The 50 Shades of Economic Enslavement
Updated: Feb 21
As I watched 50 Shades of Grey the other night, I felt struck by the parallels the storyline had to that of our economy. I kept thinking about the 50 shades of our collective submission to economic enslavement, a relationship that’s easier if we don’t question it. While I haven’t really been following this whole heated discussion over BDSM, female sexuality, dominance, and consent — this how I relate the film to our economy:
We’re abused and abuse in machines of profit disguised as wealth.
We’re seduced by the promise of better lives if we simply consent. From the animals tortured and abused as part of our food systems and factory farming to slave labor and exploitation, we’re definitely in a trance of our own making. Yet, with every purchase, every micro choice — we ignore or willingly submit to the consequences our decisions create.
There’s enough romance to keep us shackled to a brighter future where we can “afford” to be conscious and do things differently. In the interim, we play power games and play games from http://www.p4rgaming.com/blog/what-is-elo — in a tousle of dominance and submission, exchanging roles as necessary for survival, arranging hierarchies in our jobs, relationships, and socioeconomic classes — agreeing to all of this out of fear, out of a desire to be safe and to belong.
The language we speak — the underlying subtext of what we’ve created is one of dominance and submission. This yang economy overrides and informs daily activities and major decisions, such as how often to work and how far we’re willing to extend ourselves on a mortgage for a house. We’ve deemed profit a god, profit managers as the disciples, and the workers as a machine. How then can we watch 50 Shades of Grey and feel nothing, but our own confused torment? Our abusive relationship with money? Our desire to fit in? And even our never ending quest to understand and participate in that which we’ve created?
There’s nothing that’s inherently good or bad or right or wrong about dominance or submission, but we can see from the film how it plays out in the bedroom. She wants to love him and will do anything to get closer to him. Now then… does this sound like our relationship with money? Profit at any cost?
A glimmer of hope happens toward the end. Anastasia says, “Stop!” Enough is enough. Perhaps these games we play aren’t necessary for our bonding or survival. We can cease to play with whips and chains and instead make love without the need for power structures or set roles — seeking instead to lead balanced, healthy lives that don’t need to be in a constant state of submission or quest for power.
We can choose to be awake — no longer buying things out of insecurity or need for identity, but rather necessity.
We can stop shackling ourselves to economic prisons we call our homes. Perhaps instead of aspiring to mansions and designer clothes, we can look to build richer communities, with smaller houses, and buy locally made products.
Instead of dual income households with no time for relationships, we can spend our time investing in people and ideas that set us on fire.
Instead of bowing to the money gods of 9–5, perhaps we can seek to first and foremost build fulfilling lives.
Instead of hoarding, maybe we can start to see that everyone benefits by sharing.
Eventually, we can come to see that the power struggles we’ve created around money are economic whips and chains. We can start to look at other economic models and structures like cooperatives, which are born out of the collective will to be equal and equanimous.
The thing about pleasure and pain is that both drive us — and often in combination. But we we need is a different path — one that no longer needs the masks of power… a readiness to learn and to speak a new language.
What if there’s a way out that doesn’t require inflicting pain to gain pleasure?