Should slavery be restored?

“Democracy is not possible without slavery,” a Japanese lady once explained to me. I think what she meant, at the time, was that democracy simply isn’t possible, at least under modern conditions. But this Hifumi (“one-two-three” in Japanese), always meant more or less than I could follow.

Our discussion included reflections upon modern “time-saving” devices. Here I use the scare quotes because these technological gadgets don’t really save time; they waste it being set up, and endlessly repaired. The ancient “oppressed” housewife, or her slave(s) for that matter, just did things directly, before intricate human was replaced by crude mechanical energy.

Would machines (“appliances”) count as slaves in Hifumi’s worldview? And did they make “democracy” possible once again?

“No,” she insisted. They are like Pharaoh’s slaves: too numerous, and impractical to feed.

Rather (I think) she was arguing for the restoration of social hierarchy, in which a portion of the population are electors, but a much larger portion don’t count. This has nothing to do with race, incidentally: we could have black masters and white slaves, rather as BLM now propose. But: “Race gets in the way of clear thinking.” Hifumi found racism despicable.

Under inquisition, this Japanese theoretician turned her attention to Greece. She proved well-informed about Greek, especially Attic, democratic arrangements.

Gentle reader will recall that, under those arrangements, only free native adult males voted — but directly, not only on leadership (when it was not chosen by lot), but on various good things, such as naval measures, and who should be ostracized this year. (Imagine Trump being re-elected, but simultaneously exiled for the next decade.) Foreigners, even if free, were excluded for multiple generations, and it would go without saying that women and slaves were excluded from decision-making of any kind.

“But you call yourself a feminist,” I reminded her, once.

Hifumi replied, “I am. I’m sure I could control any man’s vote.” She was implacably opposed to the secret ballot.

So why slaves?

Her answer was not entirely mundane. True, they would be useful for domestic tasks, but truer, “at least two-thirds” of the population naturally belong to the slave or serf class. They have no use for freedom, and if it were granted, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Tell them to take responsibility for anything, and they are likely to run away. You could tell them to wear bat-masks and they would all just obey. (Well okay, I added that last bit.)

It was an interesting point-of-view. I’ve lost track of Hifumi. Last thing I heard she was being run out of Hong Kong, for giving her opinion of the Chinese, and I was curious when she would be run out of Tokyo. That was more than twenty years ago. You couldn’t have an honest discussion, even then.