ON SPIRITUALITY AND ETHICS
“Go, sell everything you have
and give to the poor, and
you will have treasure in heaven.”
Jesus to a rich man (Mark 10:21)
The first time I saw 12 Years a Slave, I was struck by the ever-present brutality—from the horrific whippings for minor infractions, to the forced separation of families, to the psychological trauma of being possessed and abused by a wealthy plantation owner. The slave constantly struggles to survive.
The second time I saw the movie, I was struck by a brief scene in which the main character, Solomon Northup, plays a violin for a lavish anniversary celebration. The dainty waltz demonstrated a pretense of gentility for a society whose demonic enslavement of human beings provided the riches for their ill-gotten extravagances.
It is different today. The wealthy must purchase people’s labor. So the problem of slavery is long gone.
“Not so fast!” say those enduring ‘wage slavery.’ True, whippings are outlawed, but the working poor, like slaves, also experience economic exploitation, constantly struggling to survive. Even when working hard and long hours, they are paid substandard wages based on–like commodities–the law of supply and demand.
Workers are objects.
The psychological trauma of being owned by the wealthy Waltons of this world is demoralizing. Displeasing them may cost more than a job. For more than half a million Americans, the ultimate price is homelessness and, like slavery, separation from family.
How often the extravagant celebrations of today’s wealthy are made possible by the vulnerable. These workers’ labor is bought so cheaply that millions of their children must go hungry for some days at the end of each month.
Protests Against Wage Slavery
Many throughout 200 cities risked their living on April 15 by participating in the National Day of Action to Fight For $15. Nearly 100 Providence protestors marched for two hours, stopping at City Hall, the Hilton Hotel, Gourmet Heaven, and the Cilantro restaurant—a chain recently fined $100,000 for wage theft.
A single woman in her mid-twenties explained how wage slavery affects her: “I live paycheck to paycheck. By the time I get done paying my bills at the end of the month, I don’t even have money to put food in my house.”
At an Oakland, California protest at McDonald’s, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich proclaimed: “The Fight for a $15 minimum is not just a fight about higher wages, it’s a fight about morality. It’s a fight about decency. It’s a fight about dignity.”
This is the call of the new abolitionist movement, a campaign to eradicate wage slavery.
The Oppression of Wage Slavery
Today’s wealthy have assets that slavery’s antebellum aristocracy could not imagine. The top 400 have more money than 160 million Americans.
Like slaveowners, these business barons build their empires upon the exploitation of others. The Walton family fortune, more than $100 billion, is predicated on paying full-time Walmart ‘associates’ so little that many must apply for food stamps. Thus, dynastic wealth, the accumulated lucre of wage slavery, is also taxpayer subsidized.
Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, states: “I think it’s wrong that we, as a nation, preach the greatness of capitalism to single mothers and we practice socialism with the biggest banks.”
Scarborough, a Republican, stands in contrast to the vast majority of leaders in his party. Republicans oppose an increase in the minimum wage. Moreover, the cry of the GOP, especially those in the House of Representatives, is to substantially reduce benefits for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—despite the obscene wealth of their patrons. Why? To reduce “government dependency.”
Unjust wages are the real cause of government dependency.
Even the safety net for bare essentials is under attack. A Rolling Stone article exposing dubious means to eliminate food stamps for millions states this is an example of “The Republicans’ War on the Poor.”
Corruption is legal. Plutocrats and politicos collaborate for their mutual benefit. The results are predictable: Tens of millions are at or near the minimum wage; 47 million require food stamps; and the safety net for society’s most vulnerable is being ripped apart.
Its time to raise our voices. Let’s join the new abolitionist movement, the protest against wage slavery.
©2015 Harry Rix. All rights reserved.