Archives for category: Influence

The divides we face should never be along racial lines.  We, regardless of who we are, should always side with truth and justice.  In the Bible, Jesus often spoke about showing favor and mercy to the widow, the alien, the fatherless and the poor.  Many of us have fallen, or will fall, into one of those categories.

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Traditional slavery, chattel slavery, is officially illegal in all countries.  However, while most of the world has since eradicated the antiquated systems that once forced multitudes of people into involuntary servitude, today, there is a new form of slavery—a new slave master.

 

According to Cambridge Dictionary, slavery is defined as “the condition of being legally owned by someone else, or the system in which people are owned by others.” Wikipedia puts it this way:  Slavery is “a legal or economic system in which principles of property law are applied to humans allowing them to be classified as property, to be owned, bought and sold accordingly, and they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement. While a person is a slave, the owner is entitled to the productivity of the slave’s labor, without any remuneration.”  In today’s capitalist economy, financial institutions have become the new captains of the slave trade.

 

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender,” (NIV).  No where is this truer than in “free trade.”  The average American is shackled by debt.  According to an article published on Nerdwallet.com, as of October 2015, the U.S. household consumer debt profile was as follows:

  • Average credit card debt: $16,140
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,361
  • Average student loan debt: $31,944

 

The article further went on to say that the total debt owned by American consumers was:

  • $11.85 trillion in debt
    • An increase of 1.4% from last year
  • $918.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.09 trillion in mortgages
  • $1.19 trillion in student loans
    • An increase of 5.9% from last year

 

The median household income for 2014 was $53,657. As the numbers suggests, most Americans are in over their heads in debt.  The problem is not so much the debt itself.  The problem is the issue of usury, which is illegal and morally reprehensible.  Merriam-Webster defines usury as, “the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially:  the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates.”  How does one quantify and/or qualify exorbitant?  Today’s credit card APR can range from low 13% all the way to 29.9 %.  I would make the argument that even 13% could be considered exorbitant.  Who determines exorbitance?  I’m sure it’s not the average citizen.

 

The main difference between traditional slavery and economic slavery is that most individuals, at some point, voluntarily entered into their financial engagement(s).  However, the similarity that both conditions typically share is the inability to readily disengage from the entanglement.

 

Let’s take another look at the definition of slavery.  The first part of the definition of slavery asserts that slavery is orchestrated by “a legal OR economic system.”  By definition, the financial system is an “economic system.” So, check.  The second condition of slavery is that an individual is “legally owned” by another individual(s).  Yet, another check.  I must say this, although individuals are not physically owned by financial institutions, they are economically imprisoned and shackled.  Before I expand on this though, I would like to state the third condition of slavery, which is “they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement.”  Check!

 

Most financial institutions are in the business of buying and selling debt.  It is not uncommon for people who are saddled with debt to see their loan(s) change hands several times during the lifetime of their loan.  With each change of ownership, there are new notices and disclosures, which are usually multiple, page documents that are typically indiscernible, microscopic fine-print with an inherent obligation for compliance.  In essence, the borrower does not get to pick and choose which terms and conditions they accept and agree with.  Once the loans are sold, the borrower’s finances become subject to the new lender’s (“owner”) discretion. The borrower cannot readily disengage from the financial obligation without legal recourse or ramifications.  In some cases, many individuals are working solely to pay debts.

 

There are people who are reading this post and are probably thinking that individuals who are indebted are in the position that they are in because of poor decision-making.  While that may or may not be true of some, it’s not true of others, and I caution such thinking.  There are many individuals, who have made prudent decisions, yet have still found themselves victims of circumstances, including divorce, life, sickness, death, fraud or even hunger.  Not everyone in debt is living above their mean.  Some people are simply trying to live.  A mother who uses her credit card to buy food and clothing for her family is a far cry from a squanderer.  A young, doe-eyed humanitarian who made a prudent decision to attend medical school to refine his God-given gifts and impact his community and the world around him is far from what I would call irresponsible.  While I am sure there are people who’ve placed themselves in the lion’s den, this is not everyone’s story, and the truth is, even if it were, do they deserve to be eternally imprisoned?

 

King Solomon said it best when he said, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, NIV).  One on the worse things that any of us could do on our journey on this Earth is to make distinctions between “us” and “them.”  If anyone has lived on this Earth long enough, one of the valuable lessons learned is that time is the ultimate equalizer where “they” often becomes “me.”

A few years ago, I created this blog to challenge the way we think–to open our minds. Today the old adage, knowledge is power, is probably truer than ever before. Many of us fear what we do not know.

On Tuesday, I sat in front of my television, as perhaps millions of others, and watched as Charlie Sheen disclosed what was probably his biggest personal obstacle to date: his HIV status. As I watched him, I saw an individual who was the embodiment of the human experience–wonderful, flawed and broken, all at the same time. At times during the interview, he look bewildered, as if he were having an out of body experience–as if it were happening to someone else.

Days before the Matt Lauer interview, I already knew what Charlie Sheen’s disclosure would be. The Internet was already abuzz. The opinions and speculation varied from support to condemnation. As I read through some of the posts, I was reminded of King David. During one of his fallen moments, he declared, “It would be better to fall into the hands of God than to fall into the hands of man.”

God’s grace reminds us that we are ALL wonderful, flawed and broken. In all of our lives, we will experience moments where our actions will take us to dark places from where only God can deliver us. The truth is, only God can judge.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Whether we know it or believe it, we are all called for God’s purpose. He can take our biggest mistakes, failures and shortcomings and use them for His glory. One of the positives that came from Sheen’s disclosure is the open dialogue about HIV and AIDS. There is still so much misinformation and stigma surrounding the disease. As having had the experience as an HIV educator and working with HIV researcher, I understand the value of these teachable moments.

Last year, I wrote and produced, “What is Your Status: An HIV Awareness Story ” to highlight some of the issues that still surround HIV and AIDS.
Please check out the video below:

I believe it was English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton who penned (pun intended) the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” in his play Richelieu.  Truer words have never been spoken.  Unto the sword is born death, but the pen breeds both death and life.

A few years ago, I created this blog, That Next Level Thinking, in hopes that it would be a conduit for progressive thinking.  I wanted to challenge myself and my readers to push pass the mundane and to expand our mind to not just think outside the box, but to obliterate boundaries entirely.  In order to be revolutionary, we have to be willing to be vulnerable and to realize that it is our unique perspectives and quirks that will help us to impact the world in a way that no one else can or has.  As we storm towards greatness, we should never forget that it has always been the people who have gone against the grain of contemporary thinking who have steered the course of progress.

–That Next Level Thinking