Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Am a Modern Day American Slave

I am a modern day American slave. My servitude takes on the particular form of the wage slave, in which I spend a significant portion of my time and energy doing tasks that, at best, bore me and at worse, grow a leaden lump of dread in my belly. In exchange, I am given small slips of paper. As a wage slave, I often find myself in the peculiar situation of having to apologize for being human. "I'm sorry I can't keep up a production output of 500 pph for four hours straight with no break. I'm really sick today." My human frailties are grudgingly accepted and the hours or days I lose to illness are, of course, unpaid. And I actually have a good job. I make above the minimum wage, get paid holidays and vacation time and full health coverage. I'm one of the lucky ones. As the years have gone by though, I have become less and less willing to sacrifice the things I really value-my time, health, sanity, interests, friends and family-for something as meaningless as money. The cost is too high. And so, when given the choice between what I care about or making more money, I tend to choose what I care about. This has precipitated me into another form of modern day American slavery. Poverty.

I have become one of the working poor. Despite spending over 40 hours a week on work or work related activities (commuting), I barely make enough to get by. It's a slow slide at first. You take a few hits. It knocks you back and you find you can never quite recover. It snowballs from there. I've certainly made some financial mistakes that have accelerated things considerably but I don't have a problem with that. I learn from my mistakes. But as a poor person, I pay for my mistakes with interest. Bloodsucking, usurious interest. And no bailout for my broke ass either.

And I still consider myself one of the lucky ones. I've never gone hungry, though I have at times gotten my food expenditures down to 25 bucks a week (I'm up to a fat 40 now). I've never had to let my lights get turned off so I can pay rent because my check doesn't come in for another week and then have to pay the exorbitant fee to get the lights back on and all the late fees which puts me back even further until I can't pay the lights or the rent and I'm being evicted. No. I'm still able to pay all my bills. It takes a lot of planning, ingenuity, prioritizing and some ruthless cutbacks but I still scrape by each month. But that's almost all I can do. Pay my bills and buy food and splurge on occasion. But most everything else is out of my budget. And in a society that has become increasingly privatized, where there is hardly anything left that has not been commodified,  I find myself excluded from most human activity. I sit on the bus and look out at a world that has been closed off to me because I can't pay the price to get in. I walk in the park I live by. That's free. I get books from the library. It's still free to read. That's about it. I used to spend time with my partner. That was free. But the state took him from me and locked him away and now they charge me through the nose to spend minutes talking to him. My lover has been commodified and time with him is something else I have to pay for, something else I can't afford.

I am a modern day American slave and America is a cruel, cold and brutal master.

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