A Slave by Any Other Name…
I usually don’t write about social issues, at least. not directly. But a recent line of thinking has made me ponder: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Most people coming to the New World were either in chains (slaves) or with economic balls and chains (indentured servitude). When slavery was abolished, servitude became the new normal, for everyone.
But now, we no longer have live-in servants attending to our every need (if we ever did). Looking at films from the early 20th Century, servitude was still ‘normal’, and even in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, live-in cooks and butlers were on our TV sets, in shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”. Again, if your family was well off, the children were still cared for by a Nanny.
Then the Revolution came.
The Nuclear Family
Most of us reading this blog today will be hard-pressed to remember a time when the Mother of the family home wasn’t the ‘cook, cleaner and bottle washer’. The advertising companies realized that the way to a Mother’s heart (and her husband’s pocketbook) was to focus on labour-saving devices. The American Dream was born.
But, then, Mother went out to work, too. Why? Because one income per family wasn’t enough to maintain this new way of living. Those at the top of the economic pyramid saw a potential for savings: hire the women for less money than they paid the men.
Men started seeing a decline in worthwhile jobs (or at least ones that could maintain their families) and the rich started getting richer.
Minimum Wage and No Benefits
Fast-forward to today. Governments, thinking that they are onto a way of getting votes, propose higher minimum wages and benefits for part-time workers. The result? Companies cut back on workers’ hours to keep them under a minimum threshold, and hire students who will sign away their rights, just to have a job.
If you haven’t noticed how the quality of service has declined, you haven’t been around long enough to compare it to the past. We are paying (and sometimes, not paying, but borrowing money for) higher prices for goods and services.
The consumer, we are told, is the driving force in how things have changed. If we don’t want a product or service, we will ‘vote with our feet’ and visit the competition. So, the merchants scramble to accommodate us, sometimes ruthlessly cutting costs to stay in business. Then they look for ways to save money, and it always comes back to human resources.
So, we only have ourselves to blame. If we weren’t so driven to buy these goods and services for less money, because we really cannot afford them, anyway, we would not be exerting such economic pressure on the marketplace. A bit of the cat chasing it’s tail, eh?
Let’s face the fact, folks: the whole house of cards is beginning to tumble. Where will it all end?