I’m a slave. A slave that wants to break free… How free are you? Really? Are you your own master, or does someone rule you? Have you ever even considered this? If so, I’m very curious to hear your ideas about breaking free. Cause I’m a slave who can barely take it anymore….
Now, when I say “slave”, I mean this in a modern, “Western society” kind of way. I don’t wish in any way to diminish the suffering of actual slaves in history, from Africa. I’m also aware there’s an extreme difference to my suffering, compared to those from poorer countries. Still, with respect for these differences, I have to discuss this notion of “Freedom”, that we have in (Western) society.
Even if I’m not a slave in the traditional sense of the word, I still consider myself a “modern slave”. And I think the same is true of many millions/billions(?) of people in similar societies in the Western hemisphere. We’re not “free”. Think about it….
Can you really get up anytime you want to, in the morning? Can you eat whenever you want to? Can you tell your boss: “Hey, friend, I’ve been thinking about going trout fishing up in the mountains, so I’ll be doing that for the next two weeks, see you when I get back”!
Can you decide that your job’s way too exhausting, and take a break for a few months and just rest, to get your health back on track? I think not… Well, if you can, I suppose you have some other means of supporting yourself, like very rich parents/spouse, and hey, congrats, in the lottery of life! But if you’re like me and many other millions in “the work force”, you don’t have such luxuries. You don’t possess freedom.
Compared to historic/poorer societies, you still have tremendous advantages. You may get some evenings off (so you can have dinner at home), and you may even get the weekend off, for recreational purposes. But complete freedom? No. I’m sorry, but if you’re an employee in today’s world, you don’t have that.
Now, what’s the problem, you may be thinking? Everyone has it like that, we’re all the same. I beg to differ. We’re not all the same. Some people actually enjoy climbing corporate ladders, they have that competition/winner mentality.
At the same time, over and over again, it’s been shown that humans as a species like “The less work, the better”. That is why we kept inventing things like washing machines, fridges, computers, etc. So I believe a lot of people would be very happy living a “simple life”, meaning not having to work, the majority of the time, just to stay alive.
Now, my background is, my parents were in the movement in 1968, flower-power, criticizing wars aswell as the ruling classes in society. So I’m influenced by that. My country is also based on a “semi-socialist, but most-of-the-time-capitalist” -system… In university, I was part of a political group which questioned the capitalist system. I’m still convinced that large corporations and/or high government officials are basically the only ones who benefit from it.
This has become even more obvious for me in recent years. I took a huge loan to be able to go to university. (We have free tuition, but still of course we have to manage living costs for several years, while studying).
When I finished my education and started working, I was quite excited. I work in health care/social care, so wanted to make a difference. What I encountered in work life out in the regional departments (government employment, divided into regions), was a shock. Constantly understaffed offices made it so I constantly have the workload of 2 people, instead of 1. (No extra pay, of course).
Now, constantly working for 2 people, makes you really, really tired. I saw colleagues “dying” like flies all around me, by dying I mean they couldn’t take it anymore. A countless number had to go on sick leave, for YEARS, while others quit and tried everything they could to find other jobs. (Which is very hard, when you’re “specialized”, in a field). Most of them simply ended up in the same line of work, but in another region….
Some people were so badly “burnt out”, due to stress, they could never return to work.. I continued to do the same work, for 9 years now, switching employers from time to time, in hopes of finding one place where I could do the work of 1 person, instead of 2. No such luck.
Before my university degree, I worked in low income jobs, restaurants/grocery shops, for some years, til my back couldn’t take it.
Now, why couldn’t I just “change careers” when I discovered my work after university was so extremely exhausting? Well, I’m highly specialized in my field, and have huge loans since my student days. So, finding another line of work that would pay me the same money, isn’t going to happen. And I need my pay check every month to pay off my loans… I’m in a nice little trap I will likely never escape completely, no matter what I do…
BUT. Now that I have my vacation time, the illusion of freedom is bigger than ever. I try and use it as much as I can, spending some time in nature, cause that always reminds me of how people used to live, in ancient times. Being in nature gives me a sense of real freedom like nothing else. I highly recommend mountains/forests/lakes/beaches, if you’re stressed/feeling trapped!
My vacation time also makes me feel a huge sense of defiance, and rebellion. I don’t ever want to go back again. Truly, if I had a few million dollars in my bank account, I would simply e-mail my employer right now, to say: “I quit”.
But, I don’t have a million dollars. I have barely nothing, to my name. With our extremely high taxes, I make enough for rent, bills, and to treat myself to a trip abroad every year. That’s about it. I live alone, so it’s all up to me, to bring in the sky-high rent and money for all the other bills, every month…
So, I’m not free. Freedom is an illusion. I still love to read quotes about “Be who you were meant to be”, etc. Sure, I’d LOVE that! To be a REAL writer, an author. I have a book idea I think could truly turn into something great… I am a writer, at heart. That’s my “true” calling… but, realistically:
Basically no one “makes it”, as a writer. For every J.K. Rowling, there are probably 1 million people who “want to write”, but simply aren’t talented enough. Or are tied up in a job working for 2 people, instead of 1 person. Which exhausts them, and leaves no time or energy to be that brilliant writer…
So, are we supposed to just give up? Am I supposed to accept that I’ve no energy after work, other than to eat and go to bed, every single day, for the next 30 years? I don’t think so. I refuse to accept that this hell, is supposed to be my life. We all have to find our own way, to make it out of “modern slavery”, as much as we can.
I myself have started to look into ways I could be “my own employer”, still working for the same company, but “billing them”, instead of being on their pay roll. This would likely “steal” away some of the profit they make on me. I imagine eventually I might be able to work Mon- Thu every week, instead of Mon – Fri (for the same pay). The company makes a HUGE amount of money on me, “renting me out” to different regional offices. So, I want to try and get some of that money back to me instead.
I don’t care about the money, in itself. I just want more freedom than I have today! To be more of a boss of my own time. Since my specialty is very sought after, I’d better use that, right?
Don’t let yourself get used by any employer. Do you have special experience/knowledge? Use that! Don’t be afraid. If it isn’t possible for you to start your own company, negotiate better terms for yourself, so that hopefully over time, you can get to a financial position where you can own more of your time. Cause I would bet that right now, you don’t “own your time”. (If you’re an employee). This is why we’re not free. This is why, even though I’ve read a thousand quotes about personal freedom, I still don’t feel free. Cause someone else owns me.
I can’t liberate myself fully, within this capitalist system. But I can damn well try to get my time valued MORE, which can lead to, if not total freedom, at least a bit more than today! And I need that. More than anything, I need as much of my own freedom as I can steal.
In this slave ship that is capitalist society, I’ll try and cut at least one of my legs free from the chains. Just so I can move around a bit, and feel a TASTE of true freedom…
How free are you?