Slavery is properly defined as: The state of one bound in servitude - as the property of a slaveholder or household or a mode of production in which slaves constitute the principal work force. In simple terms, slaves have no right whatsoever to claim the fruits of their own labors. Upon hearing the word slavery, many people, perhaps most, associate it with USA history; the US Civil War and black chattel slavery of those imported into the USA from the 16th through 18th centuries. To many it conjures mental images of black field hands laboring in the South, picking cotton, wearing rags, a bandanna wrapped around their head and white slave owners cracking the whip over the heads and backs of their slaves.
That is not the subject of this article. Though illegal in just about every country in the world, chattel slavery most certainly still exists in the world but there are other forms equally as vile. Making something illegal doesn't make it disappear. Herein I discuss the history and meanings of slavery in our time and how it affects us all.
Although commonly held that slavery was rare among primitive pastoral peoples and that it appeared in full form only with the development of an agricultural economy, there are numerous historical instances that contradict this belief. Domestic slavery and sometimes concubine slavery appeared among nomadic Arabs (who still practice it), among Native Americans primarily devoted to hunting, and among the seafaring Vikings. Some ascribe the beginnings of slavery to war and consequent subjection of one group by another. Slavery as a result of debt, however, is evidenced in very early times, and some African peoples have had the custom of putting up wives and children as hostages for an obligation; if the obligation was unfulfilled, the hostages became permanent slaves.
The institution of slavery extends back beyond recorded history. References to it appear in the ancient Babylonian code of Hammurabi. Its form and nature varied greatly in ancient society having been common in the Tigris-Euphrates civilizations and ancient Persia. In ancient Egypt slave labor was used in building temples and pyramids. The institution was familiar to and used by the ancient Hebrews, according to passages in the Bible.
Slavery was an established institution in Homer’s Greece. Large portions of the population of the Greek city-states were of the servile class. There were domestic slaves, agricultural slaves, and artisans and workers. In Greece, although not quite as commonly as in Asia Minor, there were also public slaves such as those belonging to temples. In general it is thought slaves in Greek city-states were relatively well treated, and laws protected them against excessive cruelty or abuse. However, the slaves were regarded as property and had no rights in courts of law. Slaves could obtain their freedom by buying it, by being granted it in the owner's will, or as a reward for outstanding service.
Slavery flourished in the Byzantine Empire. Even the pirates of the Mediterranean customarily enslaved the victims of their raids. Islam, like Christianity, accepted slavery, and it became a continuing standard institution in Muslim lands, where most slaves were African in origin. In Islamic life, keeping slaves was largely a sign of wealth, with slaves used as soldiers, concubines, cooks, and entertainers and to perform a variety of other functions.
Another form of Muslim slavery was in the eunuch guardians of the harems. Eunuchs had been widely known in Greek, Roman, and especially Byzantine times, but it was among the Muslims and East Asia they were to survive longest. In Muslim countries, slavery and freedom had a much more fluid boundary than in the West, with some slaves and former slaves reaching positions of great power and prestige.
In Western Europe slavery largely disappeared by the later Middle Ages, although it still remained in such manifestations as the use of slaves on galleys and in ships of war. In Russia slavery persisted longer than in Western Europe, and indeed the serfs were pushed into the classification of slavery by Peter the Great.
An expansion in slavery came in the 15th and 16th cent. Explorations of the African coast by Portuguese navigators resulted in the exploitation of the African as slave, and for nearly five centuries the predations of slave raiders along the coasts of Africa were to be a lucrative business conducted with appalling brutality. The British, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Portuguese all engaged in the African slave trade. Africans were brought back to Portugal as early as 1440. Although subsequent importations were large enough to change distinctly the ethnography of that country, it was not in Europe but in the Americas where European exploitation began at the end of the 15th cent that African slavery was to be most profitable and widespread.
The first enslaved by the Spanish and Portuguese in the West Indies and Latin America were the Native Americans. Because the majority of Native American slaves either revolted or escaped other forms of forced labor, akin to serfdom, were introduced. The resistance of Native Americans to slavery only increased the demand for Africans to replace them. Africans proved to be profitable laborers in the Caribbean islands and the lowlands of the South American mainland. In the colder highlands Native American slavery or quasi-slavery continued. Long after introduction of the first Africans, the Paulistas (inhabitants of São Paulo, Brazil) continued their slave raids against the Native Americans of the Brazilian hinterlands. But African slavery gradually became dominant.
African slaves were introduced to the British Atlantic coastal settlements with the arrival of the first shipload in Virginia in 1619. Raising staple crops – coffee, tobacco, sugar, rice, and, much later, cotton – in the plantation economy made importation of African slaves particularly valuable in the Southern colonies of North America. The slave trade moved in a triangle; setting out from British ports, ships would transport various goods to the western coast of Africa where they would be traded for slaves. The slaves were then brought to the West Indies or to the colonies of North or South America, where they were traded for agricultural staples for the return voyage back to England. Later, New England ports were included in this last leg. The numbers of slaves in the colonies increased until in some (notably French Saint-Domingue, the modern Haiti) they constituted a majority of the population.
The growth of humanitarianism during the 18th Century Age of Enlightenment spread the ideas of Jean Jacques Rousseau and others, notably American Politicians. The growth of democratic sentiment led to increasing attacks on the slave trade. In 1808, after many years effort by that great British politician, William Wilberforce, Great Britain, then the greatest power in the world, outlawed the slave trade. Within 30 years, nearly every country in the world had adopted similar resolutions including the USA which forbade further importations many years before the Civil War.
Slavery was the first human rights issue to arouse wide international concern. Yet, in the face of universal condemnation, slavery and similar practices remain a grave and persistent problem throughout the twentieth century. The word "slavery" today covers a variety of human rights violations. In addition to traditional slavery and the slave trade, these abuses include the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography, the exploitation of child labor, the sexual mutilation of female children, other human exploitation in prostitution, the use of children in armed conflicts, debt bondage, the sale of human organs, and the continued trafficking in people.
Amongst the other forms of slavery are the sexually exploited and other forms of sinful/moral bondage. In the USA, x-rated movies, videos, magazines, internet sites, and adult entertainment enterprises constitute a multi-billion dollar annual trade. Sex trade in people and all the various associated paraphernalia constitutes the largest fiscal exchange worldwide second only to the total of all legitimate trade. A young girl or boy can be rented overnight or longer for next to nothing in most of the Middle, Far East, India, or South America. The UN has a permanent office to track human trafficking and slavery worldwide. When sexual services can be had for so little, life becomes subservient to pleasure, cheap and disposable, the subjects used merely as long as convenient.
John Miller, the director of the U.S. federal Office in the Dept. of State to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, says the largest single category of slavery is by far, sex slavery. "Information on slavery is very inexact, but we believe that the majority of slave victims, in the neighborhood of 80 percent, are of the female gender, and that around 50 percent are children," Miller said last year after the release of the 2004 Trafficking in Persons Annual Report. That makes 40% of all sex slaves female CHILDREN. There is no available information of the percentage of male children.
The evil called human trafficking is one that Nigeria and Benin Republic have taken a giant step to confront by signing a Co-operation Agreement. Max Amuchie, who was in Cotonou to witness the event, writes: “Some time in 2003 about 300 children were discovered at a slave labor camp at some quarries in Abeokuta. The children were, in the words of Chief Akin Olujinmi, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, "found working in very horrendous, degrading and inhuman conditions." With Nigeria’s help, those children were repatriated back to Benin Republic, where they came from.”
The issue of human trafficking has engaged the imagination of people across the world for many years. When Nigeria and Benin Republic signed a co-operation Agreement in Cotonou, the capital of Benin Republic, to put an end to child trafficking, many other countries were represented. At the auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and African Integration in Cotonou, Attorney General Olujinmi signed the accord on behalf of Nigeria while Mr Biaou Rogatien, the Beninois Minister of Foreign Affairs and African Integration signed for his country.
Slavery-like abuses may be clandestine. This makes it difficult to have a clear picture of the scale of contemporary slavery, let alone to uncover, punish or eliminate it. The problem is compounded by the fact victims of slavery-like abuses are generally from the poorest and most vulnerable social groups. Fears of reprisal and survival do not encourage them to speak out.
A report prepared for the United Nations in 1996 charged that slavery still existed in parts of Africa and Asia. Although efforts to end involuntary servitude continued throughout the last half of the 20th century, in the beginning of the 21st century forms of slavery, forced or bonded labor, still persisted in a number of Third World countries, e.g., Sudan, Mauritania, Myanmar, Pakistan, and the Amazon region of Brazil. More isolated instances have been occasionally revealed elsewhere, e.g., involving Asian and Hispanic emigrants in the United States.
Unfortunately, slavery in the 21st century is as real as it is morally repugnant. Though "human trafficking" may strike some as a bureaucratic euphemism, U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice didn't equivocate in her condemnation: "Trafficking in human beings is nothing less than a modern form of slavery."
There is enough evidence to show that slavery-like practices are widespread. Just one figure tells a grim story: 100 million children are exploited for their labor, according to a recent estimate by the International Labor Organization (ILO). During 2001, at least 700,000 and potentially as many as 4 million men, women and children worldwide were bought, sold, transported and held against their will in slave-like conditions, according to the U.S. State Department.
Fortunately, victims can get help if they know how to go about it. Sexual and labor exploitation are against the law in the United States. Federal laws prohibit slavery. Victims of person-trafficking can ask the U.S. Government for help regardless of immigration status by calling this toll-free hotline number: 1-800-428-7581.
Although physical bondage, servility, and subjugation are no longer openly practiced within western civilization, political and financial subjugation, whether voluntary or not, is widely and openly practiced throughout the world. Were the US to allow drudge work to be entirely confined to one group as it once did (Hispanics are now rebelling against such a view in the US), that would bring instant worldwide condemnation. But several countries do confine minorities, some still trade them as chattel, and several allow no political liberties at all but receive little or no criticism whatsoever from the world political bodies (like the UN), mainly because most of those countries which practice such political bondage are Socialist in form, Communist in actual practice (martially enforced), or Arabic Muslim.
There are forms of limited bondage simply ignored by the West. In the USA, our tax system constitutes limited slavery to government because, if one does not pay the required taxes assessed by government, their properties, real or otherwise, may be taken from them. In fact, the US Supreme Court has also ruled that private property may be taken by government for other private entities to economically develop if, in the opinion of that governmental body, the property would better serve the majority be being enjoined to another entity. Personal property thus ceases to exist. "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence." --John Adams
There are several other legal ways for government to separate individuals from their personal property, real estate or otherwise. Our war on drugs allows for confiscation of virtually anything convicted drug dealers might have possessed on the theory that their ill-gotten gain paid for everything they had; land, houses, planes, cars, jewelry. No provision is made for support of any family members that might be involved.
There is also the bondage of debt even though much of it is self imposed, for individuals and for nations. Borrowing monies that can never be totally repaid or that must be repaid at usurious interest rates ties individual, even national, effort to the enrichment of others at the expense of relinquishing the fruits of ones’ own labors.
If even the source of ones livelihood might be forcibly taken from them, whether legally or not, is that not a loss of liberty and an enforced form of slavery? Confiscated by due process of law, yes, but taken nonetheless.
We just don’t call it slavery because most everyone has agreed upon this form of governmental subjugation. We use it to our mutual advantage to fund education and various other governmental services such as law enforcement. True liberty would require each recipient to pay specifically and only for the exact services each entity received or the expenses of their prosecution and incarceration as required.
Of course, there are those who simply cannot afford some services that society believes essential therefore excess taxes paid by those that can afford to do so pay for the services of those that could not otherwise afford them. Medicaid/Medicare and Social Security are handled in exactly this way. Taxpayers making the most support recipients who contribute little or nothing to provide some guaranteed income to nearly all. It is socialism at its best and constitutes a forced taking of the fruits of some laborers, the very definition of slavery. "Already the hour is late. Government has laid its hand on health, housing, farming, industry, commerce, education, and to an ever-increasing degree interferes with the people's right to know. ... We approach the point of no return when government becomes so huge and entrenched that we fear the consequences of upheaval and just go along with it." --Ronald Reagan
There are other forms of involuntary servitude, mainly political in nature but some social in form. Consider how entire ethnic, color, or social groups are enthralled to specific political parties where those parties’ actions do not benefit them or even work toward policies injurious to their particular circumstances. Blacks in America are one example. The great majority continues to vote for Democrats even though the policies of that party are socialist in nature and tend to cause harm to the nation as a whole and blacks specifically.
As an example, the Democratic Party favors abortion on demand, a social program which takes the life of every third black child in America before they even see the light of day thus keeping down the percentage of blacks born in America. The party favors governmental programs injurious to families and education thereby assuring (black and white) children never know the benefits of fatherhood nor the financial independence that intact families of college educated can achieve. The party favors taxation that quenches small business entrepreneurialism thus individual independence. The party also favors abolition of religion, thus morality, from all public discourse therefore ensuring neither individual responsibilities nor restraints upon any individuals’ actions and touts the lack of moral restraint as freedom. Many other Democratic policies favor the majority over the black minorities.
Whites, Christians, and Conservatives flock to the Republican party largely because it advertises itself, thus is perceived, as being more moral, less socialist, more freedom minded, less government program insistent, more family oriented, and less intrusive in daily life. Yet, while the GOP was recently in control of Congress and the Presidency, our government ignored the security of its own borders, raised taxes several times, embarked upon wars, failed to appoint fair minded judges that control laws affecting so many aspects of our daily lives, passed laws limiting some liberties, and expanded many costly government programs.
Both of those political parties have their faithful of which each party takes advantage but fails to support policies which would help their constituents or the country as a whole. Though not normally viewed as slavery, adherence to specific political parties which continually ignore their constituencies’ interests, when viewed as the only possible choice, constitutes abnormal allegiance and a form of self-imposed political bondage. At least there is political choice in the USA where as there is none in many other countries, even some which call themselves democracies.
Take, for example, Venezuela, presently a Democracy, where an individual has seized power that will shortly, propel him into a perpetual role of president thereby circumventing both freedom and democracy within his country. He is a socialist/communist who is in the process of enslaving his people but he is barely noticed nor condemned by the world’s greatest political institute, the UN.
Drugs, alcohol, sex, even food can also be so addictive the users’ sole purpose in living is to get another fix, drink, or to eat so as to get high or become oblivious to ones circumstances through hallucination. That, too, is slavery, to the stimulation of pleasure centers in the brain. Drug trafficking has increased steadily despite the US war on drugs and the fact that more than 60% of all inmates held in our prisons are there on drug related convictions. The most used drugs are: alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamines, and prescription pain medicines.
The path to drug addiction begins with the simple act of taking a drug. Over time, a person simply looses the ability to choose not to take drugs. Drug seeking becomes compulsive, in large part the result of the effects of prolonged drug use on brain functioning and, thus, on behavior. Some drugs require repeated usage to become addicted and some don’t. It is said even one use of Methamphetamines can be condemning. Fortunately, there are hundreds of drug rehabilitation facilities but prisons are still full of convicted drug offenders.
Sex addiction is similar to drug addiction in that it affects the pleasure centers of the brain and becomes a way some people medicate their feelings and/or cope with their stresses to the degree that their sexual behavior becomes their major coping mechanism for stresses in their life. Often, the individual can’t stop their sexual behavior for any great length of time by themselves. The sex addict spends a lot of time in the pursuit of his or her sexual behavior/fantasy or they may have a binge of sexual behaviors. Sometimes those fantasies take forms society cannot tolerate such as pornography, pedophilia, rape, or incest. Psychiatry once taught that Homosexuality was a peculiar form of sex addiction.
Pornography combined with regular masturbation is the cornerstone for most sex addicts. Many sex addicts have great difficulty getting sober from this combination of behavior. The pornographic fantasy creates unreal worlds that sex addicts can visit throughout their developmental and adolescence stages. This creates an object relationship that conditions their emotional and sexual self to depend upon pornographic fantasies to meet their emotional and sexual needs. They may have had hundreds of fantasy experiences before ever having sex with a real person. Thus real or normal sex may not allow satisfaction and the person becomes a slave to their own needs and passions.
Though different for every sex addict, there are generally one or more biological, psychological, and spiritual reasons and here is a short explanation of reasons someone can become a sex addict.
A. The biological addict is someone who has conditioned their body to receive endorphins and encephalin (brain chemicals) primarily through reinforcing a fantasy state with orgasms that provides these chemicals to their brain.
B. Psychologically, the need to medicate or escape physical, emotional or sexual abuse, real or perceived, can demand these substances. Early on, the addict finds the sex medicinal, usually before moving on to alcohol or drugs.
C. Spiritually, a person tries to fill up the God hole in themselves with their sexual addiction. The addiction becomes their spirituality. It comforts them, celebrates them and is always available and present.
Then there is the sex addict who can have two or even three of the above reasons. This is why a Psychiatric specialist in sex addiction is the best route for recovery with sex addiction. It also partially explains why some people will become so perverted in their sexual behaviors.
As Theodore Dalrymple has famously said, “Men commit evil within the scope available to them.” It was once widely accepted that the reasons for Civilization ultimately rested upon acceptable restrictions of the scope of evil. Government, law, morality, taboos, and custom were all enrolled in that purpose. Factually, the absence of restraint destroys the individual, society, and eventually civilization.
For the past several centuries, so-called intellectuals have been promoting the view that evil is merely a myth and all the laws, morals, etc. that have been set in place to restrict man’s innate capacity for evil are all wrong. There is no more utopian fantasy than this but it has begun the destruction of the time-honored truth that self-discipline is a necessary condition to freedom, personal and political. Governments everywhere are consummating the wreckage by enacting laws which promote immorality and reward unrestrained behavior by blurring all moral distinctions. Then they create a welfare system that protects people from their own economic consequences.
Spiritually, there are ways to cope with such dependencies and needs. And there is a higher liberty that can be found with mere governmental actions. For those looking for reasons to exist, for the rules of life, for specific examples and helps toward obeying those rules, for the inner strength to do what is right and oppose wrong, there is God, the founder, creator, and author of the universe. No matter by what name he is to be called, he exists and all the laws of nature confirm him.
Since he created all that exists, he also is the author of morality, right and wrong, good and evil, and has described to mankind exactly his rules and laws, how to relate to good and avoid evil. When God made mankind, he breathed into him the breath of life from God’s own nostrils providing mankind with that which no animal has, a soul, an abiding piece of God himself that continuously yearns to have communion with that greater soul of the universe, God himself. All religions try to explain and have rules purporting to lead the practitioner toward that union. Some succeed. Some don’t.
The Bible of the West teaches the path to everlasting life in contact and communion with the Lord of the Universe (and thusly, complete freedom) is to be reached through acceptance of Christ and the following of his example. Western Civilization teaches Christ is the living Son of God, that portion of the whole with which mankind can directly relate, and the Holy Spirit alive in the world today as that portion of the whole that can become our indwelling connection to the whole God of the universe.
Acceptance of Christ in worship has transformed many an evil person into people loved and respected by all those around them, people who opposed slavery and promoted liberty in all its forms. Nearly all of America’s founders were Christians. And the American experiment is still the freest form of government in the world today.
PL Booth, The Blue Eye View, Blue Eye, MO 01/23/07
A new video about human trafficking: