The New Indentured Servant

The New Indentured Servant

By: Grainne Rhuad

This country from the start was built on slave labor.  Before we began importing slaves we literally sold ourselves into slavery to get here. This process as most school children know is called Indenture. 

The way it works is you agree to labor for a set number of years and someone with means buys your contracts and agrees to do things like pay off your debt or pay passage for you on a ship or oversee you for your prison time; something of that sort.   

Very often indenture would run longer than the original agreed upon time.  Usually this was due to clauses in the contracts.  Things like failing to bring in a good enough harvest.  Getting pregnant, married, running off, not making enough in trade if you are a craftsman, breaking something, pissing off the owner of your contract. 

For things like these you would be penalized with extra time working for your contract owner, at their discretion. For example they may determine their broken butter churn was worth six more months.  You didn’t have a lot of say as an indentured servant.

Indentured servitude is nothing new.  It has been around as long as civilization has.  Egyptians, Romans, Brits and Gauls all made use of it.  Children were handed over to pay household debt or a Man would conscript with an Army to keep his family in food and become a citizen. 

The history classes you had in school and which children and young adults still receive tell you that this practice was done away with…oh about the time that we started practicing “real slavery” in earnest.  That is to say slavery, with no chance of paying off a debt in which people were treated as cattle.

Today’s indenture is of a more insidious sort.  There are in fact many ways in which we indenture our lives, through credit cards, business, and auto and home loans.  But what is really taking a toll on Americans young and middle aged is Student Loans. 

Currently one in every five government loans that entered repayment in 1995 has gone into default. The default rate is higher for loans made to students from two-year colleges, and up to 40 percent, for those who attended for-profit institutions.

1995 is generation X, these are the people who  are now reaching their 40’s and probably figured they would have paid off, if not all at least a good chunk of their student loans by now.  And yet they’re still struggling under the weight of their education.  

I remember when I signed up for my student loans.  It was in 1994 and it was my last year of college.  I had been able to do all the rest with grants and work study.  Part of the process at the time had been a ‘class’ which was really a group talking to about the dangers of loans, how important it was to keep records and make payments to your loans.  Also, should one run into trouble, do not wait on it.  It was in short a lesson in responsible lending. 

Nowadays at college campuses across the country this no longer happens. Loans applications are taken electronically and the “advice” about how to determine if you need a loan is not given to you by a living breathing human, but rather a statement which you are supposed to read and sign off on.  I know I don’t even want to admit to how many electronic agreements I have signed off on without reading in full.  Stupid I know but we all do it and are at risk of becoming Human Centipads.

In addition to that, private loans are even easier to get.  All that is necessary is registration in a higher learning institution OF ANY KIND and a bank acct.  Usually your own bank will be happy to enslave you.

What’s not so easy to get anymore are Scholarships, Grants and money from your parents.  The money from your parents’ one seems obvious.  They are broke and can’t pay their own student loans.  But did you know that if your parents make over $47,000.00 Gross and they went to college you do not meet any of the criteria for Federal Grants?  Furthermore if you happen to be working and supporting yourself you still cannot use your own information to apply for grants until you are either 24 years of age or married. 

Kind of makes it seem like the Federal Government doesn’t want to support any of your education doesn’t it?  It certainly seems that way to thousands of students every year who were told by their college graduate parents that college is the passport to the middle class.  Too bad they didn’t know it was a onetime passport per family and by getting their own degree their progeny would be unable to afford school without indenturing themselves to the machine.

There are currently two main sources for federal student loans — the Federal Family Educational Loan Program, or FFELP, which is being phased out, and the Federal Direct Student Loan Program, or FDSLP. The FFELP has about $390 billion in total loans outstanding –$77 billion in Stafford loans, $81 billion in unsubsidized Stafford loans, and $211 billion in consolidation loans. Then there are the loans to parents.  Yes, the same ones who can’t afford to pay off their own loans. These PLUS loans add up to $21 billion.

The FDSLP is up to $220 billion in loans outstanding at this point — $58 billion in Stafford, $59 billion in unsubsidized Stafford, $20 billion in PLUS, and $83 billion in consolidation loans.

Add the two together, and you get to $610 billion.  This is just federal loans. These numbers don’t include private-sector student loans at all, and already they’re above the $550 billion that the Fed claimed was the total of all student loans outstanding in the country.

Here are some more scary facts about the cost of higher education:

  1. Since 1978, the cost of college tuition in the U.S. has gone up by over 900 percent.
  2. In 2010, the average college graduate had accumulated approximately $25,000 in student loan debt by graduation day.
  3. Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor’s degree within four years.
  4. Approximately 14 percent of all students that graduate with student loan debt end up defaulting within 3 years of making their first student loan payment.

 “Thirty years ago, college was a wise, modest investment,” says Fabio Rojas, a professor of sociology at Indiana University. He studies the politics of higher education. “Now, it’s a lifetime lock-in, an albatross you can’t escape”- Huffington Post.

Many proponents of personal freedom in recent years have pointed out that it might be time to stop buying into the route of higher education.  In this way at least our up and coming generation can avoid this finance driven slavery.  Education, they point out is available for all, all one needs to do is seek it out. 

This is absolutely true. 

And yet our society for some reason is not ready to let go of its glorified hall pass; that little piece of paper called a degree. The thing that really shows the world, you are a good worker, can make plans and complete them; and most importantly follow rules.

Those in positions to hire employees are going to be looking for these things above experience.  As most hiring agents will tell you experience is imminently harder to verify than a college degree which is easily searchable.  Many positions that will pay well enough to pay off those huge student loans will not even look at applications that don’t include a copy of a degree or further training certificate of some sort.

Here’s some more numbers on that:

  1. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for college graduates younger than 25 years old was 9.3 percent in 2010.
  2. Over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.
  3. Approximately 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.
  4. In the U.S. approximately 365,000 cashiers have college degrees.
  5. One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require college degrees.
  6. In the U.S. 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.
  7. Once they get out into the “real world”, 70% of college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the “real world” while they were still in school.


The point being that things in our economy and culture have changed to the point that we can actually begin to demonstrate an ability to exist in the “real world” with or without degrees.  Most jobs that are readily available do not require degrees, so why indenture yourself for a lottery chance at middle class when you can be absolutely free of servitude at a slightly lower class?  You may even bring home more money than your middle class neighbor due to the ridiculous amount of taxes the middle class is required to pay.  

In addition you won’t be subject to the adding on of time to your indentured servitude which still happens with student loans.  Want to get married and have a baby, you get six months, and then you have to go back to work or start paying again.  If not, your loan continues to grow, thus your indentured time lengthens.  The same applies if for some reason you lose your job, or don’t make enough money.  You are owned entirely, either by the federal government or a bank or both. 

In this time, the insidiousness of indenture through higher education should be something we are all willing to fight against.  Do those of us who have been to college really want our youth absolutely enslaved and controllable for the facade of academia?  Or would we rather see future generations of bright people able to make decisions based on their talents, drive and dreams without fear of not being able to meet the contract of student loans?


Grainne Rhuad- American Youth are actively selling themselves into indentured contracts.


  1. What a great article. I your points are so true. Very few degrees seem to be paying off these days. The real tragedy is that first generations of college educated families are not able to afford to send their children to school. It’s a sad state of affairs this day. How much more can the middle class be pinched I don’t know. Like the Human Centipod referrence. Very fitting. No pun intended.

  2. The reality of the thing is this – we’ve failed as a nation to provide education for our citizens; instead, we’ve allowed education, along with healthcare, to become the province of the moneygrubber, the grifter, the hack, and the economic charlatan.

    Lending institutions are all too happy to take these loans – they can show them on the books forever as ‘good’, because they can’t be bankrupted and they’re guaranteed by the government. In contrast to India, where education is free or nearly so for anyone who can qualify, America is failing to create enough qualified people to fill the jobs which are available.

    Now, ironically, we import our talent along with everything else from the emergent third world.

    Can you spell ‘unsustainable’?

    Captain Obvious can…

  3. I think more businesses and companies should bring back apprenticeships; taking on a youngster in his or her teens and begin giving them skills. Many blue collar jobs still do this. I know a lot of companies that take on a few teens who floundered their way through high school, skeptical of what they would do with their academics, and put them to work in their first year or two doing menial tasks; digging holes, filling ditches, clean-up, fetch and carry chores; then slowly worked their way up the ladder until by the time they were in their mid-twenties, they were making $20 an hour as heavy equipment operators or maintenance crew.

    Companies and businesses have also begun hiring youngsters who grew up learning their parents’ skills. I know a young man who spent more time learning his father’s carpenter trade than he did studying academics. By the time he was pushing twenty, he was hired into the same company as his father. In his late twenties now, he’s had several private contracts for personal housing, and has built his own house.

    My own family has a lot of cooks; not just siblings who learned mom’s pioneer styled, cook-it-from-scratch; but the men in the family tend to lean toward professional cooking. A couple have graduated to chefs. Chefs have a low starting pay of $20 an hour, with an average pay of $50 an hour. Maybe it’s time for parents to teach their children their skills, not just push for them to receive higher education.

  4. when the cost of an education means little, to no chance, of employment and a mortgage amount of debt .. what is the point ?? Like basic health care, the nation should provide education thru a level that means something, not just thru high school …. where are our priorities ?? what does it say about out idea of the future … very sad state of affairs .. of course the more people we deny an education to means the more people who are dependent and controllable and unimportant and uninspired to participate in the democratic process because they know .. no one really cares about them … out priorities become a treadmill to keep people in their place …… if we can bail out Wall Street, why not our children ???

  5. To people of “high class,” there is only one other class, and it’s low.

    To people of “low class,” there is also only one other class, high.

    There is no middle class.

    Welcome to the machine.


  6. It’s even worse then you claim. You would do well to consider the following:

    1. The large lenders like Sallie Mae, Nelnet, and others make far more money on defaulted FFELP loans than loans which remain in good stead, and have incorporated this fact into their administrative practices.

    2. Even the Department of Education gets back $1.23 for every dollar they pay out in default claims. This is far and away more than loans which remain in good stead (on which they make nothing, and in fact pay out significant interest subsidies). Even subtracting very generous collection costs from this surplus leaves them well in the black.

    See to see the facts.

    Hope this helps,


  7. “I think more businesses and companies should bring back apprenticeships; taking on a youngster in his or her teens and begin giving them skills. “

    “It’s even worse then you claim”

    Alan’s figures, above, are perhaps charitable and optimistic. As to apprenticeships, that was all well and good in a 19th/early 20th century economy; today, the jobs which are paying and are in demand are for people who can design, create, program, and build technology – these require advanced educations, not apprentice-programs.

    It’s all well and good for high-schools to provide voc-ed training, and I agree that the real stuff (not what passes therefor in today’s American high-schools) is necessary – but the real problem we face isn’t ‘alternate education’ – what’s needed is an effort akin to putting people on the moon; a national mandate which will create a genuine, publicly-funded education system up through and including an advanced degree or doctorate.

    We are the only industrialized/first-world country without this sort of system. We are also seeing the ‘benefits’ of allowing the ‘market’ to determine who gets educated.

    Again; Jefferson was right – he envisioned education for all, and considered it a great failure that he was not able to get that proviso in the Constitution.

  8. @ W.D. Noble,

    “Alan’s figures, above, are perhaps charitable and optimistic. As to apprenticeships, that was all well and good in a 19th/early 20th century economy; today, the jobs which are paying and are in demand are for people who can design, create, program, and build technology – these require advanced educations, not apprentice-programs.”

    Not to worry, those jobs won’t be around all that much longer – at the rate the human species is burning through the planet’s natural resources civilization as we know it will likely collapse around 2030 or so. At that point no one will be talking about jobs in the tech sector: they will be talking about how to get the basics to sustain life – and many will not get them…

    “Again; Jefferson was right – he envisioned education for all, and considered it a great failure that he was not able to get that proviso in the Constitution.”

    Well, education for everyone that wasn’t a slave on a plantation or a Native American being slaughtered so that the state can take his land – but who’s counting?

  9. I don’t mean to imply that we should scrap education; just that people look at it too much as the “way to get ahead”. You’re not getting ahead if you have a college degree and you’re waiting table. Nor are you getting ahead if you land a professional job but spend the rest of your life paying for the privilege.

    There are only a certain number of jobs that require advanced education, the rest only require training. Ever notice that commercial where the kid shows the dad how to make a spectacular pie graph for his company? Like it or not, this little advertisement isn’t far from the truth. Twelve year old children handle with ease the technical applications their parents beat their brains over on their PC. Those specialized jobs in saving hard drives, rebuilding a computer, or building in new hardware, teenagers do as a hobby. Kids have become the backyard mechanics of the computer age.

    We are wasting their brains, wasting their talents, pushing them through an advanced education program they’ll spend the rest of their lives repaying. I’m well aware that in a great many countries, the practice is to allow a child to advance his or her education for free as long as the person shows aptitude and demonstrates a determination to keep high scores. This is the way it should be. Nobody who wants a higher education should be denied it. In our government for profit society, however, this isn’t going to happen. It isn’t a matter of uplifting the best and the brightest, but a matter of exploiting them or if they don’t comply, pushing them under the wheel.

    What is the greatest emphasis placed on education today? Mathematics. Children began learning the basis for algebra and geometry by the time they are in the third grade. The kids that “get ahead” learn business procedures, accounting skills, scientific formulas, graphs and applied physics, but the formal academic studies; the ones designed to liberate your mind and make you a well-rounded citizen; are practically ignored. These include history, music, art, language arts, social studies, and geography. This is obvious in the way we are governed. The fixation is on the numbers. They are scrunched, rearranged, manipulated and when convenient, suppressed to give favorable public views for a profit making policy. A completely blind eye is turned to cause and effect because the only thing they studied was numbers and not the earmarks of a civilization, the humanities.

    What i am saying is, when you can no longer depend on the authorities to do the right thing, you have to do it yourself. We have to raise our children, giving them all the skills we know and keeping our own libraries of knowledgeable books they can access. We must teach our children how to develop and refine their own skills, to use the computers they love spending so much time on to research and broaden their individual studies.

    On another note, i believe future technology, outside the area of communications technology will be radically different. The world has to switch to alternative energy sources over the next twenty-five years, or the oil driving the machinery for our computers just isn’t going to be affordable to the vast majority of the populace. I see a very large push toward organic farming, a return to small farms, which are far more economically balanced per acreage for production, bio-engineering and water capturing and recycling. None of these studies are an active part of a formal public education. It’s not just that college education has become too expensive to afford; college is not supplying the tools to build a real future.

  10. I don’t agree with you here, Karla.

    To know business procedures, accounting skills, scientific formulas, graphs, applied physics, history, music, art, language arts, social studies, and geography is GREAT.

    But to be disciplined to the point of knowing, and controlling your self completely, is just magnificent, IMO.

    There are scores of idiots out there who are brilliant mathematicians and artists, but they have no idea who they are or what they are doing..


  11. Sh, i think you misunderstood me. I’m not criticizing any of the academics, in and of themselves. What i’m criticizing is the slant on formal education; at least in the United States. My children are in the early and mid-twenties, which means i have a fresh, birds eye view on current education. Their mathematics education was so advanced, that by the time the youngest was in the eighth grade, i took a college degree course in Algebra and Geometry so i could assist them. Much to my embarrassment, the tables overturned, and they were helping me.

    The greater tragedy for me was that the average high school student more or less had the same grasp on mathematics as my kids. In other words, they were above average, but not spectacular. Where they did outstrip their peers was in art, history, earth science, geography, social studies, philosophy and current events. This was mainly because most of these studies were their home school applications. They had at arm’s reach every book they could possibly need, and what i didn’t have, they found at the library. They learned to discuss by sitting in on the lively conversations i had with my other book loving friends. Both decided not to go to college and strap themselves with student loans, yet both of them can talk circles around their college graduate friends.

    A well-rounded education absorbs all of the academics, and i will say this with emphasis, this is not what the kids are receiving in their public education, and most are unprepared to go into college and actually learn the humanities and the language arts. Most are unable to write a two thousand word essay correctly. Most will lose at least twenty percent of their academic scores when they write their term papers. Most will shrink in terror at writing a thesis. Where they will excel however, is in mathematics and technical applications.

  12. Nope, no misunderstanding.

    In your last paragraph above, you mention all the things that most young men and women can’t do. IMO, the reason for all this is not a lack of education in the academic sense, rather it is the lack of self-control.

    I see that if one knows how to use their self, as an instrument, one can do anything.


  13. @ Alan, thanks for the contributed numbers, they are good additions to this discussion.

    Also I agree with W.D. they are charitable as is this whole article. Evidence supporting student default done by non-governmental agencies is much higher.

  14. W.D.- I agree with your assesment of the effort being “akin to putting people on the moon.” And now that I think of it, it would be money better spent to educate our nation than to put people in space,but that’s just me…

  15. I think there will always be a place for the scholarly class. I am not suggesting that we put away education entirely. Of course there will always be those whose calling is to acedemia and they are necessary too. We need ideas, discussion, arguement, dreams, history, writing, art. We will always need higher training for Doctors, nurses and those who would teach. The problem is we are not really even getting that in higher education anymore. Rote learning while listening to some asshole that is full of him or herself and using the same curriculum from 20 years ago is not learning. Talking back and begging professors to rethink their thoughts is not learning. I find it incredibly interesting that most students today (and in my time for that matter) reveal that the subjects they like best, they get poor grades in. Why, because they are excited about them and think outside the box and in our education system there is no room for that.

    I think there is a place for apprentices. In fact I believe that we could help with the also screwed foster care system by reverting to old laws of fostering. That is to say, a child or youth is taken in to a household to be fostered in order to learn a trade that they can then use and pass on. What use is our current foster care system anyway? It’s quite simply a lazy way of making money. If teaching a trade were involved perhaps more attention would be paid to the children as their outcome would reflect on the tradesmen/women.

    In anycase it seems to me that if one has a choice of slavery and higher education or freedom and the ability to earnestly seek after those things they love to do, they would take the latter. We just haven’t gotten to the point where we are offering this option to youth.

    It is an incredibly shameful thing that we do not provide education for our people when they want it; particularly when so called “third world” countries are able to.

    It would seem to me that if we want our country to get on track financially we would remove stumbling blocks that keep people from being able to make ends meet, like gross student loans.

    It follows that nobody really wants this country to be on track.

  16. I hope people realize that the cause of this is the federal gov’t-guaranteed loans….sure, people should have much stricter personal responsibility, but if the gov’t didn’t guarantee student loans, banks/gov’t wouldn’t loan nearly as much money, therefore less students would go to school, forcing schools to lower tuitions and be forced also to actually compete for customers (students)…i mean come on, should it really cost $80,000 for a degree in philosophy? lol (no offense to philosophy)

  17. Grainne, This article is fabulous! The facts you have put out here to make people think about the “value” of higher education are incredibly true.

    When this whole economic collapse began, I had been terminated from a position as a content writer by a rather unethical company that I ended up suing and two years later settled with. I recall thinking about the job situation and looking at the only open positions — jobs like Homeland Security agents and medical technology positions for clinic administrators being the only secure jobs out there, still hiring. All the positions requiring a University degree were gone. I recall wondering how going to college could make you “overqualified” for working, (I was told this several times when I tried to get any job to survive). I recall reading ads for receptionists requiring a Bachelor’s degree and scratching my head. Does it REALLY take a four year college education to answer a phone? Teenagers do it every day! They transfer calls, take three-way calls, leave messages, text…you name it. Even if a receptionist takes on other duties, are they tasks that demand expertise in let’s say, English or Business? And is it really worth going to school and racking up that debt for $9.00 per hour?

    At that time, a friend of mine worked as a security guard for Homeland Security. He watched people enter government buildings and scanned their belongings. He made $55,000 annually. Another friend of mine went to school for nine months at one of those medical colleges and worked as a medical assistant. She made $30,000. That was more than the jobs I was applying for at that time paid, and I was being turned down with a degree. For the first time in my life, I was jealous of a security guard because he had chosen a secure career path! LOL

    In Cuba, education is paid for by the public. This secures that nobody is left out for reaching their potential. Here, we minimize potential for so many superficial things. You may have a lofty degree from Harvard, yet if you are overweight, a foreclosure on your record, a normal life of juvenile adventure reflected in an online account…anything…you will be overlooked for a job.

    In short, corporations are trying to created robotic personalities that lack any degree of individual thought. This is obvious by the tailored communications they use to represent themselves. Communications these days, lack any of the company’s unique personality and communications are often left unread because of this. If you look at a technical journal these days, none of the ads stand out from the others. Why? Because instead of corporations thinking wisely and hiring qualified writers who can create stellar copy that stops a person and holds their interest; they insist their writers, artists and other creative staff meet every mundane mandate that goes against the grain of an otherwise creative type. And colleges are teaching bullshit stylized copy that reeks of mediocrity, but is oh-so politically correct and non offensive.

    That’s our new modus operandi. Fit in, tow the line, don’t buck the system. Don’t think! Let the policy makers do the thinking for you. So why do we need a college education anyway?

  18. Meh. All I hear is people bitching about how their lives suck. Stop blaming the establishment for your problems. If society is so screwed up, and you know this, then stop being so dependent on it FFS.

    You hate it, but you also love it.

    This is pathetic.


  19. Sh, from the man who reinvents ancient history in his claims that Aryans were the foundation of language and civilization…it’s not surprising that you say, “Stop blaming the establishment for your problems.”

    Once again, you’ve misinterpreted the article and responses to it. No one is blaming “the establishment” sh, they are stating that the unethical behavior of policy makers and their corporate interests have bastardized our society to the point that they’ve screwed up their own laughable economic model of capitalism. Simply, capitalism in all areas has failed because of the obvious human trait that makes capitalism a joke…greed.

    Now, I can say that in Spanish too, if you feel you don’t get this; but I have a feeling you would chalk this up to some Aryan idea that I have a smaller brain, or some other hair-brained idea that so many born of the cloth of amazing themselves over the lightness of their race adopt.

  20. @Sh- I don’t feel this article is an exercise in complaint. Rather I meant it as a call to introspection. Is a degree in architecture really worth being indentured for? And for what? A big screen telly and the hope of a retirement fund?

    I think not. Others may find it worthwhile. The point is to understand what Americans are undertaking when they sign those contracts.

  21. My feelings about the higher educational system can be summed up in the song, “Little Boxes”.

    And the people in the houses all went to the university
    Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,
    And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers, and business executives
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

    Whereas knowledge should enrich you spiritually, it has become the means to enrich materially. The dangling prize is a meaningless existence.

  22. @ Jennifer Lawson Zepeda,

    I understand where you are coming from in critiquing sh’s opinions on the origins of “civilization” (such an overrated concept if you ask me…) as “racist” as a significant number of white supremacist groups embraced similar ideas. However, as of yet I have no reason to believe he actually is a racist himself: I’ll be honest and say that he probably needs to revaluate his own positions (he’s far too quick to accept an idea based on circumstantial evidence – especially when there’s alternative explinations for its presence) but I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt before throwing the “racist” label around.

  23. Sh, I will apologize to you and add that I your post confused with another person who suggested “I go back to Mexico” over my views on potheads — suggesting that I was Mexican, as an Argentine-American Latina who had lived in Mexico with a Salvadoran husband, no less…LMAO

    So sh, please accept my apology. I don’t agree with your analysis of Aryan civilizations, but I realized I had fingered the wrong person out of haste and my own stupidity. I confused you with “Devin in reality.”

    You didn’t deserve that and I’m sorry for that response.

    However, I will add that I’m a bit tired of the blame the victim mentality, in the U.S. today. I no more blame the dog kicked while chained to a fence; than I blame the baby who is picked up and shaken.

    And I certainly don’t blame people marginalized by the current economy for feeling slightly left out of things. To me…this has a bit of an icky feel to it…as if I’m bullshitting about my own stability.

    No one I know today — even my best friend who lives a life most people would die for and recently inherited enough to keep her secure the rest of her life — feels a sense of permanence and haccomplishment. That says a great deal about our country right now.

  24. God damn Hitler. No one can even say the word “Ariyan” now without being labelled a racist.

    Grainne, all I’m saying is FUCK SOCIETY. Break free (mentally) and live on your own. Use society, don’t let it use you. That’s why society was built, so we could make use of it, not be enslaved by it. It is our stupidity that enslaves us, IMO.

    Az, I’m sorry you guys didn’t get my point. I never claimed that the Ariyans were the creators of civilization. I guess I’m just too dumb to get my point across.

    Jennifer, at this point I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you calling me a Mexican?? And should I find that offensive?


  25. And Jennifer, I don’t think capitalism has failed. People have failed, on the individual level, to assume PERSONAL responsibility for BEING ALIVE.

    If I’m hungry, I find something to eat. If I’m tired, I find a place to rest. I don’t NEED a salary. I don’t NEED to hoard food in my pantry. I don’t NEED money stashed away in some bank account.

    All I need is what I have at this moment, my self. And I try to live my life without blaming ANYONE or ANYTHING else for MY circumstances.

    Let me make this even clearer, I believe that whatever happens to me is my own doing. I refuse to think of myself as a victim who has no choice. I refuse to try to “change” society, instead I change my self whenever I feel it is necessary.

    Also, has anyone else noticed that the mag seems unusually active this week? So many discussions going on!


  26. @ sh,

    “If I’m hungry, I find something to eat. If I’m tired, I find a place to rest. I don’t NEED a salary. I don’t NEED to hoard food in my pantry. I don’t NEED money stashed away in some bank account.”

    You don’t happen to live a vagabond lifestyle, do you? No offense is intended in asking such a question – it’s just that this type of thinking is most common among those live as wanderers.

    And for the record, I actually *do* hoard supplies but I tend to avoid banks whenever possible – and I don’t get a “salary” per se (my vocation is a bit unorthodox): my concern is not the acquisition of wealth (and all the “status symbols” that go with it), but preparation for the day life as it presently exists comes to a screeching halt.

    “Let me make this even clearer, I believe that whatever happens to me is my own doing. I refuse to think of myself as a victim who has no choice. I refuse to try to “change” society, instead I change my self whenever I feel it is necessary.”

    That’s a nice thought and to an extent I’m in agreement – but at the same time I recognize that the society I live in sets the parameters for what I can or cannot do: to the extent that society presents obstacles to my goals, so society must be resisted and even destroyed so that I might realize my potential.

    You can only run so far before you hit the brick wall – at that moment you have to decide between yourself and the wall because the wall won’t change…

  27. I wouldn’t say that I’m a wanderer per se, Az.

    For the past few years, I’ve been living in a shack, in an old orchard, way out in the desert. I eat my own food, cultivated entirely by myself, alone. And sometimes, I hunt too.

    I come to the city in the winter, when there’s no more work in the desert. But I usually don’t stick around in the city for prolonged stays. This year has been an exception.


  28. Also, Az, I believe the establishment needs to be “tricked” not resisted or destroyed.

    If society presents me with a wall, I jump over it. I don’t bang my head against the wall hoping it’ll come down.


  29. Sh, your gift of survival is fine for you. But the man with no hands may not be able to cultivate his food by himself. The man with no eyes may need help to find his way to work. The child who has been molested may have distrust. And in a HUMANE world, those of us able to help, find this to be a responsible thing to do.

    This survival-of-the-fittest mentality is sort of a weak view of life to me. I say this having survived some things that might challenge the sanity of a few prisoners of war; and having realized that you don’t survive anything THAT dramatic without some collateral damage. And I certainly have the therapists to testify to THAT! Also, I blog about most of the horrific things that have happened to me. I’ve shared what others would consider some of my weakest and most private moments. Not because I want sympathy. I don’t. I blog these things to protect others, to warn, to feel that I have some impact on changing unethical behaviors.

    I have changed a great deal from the woman who socialized with everyone before i went to El Salvador and dealt with some rather unscrupulous people in Nicaragua. After a year of dealing with gossipy Salvadoran women whose chismosa, or gossip caused me to move suddenly at the drop of a hat to save our lives, I realized I lost respect for many. After living in some rather dangerous places in that country, I learned that I had a rather naive American-centered view of human beings. I lived pretty much as an exile for nearly a year there, until I was held for four months and finally rescued by the State Department. And after seeing the reality of what civil wars, violence, gang warfare, political corruption and persecution does to human beings, I realized that we are extremely naive in the U.S. about how this affects human beings. And I came back homeless and recovered my life. If that sounds arrogant, forgive me. I don’t apologize for arrogance either. Honestly, I have very little respect for the IQ of most of society as a whole, because of what I’ve been through.

    Ethics is what drives me in life. It was instilled in me by my folks along with the right to be arrogant instead of apologizing for existing. So hearing a CEO tell me what I should feel or think because he’s wealthy or empowered in business, leaves me about as unimpressed as hearing a homeless man who considers himself a survivalist buck up and tell me how strong he is. And yes, I’ve seen that too! I look at both of them and see weak men roaring like lions with very little to back it up.

    This is why I believe in helping those who cannot help themselves. I do not think they are whining. I think they are surviving and using what resources they have left when they call for help or complain. Just as I hear you finding something to eat, or a place to rest, or whatever you need at the time. I don’t judge you because you don’t need to hoard, even if I think it might be prudent that you hoard some things for the future. I don’t judge you for not having a salary, even if I think it could be more stable than temporary income. I don’t claim you aren’t accepting personal responsibility, because maybe your way is your idea of personal responsibility. And I see the same in those who have different ideas than yours on personal responsibility, including a mother who collects Aid to Families With Dependent Children when needed to feed her kids. Including those on disability when they cannot work. Because whether we like to admit it or not, as human beings, we all have our weak moments in life. In a responsible society, we try to help when we hear one calling for help.

    This article was excellent in that it offered solutions. I see it as a brave thing to do, a responsible approach to solving problems. I admire that for every ethical reason I’ve been taught.

    What inspires me are those who overcome great adversity and use their knowledge to help others. I even get teary eyed over that. I’ve fallen in love with two great men because of it. Some of the strongest men I’ve known!

    Capitalism is wilting away with abuse of the system. You can’t say otherwise with the current state of the economy

    BTW, I actually had you pegged for Persian, nothing else, when I implied you were a racist and realized you were the wrong person. So your confession over your looks didn’t surprise me at all. My Salvadoran husband spoke Farsi and we had many friends from Iran. I may be wrong, but something tells me I’m not from your article and the references, not only to the Persian language, but what appeared to be, pride in the Persian civilization. And also because one doesn’t live long in Glendale, Ca. without getting to know quite a few Persians.

  30. Jennifer, I can’t feel pride from such a meaningless thing as “nationality.” If my article sounded like I was glorifying Persia, then I’m a fucktard hypocrite son of a bitch and I deserve every bit of scorn you can throw at me.

    The point of that article bypassed pretty much everyone. And it’s my fault, I’m not worth two cents as a writer.

    As for the rest of your post above; I see that compassion is a sham. Compassion for others is born of pity for oneself, IMO. The concept of sympathy implies that one imagines oneself in similar conditions to someone else, who one judges to be less fortunate, and one feels sorry for that mental image. I believe this is a mental disease.

    I have no compassion, for anyone. If I help another man it is never out of sympathy. To feel compassion for another human being is to insult them, IMO.

    And while compassion is, IMO, a load of crap today, I’ll tell you what’s real: Cruelty and heartlessness.


  31. sh, your approach to life has a very Nietzshe-like feel to it. He shared your feelings about compassion and guilt and even extended that to his views of religion. I disagreed with him on this as much as I disagree with you, now; even if I like many of his other ideas.

    I feel a person who lacks compassion; or who lacks the basic structure inside of himself to be reflective about the condition of others misses a great deal in life. I base this on the human stages of development — where the highest stage of development involves a selfless person, such as Ghandi or Mother Teresa. Of course this is a stage of development so advanced that the majority of us never reach it. But, knowing that we can never be “saint-like” doesn’t deter most of us from trying to be the best person we can be.

    Again, these ideas aren’t for anyone in particular. These feelings are for me. So when I help another person, it IS because it feels good to do so. Whether that is based on guilt or not, I could care less. I just know that it feels good when I help a person who has nearly given up; and they look at me with that expression of gratitude in their eyes that I know well from my challenges. And it feels good to know that if it were my family member, there would be others who would do the same for them.

    Because the opposite side of that is hatred, which is self destructive. And I know that if I heard that a family member of mine were left on the street to die miserably as people walked by and did nothing, I would feel devastated. Just as I felt devastated when Homeland Security was, in essence, creating a murder contract for my husband’s life by deporting him illegally, and I called out for America to stand up and take notice, and very few cared.

    I can assure you that if you have never experienced such a feeling, you do not want to. It stays with you for years. And those who do not address it become consumed by it. And some even adopt the most selfish form of existence, where they simply exist for them selves.

    You can see this every day in homeless shelters. People with no sense of others. They scream when people are trying to sleep. They cut in front of others in lines. They bring general chaos to the order of life, because they cannot see outside of their own needs. And often, they become victims because of their utter selfishness; as human beings have a low tolerance level for such people.

    We have to coexist in life…like it or not. Therefore, it’s best to find some healthy way of fitting in to a degree that keeps you safe and functional. And putting yourself in another person’s shoes can be a strong safety measure when dealing with the human race.

  32. @ sh,

    I can’t say that I agree with you regarding the concept of compassion – every so often even the hardest of men that I’ve met take pity on some one else and lend a hand. I’ll happily admit that it stems from selfish motivations (but then again, all human actions do on some level) and that those they took pity on in some way mirrored their own life experiences: as a case in point, one associate of mine I will call “Frank” (not his real name) case across a kid under some unusual circumstances – no parents or family of any kind that he could track down. He allowed the kid to remain at his place until he found a foster family to take him in.

    The reason for this? He was the type of man who practically raised himself (father left when he was still a boy and mother was a drunk, forcing him to be self-sufficient) – seeing another kid in his circumstances prompted him to be there for him like he wanted his own family to be there for him.

    @ Jennifer,

    I wouldn’t glorify the likes of Gandhi or Mother Teresa – I’d say that both of these people were overrated at best. My criticisms of Gandhi have more to do with his general lack of effectiveness as a leader (he was lucky that his chief enemy, the British Empire, was already bleeding to death from decades of continuous warfare), but Mother Teresa was more than just ineffective: she was mentally disturbed – her “hospital” ran more like a conversion facility to evangelize the dying than actually treat their diseases, her staff often reused needles (which just spread infections all over the place) and even though she had millions in funding at her disposal (from private donations to her cause) she would let it sit in an account rather than use it to improve the quality of medical care.

    I would not recommend either of those people as role models for any sane person…

  33. Jennifer,

    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
    I’ll meet you there.
    When the soul lies down in that grass,
    the world is too full to talk about.
    Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense. -Rumi


  34. And Jen, sweety, that idea isn’t Nietzsche’s. It’s a logical deduction. And a very simple one at that.


  35. Azazel, my reference to Ghandi was from his progressive ideas on developing a method of direct social action based on: courage, nonviolence and truth called Satyagraha. It is used world-wide today as a means of protest and was effective in granting India independence in 1947; as well as stopping the bloodshed. Since then, it has been effectively used to change many unethical policies and redirect thinking.

    Moral philosophers have quoted Ghandi as an example of the 6th stage of Human Development, where they believe people who reach this stage act out of universal principles based on the equality and worth of all living beings.

    The examples they cite are generally : Mohandas Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth, Gautamo Buddha, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Dag Hamerskjold.

    So, while you may be right, many scholars of moral philosophy feel both of these people stand as examples of a higher form of thought. Among them are: Kohlberg, Erikson and Fowler. I’m far from a moral philosopher, so I won’t argue with you.

  36. Mitch, how could you feel compassion if you felt like you were one with everything? How could you feel compassion if you didn’t identify yourself with your self?


  37. Mitchell, I may be wrong; but I believe Nietzsche was at one time a person filled with compassion of sorts. As an deep admirer of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche believed that compassion was the basis of morality instead of religion.

    Schopenhauer believed that life presented with endless suffering because we never realized our dreams and died still trying. In his odd theories, this meant we lived some form of meaningless life. Because of this, Schopenhauer was a proponent of benevolence, tolerance and charity.

    Nietzsche later decided that Schopenhauer was full of it and changed his opinions on compassion. He adopted a view he called, “the will to power” where he felt compassion was a weakness, like sh. This is why I said the post by sh had a Nietzsche-like feel to it. He had the same ideas that showing pity towards others was a contemptuous act.

    Of note, between the two of these interesting philosophers, Nietzsche was the one who suffered the most; while Schopenhauer led a satisfying life according to historians. I believe this was because when you lack compassion, you fill that area of the brain with negative thought. And I believe you suffer from this.

    I began to fall into a bit of this when I returned from El Salvador with my self pity. I hated everyone for what had happened to me and convinced myself that life was all about me, now. It only hurt me. Through therapy, I have accepted that those feelings that I had were unhealthy. They were reactive to some deep trauma. I still don’t have all the friends I once had; but I am coming back to socializing again and feeling a greater sense of contentment from those relationships.

    As far as Ghandi, there was a time I felt he was all bullshit too. I used to believe in a more violent approach towards dealing with injustice. I guess I’ve mellowed with age….ROFL.

  38. @ Jennifer,

    Regarding Gandhi’s movement, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – the simple truth is that if the Brits weren’t already bleeding to death from numerous “brushfire” conflicts within their colonies and the Second World War (which cost them dearly in terms of manpower and material resources), they would have crushed Gandhi like a bug and India would likely have remained a British colonies for many more years.

    And I don’t care what “moral” philosophers have to say about him because I don’t perceive the world in terms of “morality” but rather interests – all forms of “morality” are built to reinforce given interest groups and promote their own values, nothing more: we as people are going to do whatever we are going to do, but most people need a justification for action – hence the birth of “morality.”

    We live, we act and we devise a reason for it all post facto…

  39. @ Mitchell,

    I can relate to where you’re coming from and personally I prefer peace to conflict – what separates us is that I see conflict as something that is fundamentally unavoidable and thus I’m always prepared for a fight (sic vis pacem, para bellum and all…): as much as I would love to just sit down and discuss the differences between myself and certain parties (particularly incorporeal entities – which are perpetually drunk on their own power), I recognize that this simply won’t happen – some powers just won’t give you the room to negotiate, just issue ultimatums and threats.

    While I wish things were different, the reality is that the “violent, survival of the fittest society” (as you put it) would actually be an improvement over this one – at least one position within would be determined by merit rather than being born into a wealthy, connected family (in which case you’re set for life) vs. a working class family (in which case you must struggle to get by): if nothing else the weak and incompitent would die quickly instead of being elevated to positions of authority…

  40. Azazel,

    I beg to disagree about a “violent, survival of the fittest society” being “an improvement over this one.” If you ever have the opportunity to live in El Salvador — where they have one of the most violent, “survival of the fittest” societies you’ll likely ever see, you may change your opinion too.

    Let me tell you what I saw in the year I was there:

    There, a bus in Colonia Mejicanos was stopped, while a group of gang members climbed onto it, led by a woman. The gang members shot each of the innocent passengers who had nothing to do with gangs; and then, the bus was set on fire with some of them burning alive. The gang members walked away and survived.

    There, a man was shot dead by a thirteen year old boy in Colonia Santa Lucia 20, (the 13 year old was a member of Mara Salvatrucha or MS13.) The man was shot in front of his nine year old son, a block away from where I lived…in broad daylight and in front of the entire neighborhood. The 13 year old walked away, protected by his gang, and his son fell to his knees destroyed. Because of their fear, nobody identified the shooter.

    There, women go to church on Saturday night and gossip on Sunday with people in a mercado (a public market) about each latest gang member deported from the U.S. Kids who are hiding from other gang members to avoid being murdered. Many of them are young men who have tried to stop gang banging before their deportation, realizing they have made a mistake in joining a gang. But their tattoos don’t allow them that luxury in El Salvador where they persecute anyone with tattoos.

    There, a young girl of 15 that I met was gang raped by some Mara Salvatrucha members. Sausages were stuffed into her vagina; her arms were sliced up and down with knives; just before she was tied to a car and dragged up and down the streets. The scabs and scars on her body would have made you sick. They walked away safe and she was taken to a shelter with armed police outside t protect her life.

    There, a grandmother I met had also been gang raped by 18th Street gang members and was hiding in a secure location, after they murdered her daughter in front of her. After they tattooed her to brand her as part of their gang, because the shot caller wanted her daughter for his girlfriend. Do you think the shot caller was ever brought to trial?

    I won’t bore you with additional sick stories that I witnessed and heard of while living there of people surviving as the “fittest,” with the support of politicos who overlooked their crimes in order to sell guns and rake in the profits from the U.S. gun sales that accelerate violence there.

    And, I can tell you I was approached by shot callers three times, in El Salvador, looking for my husband; and had to turn into a chameleon and lie my butt off to escape. They were insisting I knew where he was and wanted to know so they could murder him. By the grace of God I lied well enough to still be alive and got the hell out of there in time. But not before I was locked behind a gate with a two inch chain and lock in a room the size of most walk in closets for months; beaten, starved, dehydrated, and terrified that I would be killed. It has left me with flashbacks and nightmares that wake me up at 2 and 3 in the morning.

    Survival of the fittest is weak! The survivors only survive because they have weapons or political backing, not because of bravado and strength. I pray we never reach that stage of degradation! And the “fittest” even there, were the politicos born into the wealthiest families, who could afford to send their kids to the U.S. and safety. Their weak kids don’t die, they inherit.

    This is why I view compassion with such passion. You can’t have peace when you allow people with a “Survival of the fittest” mentality to control things.

  41. @ Jennefer,

    I don’t regard such a society as being “survival of the fittest” so much as “survival of the most connected” – the gangs you mention don’t make it because they are better adapted to the natural conditions of the region (I’ll bet that you leave most any given gang banger to his own devices in the woods he won’t last until morning) so much as they simply have more guns than everyone else.

    And I’ve had my own experiences with gangs – which is just one reason why I’m a strong advocate of local militias to protect their communities (and before you start talking about cops, remember that they have no obligation to defend you – and they have the nasty habit of abusing the power their badges give them): the predator does not understand concepts like compassion, only strength – and the reality is that those who do not have the means to fight predators will likely become their prey. And I have no intention of letting me and mine become prey for any hunter (be they street gangs or agents of the state).

  42. @ Mitchell,

    I don’t think that people are really “safer” in the U.S./NATO Empire than elsewhere so much as property is better protected by numerous state paramilitaries (which creates an illusion of safety in the minds of the “citizen” who has been taught from birth to respect the badge) – should the “citizen” step out of line, the paramilitary agents of the state can shoot him and then displace the blame onto the gunned-down “citizen.” In the final report, the “citizen” is branded a “criminal” and the shooting is considered justified in the eyes of society: and the best part is (for the state’s agents, that is) that there’s no way of knowing for certain just how often this occurs since the agents that carry out the shootings are the ones that also write the reports to exonerate themselves later!

    No, we aren’t “safer” from violence than the poor bastards described in Jennifer’s accounts – the danger is just better hidden from public view…

  43. Mitch, I tell you bro, compassion is a fake emotion. It’s not in the same class as love and fear, for example.


  44. BTW, Jennifer, IMO, knowing how to grow plants and hunt animals isn’t “survivalist skillz” — It is rather, I would say, an essential human ability. If you don’t know how to do these, you are worse than dead, because you are the establishment’s slave and money’s slave.

    I appreciate you bringing this up.


  45. Azazel,

    Your paramilitary ideas have been used in El Salvador as well under the “mano-dura” policies of the previous president of El Salvador, Tony Saca. It did remove some of the gang problem; but many innocent people were also removed or disappeared, because of the sick human tendency of paramilitary types to kill anyone associated or perceived to be associated with the guilty person. Sorry, but when people kill out of being consumed with hatred, this is usually the bi-product. It has been prove in Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala…and all over the world!

    As a matter of fact, while I was there, some of this appeared to have been creeping up again in one event that happened where a fire was set in one of the juvenile prisons housing gang members. The fire began in one of the cells and spread throughout the cell block and the kids were left in their cells locked in, purposely. I believe 26 or so of them were burned and perished either in the fire or later at the hospital. There was no doubt this was done as a message to gangs.

    The gangs had shut down the transit system in and out of San Salvador for three days, over threats to burn more buses and murder additional people. Gang members there collect “rent” from the drivers. (The drivers pay so they are allowed to live). The entire city went into a panic, fearing riding the buses.

    The problem with all of this is that it is not just the gangs who are the problem and it all could be fixed if the right people were held accountable. The wealthiest 1% of the nation runs the gun shops. They sell the guns to the violent gang members who in turn use those guns to kill the citizens of El Salvador. They don’t care how the guns are used as long as it brings profits. As a matter of fact, it is better that there is violence in El Salvador for gun sales; as I said, for the U.S. gun manufacturers and the wealthy elite in El Salvador. The entire nation is one of fear, because there are few places one can go in the country that aren’t controlled by either MS13, 18th Street or a gang called Mau Mau. And I’m talking about middle class and many wealthy neighborhoods too.

    And the fact is, many of those gang members ARE better adapted to the natural conditions of the region. They have grown up poor and in urban as well as jungle environments for the most part and know their surroundings on a more intimate level than the middle class and the wealthy. Many of them have grown up in the most basic conditions — conditions that Americans can’t even imagine, with the barest of necessities. That’s why they value gangs to begin with, because they suddenly have access to a power structure, material goods and items that kids in developed countries take for granted.

    The other problem is that there is a general lack of compassion in that country as many of its citizens have experienced the brutality of civil war where they witnessed things no human being should see. So they have traded compassion for a jaded view of humanity, in many cases. And because of that there is a great deal of persecution towards people who have once been in a gang and are trying to change and leave gangs. What this does is block them into a corner where they have no options for survival…no jobs because of tattoos; no tattoo removal because the government took all of the equipment from clinics so they could do it themselves and register the people asking for tattoo removal, which in turn means tattoo removal takes years; no ability to exist in a legal manner because of the persecution directed at them. Many people won’t rent to these people because of the social hatred. And the end result is that many of these kids that could become productive citizens are forced to go back to gangs to survive. It’s a catch 22 because of the jaded views of those who have had all compassion removed from their souls.

    This is how bad it can get when a society loses compassion and why I’m such a proponent of this one behavior; beyond the obvious idea that selfishness doesn’t progress a society.

    Sh, when I said “survivalist skills” without the “z” you added to demonstrate something only you know; I mentioned that in relation to living in a homeless shelter and on the streets. Where the residents HARDLY capture and kill their own food. Unless you feel screaming at some Christian folks dropping off chicken and Kool-aide and serving it up to a line of disheveled people, (many of whom have more attitude than Beyonce ‘s neonatal security guards from living on the streets so long), is hunting and killing. Because in some of those places the bullshit and machismo is all these people have left. They fancy themselves as “street survivalists” as they puff their chests up and verbally assault anyone who happens to bump into them. The sad thing is that the majority of people who do this are generally shattered inside.

  46. You’re right, Jennifer. I have no idea what I’m talking about. Thanks for helping me see this.


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