Home » Defining Root Problems, Economic Opportunity, Many Forms of Slavery

White Collar Slavery in the USA

3 April 2009 No Comment

So many things in life are insidious. They creep up, unnoticed.  In the beginning: normalcy.  A range of “acceptable” that is generally agreed by the majority of a society or culture.   Then, as the boundaries of normalcy are pushed, ever so slowly, the centering point for what is “normal” shifts, with motion barely perceptible, till one day the recollection of “what used to be” creates a sense of aghast over the extremity of the change.  Like shifts in acceptable hemlines over time (one day the knees must not show and the next day “hot pants” are “hot”)- that one day seem fine, and seemingly overnight outrageous- there is no easy point of determination of where and when the “acceptable line was crossed” because the shifting of norms is so insidious.  Folks, call me “Chicken Little” but here I am to shout to the world:  expectations in the workplace have crossed to The Far Side.

One day, when we weren’t looking, when our centering of normalcy had been insidiously shifted from an expectation of an eight hour day of work with an hour off of paid time for lunch, full health benefits and a pension plan for our retirement, to an expectation of “do whatever it takes to excel in your job and you will succeed”- we looked up from our desks to discover we no longer work to live, but instead live to work.

Reality in the corporate world in the USA today (for managers) is a twelve to fifteen hour work day, a half hour of unpaid working lunch at the desk, partial paid health benefits, and no pension plan for retirement.  After arriving at the office at 7am, engaging in mind-numbing and relentless negotiations with bureaucracy, paperwork and electronic documentation,  countering swipes from a ruthless colleagues determined to “outwork” you, and obsequiously grovelling to a boss most likely younger than you – and male- (ethnicity no bearing) – a boss who has obtained the position for reasons unrelated to actual or imagined competence- corporate managers leave the office at 8pm, finally free of the oh-so-real intangible chain to the desk.  Upon arriving home, they must then check e-mails until the wee hours in the morning.

(Note to all those working in banks and on Wall Street:  You are the exception, not the rule!  An example of shifting of norms to the other FAR SIDE of the continuum of normal!  Your bonuses alone could cure hunger in a small country!)

As global economic opportunity has increased, business crosses time zones.  The one person does the job of five.  (The other four were laid off.) There is no rest.

In corporate America, they take your blood.  N0- that is not figurative!  Lines of employees waiting for a nurse to draw their blood for the company “health” program are commonplace.  What business is it of your boss whether your cholesterol levels are high or low?!  And how is it that I was the only one of 300 employees to refuse to participate in this disgrace and violation of personal privacy ?   WAKE UP!!

In the “olden days,” they say, women died in the fields.  In 2009, USA, people die at their desks.  There was a case in NY several years ago where a man died at his desk on a Friday night, and no one noticed that he was dead until late morning on Monday.  Folks, it has been insidious.  But make no mistake: THIS IS SLAVERY. Slavery of a different sort.  Partial to no gender or ethnicity.   See it for what it is:  Slavery.  There will be no change until we universally acknowledge it.

The time has come for human rights activists and government leaders to consider the inalienable right to “work to live” rather than “live to work”.   Perhaps it is time to consider a constitutional amendment to that effect.  The time has come for us as a society to contemplate the possibility of an existent collective slavery that we collectively turn a blind eye to, thinking “No, not us- we are all just!”    As a nation,  we have proven that we continue to be resilient and adaptive to promote necessary positive change.   THE FIRST STEP IS RECOGNIZING THE INJUSTICE.

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