When the United States just originated, it was common for poor European immigrants to sign indentured servitude contracts. These contracts were sold by captains of ships and would state that in exchange for passage to the new world, the immigrant agreed to work a set number of years once they arrived in the new world.
Upon landing in America, these people would essentially become slaves for the length of the contract.
Hidden indentured servitude is all around us
You may be surprised to find out that the indentured servitude contract is alive and well in today’s society. Todays’s version is more advanced and has become distributed between multiple parties, so most people aren’t aware of it’s existance. In short, it’s hidden in plain sight.
Instead of involving two individuals as in the case of the ‘classic’ servitude scenario (you and the captain), the current system involves four primary actors: you, the banking system, your employer, and retailers.
The basic scenario
The most basic scenario illustrating modern indentured servitude is as follows:
- You have basic needs that must be fulfilled in order to survive. You cannot fulfill all of these needs with your current skill set or what you presently own.
- You require products and services from retailers in the market because of this need.
- In order to purchase said items, you work for an employer. You exchange your time (specific quantities of your life) while achieving goals created by the employer.
- You receive money to purchase required items in exchange for the work/a portion of your life.
The ‘enhanced’ scenario
So far, so good. A big problems comes in when the steps get ‘enhanced’
- In addition to core ‘needs’, you start adding ‘wants’ to the list of consumables you require.
- Retailers again can fulfill both these needs and wants.
- In order to purchase said items, you are required to work for an employer. In order to do so you must work more now by getting a second job, get a new job that pays more or must take a loan. As the system is presently designed, the loan option is by far the easiest to achive.
- You receive money to purchase both required and luxury items in exchange for this larger amount of work/a larger portion of your life.
- You now have received money which is now owed the bank, with interest. Since time is money, money is also time which means you have committed even more of your life to your employer.
You can see that step 3 is essentially the same thing that occurred in the classic indentured servitude case only it has been expanded to consume more of your life. This is done quietly and efficiently, with our own psychology working against us.
Always wanting more extends your indenture
A curious concept is at play which causes the above pattern to become a life-stealer. This concept is known as hedonic adaptation. In a nutshell hedonic adaptation causes you to be unsatisfied with what you already have.
When people have been living at a particular level of life for a while, most get bored with it. What was once a great way to live is no longer exciting or even satisfying. The way many typically overcome this is to spend more, gradually and continually upgrading their lifestyle. What were once luxuries now become viewed as necessities.
The problem is that lifestyle upgrades extend your indentured contract – the amount of your life you’ve agreed to give another in exchange for the ‘buzz/high’ you get out of ever increasing spending habits.
Back in the olden days it was much easier to see how your actions extended your contract.
Be wary of offers from the ship’s captain
Upgrading your lifestyle is the equivalent of having the ship’s captain ask if you want to extend your indentured servitude contract from five years to six. In exchange, he’ll let you sleep in the captain’s cabin instead of down in the hold while you make your trek across the Atlantic.
Because the classic indentured servitude contract scenario is straightforward, most people can see how they would easily turn down a month of luxury since they know it would directly cost them a year of their life.
Unfortunately because employers, retailers and the banking sector have split parts of the indentured contracts between them, most people don’t understand that upgrading lifestyle impacts how much of one’s future life has been promised to the employment system.
Thus, people end up extending their contract one trinket at a time, perhaps only realizing what they’ve done when it’s too late.