Shackles That We Will Believe In


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    One of the golden rules of imperial systems, and especially imperial capitalism, is that what first occurs in the periphery will eventually take root
    [See the full post at: Shackles That We Will Believe In]


    A few years back, I was giving talks on Peak Oil, energy descent and relocalization in our area; I would start out by asking if anyone had ever met a slave. Predictably, in by far most instances, everyone would say “No.” I would then point out how unusual that is historically, that every known high civilization, including our own quite recently, had held slaves and would go on to point out that the Emancipation Proclamation was promulgated in 1863, just four years after Colonel Drake successfully drilled an oil well in Pennsylvania. And also Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1808, just a few years after the steam engine fired by coal had begun to change the world. Fossil fuels did not cause the end of slavery, I would say, but they made it stick. At least for a time. Since then, I think that I have come to realize that a hierarchical society with an elite at the top must have a slave or serf or otherwise bonded class to create a surplus to keep the elites in the style they intend to enjoy. For 150 years, we had energy slaves instead. Now the fossil slaves are going away and soon we’ll be back to human ones.


    I don’t think Slavery ever disappeared even in the developed countries, it was just transformed to a type of slavery that offered a few more creature comforts to the slaves courtesy of the thermodynamic energy of Oil.

    The “freedom” we briefly enjoyed for most people was just to move from one relatively low paid job to another, earning just about enough money to cover the cost of sheltering, clothing, transporting and feeding the family of further slaves you bred up.

    There was also the “opportunity” for slaves to move up in the hierarchy of a rapidly growing population by becoming “educated”. This allowed you to move into positions of Overseer of lower paid slaves, or Gate-kept professions like Law and Medicine.

    On the aggregate level, developed countries as a WHOLE became overseers of even LOWER paid populations in the 3rd world, who of course would exploit child labor to gain an edge in the competition of where Capital would move to build its factories.

    Essentially the Slavery system simply GREW to a Global Scale, rather than being continued on a local scale in the developed countries. The Wage system utilized in the industrial model simply provides a means to offload all the costs of living onto the slaves themselves, and provide JUST enoough for them to live while sieving most of the wealth extracted from the Earth into the hands of the Owners of the productive systems built with Oil.

    As we spin down here, it is not that Slavery will return, because it never left. Its just that in the developed countries, Slaves will lose the creature comforts they got courtesy of the Age of Oil. That is only a medium term effect though, because as I have argued before in these threads, in a world of such vast overshoot of the population, Slaves are negative EROEI. It costs more to shelter, feed and clothe them than they will return in terms of Profit for their labor. So Pharoah will “Let my People Go” and send them out to wander in the Desert, rather than keep them and the attendant costs of feeding them.

    Issue of course is that this is metaphorical, because the vast population of Industrial slaves living in the Big Shities of the world, including those in the Developed Countries have no real Deserts to walk into and look for the Promised Land anymore. So when JIT delivery breaks down, mostly they will revolt in futility and die in futility, they will not live too long as Slaves here.

    For those living outside the Big Shities, the possibilities exist that Warlords will resurface and enslave local populations for a while also, but again the model won’t work too well in such a depleted environment and those societies will shrink back yet again.

    Eventually I believe that the societies will shrink back to such a small level that those left standing will either relearn how to Cooperate with each other for the common good, or Homo Sapiens will go the way of the Dinosaur. There is an EXCEEDINGLY small chance that somewhere along the line here the realization that we must all cooperate and leave the Evil of Money behind us, and we might put a halt to the shrinkage before we end up as just small tribes of wandering Nomads in the Bush of the Kalahari. Perhaps that realization will come after the Great War to Come is finished, when all the Big Hardware is down at the bottom of Davey Jones Locker. It does not look likely to come before that, sad to say.



    Metaphoric slavery, as grim and life-destroying as it may be, is not the same as steel shackles and chains. I spent my working life as a free-lancer, pretty much at liberty to do as I pleased. I never made much money and only once got into a crippling mortgage but I also never sat in a cubicle. I wasn’t rich by a very long shot but I also was not a slave. I know that I was lucky but many people of my generation were similarly lucky. I don’t see any young people – except maybe WWOOFers wandering around the world working on organic farms (and that won’t last long either) – with freedom comparable to that I enjoyed. The slavery that is coming back is forced labor, qualitatively different from debt slavery.


    Of course we still have slavery. What else do you call it when people who are in prison are let out sooner if they work for the profit of other companies while in prison? Is there another word that describes our current prison labor system in the US?


    einhverfr post=2837 wrote: Of course we still have slavery. What else do you call it when people who are in prison are let out sooner if they work for the profit of other companies while in prison? Is there another word that describes our current prison labor system in the US?

    You’re right, of course. But it’s still just a relatively small segment of the population. That seems likely to change.


    g-minor: One key thing to keep in mind: in the US there is the 13th Amendment which limits “involuntary servitude” to prison labor. It doesn’t eliminate slavery, but it limits it.

    Now that doesn’t mean that new crimes couldn’t be created by legislative bodies, or that we couldn’t make bankruptcy or failure to pay debts a crime that could include slavery as a case. However here there are major problems.

    Additionally if the United States falls, then the 13th Amendment becomes irrelevant.


    This is the great evil of elitism in action as it works diligently to destroy egalitarianism and any effort to provide a decent lifestylre to the 99%.

    Way back in the 1860’s this mindset was getting reinforced by banking interests even as the industrial revolution showed a glimmer of hope for the elimination of slavery as a ‘needed’ economic tool. In lieu of celebrating the prospect of improved living conditions for the masses, the elitist bankers and industrialists pushed, with the avid cooperation of Calvinists in church pulpits all over America the following meme:
    “The people must always be kept in poverty in order that they may remain obedient.” Calvin


    If it wasn’t clear to those reading what might previous comment means, then let me make it clear.

    The present celebration of power and conscienseless predation is not now, or ever has been, about the ‘need’ to abuse fellow human beings in particular and the ecosphere in general in order to extract a profit for some ‘worthy’ element of modern industrialized civilization.

    It is absolute and total BS that profit drives all the brutal behavior we are saddled with.

    The belief of the elite that they are ‘better’ than the 99% and must keep the 99% poor and devoid of any liesure whatsoever so the 99% never organize against their ‘betters’ is the total unadulterated psychopathic rationale.

    Regardless of what the press or anyone else says that the predators are just ‘forced to compete’ or merely ‘profit driven’, nothing could be farther from the truth.

    The Calvinists claimed to be Christans but they were, and are, just a propaganda front cloaked in religious piety designed to defend their actual ‘religion’. That ‘religion is the worship of hierarchy and the ‘joy’ of ensuring the slavery (by whatever euphemism they can come up with) of the 99%.

    They are sadists, period. Never forget that quote by Calvin used to justify cruelty as necessary for obedience. The 1% will use anything at all, from distorting the survival requirements under the Theory of Evolution that Darwin wrote to make it appear like conscienseless predation was part of it (it never was – in fact predation is very selective and always fosters prey population health in successful species as opposed to the Wall Street bankrupt mentality) to wrapping themselves in religion or patriotism (you don’t seriously believe that giant American flag on the NY Stock Exchange is there because they are patriotic, do you?).

    It’s all about sadism and that is all about evil.

    They will never stop demanding more and more. That is why we either change to an egalitarian society or we perish.

    Do your part. Call BS anytime the attempt ot justify all this monstrous behavior with profit requirements is brought up.

    If there was a shred of truth in that argument, the industrial revolution would have undermined the malthusian mindset, rather than reinforcing it.

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