Slavery is the oldest economic system in the world, and the most persistent. Just as surely as accounting and lawyering were not the first professions, capitalism and communism were not the first economic systems.
Slavery is also, I believe, one of the oldest forms of social structure. I imagine the tribe was the first social structure, closely followed by enslavement, but it might have been the other way around.
It is said that Satan goes by many names, and I believe that slavery also goes by many names.
The world has hardly ever been secretive about slavery. It’s been openly practiced from Biblical times to modern times. It was recognized and lawful in ancient societies and in advanced modern cultures. It was legal as recently as 1865, in these United States, and it continues in the world today.
Usually, the master-slave relationship has been openly and crudely practiced in its most unvarnished form. Slaves are regarded as property and have no rights. But the concept has also been practiced under various guises and different names.
- Serfs in feudal times.
- Peons in South America, peasants in Europe, subsistence farmers everywhere.
- Children have been used as virtual slaves in even the most enlightened societies. A poet once said that some early factories in England were so near the golf links that children at work could see the men at play.
- After the American Civil War, share-cropper farms in the South, and sweatshops with locked doors in the North.
- Master craftsmen sometimes take advantage of apprentice labor.
- In the mid-20th century, the “corporation man” was often seen as an interchangeable cog, a paid slave in a suit. The female secretaries were an even lower caste. The corporation had as much power over the employees as lords had over serfs.
- In recent years, unpaid internships have become common.
- The wealthy often depend on indentured servants who work for room and board and perhaps hope of future freedom. The privileged in America call them “au pairs.”
- Migrant farmworkers and “illegal immigrants.”
We could go on with variants of slavery around the world, but you get the point. It’s obvious that the powerful (whether the power is based on wealth, physical strength, military victory, or some other advantage) will nearly always and everywhere take economic advantage of the vulnerable by forced servitude, in one form or another.
In the present worldwide crisis of finance and commerce, the powerful are seeking to enslave the masses by imposing Austerity.
When nations impose Austerity on other nations, it’s a form of economic warfare. Is Europe beginning a new version of continental war? It’s shaping up as a replay of World Wars I and II without the guns and tanks. Germany is cast as the aggressor, and France as the secondary power. Greece is the first weak nation targeted for takeover. Germany demands unconditional surrender on its terms of Austerity. Political leaders in Greece argue whether to give up or hold out. Spain and Italy are next on the list when Greece falls. As in 1938 and 1939, England and America look on nervously.
Of course “war” isn’t the perfect metaphor for Austerity. This time around, it’s not so much nation against nation. It’s more the financial elite and upper classes worldwide enslaving workers in the targeted underperforming country or region.
It’s more like the rich and powerful enslaving the indebted.
We’ve been through this before. America and the International Monetary Fund have imposed Austerity on small countries on several continents over the years. Ireland is one of the most recent to take the bitter medicine. (Another flawed metaphor.)
Now, Austerity threatens the people of Europe and America, as well as the people of developing countries.
In the worldwide economy without borders, Austerity is the new slavery.
— John Hayden
- Modern Slavery (georgedowdell.org)
- Capitalism and Slavery (hupaeev.typepad.com)
- Download Between Slavery and Freedom: Philosophy and American Slavery (Blacks in the Diaspora) (fosnbaze.typepad.com)
- 42,000 modern-day slaves rescued but millions in bondage, trafficking report says (worldnews.msnbc.msn.com)
- Voluntary slavery: a hypothetical scenario… (francoistremblay.wordpress.com)