1. A member of the lowest feudal class, attached to the land owned by a lord and required to perform labor in return for certain legal or customary rights.
2. An agricultural laborer under various similar systems, especially in 18th- and 19th-century Russia and eastern Europe.
3. A person in bondage or servitude.
[From the Online Free Dictionary]
Rampant consumer debt is our modern day equivalent of serfdom.
Whereas in times gone by labourers were indentured to work in return for a place to live, now many find themselves tied to a debt burden they can never escape from.
Consequently they become beholden to credit card companies, banks and financial institutions and are in effect indentured workers.
Of course we do have a choice as to whether we get in to debt, and how far we go, but we also live in a society in which we are conditioned to believe that our status and position is dependent upon the material possessions that we utilise credit to purchase.
It is well proven that it is relative poverty, not absolute poverty that educes social, community and individual wellness measures, and this relative poverty, and the desire to escape it, also provides the stimulus for the pursuit of material possessions even if that pursuit places one in a position of servitude.
In other words, a lack of social equity causes a cycle of attempting (unsuccessfully) to find life fulfillment through possessions - possessions that only credit can allow many to buy.
This conditioning is propagated by our entire system of commerce, and there is tacit approval ta governmental and corporate level for increased debt, and the creation of debt within members of society, and most especially those in lower socio-economic strata.
When the wealth of the few is predicated on the relative poverty, and servitude by proxy of the many, there is something inherently wrong with the system.
When we allow the situation to continue through our actions there is something wrong with us.
[Notes: The Spirit Level contains data on relative poverty and social inequality as related to societal health. It's a fascinating read.]