Slaving & piracy

It must be admitted, or rather it should, that “wage slavery” is an improvement upon those forms based on abduction and “free market” sale. It is nice, I suppose, when the slaves agree to take money directly, and “volunteer” for their indenture, and may even be entitled to save enough to retire from service. Pensions for these slaves are another nice touch. It makes slavery acceptable to the voting masses. Perhaps, as a Japanese lady once explained to me (while discussing ancient Greece), “freedom is impossible without slavery.”

Working by the hour is, verily, my own preferred form. Wanted labour runs from the unskilled to the semi-skilled; the slave is essentially a beast of burden. But so were the elephants who worked the lumber trade in Thailand, or the huskies that pull the Eskimos about.

As a child in Pakistan, I learned that a bullock needed training if he were not to gore his human master. He was further taught to follow simple instructions — for instance to pull water while walking round and round a well, like a Sisyphus of the plains. The principle of wage slavery would still apply: with payment in roughage and grains. Violent he might be, in untoward moments, but like most slaves he is prevented from organizing.

This morning I was uttering a prayer for Irishmen, Hebrideans, and Icelanders, long dead, who were abducted by Algerian and Moroccan slavers — who worked the Atlantic coasts when Mediterranean shores became depleted. The economy of the Maghreb, indeed the whole Islamic economy, was for centuries largely based on piracy and slaving; but then, so was the English economy in the age of Elizabeth I. The Muslims, and the English, too, have mostly graduated to wage slavery, in the modern form, and now pay fairly well. Unless, or course, you have been recruited as a servant from the “Third World.”

In my day, Asian women, and others, served the white man, and others, in that condition of wage-slavery known as prostitution. (They were paid mostly by the hour.) This was quite a different arrangement from marriage; Christian marriage in particular. That is task-related instead of wage-related (although feminists have struggled to have it monetized). It was formerly a long-term task, requiring skills, such as child-care and nurturing.

There are, in addition to slaves, persons who are demonstrably free, and may perhaps even value their freedom. These are they who are paid by the task, rather than by the hour. They must have some useful ability, which makes them worth paying; or be a member of some aristocracy that is capable of surviving on inherited wealth; or both. They are free to turn down a job if they don’t like it. Note: prostitutes can also be free, but only in moments.

The possession of a craft that is in demand, or better an inheritance, is necessary (but not sufficient) to freedom. This is perhaps half of the story.

In the other half, one may be free even if one is a slave.