Slavery based on the color of one's skin or ethnicity is horrendous. However, there is a new form of slavery. It does not come with a whip. It does not come necessarily with physical scars. It is subtle but more dangerous because we ultimately choose our enslavement to the corporation.
Submission to the corporate structure: The new form of slavery
But the new kind of slavery can be mitigated if one enters into corporate servitude with eyes wide open with an independent exit strategy. In other words, while the corporation's fiduciary responsibility is to the shareholders and not the employees or customers, one's loyalty should be to self, relative to the corporation.
I realize the words and encouragement I received from my father were more profound after leaving my software company to become a full-time political activist more so than after abandoning the corporation I worked for to start what turned out to be a very successful software development company. Why? Because I was able to study the corporate pathology that causes voluntary enslavement.
After deciding to leave corporate America to start my software company, some in some in my family were not thrilled. My father's words were simple but ultimately profound. "You do all da work," he said with his Panamanian/Caribbean accent. "And they make all the money. You can do it on your own." He also reminded everyone that one could get fired at any time and if I were not darn good at what I did, the opportunities that I made would not have come to fruition as quickly as they did."
In that one interchange, as simple as it may seem to many, he touched on some critical concepts without calling them by name, stealing one's excess labor, intellect, loyalty, and freedom. Whether you work for, intend to work for, or plan to quit the corporation, one should understand these.
One must understand that a corporation was not designed to like or dislike people. Legally, as an entity, it has many rights that supersede that of humans (e.g., Citizens United v FEC). Its sole purpose is to make money at all cost. It is the fiduciary responsibility of corporate executives to maximize the profits of the shareholders and implicitly that of their class for good measure. One is hired into any corporation solely to affect that reality.
One's voluntary enslavement begins with several types of coercion; benefits, and money. These give the semblance of equity. But the power within the relationship lies with the corporation. The corporation can fire the employee at any time. While it is true that one could quit at any time, most are up against a financial reality or healthcare reality that keeps them pinned to the job. Moreover, you are either forced to work above and beyond what should be required either implicitly or explicitly. I read an article recently from a document factory titled "7 Signs that indicate you have become a corporate slave" that puts it into context.
7 Signs that you may have become a Corporate Slave
- You sleep less than an average of 6 hours every night.
- Part of your daily routine involves turning the floor lights on, when you arrive, and off, when you leave.
- You have never attended your daughter’s dance recital.
- You can’t remember the last time you had a day off, let alone a vacation with your family.
- You are constantly anxious about your performance, or rather the way it is perceived by your manager.
- You feel you cannot talk to your manager, your HR or your colleagues about your grievances.
- Your work-life balance has taken a nose dive.
If all or even any of the above sound familiar, then you might just be in the company of the un-free.On a closer inspection you may actually see yourself among thousands of employees steering the metaphorical ship of your company, chained to the massive oars, much like the galley slaves of the ancient times. Have employers really become the, less gruesome, less morbid, less reprehensible versions of the last century plantation owners?
Of course, they have. It is now antiseptic. It has the semblance of class. The chains are no longer iron but electrical impulses undulating in one's mind cauterizing the thinking process
Why aren't corporate profits shared? If a corporation has total sales of $10 billion and total expenses of $8 billion, then that $2 billion profit is the excess labor of all the employees. Why aren't they getting a cut of it? Corporate defenders will say that the shareholders put their capital at risk. That is hogwash. Workers put their bodies and many times their health at risk. They put their relationships at risk. And many times the children are shortchanged irreparably. Then, some will ask if workers will share in the losses. Well, they already do with the loss of their jobs, security, and many times pay and more. Ironically, when corporations lose money their stock price may drop but it requires no outlays from the shareholder.
The slow death of the unions, unlimited money in politics (McCutcheon vs FEC, Citizen United vs FEC), deregulation, automation, and global treaties all reduced the leverage and bargaining power of the rank and file employee. We must take control first of our government and pass laws to get money out of politics. We should make unions a requirement to do business. And we must pass an amendment that makes Citizen United and McCutcheon moot.
The above is not wishful thinking. If activists and workers alike work methodically, consistently across election cycles, one can accomplish these and more.
We must come to the realization that the economic system isn't divine. It is human-made. A few men created it with a particular unequal bias that enriches a few which will ultimately culminate into indentured servitude for the many. And we have been living under it for several hundred years now. It is time for the masses to enjoy what they built.