During my last Caribbean trip, I was made aware of a “black chapter” of human history: slavery. I wrote an article about my visit to the museum in Curaçao and how it motivated me to also inform myself about fiefdom in our so value-glorified occident. After all, we in the occident have so very Christian roots…
The more I read and think about slavery and fiefdom, the more I am convinced that both have not been abolished for “honourable” – humanitarian, humane and enlightened – reasons.
Instead, it was mostly business motives that caused the abolition of the more than thousand years-old slavery. This change would not have been possible without the consent of capitalism (i.e. of the ruling classes, both feudally and monetary).
Basically, slavery simply was no longer profitable!
Whenever something is no longer profitable in capitalism, it will be removed. That is true both for the overseas plantations and farming in Europe. It is true both for technology and for humans. The slave was replaced by the worker. The serf was made redundant by the steam engine, which later lost against the Diesel. And perhaps the Diesel will be replaced by the electro motor.
A currently enthusiastically discussed question is:
Will humans lose against artificial intelligence?
It would be the next step. I have no answer to this question.
Still, in retrospective, it seems obvious that fiefdom was abolished in favour of the steam engine. The Feudal upper classes had understood that machines functioned better and more efficiently than serfs. It is no coincidence that roboti is the underlying morpheme for robot.
In the USA, the die-hard Southern States had absolutely no chance against the profit-oriented Northern States when it came to defending the slave system. Naturally, they had to lose the war.
Henry Ford would never have been able to produce his T-Model at the conveyor belt with slaves.
His “engineers” had enough on their hands when they were asked to teach the stupid farmers how you build a car. After all, the stupid farmers came from farming and consequently had no sense of industrial timing.
And consequently, it was a good idea if these farmers who had been converted into industrial workers had to be responsible for how they lived after the hours spent at the conveyor belt. You could say that Taylorism replaced slavery. The ruling classes had found out that self-responsibility will be less expensive for them than accepting all the responsibility for their entire workforce.
Basically, workers were just less expensive than slaves.
They simply outsourced the responsibility for their lives (which, in the case of slaves, they definitely had, even if only because they wanted to preserve the value) to the workers. For the black slaves, they also had to introduce a formal act and a document that officially gave them freedom. Workers, however, already were free (as often as not, they were rejected serfs) – and had to fend for themselves. For those who failed and had to be replaced, the successors were already standing in the queue in front of the plants.
This is how the slaves were freed and how cheap labour was acquired. This was made possible by progress in medicine and farming that had caused a huge population increase. Said population explosion is only now slowly beginning to decline. Consequently, there was always a supply of cheap labour available.
Later, the workers united, they became more powerful and sometimes even were able to increase the price. Many exciting legends have been told.
But now let us look at the today and now.
Has slavery really been abolished?
My answer is: NO!
Mind you, I am not talking the still existing form of classic slavery that we still have in certain sectors where the physical ownership of persons is still profitable. Those are called modern slavery.
If you believe the source (Quelle), then between 12 and 27 million people (there is a high estimated number of unreported cases) are still slaves. Considering that we have 7.63 billion people, this sounds harmless enough (October 2018, Wikipedia).
But do we not have a new form of slavery instead?
I do not mean all the people who have been snatched up by consumptionism (Komsumismus). Yes, the word exists, I have not invented it. Especially the developed societies have many consumption slaves. That is definitely also a form of lack of freedom. Since, however, most of them are free, I will not call them slaves.
For me, the majority of people in this world who are existentially dependent on their jobs live in a sort of slavery. Even in many rich countries, the loss of your job will mean the END for more and more people. You have to pay high rents, many people have no assets (except negative assets).
If these people lose their jobs, the only thing that remains for them is unemployment insurance and/or the social systems – for instance our detested Hartz system.
However, there are many countries that do not even have such a social system. In the extreme case, losing your job means you will live on the streets.
India is one of the countries that particularly strain under this situation. Here, the slum system developed. The climb on the ladder will, in the truest sense of the word, begin “in the gutter” with a (much coveted) place in one of the surprisingly well-organized slums. These kinds of social automatisms are – still? – absent in our country.
Consequently, all those among us who have no work-unrelated income and, for instance, their own residential property, are slaves of a brutal system. As soon as we no longer function in our work environment, we are quickly gone.
There is a new kind of feudalism. Today, the leading class consists of people (and legal persons) who have a lot of capital. Some of them were simply lucky, others have inherited from a rich family (which is also luck). Basically, I actually believe that luck has a tendency to follow the industrious.
But that is not necessarily so. In any case, we can say:
If you have the funny stuff, you need not work any longer and can really live.
This means you can use your time for what you enjoy. Many of the persons who are thus independent of gainful employment work on an honorary basis.
I also know a number of young rich people who consciously enjoy their prosperity. And they do what they enjoy and what brings them happiness. Some of them are busy increasing their capital. That makes them even richer and increases the polarisation between poor and rich.
I am glad that I am not directly threatened by old-age poverty (except if our system breaks down). I am quite happy that I was so lucky in life.
However, I can easily imagine how it feels to be dependent on your job and waiting for your money at the end of each month. And having to struggle to make ends meet.
I understand quite well that, in such an environment, the loss of your job is an absolute terror that can destroy EVERYTHING. And, to me, this life style is absolutely a modern form of slavery.
(Translated by EG)
I borrowed the two images from Hans Bonfigt. He used them for his IF-Blog The power and the glory .