Does slavery exist in the modern world? I argue yes. Turn through the pages of history to when British and American wealth was built of the backs of slaves and ask: did they receive anything from their masters? Well they got a roof over the heads and enough food to barely get by. What about the family trying to make ends meet off a minimum wage job? What do they get? I think many will say ‘a roof over their heads and barely enough to get by’.
It may seem like a crass example, and I admit it doesn’t do justice for the appalling conditions with which innocent victims of the slave trade were treated, but the principle here is worth noting.
Considering the 1% that control 80% of the wealth, who rejoice in the use of machinery and the abundance of labourers that drive down the cost of overheads, things really could not have worked out better for big capitalism. Relatively thinking then I think there are many who are esteemed as slaves.
The financial sector is partly to blame for this. The city of London makes a vast contribution to our GDP, through speculative trading; betting on commodities. The costs of production, due to machines and an abundance of available labour force is only a fraction of what goes through the coffers of the bankers.
As a result, it is Mr and Mrs Serf who labour for the minimum permissible wage, for the success of a business, so the fat cat bankers can bet back and forth and live the lavish city life. This is a complete abuse of the workforce.
Even so, many will look and say that this is still not comparable to the conditions faced by some during previous centuries. To you I say that I agree. There is an incredible social mobility in this generation. I am a student, with a variety of Apple products, a car, and a few international stamps in my passport. Motor vehicles are available to the masses, people aren’t really starving, and large screen televisions and broadband internet are found in many homes. We certainly do not live under the task-masters whip.
I think the bulk of this slavery is psychological. It is relative. If the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer then we are moving closer to real slavery, not further away from it. But the real damage is done to the individual who has worked out that society considers them dispensable. The person who is told they don’t need an education, since they are only needed for manual work. The person who only works to be able to afford food, shelter and some short lived entertainment down the pub is the same person who empty’s your bins to keep your street habitable. It’s the person who puts the food on the shelves in your supermarket. It’s the person who answers the phone when your internet access fails, or the person who sewed the sleeves on to your shirt. Are they really worth that little?
Institutionally that is what we have said. We have conditioned some people in our society into a state of learned helplessness. And do you know what the bottom line of it is? As we are now, there is not enough jobs for everyone. If every person did have the zeal and passion to go out and try change their stars, there wouldn’t be enough work to go round. So do we still have slaves? Relatively speaking definitely. Symbolically without doubt. And for those who the economy values at but the smallest pittance, I’m sure they would agree too.