Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Our way of life

I realized this morning that we in the US have always expected something for nothing.

Up till the mid 19th century we had “free” labor in the form of slaves.

From the mid 19th century through the 20th century we had “free” labor in the form of cheep and plentiful fuels to replace the slaves.

In the latter part of the 20th century into the beginning of the 21st, we have “free” labor in the form of immigrants from south of the border.

This has given all of us a sense of “something for nothing” and for a select few “entitlement.”


The direct cost of slavery was high. Higher than any of us alive today can fully appreciate. We can read about it, we can empathize to an extent, but we cannot fully know. Thank God for that. We have been paying the price for slavery for a long time now, but some of us don’t really feel it. Some of us who live in the white world are not even aware that the cost is still going on. That we are not entirely free of slavery. The chains have just faded. The chains these days are now prison bars, subtle racism that most do not realize they have, sequestered neighborhoods were poverty is encouraged and hope killed at every opportunity, the inability to say “I love you“ to people you love. The sounds of the chains clanking are the sound of car doors locking when a proud black man walks by, the lack of color in management of corporate US, the attitude of fear. Yet, slavery doesn’t exist anymore…

The cost of cheep and plentiful fuels are beginning to be felt. The missing fall weather, the drowned Polar Bears, the loss of entire species, the asthma, the deserts. We all grew up in an age where things were easy. It didn’t cost much to run your car, heat your home, cool your home, and read late at night. We separated ourselves from the earth in doing these things. Our feet did not touch mother earth, our bodies did not experience the climate directly, and we have divorced ourselves from natural rhythms of wakefulness and rest.

The cost of exploitation of our southern brothers and sisters will be felt later. I don’t know what form that is but it is coming.

We are looking for ways to continue our way of life when the fuel runs out. This is a mistake. The idea of “continuing our way of life” lead to devastating results in the mid 19th century that we STILL haven’t fixed. Jim Crow laws, lynching to keep the uppity niggers in line, less pay for equal work, and separate but equal “education” are all ways they came up with to continue their way of life.

We cannot continue our current way of life because this was built on “something for nothing” and that doesn’t exist. “Our way of life” is exploitative and must change.

Please do not get the impression that I am excluding myself from the above. I am just as guilty of these things and I enjoy my comforts. However, each day I become more aware of the cost I am asking others to pay for MY comforts. The lower cost vegetables at the grocery store because the workers were not paid a living wage, the cost to the environment of having comfort in my home and a solitary commute some days, the beauty of the buildings here in DC that were built by slave hands without thanking the slaves for their work are all ways that I fall short.

I hope that just being aware is enough for now. I sincerely hope that I will learn to live without my “comforts” by choice before it is a necessity and that I don’t fall into the trap of continuing our way of life.