. Slavery for Dummies | London Progressive Journal
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Slavery for Dummies

Sat 8th Oct 2011

Introduction:

Yes, I’m outRaged, but I have no answers. Anyone who claims to have answers is a lying fraud. What they have are beneficent or tyrannical opinions for self-promotion.

I’m furious enough to ask the questions I just don’t see being asked elsewhere. My point of view is biased toward the UK, where I’ve lived for almost 45 years, but my fury is informed by the America I grew up in.

Debate is what I crave - unfettered by vested interest or former assumptions. I want discussion on a clean slate, communally groping toward an understanding of why we are where we are, how happy we are to be here, and what we might do to foment change.

Hey, what could be more fun than bursting your own balloons? Let’s go pop!


Chapter One – So one day I woke up and guess what?

You’re a slave. I’m a slave. I declare right here in broad daylight that we are all slaves!

Just admit it. Unless, of course, you are the CEO of a multi-national company, in which case you are a slave-driver. Go sit on the naughty step and shut up.

If I offend you in the teeniest-tiniest way, well, boo-bloody-hoo. Get over it and let’s figure out why you’re lugging around those chains Mr ‘Beardy Marx’ warned you about. Such a clanking weight sure dulls your edge on the disco floor of life.

He didn’t know everything, that Mr Marx, but he provided a blueprint definition of how the exploiters can retain control only so long as we slaves accept our role.

Right wing, left wing, all our wings are broken. We’re all complicit in retaining the slavery model of macro-economics and realpolitik. Capitalism - the religion of our time - can only exist with masters and slaves.

Racist puns aside, it’s a black-and-white case.

Is that too simplistic? Of course it is. This is Slavery for Dummies! OK, let’s microscope the grey areas.

Choice is the prize. With it comes power, freedom, confidence, well-being, self-gratification. Without it comes stress, ill-health, lack of self-belief, and an expectation of failure. The paradigm holds no matter which slice of life you examine – political, vocational, domestic.

Draw an outline of a pyramid. Total choice tops it, and there’s less and less the further down you go. That’s the structure of capitalist societies, and it’s tempting to assume it’s the natural order of things.

But it ain’t!

Worshipping in the marketplace-cathedrals are political parties, local government, unions, the news media, academia, the military, and big business. Roped in to support them are family, the arts & culture, education, sports, leisure, religion, science, technology, lifestyle, and all the barriers that define social class boundaries.
It’s hard to think of any human activity that hasn’t been caught in the net.

What’s baffling is that we slaves so readily accept the degrading position we’re put in. As tempting as it is to believe that we can ascend to the top of the pyramid, all social mobility studies prove that our initial status inches ahead in about half the population, and then only to the next level. By and large.

While promoting some ill-defined democratic ideal, the power elite’s actuality is an unjust social model that’s self-perpetuating. It’s a tyrannical status quo, and it needs challenging at every level.
BBC Radio 4 is currently running a weekly series written and presented by former Tory MP Michael Portillo. It’s called ‘Putting Capitalism on Trial’, but a more accurate title would be ‘Let’s Interview a Pontificating Bunch of People Who Swallow Capitalism Whole and Fail to Ask Intelligent Questions of the One or Two Dissenting Voices.’

Any so-called discussion of capitalism I’ve ever encountered in all my decades here has included the assumptions that:

1) It works, a priori
2) It’s quite moral, really, and when it’s not, that’s because it’s a different kind
3) It’s better than all other systems
4) It’s all about growth and growth is good, innit

Hmmm, that’s exactly the kind of non-debate that gets me outRaged!
One of the greatest propaganda coups of those with most choice is to reduce everything to alleged measurables. Quantification and statistics seem to reinforce the status quo and imply it’s not only inevitable, but in some Panglossian way, the best of all possible quos.

Slavery for Dummies marches you to a different drummer. The beat is qualitative, not quantitative. Our touchstones owe little to acquisition, but much to a sense of self.

If you pay attention, you might find a way to change your lot and break your tethers of slavery


Chapter Two – Time Travel & Shape Shifting

Roll up, roll up! Climb aboard my time travel machine. Watch your step. Hold on tight. We’re headed for the shores of historical context.

In his Age of Reason, George Santayana famously said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

What the slave masters have learned over the centuries is to divert us from making connections between the past and our daily lives.
Divide and conquer has been the modus operandi of all power bases for some ten thousand years, give or take a week. Because we Westerners have been born into the system, and because we’ve grown up surrounded only by continual reinforcements of it, we honestly believe it’s the only game in town.

In these recent years of degraded liberty, and political and monetary corruption, we’ve colluded with some misguided assumption that we must fight, fight, fight to maintain the very structures that have made fools and slaves of us all – and enriched our Sybaritic masters.
So what happened ten thousand years ago which – let’s face it – is not exactly ‘always’? Around that time, the shape of human society changed. There were a number of reasons, including the climate and migration patterns, which nudged and budged the shape from a cosy circle to a tyrannical triangle.

But the upshot was that, after a million or so years, our species gradually stopped successfully living as tribal hunter-gatherers and started to settle down to a pre-agrarian lifestyle. We no longer chased migrating herds of protein, or visited the predictable fruiting of plants.

For a while, tribes remained as a loose collection of friends and relatives. The effect on families was to increase the number of kids, since the tasks of agriculture required a continuous supply of labour.

It’s clear from the fossil record, as well as what we know of the lingering hunter-gather populations still around, that birth control was biologically regulated - women breastfed for three to five years. Not only was that a sustainable level for the tribe, but it fits in with the evidence that women played a pretty equal part both in hunting and gathering.

At first, the pre-agrarian shape retained its roundness. There is no top table in a circle, no spot that’s higher than any other. It’s a shape evoking equality, enjoyed by tribes and Arthurian knights as well as corporate boards.

For hundreds of years, we’ve made assumptions about societies which don’t share our pyramid structure. We’ve classed them as primitive, ignorant, irrelevant in our modern world. We’ve considered them fair game to invade, conquer, subdue, exploit, wipe out, “bomb back to the stone age.” We’ve used our misconceptions to justify our own standards, exercise our “superiority” to stamp out any reminder that we just might be wrong, we just might have something to learn.

Circular societies, without financial reward or one-upmanship, tamed fire and invented the wheel. They devised tools for hunting, preparing food, clothing, protection against predators, as well as making shelter, art and musical instruments. It was the wit of the tribe which figured out that inside the shell of a nut lay a tasty treat. They watched and learned from the wildlife around them. They mingled and bred and strengthened the gene pool. They shared and did not own.

Their lives were ideally suited to their environment. They thrived. Without money. Without leaders. Without religion. Without war. Unless you are Ray Mears, ask yourself if you could do as well with your slave values.

What happened about ten thousand years ago is the gradual logical fallacy based on quantification. ‘If I have more than you, I am better than you. If you have more than me I will enslave you, take your stuff, and then I’ll become better than you.’ That’s the pyramid: the shape and the essence of capitalism. It’s the basis for divisions, be they nations or neighbourhoods, governments or gangs.
The amazing thing about circular societies is the absence of leadership. More about that later.

I am not suggesting we toss away the dirty bath water of the present, containing the state-of-the-art baby that brings joy to our lives, and revert to being hairless anthropoids in the mist.

But, if we’re so dead set on bailing out the sinking capitalist fleet of tankers and battleships and servile tugs, we should admit why we’re drowning in the process. ‘Oh, look, pensioners overboard, I say, Jemmy, pass the caviar. Whoops, there go the redundant workers! Ne’mind, Fliss, these strawbs are delish!’

It’s too easy to attack the political right wing – though of course I will in a later chapter. First, I want to start questioning why those we trust to protect our interests against the exploiters have morphed into docile appeasers of the tyrants’ agenda.

Although it seems perverse, I’m going to start with the unions. The big question is: what is a worker and what is work?


Chapter Three – Oooh, look, shiny things!

Nobody really knows when the first recognisable trade unions began but they are believed to have evolved from medieval guilds. This is precisely why they have entrenched us in the slave mentality of capitalism while professing to protect us from it.

I’m not naïve enough to imagine any of these arguments will result in an instant change to our existing slave status. But we need to understand why even so benign a concept as protecting workers’ rights ultimately defeats itself.

Even centuries after the conversion to the pyramid, commoners could claim certain rights and privileges. These had evolved from our circular roots, including such benefits as gathering fuel from forests, grazing sheep and cattle on common land, baking bread in communal ovens, and accepting collective responsibility for exchanging ideas, and introducing children to the mores and values for the common good.

Traced back, every single instance of who occupies the top of the pyramid is due to violence, greed, cheating, stealing, and the unquestioned assumption that one person is more important than another, one group more entitled than another, one gender more worthy than another, one skin colour more deserving than another, one language more civilized than another.

So the tyrants imposed rules and taxes and claimed ownership of what was once common. If people communally shared land to produce wheat and harvest it to grind in a common mill and share out the flour for their bread, why then the tyrant tithed the wheat, and the flour, and the bread as well.

It’s all very well for trade unions to assume a protective role. But not only do they perpetrate slavery, I never see any attempt to address the matter except by using the values and language and tactics of the tyrant. And there’s plenty of evidence that at their very worst, they themselves adopt the structure of tyranny.

In this slave society, if you’re a good little worker and accept our compromise solutions, you’ll get a few more pence in your pocket.
Ooh, look! Shiny things! Look beyond the unequal settlements, the broken promises. Look, over there! Shiny stuff. You can send one representative to sit at the top table and observe. Look - more shiny stuff. You can get a petition presented to the top table and it might result in a debate.

Why aren't unions at least giving workers the option to turn their heads from those shiny things that blind them to their slavery? Why don't they point out that the meagre pence in the pockets of slaves fall through the holes that the tyrants failed to sew up? Why aren’t unions encouraging, educating, even enabling workers to form collectives? It’s not strikes that will be effective in a slave society. The tyrants have all the weapons for subjugation. Unions, however reluctantly, become their lackeys.

Workers who collectivise and share their skills for their own common good at least seeks an alternative solution that can counter-threaten the tyrants with the only language they understand – the language of profit and loss.

What about workers pooling their skills and providing viable competition outside the pyramid? It’s a concept worth exploring. The workers ARE the unions.

Do they really and truly require a business-based structure of slave management to best protect the people?

Next time we’ll cover needs versus wants, the omnipresence of business, and whose god is it anyway?
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