Culture and Religion

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Slavery is a system where people are treated as property. Slavery does not occur in small human communities, even in the tribes noted in primitive humanity long ago, because small communities must have respect for one another to maintain cohesion among its members, for that community to survive. This is also noted in the wikipedia entry for slavery and even in the book Guns, Germs and Steel (a fascinating review of the last 10000+ years of human history).

As populations grow in size, the larger communities typically stratify, with a few people in charge to maintain order because once everyone no longer knows everyone else (the situation in a small group) conflicts can arise and their resolution is not immediately based on mutual familiarity and respect like in the smaller groups. The larger populations require some control mechanism to prevent chaos. Among these control mechanisms will be various forms of government (the types depend on the population size) and usually one or more forms of religion (also noted in Guns, Germs, and Steel).

As populations grow and a wealth inequality develops within the group, the possibility of some form of slavery can also arise (as found in human history). Initially the slaves were drawn from the population of a nearby conquered group. Later, slaves were part of the national economic system as in the American South of the 19th Century for the agricultural products. The abolitionism movement eventually brought about the political reform to stop that practice in most of the world.

Even as the nations of the worlds have stabilized over the last century, with the breakdown of the old colonial empires through the independence of most states, the current government structures still allow corporate entities to abuse their workers almost as slaves, people working for very low wages under terrible conditions.

Recently a factory in Bangladesh collapsed only a short time after the owner claimed the building was safe. As a report mentions, when politics and business are closely connection corruption is rife. Unfortunately for much of the world, that is the case in most countries.

While not exactly slavery, the current trend in America is the lowering of wages paid to its workers. People need jobs to pay for their living expenses (housing, food, clothing, health care) and when those jobs do not pay enough the workers are forced to accept whatever they can get. With other employers offering the same low wages, the workers become wage slaves forced to work at less than fair pay but with no alternative for better.

There have been many economic studies showing a higher wage structure provides a healthier economy (those not wealthy spend most of their income on the basics thereby helping local businesses while those wealthy spend more on luxury items with relatively little on the basics thereby having much less impact on a local economy), but instead those having the most wealth are maintaining their control of that wealth by minimizing the amount being shared with those doing the actual work.

The widespread recognition of the inhumane treatment of the slaves lead to its prevention over 100 years ago. Unfortunately there seems to be no current mechanism in our social structures to prevent the current practice of low pay for so many workers in the world.

Our current economic system is not oriented toward maintaining a financially healthy environment for the majority of its citizens but is instead focused on maintaining the wealth for those at the top, even as that focus results in unwarranted suffering for many. Unless this system changes or adapts to provide a fairer distribution, it will not be long before the many at the bottom will be unwilling to support the very few at the top.

created - Apr. 2013
last change - 04/29/2013
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