Modern Slavery in America

by | Aug 2, 2011 | 19 comments

We often reflect on the slavery issue our country has struggled to get past. We have books, movies, and even days to remember the struggles. But, as I look around and meet with people I see new forms of slavery in the most prosperous country in the world.

  1. Debt – The debt crisis has overtaken us – and many have become totally enslaved to serving their debt. Their solution to get out is often a more creative slavery relationship through refinancing or “debt-consolidation.” While I do not consider myself to be a financial counselor – I have had to dive into this area of slavery many times. Debt causes people to give up on their dreams since they can never break free from what is holding them back.
  2. Corporate America – No… I am not bashing the corporate machine in this country. But let’s face it – the Dilbert syndrome has crushed many of our desires and forced many of us into another slavery trap. We now worry about what changes are going to take place in our companies in the coming months – worrying what benefits we may lose and what jobs may go away. Like refinancing deals – we sometimes find a glimmer of hope by changing employers – at least until the reality of the new slave relationship we have just gotten into hits home.
  3. Entitlements – Our government (which is “we the people”) in our goodness to take care of our own, have in fact created slaves. I meet with people every week who have the mindset that getting free money from the government – from food stamps to free housing or free tuition – is the way to live. Yet, they are stuck. Again – one law change crushes them – or gives them hope.

Of course, you see the problem – neither debt, corporations, nor government programs are the real slave masters – we are. Something has happened in our country that has taken all the spirit away. People in NASA will often say they do not know if they can get back to the moon. The technology is better – but the spirit is missing. Could we ever prosper as a nation if we found times of struggle again? Have we become so soft? In all three cases of modern American slavery, we have given up our freedom, hope, and future by taking the easy way out.

Not to be a pessimist though – we can take back control. As I look at my own life and those around me – I think we have lost personal discipline and at the same time we have become too self-centered in society. But who can change that in our culture? I do not think anyone can – but I can change me, and you can change you. No more being a slave because it is the easy thing to do.

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Dale Callahan

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  1. Christopher Robinson


    You hit the nail on the head with this Article! Debt causes many to not only to give up on their dreams, some will go beyond their dreams, senses, and beliefs to attempt to come out of debt.

    Corporate America or the “overseers” continue to “enslave” the masses by using the struggling economy as a method to treat their employees as they wish by giving them extra responsibilities, pay reductions, no bonuses, and as practically free labor, knowing the job market appear to have dwindled.

    When you turn “Welfare” around…you get “Fare well”. This society has enabled many to believe and feel they are to get something free, when it actually will decrease their work ethics, enthusiasm, and creative abilities.

    America was built off of Slavery, and to have a people in bondage for over 400 years with free labor, America became extremely wealthy. Stripped of their Land, Language, Culture, Religion, and Identity over generations, the slaves and descendents of slaves had to rely on each other and a power much greater than their slave-masters to live and survive.

    This is the kind of inner strength and will to live that should empower us to break the chains of financial, social, educational, spiritual, physical, and mental slavery.

  2. Dale

    Great points! And perhaps the big bind many (and the country as a whole) are in will help us all reach for that inner strength! While the media and many are telling us America is at an end, others see that we shine st the toughest times. Time to break some chains!

  3. Gloria Robinson

    Greetings Dale,

    I tried my hardest to resist the overwhelming need to comment on this heart-felt, truthful message. However, my emotions and need to say…AMEN… won.

    Dale, so many times we (the Corporate slaves) are so busy doing the bidding of the master, that we fail to (by design) recognize the power within and need to adhere to “our calling,” as it were.

    Realizing this is a bitter pill to swallow. Because, no wants to be a slave. And, certainly no one wants to be a debt indentured servant ( Indentured servitude refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture. Usually the father made the arrangements and signed the paperwork.[1] They included men and women; most were under age 21, and most became helpers on farms or house servants. In terms of living conditions and discipline, they were usually treated like relatives. They were not paid cash. It was a system that provided jobs and—most important—transportation for poor young people from the overcrowded labor markets of Europe who wanted to come to labor-short America but had no money to pay for it. The great majority became farmers and farm wives.[1] WikiPedia

    Now, that I know better…I am compelled to do better…to break the chains of servitude that binds my hands, heart, and purse.

    Dale, thanks for keeping it REAL!


  4. Robert Hanson

    I have spent the past seven years working with people in debt. It is amazing how little we know and understand the perpetual cycle we get ourselves into while chasing the “I want what I want when I want it” mentality. Oh, and by the way, “I want it now”.

  5. TJ Pruitt

    I’m not sure if slavery is the proper term to use for the topics discussed above. Yes, I do agree that all three are issues that our country continues to struggle with, but it’s definitely no comparison to slavery.

    I think the debt crisis stands above the rest and it is only getting worse. We are continuing to teach and preach to the public that being in debt is ok. Whatever happened to the days of “save up enough money” and then purchase?

  6. Bob Woolverton

    Has something “happened in our country that has taken all the spirit away?” Or instead of “away,” maybe the modern variation on slavery has simply covered over our spirit, in much the same way as the march of time has covered the cultural stamp of so many populations. Consider Dilbert. He is a likable sort and many of us identify closely with him. And if not the title role then we can certainly identify with one or more of the other characters. They are all likeable in their own way except, of course, the pointy haired boss. But what has that to do with spirit? What has the sardonic humor of Dilbert to offer those of us seeking the revival of the American entrepreneurial spirit? Someone famous once suggested that where you find humor, look closer and there also you will find truth. Here we have pulled out the big guns: spirit and truth. As virtual archeologists we have kicked aside a bit of soil and noticed something of interest just beneath the surface.
    If we look closely at Dilbert our risk is not in finding truth, but humorous truth, sardonic truth. The truth we find as we snicker over morning coffee is bitter and ironical, but so true, so utterly true that we cannot help but laugh. And therein we find our hope. Mark Twain says “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.” Dilbert gives a sunny spirit and a truth so that we in the neighborhood Kyoob Pharm can know there is hope for change. Dilbert has spirit. You see his spirit in capital letters when the going really gets unbelievable: GAAAAAH!!!. But we can believe it, because we live it. We are there. So where is our spirit? I have mine. I am pretty sure you have yours. And our spirit is no less capable of capital letter expression than Dilbert’s. And yet my spirit of entrepreneurial adventurism lies dormant, covered over, or maybe chained. Perhaps my spirit is chained in servitude to a comfortable lifestyle that I am too chicken to put at risk. Or maybe it is chained in servitude to a fear that I will not be able to provide for my daughter. It could even be chained in servitude to some deep psychological scar that tells each day “you are not smart enough, strong enough, young enough, or lucky enough to make it BIG in business.” Here sitteth I, blogging, enslaved.
    Is there a way to turn all of that upside down? Is it possible to learn how to find a foot path across solid ground to the land if not “promised,” at least a bit more spirited? A life where the spirit races us out of bed in the morning with new ideas about how we can create value for our fellow humans might be possible. Could Dilbert stop for a moment and think, maybe in capital letters THINK, what do I love to do? Would someone pay me to do that? Could I start doing that for money 2 hours a week? How could I grow my new found, spirit generated, income to equal or exceed the income from my day job? Could Dilbert learn all that? Is there someone out there who could teach Dilbert how to grab hold of life with both hands and laugh all the way to the bank?
    My answer: I don’t know, but I promise you I am going to find out. I am going on a dig and I plan to excavate my spirit. Would you care to join me? Perhaps together, with Dilbert and the truth he brings to the table, we can regain our spirit.

  7. Andre Swain

    Very interesting concept… To be trapped by something or anything is to be enslaved. The foundation of this topic is really mind blowing. Dale only listed 3 things, but you can apply this thought concept to anything that binds you or keep you from chasing your dreams both tangible and intangible. Great article Dale!

  8. Andre Swain


    I wanted to state this comment for the record…. Your statement was incredible. I need to find my spirit as well. Thank you for that.

  9. Lakevia Bibb


    I agree with you 100%. History has begun to repeat itself, expect “master” has taken on a new form. Instead of the “slave master” having human-form, it has been replaced by mental slavery. Americans have created a mentality of entitlement. Those Americans who have entitlement mentality use terms such as “I deserve” and “I am entitled to” because the government have made them lazy. They feel that they are entitled to free housing, food and insurance. Until the government seizes the free handouts, we will continue to enslave ourselves to the entitlement mentality. Then you have those Americans who believe that they are entitled to the lifestyle of the rich and famous, that they can’t afford. Those Americans who feel that they are entitled to a lavish lifestyle will rack up huge amounts of debt to ensure that they have it. They become enslaved to their debt because they believe that the “American Dream” is to stay in debt. As long as banks and creditors are willing to lend, Americans will continue to borrow instead of buy. Once again, we are enslaved by our own mentality capacity believing that “we are deserving of” anything that our heart and soul desire for free and by any means necessary.

    The new American Dream: “I am entitled and borrow instead of buy”.

  10. Sofiane Ben

    I totally agree with Dale. The corporate world is “modern-time slavery”. No doubt about that. Once in, it is very difficult to get out. Furthermore, our system is built on debt, which is another form of slavery. We finance everything from our homes to our cars to our education! Then we’re left to pay for it for the rest our lives, at least for the most of us.

    Growing up 3000 miles away from this country and after having lived here for over a decade, this is a subject that I find myself thinking about quite often.

    Where I was born and raised (Algeria/France) life/culture is very different to say the least. In Algeria, people don’t work, they just act like it. In fact, studies have shown the average “productive” work time in Algeria and most/all of the Middle Eastern countries is less than 3 hours per day! Time seems to be endless, people can work their shift, visit friends and family, enjoy long sessions of gossips, dominos or cards, all is a day of “work”! Certainly, there are no great prospects for prosperity, not much things they can buy or do, not only because most cannot afford it, but also because they don’t even have them available in the market.

    In the US, we work at least 8 hours a day, and for many (including myself) 6 or even 7 days per week. Work/career seems to be not only a part of life, but life itself and even all of it! We can and do indulge in materialistic goods they can only dream off back there! But we barely have time to enjoy the things that should matter the most, our loved ones!

    These two worlds are a true example of polar opposites. On one side, you got all the freedom of time but very little prospects of prosperity, on the other side; you have great potential to prosper but hardly any time to enjoy it!

    Another thing I do not agree with is the retirement system. The current age is 65. Soon it will be 69. So if I’m lucky enough to make it to 70, I will reap the fruit of a live time of hard work by living in poverty!

    I personally believe that none of those two models are good. Ideally, there should be a balance between having the freedom of time and of the freedom purchase!

    As the saying goes, “money talks and everything else walks”. Money can buy you everything but happiness! It is up to us to define what happiness is.

  11. Simon Maregwa

    I agree that we have become our own slave masters especially when it comes to debt. It is interesting how debt is accepted as part of peoples’ daily lives. Having grown up in a different country, some aspects of American living like 30 year mortgages, layaway, car notes are hard to accept. People live beyond their means, literally speaking people live to pay off their debts.

    Its conditioned thinking, where the idea about debt is continually argued as being ok and people indulge in it so often that we eventually accept it. Its better to make the the best out the little one has, life in turn can be more fulfilling.

  12. Marcus Dozier

    Modern day slavery…. This topic really hits home and I think most of America fits into one of these categories. (DEBT and WELFARE) I feel we are condemning ourselves to this fate. Our children no matter what color or race are brainwashed at young ages. We let the media play an unhealthy role in raising our kids. They look to for our entertainers to tell them what type of person they should be. How to dress, what to drive, where to live, what to buy. We grow up thinking we should live certain lifestyles and be just like Jetsons. As parents and role models I think we should drill the concept of financial freedom into our children. We should teach them that its cool to save your money and think for yourself.
    When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut because I was fascinated by stars, but no one ever encouraged me to pursue that dream. My dad always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be but it was lost somewhere along way. By the time I made it to college all I wanted to do was get a job in CORPORATE AMERICA that payed a lot of money. Why? So I could buy all this stuff that I really never needed in the first in place. My co workers and I always have this conversation about our humble beginnings and how we survived off of a tenth of what our salaries are now and yet we still seem to spend more and more and pocket less living check to check and creating more debts…

  13. Stephen Crowder

    I read this post with some interest, and would like to expound on debt and entitlements:
    1) Debt-I agree we have become a nation of people who owe. However, I consider this a symptom of a larger problem: instant gratification. We have been conditioned to want what we want when we want it, and by whatever means we can get it. Not only is this evident in how a good number of us treat our lines of credit, but in our pursuit of income as well. A lot of us have been fooled into believing quick money is the way to happiness. With a few exceptions, most occupations which yield quick money are illegal and lead to prison or death. One only has to look at our entertainers, and how our young people want to emulate them. What most of them fail to realize is, when they see a music video with Bentleys’, a large house, and a lot of “bling”, those are stage props. Reality is starkly different. It seems it is no longer permissible to work a legal profession, save and live a normal life. I realize this digresses from the issue of debt. However, in my opinion, it shows one of the fundamental flaws with the way we look at making money, and satisfying our desire for material items.
    2) Entitlements-Entitlements have been the subject of much debate, especially with the present financial condition of our country and the economy. To me, this is a double-edged sword: on one hand, there is a segment of the population who believes that the way to live is to have the government provide money, food stamps, free housing, etc. However, there is also a segment of the population, who, by no fault of their own, are not able to work due to disability, mental challenges, or other issues beyond their control. It is this segment of the population that we who are more fortunate are obligated to take care of. For the segment of the population who can work and don’t, and believe it’s better to let the government take care of them-shame on them. I know people on both sides of this issue-those who should NOT be on disability, and those who have legitimate claims due to injury or illness. Does our system of entitlements make slaves out of a segment of the population? Yes, it does, for those who are lazy. However, for the segment of the population that actually needs it, entitlements can be a lifesaver.
    To sum it all up, it’s about personal responsibility. There are opportunities available for those who take them. As individuals, we are ultimately responsible for where our careers go, how much debt we have, what corporations we work for, and in general, how we live our lives. Do bad things happen to people beyond their control? They most certainly do. In the end, it’s our responsibility to live the lives God gave us to the best of our abilities. One thing IEM has taught me is there are opportunities available if you avail yourself of them. So are you going to sit by and let life pass you by, or get up and take action?

  14. Wesley Sims

    This is a serious issue in our society. I do not think the masses of society understand this concept of new age slavery and are conditioned to just follow the norm. There were some great points mentioned in earlier comment posts, but I have a story that i would like to share. I am a teacher in the inner-city school system and I interact with children on a daily basis who are products of enslaved families. WHile having a conversation of youth engaging in adult activities, I asked a student who was too young to get a job and support herself what she would do if she found herself pregnant. She responded that she would be fine and taken care of because “Welfare WIC and food stamps.” This was her response. She could not algebraically solve for x in a two-step equation, but she understood the concept of receiving government assistance for living expenses. THis is a problem. When I attempted to explain that these type of government programs were created to provide temporary assistance for those trying to get on their feet until they could become financially independent, she expressed her family’s long-term use of government funds for survival. I tried to explain that her family having to wait on a check every month is modern-day slavery. You can’t even go to the grocery store until the government says so and sends you a check. This is a perpetuation of the stereotype and a huge problem in our society. I hope the light comes on sooner than later.

  15. Arletha Jones

    I’ve been reading the posts and it has really made me stop and think. Modern day slavery is a reality and not only affects us individually but also affects us as nation. Our personal ways of handling our finances, having a lack of drive and feeling entitled have lead us to vote for leadership that will cater to our fancies. So now we have a growing national debt that we don’t even have a plan to pay for and the average person doesn’t seem to care.

    So what now….is change possible? If I change will it really matter? Pope John Paul II said “As the family goes so goes the nation and so goes the whole world.” so maybe if I work on me and those and in my circle of influence who knows what the ripple effect could be.

  16. JFuqua

    You have said what has been in my head for a long time now! To think that we are mentally slaves by allowing these things to take over our lives is real! When I think about debt, I think about all the differnt ways people are consistently digging a bigger hole. Quick money loans, debt consolidation as you mentioned, rent to own. It sounds nice when you do it but ultimately you are paying more just for the service. I think I read through one of the comments below that asks about what happend to saving and then purchase. It took me a long time to get a major credit card only for the simple fact that I knew I would be too weak to use it wisely. If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t buy it. Even now, I have challenged myself to save to pay for IEM out of my pocket if all possible (That’s if I do not get reimbursement from my company). The point is, I would rather not make more loans if I really don’t have to.
    As for Corporate America, I think there are so many of us who are in this situation. I am one of them! I have allowed myself to think about all the pros to where I am while already knowing that my season may be changing. You can only do better when you know better and the only way out of this one is to take a leap of faith on what you really want.
    That last point really heats me up though. I’m a single woman who works sometimes 70+ hours per week for my company. I have days when I am miserably sick but still show up to work. Better yet, my brother was disabled, Muscular Dystrophy. He worked three times a week and before he passed could barely feed himself but STILL WORKED! To think that people are stuck mentally on not having to do anything to get money amazes me. Sure its free but what are really doing to get out of your situation? My tax dollars go to you sitting at home watching the stories while I’m fighting sleep on the job. Sad.
    This was a good one Dale!!!!

  17. Eldrick Tate

    Excellent post that really hit home. I attended a conference called financial freedom… put on by Dave Ramsey’s group and the information I got out of it directly coincides with what you said. We are a slave to mastercard… its a reason it’s called MASTERCARD. Everywhere you turn there is advertising saying spend more money. Borrow more. I remember that commercial where the guy was buying all the nice things to try and look inportant then said I am in debt up to my eyeballs. That is what we as a society has involved into. We have come to believe that since we can go spend $2k on a credit card and pay 75$ a month were winning… but with interest that $2K initial purchase ends up costing like $6K. — Where is the logic in that. My wife and I have made it a priority to get out of debt. No more credit card purchases and paying well over the minimum amount on loans and credit cards. Also I’m going to pay for IEM out of pocket. I already have too much in student loans that I don’t want to add anything else to it. It may be tougher now, but FREEDOM is the end goal and you can’t have it being a slave to lenders.

  18. Dale Callahan

    Thanks for the feedback!

  19. Dale Callahan

    Congrats. Student loans are soon going to be the death of universities as well as the modern workforce.


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