Debt: The Slavery of Lifestyle and Money

Spanish Demonstrations

Few people escape slavery. We all owe money, hence we also owe our future time and lives to the bigger machinery in return for our housing, our material goods and our lifestyles. Understanding the mechanics of the post-modern enslavement can become a daunting endeavour; accepting the reality is inevitably a dark process, but not one without light at the end of the passage.

We have options. A few years ago, many young people accepted as much debt as they could with the assertion that they would die broke anyway, so why not enjoy the fancy cars, houses and vacations while they could – at any cost. In today’s post-banking disaster world, the paradigm has shifted so that most young people [and many pre-retiree families] assert that there is nothing and the debt crisis has wiped out lifetimes’ worth of accumulation and value; we are all doomed. A middle road view might acknowledge that we are still slaves to the rich, and despite middle-class empowerment post WWII, we have always remained under the thumb of the upper-class. Perhaps our lives might have been different had our forefathers taken advantage of education for enlightenment versus a way to collect more stuff and things to fill sprawling suburban garages. Conspiracy theorists might argue that the consumerism of Reagan’s era was the rich’s way to re-enslave the empowered through debt and credit.

For my own part…I owe money just like everyone else who was not born with a silver spoon and a trust fund. I do not like debt, but I accept it as the only path out of a lower-class existence that would still contain debt but no possibilities. I have always leveraged my credit as a way of gaining an education, acquiring tools to permit me to work in areas that I love [hence, can make money at], to acquire experiences that will broaden my world understanding and to procure the objects that symbolize success on an imaginary level. I do not own a car, but I own an exotic motorcycle. I do not own a house, but I live in a very nice apartment. I am not a lawyer or doctor, but I love my work as an educator and photographer. No Rolex, no Porsche, no Louis Vutton and no summer cottage in the Hamptons. What I do have is my own particular lifestyle that I pay for the best I can and enjoy to the full extent of my abilities. My rather large AMEX bill will get paid this month in full, but it will also leave me owing “the man” more work in the studio at night. Fair enough. The reality is that it is fair, as long as there is work to do to make up for the difference.

In my case, there is work and my life strategies have worked for me. I have worked hard to earn my three university degrees, to build a business and nurture a career in education; each part of that has allowed me to escape the level of social status that I was born into…at least for a while. There have been times when life kicked hard to knock me down, but with confident patience I have slowly bounced back to a higher level with more satisfaction. But, and there is always a condition, my lifestyle enslavement only works while I put in those long hours, work hard to provide value for my clients and students, and while I am competent in the many areas I work in. I just do not see a way for me to “slow down and take life with a little less stress, Anthony”; I value what I gain through each year’s hard work. I value the ability to travel to Spain, San Francisco, Washington, Portland, Charlottetown in a matter of weeks. I value the option to buy snakeskin boots, a King Baby ring and a loud Robert Graham hat, though they are not exactly Brooks Brothers style.

In the end, life is about embracing the moment with an eye to ensuring your embrace is not a siren song into the dark depths. Find the balance between debt and freedoms, and the master you serve will keep you free in the illusion of freedom. Lose that balance by owing more than you can pay or by not allowing for the time when you may not be able to work as hard, then your enslavement will become an emasculating debasement of what the human experience can be. Ideally, you will have put away enough money to purchase your freedom from debt at a moment’s notice – I have done so, and continue to add to the kitty on a monthly basis – with the realization that the freedom purchased at this stage would be short-lived, as the demands of daily life would require another tour of duty once the money ran out.

The photographs featured in the blog were taken in Valencia and San Francisco. Valencians were out in force protesting various things, but the protest felt much more like a fun, lunch-time activity than anything serious like what I saw in Madrid last year. Valencia’s city of the future is looking a little worse for wear, but is still a magical place to visit to see what our architecture could look like, and what public spaces should become. Tonight has me shooting a series of wine accessories. While sipping on a nice sparkling Prosecco and eating smoked salmon, I will rejoice in the free moments purchased by my photography. After all, we must enjoy life while we can.


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