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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Modern Slavery

Category: Issue 17

Do you think that there just aren’t any powerful people who would like to have you as a slave?  You have to admit that there probably are, right?  But they don’t have access to you, right?  You’re just one of millions, so how could they get to you to make you a slave?

Do you think they’d let on that they’re using you as a slave, if they are?  Or would they hide it?  What would be the symptoms of enslavement, and could they be masked so that even if you are a slave, you wouldn’t struggle against it?  You’d do things you don’t want to do because you’re afraid of punishment, right?  But the agents who inflict the punishment wouldn’t be slave masters.  They’d be painted to seem… legitimate, some kind of authority that you are taught to respect because they help you and protect you.

If you don’t eat, you starve, and this forces you to eat.  Breathing is the same way.  Is there a slave master who forces you to eat and breathe?  In that sense, you are already a slave to biology and physics.  Does that make it ok to be a slave to other people?  What’s the diffference between other people and nature?  Does nature have a choice about keeping you alive when you don’t eat or you don’t breathe?  Do we have any reason to believe that struggling against that enslavement would free us from having to eat and breathe?  What about other people?  If they didn’t spend time punishing slaves for failing to comply with the laws of their enslavement, what would they do during that time?

I see a lot of slavery that is unintentional.  Many people spend time punishing each other for not yielding to each other’s demands.  In most cases, the punisher will recognize the ugliness of his or her behavior, and work to improve it, but exploiting those creatures around you who will yield to your threats seems to be instinctual.

I see intentional and deceptive slavery too.  People in positions of power aren’t all vapid thugs.  Many of them understand that spending time punishing people for not complying with their demands is a black thing to do, but they do it anyway because they feel their ugliness can be hidden well enough to maintain their happiness.  We all do that a little bit - hide our ugly choices so that people won’t hate us.  Some of us try to stop making these choices, and we find the comfort of being innocent.  Even when we find ourselves punishing others for failing to comply, we retain the essence of innocence by recognizing the ugliness and trying to do better.  Others don’t bother.  Which side are you on?

When the analysis of their own lives suggests that the stinking rot in their soul is not degrading their lives as much as freeing others from enslavement would, they leave it be.  Those in positions of power obviously have an easier time with this, especially when that bad smell is largely transferred to agents who are made to feel it is their duty to inflict punishments on those who don’t comply.  This is one of the ways in which power corrupts.  Do you smell that smell yet?

Abolishing slavery is going to take more than some proclamation by a government.  The slave mentality ought to be recognized by the majority of us.  Its disgusting scent ought to be named, and each of us ought to demand freedom.  I wrote this essay in an attempt to help clear the air a bit, to give those people in power a bit more evidence that some of us know where the stench emanates from.  Perhaps they will start cleaning up their act.

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Old Comments

  • Actually this is really good.  Or at least it resonates with me.  I’m still in Cambodia and there is an incredible amount of corruption here at most official levels.  I think about corruption every day because (oddly enough)the local (English speaking)newspapers are full of evidence of it. (Meanwhile there’s nothing stopping me from teaching English and sociology here…)  The thing is that most of the people are really, really nice. 

    The ordinary Cambodian doesn’t really think about freedom.  Corruption is a new concept.  Getting by is where it’s at.  Even the luxury of having the concept and being able to decide whether to succumb to it or fight it is something to be appreciated, I think.

    Posted by julianyway  on  03/03  at  09:48 AM
  • You seem to have gotten an Internet connection or something.  Or did you pass away and now you’re just a ghost in the machine?  Either way “Welcome back!”  We missed you.

    Would you say that most Cambodians do what they’re told so that they don’t get punished (by people who have to spend effort punishing them), or do they not bother with that because they need to do other stuff to survive?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  01:25 PM
  • The people who are supposed to do the catching and punishing don’t get paid well enough, by the government, for that particular job, to make a living, so they take bribes.  The government says it can’t afford to pay the people who are supposed to do the catching and punishing well enough.  After all, the vast majority of people are too poor for it to be worthwhile to tax them. 

    I wouldn’t say that Cambodians do what they’re told ... unless they absolutely have to, because someone might kill them or drag them off to jail because they don’t have the money to pay a bribe. 

    As for internet, well, it takes a long time to load a page sometimes.  Like, 90 minutes???  I am just using the guesthouse connection where I used to live… hump the laptop down here from my apartment. 

    Thanks!  I love this place!

    Posted by julianyway  on  03/04  at  11:36 AM
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