Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery

There’s nothing of so infinite vexation As man’s  own thoughts. 
~ John Webster, The White Devil

I hope you’re ready to get pissed off. The other day I saw a graphic on facebook which said:

Modern Slaves Are Not in Chains, They’re in Debt.

And it appeared that most of those leaving comments were unhesitatingly agreeing with the idea. This little “truism,” however, snagged my attention because of the uneasy feeling it gave me. And I hope you didn’t just swallow it down whole, either. So fair warning – this is going to be a contrary viewpoint.

My wife and I used to do volunteer work for a couple of NGOs helping to free women and children in the third world who were victims of human trafficking. For example, thousands of young North Korean women are lured by “escape brokers” to flee the starvation and repression in their country, only to be held prisoner to perform in online peep shows and sex chat rooms. Some end up in brothels.

Many others, the slightly older women, are often sold to families in deep rural areas as “wives” for a brother, a son or an uncle who is physically, mentally or emotionally handicapped and unable to find and win a bride on his own. These women face a life of beatings and sexual exploitation. Usually they become pregnant and bear children, which traps them even more firmly.

Some children make it across the river from North Korea on their own, but unless they are alert and resourceful enough to avoid capture, are usually shipped to child-sex brothels where they may be forced to perform all kinds of sex acts a dozen times a day or more.

That’s slavery. 

Meanwhile, here we sit, most of us, and we’ve got a job that we can leave at any time to find a different one. We have the freedom to go out and learn new skills, advance in our company, even start and run a business of our own. We have a home to live in. And a family to love (if we’re not too busy feeling sorry for ourselves). Most of us are not beaten regularly, and if we are, there are shelters and legal protections. For most of us, our children are not forced to perform sex acts at all, let alone several times a day.

So debt equals slavery? Gimme a break. For most of us, if our life sucks, it’s just a result of our own unwise decisions and a craven fear of stepping away from our known territory – our so-called “comfort zone”.

Now I know, we may spend a lot of time flailing about agonizing over how little power we have in our own life. I did that for years – and I really believed in my own powerlessness. So sure, culturally we are encouraged to feel ill-used, harshly treated, entrapped by circumstances. But that will never make it true.

Meanwhile, you’ve read enough self-help and personal growth material by now that you’re familiar with the notion of “your thinking shapes your life.”  And you try. God knows you try. Yet, somehow, it seldom works like they tell you it will. You do the affirmations, the visualizations, the meditations. But still …

Well, there’s another little piece that most teachers and gurus don’t explain very well – just a tiny sliver of a detail, actually. But damn! It’s a deal killer.

Here it is.  

On the way to mastery not every step along the way is going to bring you ecstasy and joy. Sometimes, some of the things that need doing will be a drag. Others might even make you angry. Meaning, you’re not going to enjoy some of the things you need to do. Nobody said the path to growth is a straight line running right through Happy Land. Or if they did, they were lying to you.

No, we’re going to have to work for the good stuff. And those things along our path that seem so unpleasant – they’re the ones that involve changing something. Now it IS true that the Universe will bring us what we fill our minds with. But how much room in your mind is already taken up by fear, self pity or dread?

I invite you to answer this question in the privacy of your own mind:  Do you find yourself setting a goal or an intention and then drawing back from some parts of what needs doing to get you there? If that’s you, then know this. Those feelings of “oh, that’s going to be hard” are big expressway signs marking the fastest lanes. And if you’ll steer directly for those lanes and do those things anyway, you’ll get there far faster than the cowards and delicate little flowers who hate to work up a bit of a sweat.

I repeat, debt is not slavery. But people are still fixated on their feelings of powerlessness, so they justify it by announcing, “I’m in slavery, because of this, that or the other cause.” Doesn’t make it true … they just think it does.

So please I urge you, don’t swallow that myth. Your life isn’t bounded by slavery. It’s not terrible. It’s just not. Could it be better? Sure. And that’s why you study this self-improvement stuff. Because it starts getting better when you start making it better.

As a coach, one of my most important jobs is to help my clients learn to see themselves and the world in new ways.

New vision – new life.

No new vision – well, you already know where that leads. That’s where you are now.

Cheers from sunny Japan,

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