Slavery didn’t end. But of course you know that. The news still features human trafficking and children sold into the same cruel millenia-old slavery. Likened to software or web development, this legacy slavery would be slavery 1.0 or maybe 1.1
But I think there’s a new pervasive form of slavery around today that I call slavery 2.0.
The original form of slavery is a simple concept: the slave does as told to avoid pain or death. The slave, while chained, works for freedom from pain, punishment and a horrible death. The slave owner profits from the slave’s work.
Today’s slavery 2.0 has more comfortable chains and less horrific consequences. The chains are the fears, self-doubt and limiting beliefs that confine us to normal, safe lives. The consequences are the lost opportunities, passion, and excitement we might have if we were really free.
Slavery 2.0 doesn’t punish us physically or threaten us with death, but instead robs us of adventure and possibility.
The links in slavery 2.0 chains are not metal but mind-numbing entertainment—like TV sit-coms, and reality shows,—moods of resignation and cynicism, and conversations of safety and fear. They function by distracting us from possibility and increasing our capacities to tolerate boredom and frustration.
Our education also teaches us to value the safety and security of a normal status-quo world, where we fight—if we do— only to protect our little foothold in the status-quo.
It’s the rare person who says, “Wow! Good for you. You quit your well-paying job to pursue your acting, or start your own business.” Even if that’s what they say what they think is, “Are you crazy? You quit that great high-paying job to do what?”
We would like to think that freedom means the possibility of making another choice in the pursuit of your happiness.
Isn’t it interesting then, that people rarely make radically different choices, even when they are unhappy?
If truly free why don’t people change life direction more often?
There is a philosophical question about power that is instructive: If a nation has great military might but refuses to use it, does it really have that military might? The answer is no, and I think the same is true for freedom.
Freedom that exists only as an idea in our minds that we never exercise—and in fact are afraid of exercising—is not really freedom. We are in fact imprisoned to a life of “that’s just the way it is.” Our socio-economic system (the new “master”) benefits from keeping us on the “plantation” i.e. today’s manufacturing, services and corporate jobs that enrich the top 1%.
The essence of freedom shouldn’t be different from the experience of freedom.
Leap of faith
So you say, “That’s pretty depressing Pete. So what can I do about it?”
The first step to freedom is recognizing that you’re not free, and perhaps reading this will do that for you. If not ask yourself “When last have you exercised your freedom? To do what?” More than likely you’ll find yourself chained to your job, your routines … maybe even your marriage.
The second step is taking action. Why don’t more people take radical action like quit their jobs or marriages, and do something that lights them up? Three reasons:
“I have a family and a mortgage dude. Nice and easy for you to say, but how are the bills going to get paid while I try to earn money from something that does excite me?”
The answer is of course, don’t quit your job—at least not yet. Bide your time and prepare for the next step. Use your time to gather the skills, experience and credentials to get the job that would light you up; use the time to get business partners and funding to start a venture of your own.
But only when you have an offer that meets your short-term obligations then … jump.
2. Long-term obligations
People do this most often in marriage or duty to parents. You may have enslaved yourself out of some sense of duty or a vow you took. Integrity is great but it shouldn’t cost your happiness. In fact, I would say if you’re unhappy you’re breaking a fundamental vow you made to yourself. A vow to be happy and live a great full life. And by the way, exercising freedom doesn’t dictate divorce or abandonment; only re-invention.
3. Nothing to jump to
The more interesting reason people don’t act is because nothing lights them up.
Slavery 2.0 stifles your capacity to dream and builds your capacity to tolerate “this is the way it is.”
Which means that the key to your chains lies in learning to dream again.
Stop watching mindless silly sit-coms and reality shows and kick start your imagination by journaling, writing fictional outcomes of your future, having new conversations with new people about what life could be like; only through your imagination will you see new possibilities.
Only through your imagination will you access your power to create and experience freedom from slavery 2.0.