Slaves I’ve Known
Slaves I’ve Known
Before you sneer and question how I could ever know about slavery because it happened to other people and ended over 150 years ago, let’s take a minute and consider contemporary slavery, that shadowy malignancy that subjugates both you and I.
Slavery: noun: slav·ery ˈslā-v(ə-)rē
1: the state of a person who is held in forced servitude
2: submission to a dominating influence
The slave I know best is myself. In the spirit of Will Rogers, I must admit, “I never met a menu I didn’t like.” Food, especially food containing sugar or chocolate, reigns powerfully over me every time I fall off the diet wagon — maybe, once or twice a day.
I’ve also had good friends who became slaves to other substances, like drugs (both prescription and illegal). Some of those friends paid the ultimate price for their servitude and are no longer with us. Still more of my friends are slaves to alcohol. They can’t get through a single day without liquid anesthesia against life’s ills.
Then, there are the slaves to their families. A couple friends my age remain so enslaved to that adolescent need to prove they are unlike their parents, that fifty years later they still aren’t free to be themselves. On the flip-side of that coin, I know people still trying to live up to the image of their saintly deceased parents. Most of those individuals don’t even realize that they aren’t free because they were born into their slavery and never knew anything else.
If it’s not one generation, it’s the next. I cannot count the adults I’ve known who exist in slavery to their kids. We’re currently amid an epidemic of helicopter parenting — and that’s just the parents still trying to make every activity painless and guarantee successful endeavors for their adult children, much less the parents of young kids.
When I was in high school, I was totally dominated by a 1968 Mustang convertible. I spent every spare minute polishing and waxing that heartless task-master, and I spent every spare penny I had on new tires, fancy wheels, air shocks, and a hundred other accessories it didn’t need. When I got older, I became a slave to a house that announced my success in life to the rest of the world. It took a reversal of fortunes to emancipate me from that beast but it was one of the best days of my life.
I have friends who are slaves to jobs, slaves to their electronic gadgets, slaves to fashion, and slaves to hobbies. Some are even slaves to the organizations they belong to, the political parties they serve, and the social media cadre they seek approval from.
The unrivaled enslaver of our culture is personal attitudes. I have at least one friend who constantly complains about the inequity of our country and the dishonesty of capitalism, yet that same socio-economic system has made him wealthier than ninety-eight percent of the Earth’s population. Why is he so unhappy while dirt-poor kids in Kenya are able to express elation at simple pleasures. I have to admit that I, too, am an entitlement junky and a slave to the belief that the rest of you should think like I do. So, shape up or ship out!
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to minimize the depravity of a system that rendered as much pain and degradation to humanity as any other atrocity in history. I’m simply pointing out that you and I are voluntarily submitting to something equally repugnant. Neither am I judging those people I used as examples. We’re each enslaved in our own personal ways — none more so than others.
Perhaps, it’s time for a new underground railroad – one that could secretly connect us with other freed individuals who we could relate to and learn from without alerting the masters of this massive plantation we all inhabit. We could stop depending on people, things, and circumstances as a measure of our self-worth and as a means of happiness. We might even become so free that we cease to be offended by those who wish us to remain enslaved as they are. It’s just a thought.
“The problem with self-esteem – whether it is high or low – is that, every single day, we are in the courtroom.”
– Timothy Keller (9/23/50 – 5/19/23)
He will be missed.
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