The new form of slavery is not racial but subtle, more dangerous, and affects all
Slavery based on the color of one’s skin or ethnicity is horrendous. However, there is a new form of slavery. It does not come with a whip. It does not come necessarily with physical scars. It is subtle but more dangerous because we ultimately choose our enslavement to the corporation.
But the new kind of slavery can be mitigated if one enters into corporate servitude with eyes wide open with an independent exit strategy. In other words, while the corporation’s fiduciary responsibility is to the shareholders and not the employees or customers, one’s loyalty should be to self, relative to the corporation.
I realize the words and encouragement I received from my father were more profound after leaving my software company to become a full-time political activist than after abandoning the corporation I worked for to start what turned out to be a very successful software development company. Why? Because I was able to study the corporate pathology that causes voluntary enslavement.
After deciding to leave corporate America to start my software company, some people in my family were not thrilled. My father’s words were simple but ultimately profound. “You do all da work,” he said with his Panamanian/Caribbean accent. “And they make all the money. You can do it on your own.” He also reminded everyone that one could get fired at any time and if I were not darn good at what I did, the opportunities that I made would not have come to fruition as quickly as they did.
In that one exchange, as simple as it may seem to many, he touched on some critical concepts without calling them by name: stealing one’s excess labor, intellect, loyalty, and freedom. Whether you work for, intend to work for, or plan to quit the corporation, one should understand these.
The first thing one must understand is that a corporation was not designed to like or dislike people. Legally, as an entity, it has many rights that supersede that of humans (e.g., Citizens United v. FEC). Its sole purpose is to make money at all costs. It is the fiduciary responsibility of corporate executives to maximize the profits of the shareholders and implicitly that of their class for good measure. One is hired into any corporation solely to affect that reality.
One’s voluntary enslavement begins with several types of coercion: benefits and money. These give the semblance of equity. But the power within the relationship lies with the corporation. The corporation can fire the employee at any time. While it is true that one could quit at any time, most are up against a financial reality or healthcare reality that keeps them pinned to the job. Moreover, you are either forced to work above and beyond what should be required either implicitly or explicitly. I read an article recently from a document factory titled “7 Signs that indicate you have become a corporate slave” that puts it into context.