Slavery/Servitude: Antiquated Relic?

We Are Not of Our Own Thoughts, (Part I)

Ask any student of history, and you’ll be told that institutionalized slavery has been outlawed for lifetimes here in the Occident. Posit an idea to the contrary, and you’re sure to receive a sharp rebuttal.

The demarcations of the West and what defines it (psst, it’s a function of culture and demography, not geography) aside, one needn’t look too hard or too far away from the shores of the Atlantic coast of North America before encountering what are undoubtedly slavery-like conditions. Whether you’re talking of the child servant in Haiti performing domestic duties for a modicum of payment and a cornucopia of abuse, or the field worker in Mexico toiling under the scorching sol and periodically wetting his soiled hands in a peroxide solution, the exploitation of the human being as a factory is difficult to avoid. And while these ‘workers’ are (generally) free of any physical shackles or official masters, it cannot be convincingly stated that they are living and performing of their own free will.

The debt-money systems that operate within their nations — really a supra-national, transnational, global meta-system of financial enslavement — is what indentures these folks to their means of constructing and maneuvering their personal economies. I hazard to guess that the morally high-minded individual needs no persuading about these matters. Where I imagine there exists a schism in understanding is in the examination of the rest of us, who happen to be comfortable residents of the West itself. We, the fortunate few who have decent jobs, decent working conditions, and a plethora of labour laws enshrining our protections and rights as workers — how do We view our lives and our conditions?

Surely we are free. Free to exercise our will in choosing our life paths, our careers, our lifestyles; free to accept and operate within the larger economy that ensconces us, and free to leave any of these things should we elect to. It is this freedom that distinguishes us from those hapless others who don’t possess similar freedoms. We can travel about without fear of hindrance and reprisal: leave the home, hop in the car, and visit whatever or whoever we please.

But hold on. Let’s be sure of a few things first. To begin, be sure to carry with you personal identification, issued by the official body that is responsible for governing how, and how much, you can freely live your life. Also, be sure that you have paid in full your indemnity (taxes) to this governing body, ensuring that you retain your various freedoms. As you move about, be sure to carry with you your own personal tracker (mobile telecommunications device), in the unfortunate event that some harm or urgency befalls you. Be sure that your registrations and licenses are up to date, and paid for in full. Then trot onwards as you freely wander those streets (virtually all of them) that are garrisoned by various surveillance devices, and ride on those public transit vehicles (again, virtually all of them) fitted with video cameras. Be sure that you avoid transgressing any of thousands of corporate statutes decreed and enforced by the agents of the state. Now, avail yourself to the life of freedom that you and your fellow citizens are entitled to live, here in the splendid West.

To be clear I do not believe that life as a labourer in a so-called third world nation is tantamount in its severity to life in the West, nor do I mean to diminish the legitimate grievances and sufferings of people subsisting all over the planet. I know and accept that there are enormous variances in quality of life within any given society, leave alone between different societies in economically disparate nations. What I hope to put across is the idea that although we in the West enjoy innumerable conveniences and privileges proscribed to those living outside it, we nonetheless are just as entrapped as our fellow humans living elsewhere. While ‘working’ as a sex slave or child labourer is more luridly a consignment to servitude, we mustn’t overlook the myriad ways in which our own freedoms are usurped upon, in exchange for the aforementioned conveniences and privileges. True freedom is the life whereupon no will but thy own is done.

Daniel Choudhury is a dreamer, writer, healer, and self-affirmed vagabond. He is especially interested in matters of cognitive and psychological deprogramming, nutrition and health, and culture re-creation. Read other articles by Daniel.