I’ve seen a lot of content as of late of many young people who seem to be disgruntled with the current job market. They compare having a job as a modern-day form of slavery. Many refer to it as wage slavery. They believe many people have become slaves to their employers. Handcuffed and shackled by their need for a paycheck. I can see this point of view and have pondered this train of thought over the last few days.
The current economic and political system that we operate under in the United States is capitalism. Capitalism is a system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state. In theory, this system allows people to earn an optimal reward for the amount of work that they are willing to put into getting paid— in theory.
The flaw that I see with capitalism is not how it works, but with the rabbit hole of consumerism it leads an individual down. Consumerism is the idea that increasing the consumption of goods and services purchased in the market is always a desirable goal. And that a person’s wellbeing and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions.
THE CONCEPT OF WAGE SLAVERY
Capitalism and consumerism go hand in hand. The way the systems are intertwined is like this. You get a job to earn money by producing a product or providing a service for an employer. Your employer compensates you for your time that you spent there doing so. That money is then spent on housing, food, clothing, and all essential needs. Then what’s left after that is spent on other things — your wants. Your wants are what enslave you. The new car, purchasing your own property, running up lines of credit that aren’t needed, like credit cards, personal loans, and such.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…” I’m not a religious man by any means, but the human flaw to want what another man has is a flaw that many religions warn their followers about, and there is a good reason for that. That road leads to strife, war, and death. But for most people, debt and worry evolve when capitalism and consumerism are combined. The commercials every evening are so enticing. If you buy that new car, you’ll be so happy. How about that credit card? What’s in your wallet? You know the drill. The thing is the commercials must entice you into consuming to keep capitalism going. That’s just how it works.
BECOME DISCIPLINED AND AWARE
The way to avoid this trap is to become disciplined and aware. Aware of the trap of debt that has been set for you. Disciplined enough to be able to identify your needs and your wants. There’s no need to punish yourself. Get things you want. Have nice things, but do you need the new iPhone. I mean, you just got a new phone a year ago. It can wait a little while till you get a little further ahead in this game of life. Think about it.
WORKING A JOB
If you think about it, working a job is not a natural way of life for humans. This modern way of consuming has only become normalized in the last 100 years. Before that, many people’s only jobs were just living. You tended your farm, grew your own food, made your own things. Whatever was left, you tried to sell to get a little money for some other amenities or supplies you couldn’t produce on your own. That was life. We fell into this modern way of life after World War II because Europe had to be rebuilt due to a man who coveted what his neighbor had. That unprecedented boom lasted into the late ’80s. That reconstruction period is over now. Now production is just for mindless consumption that depletes our planet’s resources, takes away our time for living, puts us in debt, and enslaves us to an employer. Maybe it’s about time we rethink this modern way of thinking and get back to things that matter to us and make us human.