter, gladly put my money down to take what they’re selling. I even know they’re doing this, yet if it’s sexy and sleek and makes me feel better, I’ll take it.

This last week I just got back from New York City, and Times Square. Over and over again, the people with me commented on how what a den of consumerism it is. So many towering, luminous lights telling me I need WaMu, CNN, and Avenue Q. Meanwhile, there’s 27,000,000 people enslaved. I wonder if one of those pre-teen girls enslaved right now in Indonesia in the sex trade were brought to Times Square if she’d be so impressed with Washington Mutual, or if she’d just be happy that she was standing on 46th and Broadway free.

In my mind, the saddest state of slavery are those who are enslaved and don’t even know it.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve actually been thinking quite a lot about freedom recently. About what it means. About whether I have it.

    I don’ think I do.

    I’m not sure how to measure it, you know? One could obviously and considerately argue that my ability to choose my own friends, work, house, etc. are marks of freedom. Or that when I want a cookie, I can go get that cookie. I can’t easily disagree.

    In actuality, no one is telling me what to do. As far as options go, I have them all (mostly). And this is what is so frustrating to me. I imagine our grandparents or great-grandparents coming to America, and living in terrible conditions, and wanting more than anything to give their children better options. And then there were wars, and the next generation wanted more than anything to give their children more and better options. And here we are, standing in the widest open space paved by our ancestors, and mostly all I can think about is, “well, now what?”

    Reply

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