Debt, the new slavery

25 07 2008

Back in the day – before any of us were around, or our parents, or probably our grandparents – there were various types of slavery in common practice in this country.

Originally there was indentured servitude where a family would agree to work for a certain period of time for passage to this country, and some cash at the end to get established. Not a great way of getting started in life here in the New World, but an understandable way to get here and get going. There were injustices and some people took advantage of the indentured servants, but at least there was – theoretically anyway – an end to the term of service.

Then there was the blight on the soul of the Americas – and I’m including here the islands of the Caribbean and some of Central and South America, though I’m not as familiar with their history so don’t know how widespread it was. However, I believe that the indigenous peoples in the Central and South Americas were enslaved against their will. But I’m referring here primarily to the enslavement of many Africans, captured by their neighbors, brought to this hemisphere in oppressive conditions, and forced to work, marry, live at the discretion and to the benefit of another human. This situation has, fortunately, ended, though similar varieties of slavery continue to persist in the world in numbers exceeding that of the years just prior to the Civil War.

However, today we have a different type of slavery in America, one involving almost every family in the country, and this slavery is consentual – debt. Credit offers pour in through our mailboxes weekly if not daily, and we glom on to them as if they were life savers tossed to us in stormy seas. We are offered home equity loans and we slurp them up. Beyond our mortgages and our auto loans, we are amassing $10k, $20k, $50k of additional revolving debt, and thinking nothing about it. (And our governments are as enamored of debt as we are!)

This article in the Consumerist leads to a New York Times article discussing consumer debt and what we can do to get ourselves out of this mess. (No help at this point for the government!)

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