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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Benign Mundane Slavery

This will upset a few people, so if you don't like your beliefs to be challenged and questionned and would rather live in your own bubble of certainties, then don't read this, my blog has the word quandary in it for a reason you know: doubt is a big part of my intellectual process. I didn't do one of those philosophical ponderings in a while now and I have been thinking about this subject lately so here it is.
My question of the day: is slavery really such a bad thing? And why?
"What!? KeLvin are you retarded? Everyone knows why slavery is bad, it's because you force people to do work without their consent and remuneration!"
Sure, but how is a a life of slavery where your basic needs are catered to is worse than a life of uncertainty where you can lack the salary to even live decently?  Maybe you asked yourself that question if you are poor, and like me you may have come to the conclusion that it's hard to say. If I even wanted to write about this it is because lately I have been playing a lot of Dragon Age: Inquisition (good game by the way) and one of the characters, Dorian, come from a country where slavery is common practice, and when talking about the practice morality, he says that all things considered, if slaves are well treated, they often may live lives that are more comfortable than the poor free men and women of other countries that may well be stuck in a life of misery forever, while in a slaver country, you could just sell yourself.
I can't say those thoughts never crossed my mind before, in history class, one of the first things that surprised me was to learn that not only not all free people were equals, but even slaves were not equals to one another. We like to demonize the practice and pretend that all slavery in history was oppressive and difficult for the slaves, but it wasn't always the case. Many treated their slaves rather well, caring for their quarters, their health, their families, and their comfort. Now can you say the same of your employer? Probably not. You are most likely replaceable to him or her. Slaves were generally expensive to buy (not for all of history though) and considered an investment, so it was in the interests of the buyers to treat their slaves well so they could live long and serve them longer. While nowadays, an employee anywhere is cheap and replaceable, and it can often be in your employer best interests to treat you like shit or make you work in unsafe/unhygienic conditions to save a few bucks. Also, slaves conditions, if with an average owner, would rarely go down... Unless their master went bankrupt or became psychotic for some reasons.
While as an employee, your life conditions can change drastically from months to months: you may be stuck at low wages and after a few years of inflation and debt be in deep misery despite working full time, you may lose your job and fall down from wherever you were (statistics shows most people don't save money, mostly because there isn't enough left to save and unpredictable expenses happen all the time) or you may fell ill and need to stop working for a while, losing much of your income.
By now you probably start to understand where my thoughts went on that one: how is slavery so bad if employers often (sometimes with the complicity of our governments) treat low wage workers worse than how noble (by that I mean nobility, not good) slave owners could treat their slaves?  If your main concern for opposing slavery was the treatment of the slaves, then think again, because slaves at least had the guarrantee to get food and shelter if they weren't war prisoners (the kind of slaves that get more mistreated than others) or part of the american slave trade. While nowadays, many countries have welfare services and governmental services so shitty it's often as worse to work than not to if you are poor, and become a "choose your poison" type of situation.
Oh and little side note here: not all slaves were black. I know a few people that can't believe that. In fact, for most of history, you could be a slave regardless of skin color as people historically enslaved people near them first and foremost. Yes that does mean It became more racist later on when Europeans stopped enslaving each other to favor enslaving Africans, that they colonized, often by force. It was then that slaves became cheaper and mistreatment of them more common.
Of course your master's wealth and nature still often mattered the most in your treatment. Wealthy bastards could afford ten or twenty slaves, and didn't care much for their well being, while more modest families, able to afford only one slave, took more care of their slaves, since they were more of a luxury.
Now, of course if you said that slavery is wrong because it treat humans as tools to a means, I would agree, but isn't our modern society kind of similar? We are all the tools of rich entrepreneurs with thousands and thousands, if not millions of employees like yourself that are a tool, a means to gain capital. So what's the last big argument against slavery? The lack of freedom. Well that one's easy. You sure say that you have the choice, but do you? Can you choose not to work? " You can but must accept the consequences" Oh really? And do you think a slave couldn't do the same and "accept the consequences"? For the same reason most poor folks "choose" to work, most slaves "choose" to comply: because the alternative is so much worse, it's not a fair choice. Granted, our motivation, avoiding misery and famine, is apparently less violent than being threatened to be beaten or killed, but is no less willbending.
Also, I find it depressing that so many can ignore the suffering of people worldwide because it's much harder to imagine how painful and difficult extreme poverty is than straight up violence. So many can look you straight in the eyes and tell you they oppose all forms of slavery because of the mistreatment of slaves, yet support not raising minimal wages or not financing universal healthcare and education.
  Our modern society might have perfected the formula for slavery: let them loose but still dependent on those that used to be rich owners. Now they will be rich employers, and the best part? The potential employees will fight to work for them, compete with each other's. In an older post I said that communism is straight up no trickery slavery, a benign slavery because everyone comply to it to get well treated at the cost of their freedoms, and that the hypothetical anarcho-capitalist/libertarian wet dream is a subtle but not benign slavery. No ambition to help or care about people there. Our society is peculiar, because it managed to make slavery both seems benign and mundane while being seen as freedom by all. I probably will think more deeply about all of this another time. Tell me what you thought, I'm curious. It goes without saying at this point that I still do find slavery immoral. See you next time -KeLvin