Slavery is not a new concept by any means and it has existed for centuries worldwide in various forms. Yes, it is the 21st century and we are living here in Canada, a ‘civilized’ country by most indicators and modern standards. Upon casual observation and research slavery is illegal here in Canada. Taking a closer look is unnerving and will rattle your cage!
Slave: “one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence” (Merriam-Webster, 2016)
Most of us weave through life searching for our identities, loves, paths and purpose generally following the status quo. Yes, some of us choose our own life paths entirely and consciously… we know that slavery is alive and very prevalent in 21st century Canada.
We go to grade school (graduating or not), then we make choices to either continue our education or work, or travel, or something else. At some point we begin to understand that life can be more if we can just have more of what we need to get more… usually that is money.
This is where things can become confusing, fast. We hear others say things like: “money is the root of all evil”, “not having money is the root of all evil”, “life is more fun with money than without”, “wish we had more money”, “need, want, got-to-have”.
Regardless of where we live in Canada, money is required to exist… unless of course you plan on going 100% off the grid, which by most practical standards is just about not legal! We must live somewhere. We either rent, or purchase a place to live. That requires money. Unless one has access to a padded trust fund, that means working.
Ok, now we have a roof over our heads, hopefully one that does not leak. What about food and eating? Money. Yes, we could grow our own basic food, but then we also have to fit in going to work so we can pay for our home. That wears thin quickly. It becomes easier and more cost-effective to work and purchase our food. Work.
We have to wear clothing, footwear, we may need eyeglasses, medications, personal care items – we could call this having the basic needs of life being met. Money.
We have not yet begun to touch on wants and desires and the 21st century concept of ‘modern slavery’ has already started to define itself. No money equals a dismal existence. (This particular blog is not about the welfare system, so we won’t visit there!).
Modern media in all of its various forms brings all of the wants, desires, must haves right into our most personal space, constantly: cars, computers, furniture, clothing… stuff. We quickly learn that getting these things can be as simple as applying for a credit card or five, lines of credit, second and third mortgages on our homes, loans and oh so much more!
Here we are in 21st century Canada with a home mortgage or rent to pay, several credit card balances, a car loan or two, student loans, lines of credit to pay… we must continue to work to generate an income that will pay for our chosen existence. If we are ‘lucky’ we like our chosen job or work and for the most part smile a bit each day. On we go day by day choosing to work in order to pay for the privilege of living. We know people who borrow two moths out with their paychecks from work in order to survive. We know people who, ‘have it all’, but are so deep in debt that all hope of actually enjoying life begins to fade. We know people who work hard, play hard, look happy for sure, but drop dead at 35 from stress induced cancer.
…”one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence”.
Where do you fit in? Are you, right now, justifying your existence? Should we have to justify our existence, our subservient existence, to make it sit better in our minds?
A few years ago I gathered all of my things, my stuff, sorted out what I truly ‘needed’ and either sold or gave the rest away to family and friends. I moved to South America, down to 48 degrees or so south latitude. I lived surrounded by like-minded souls who also had very little, mostly only what they needed to survive, but were the happiest people I have ever met and known. I was so very happy with so very little. There was no need to have more, nobody to compete with, no ego trips needed. Unfortunately I had to return to Canada. My life is different again, but I have made certain very conscious choices that enable me to just skirt around the outside of the subservience we are discussing here.
What was learned:
If we choose to live within our means, to exist in a definitive balance between earning money and spending money, life can sit tenderly just on the cusp of modern slavery. Learn to be genuinely grateful for what we have, to openly love where we are at and to focus on living in the joy of each moment as it unfolds. When we choose to exist this way, we shrug off the need to compete with the ‘Joneses’ of the world. Living within our means, a balanced existence, becomes down right enjoyable, fun even. Holidays, real time-off without the stress of having to continue to pay thousands of dollars in bills each month, that can be a reality. Spending quality time with family, enjoying the simple love of life itself can be a reality.
Now, the words we dislike hearing, “it’s simply a choice”.
Or, we can choose to continue competing with the world and become subservient to the money we require to live with that choice. This is modern 21st century slavery.
Peter Lerch, Writer/Photographer