Having watched the TV show Spartacus and got totally immersed in all of the story, it’s remarkable just how powerful the idea of slavery is.
It’s to the human race’s greatest shame that such a thing ever existed in the first place but to so much more disgust that it continues still today.
Modern day slavery is something which is taking place all over the globe and there are groups and agencies everywhere working to free those people who trapped in the grip of this hideous environment as they do all they can to dismantle the slavers.
As a writer, the use of slavery is a great way to put people into a system whereby there is a massive imbalance. It makes monsters of the slave owners and victims of the slaves to the point where you can build a narrative of almost any type of uprising and those doing the uprising are seen as doing right. Anything that the slaves can do to free themselves from the shackles that their owners have placed them in is a righteous thing. We all recognise that to own people as property is wrong so how it comes to pass is the concern.
Who was the first person who thought up the idea of forcing another into service under the threat of violence? How did they explain the idea to those around them? How did they reconcile the idea to themselves?
The Golden Rule is a tenet of so many cultures and religions around the world and through time whereby we don’t treat people in a way that we wouldn’t want to be treated. It seems an almost painfully simple concept really. If you don’t want to be owned as property, why would another? Now there was indentured servitude where people could enter into an agreement as a way of paying off a debt but they became chattle. Their labour could have been passed on to another and there was nothing they could say in challenge.
But the nature of slavery, in whatever form it took, can be reduced down to a central point.
It allows for one person to exert power over another.
If the slave doesn’t agree with, or want to do, a particular action, their opinion is worthless. They have to do it and if they don’t, the slave owner is within their rights to do almost anything. Coercion isn’t needed when you can just beat the person into submission. The slaver has the ultimate control over the life or death of the slave and there’s nothing they can do in response. There’s a moment of utter power which could be wildly intoxicating but should be so far off limits as to never be an issue but so often, the weak have been crushed under the boot of the strong just because the strong can do it.
Throughout time, and across species, the strong have preyed on the weak. Nature has predator and prey and the cycle has continued for millennia but as humanity has evolved, so has our ability to take this power dynamic to new levels. Rather than just killing for food, our ability to keep those people ‘beneath’ us, down evolved.
Humanity has such capacity for soaring beauty but that is matched in our ability for horror. Happily, slavery is banned through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed in 1948 so we’re collectively showing that we recognise it as the blight on humanity that it is yet it still exists in some forms.
As a collective, humanity is moving forwards as we discard the barbarity that was once considered normal but we’re still moving down the road. Modern day slavery is something which is being crushed into a smaller and smaller space in societies across the world and will eventually be eradicated. I’m looking forward to a time when talk of slavery is only from the pages of history or from stories of fiction.
Until that time we’re all slaves to the facts of our history but we have to do everything we can to cast off those chains.
For more information on the work of British charity, Unseen, as they work against slavery, visit their website, www.unseenuk.org.