slavery: yesterday, today, forever?

Once upon a time there was this little community living in a village called Clapham. Just south of London. A rich guy called Thornton kinda funded their life together (not to mention his 34-bedroomed housed where many of them lived). A few of them - Sharp, Clarkson, Macaulay -were set aside as researchers, gathering evidence. A woman called Hannah More popularised their concerns in tracts and schools. A number where hymn-writers, and John 'amazing grace' Newton was a bit of a guru. There was just the one clergyman among them (but another one travelled from Cambridge to be a spiritual advisor - actually we named our son after that one - Charles Simeon - he is a legend). But most of them were Members of Parliament - about 30 in all. And yes, lets not forget, they were pretty much all deeply committed followers of Jesus...

Under the leadership of William Wilberforce (whom the current Archbishop of Canterbury considers to be the most influential Briton of the last 1000 years) this community decided that slavery was wrong and so for 40 years - yes, 40 years!! - they dedicated themselves to fighting it through parliament ... until it was abolished. Along the way there was the founding of Sierra Leone, the growth of overseas mission, and the transformation of the social landscape of Britain.
Read all about it in Clifford Hill The Wilberforce Connection (Monarch, 2004)

Well ... did you know that 2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade? And so here at Carey Baptist College we are beginning to plan a forum in 2007 where we will explore modern slaveries, 21st century slaveries both in NZ and abroad. Where is abolition needed today? From what do people need to be freed?

What do you think? Help me out with the planning!
When you consider modern slaveries - what comes to mind?

nice chatting



servant said…
Large corporations who earn billions of dollars of profit to return to their shareholders who pay as little as possible for labour, whether it be youth in NZ or to the more extreme, child labour in sweatshops internationally.

Slavery is the exploitation and use of people as mere commodities to simply serve ones desire with no true recognition of their humanity.

With that definition, prostitution also comes to mind as a form of slavery. Just think about the pimp/prostitute relationship.... the reality of it, not the movie portrayal of it.
sandy said…
I agree with 'Servant' that large corporations can be slave masters when they exploit people for their labour.

However, governments that actively work towards increasing required servitude to them are also exploitative. In New Zealand, I believe that our politicians uphold and introduce increased 'welfare' measures, not out of "true recognition of our humanity" and need, but from a political ideology that serves their own desire for power and is ultimately enslaving our people. I therefore contend that the largest enslaved group in this society are government welfare 'beneficiaries' (a misnomer if ever there was one!) and that we should be fighting to abolish welfare dependence and against every measure to increase the entrapment of more New Zealanders.
onscreen said…
I agree with both servant and sandy, but would like to go further, and will admit that this is a gneralisation that doesn't apply to everyone, but arn't we all slaves in one way or another to commercialism? We work all day for money to buys things that we really don't need. Or to pay the over inflated rent/martgage, or to struggle just to survive in our debt celebrated society.

And on another level we're all becoming slaves to fear, a fear of others propigated by government and media.

PS. Good to see you've entred the worrld of Blogging Paul :-)
Keith said…
Come on guys, by this definition any kind of dependence relationship is going to be slavery, any time theres any power structure your going to call it slavery.

eg.. People need to be freed from the church, it defines too much of their self worth, life structure, and can be emotionally and financially harmful.

Personally, the thing where I think people have truly no choice and are in desperate need of help is child abuse in any of it forms. Not only is it an impossible situation for a child to escape, it has an ongoing affect in their life and often other peoples lives.
sandy said…
Agreed Keith...children trapped in abuse are desparately helpless and in great need of assistance. We should be helping - no question.

In commenting about welfare dependence I didn't mean to imply that it is the most severe form of enslavement, or, as 'onscreen's' comments imply, that any situation where there is power of one group,person or ideology over another represents slavery... However, I do believe that it is the most pervasive and most widely damaging form of slavery in our country today...and now that you have mentioned it - a major contributing factor to our high rates of child abuse.
peasant said…
Most Westerners are enslaved to the idols of materialism, lust, and reputation. Materialism keeps people working loooong hours, sacrificing personal time for a meaningless figure in a bank account (well thats what I do anyway, cos I'm writing this at work)
Scott said…
Slavery to entertainment (granted Keiths comments about the broadening of the definition though).

Welcome to the blogosphere Paul. Look forward to following this.
Rhett said…
"Slavery is the exploitation and use of people as mere commodities to simply serve ones desire with no true recognition of their humanity."

I agree.

So in this sense I'd say that much of the Third World is 'enslaved' especially in regard to the West's policies involving things like trade agreements, which are made solely for (in the case of Free Trade agreements) the West's benefit.

Another major would be third world debt. There has been some progress in this area but I still see it as a huge issue... a generation enslaved to the West because of mistakes made decades before they were born.

There are plenty of justice issues that reflect this 'slavery' metaphor, and I'd love to see the church getting involved in becoming part of the solution.

Nice blog Paul, I'll be checking back regularly.
Paul Findlay said…
When I think of modern slaveries, I think of the Bantu in Somalia and the trafficking of woman and children for sexual exploitation (is that becoming a euphemism?), recent examples are in Eastern Europe.

Things that have connotations of slavery for me is most of what we call the third world not having any property titles or freeholding despite having lived for many years (and generations) on a site.

Slavery in NZ? I'd like to think there isn't such a thing, but there is a huge mentality of being entitled to government support. (Everything from infrastucture, arts to family care). There is also the mindset that blames substances or situations for problems rather than personal responsibility. Is this the mindset of freedom?

And since this is already becoming a rant, how about our increasingly vocational educational system? Let me end with a quote from C.S. Lewis: "You see at once that education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves . . . if education is beaten by training, civilization dies. That is a thing very likely to happen."
jhuntnz said…
I would think it is only fair to those involved in unwilling slavery to separate it into two types. Slavery to entertainment, welfare-state (smoking?) etc. may well exist but it all requires a degree of continuing self-participation.

When someone beats you and tells you to start work - or at least refuses to feed you till you do - then I'd put that in a different class of slavery. This can occur without direct slavery - e.g. ridiculously low pay with a family to support or prostitution from necessity.

In a country with $9.50 (last count I think) minimum wage (+ protection laws etc.) - to compare a "non-inspiring" job as slavery - on the same level as child prostitutes is a little insulting.
Paul Findlay said…
That's a good point jhunt. I tried to avoid conflating social welfare and enslavement.

On what basis would two classes of slavery exist though? Like Keith pointed out it would seem the way the word is being used "any time theres any power structure your going to call it slavery". Many dictionaries seem to include in their definition: "the condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence". That has gone a bit beyond slaves being human property.
BJ said…
The more esoteric types of slavery may be fun to debate, but it seems to me there are more tangible, dehumanising things going on around us than welfare state dependency, materialism and entertainment addictions.

Prostitution. Thats slavery. The chains are often forged out of an associated drug habit and the violence of pimps/minders. Legalised slavery in New Zealand now.

Child Abuse. The chains are often forged of shame and fear, with a tempering of denial from family and friends who choose to defend the abuser.

Domestic Violence. The chains forged from a simmering violence, emotional abuse and sometimes a cyclic expectation that life is like this.

Just a few that come to mind in NZ. The other stuff should not be dismissed but I wonder how "voluntary" some of those other examples are compared to some of the darker social evils. Is that part of a definition? How voluntary the participation?
Anonymous said…
"How sweet does your chocolate taste when you know the producer in a country you will never see did not even get paid enough to feed his family?"
Thom Yorke - front man of Radiohead

We have a responsibility too don't we? We can blame corporations and governments all we want but we contribute to the problem of global forced and unfair labour, and slavery, too. Oh yeah its not just chocolate but thats just the one that gets me.
Paul Windsor said…
I wonder if there is more to draw out from jhunt's idea of there being two types of slavery - one which people bring upon themselves and the other being one that is forced upon people from the outside. How do we engage with these? Which is more serious?

Ecclesiastes 4 comes to mind. Those dreadful verses about oppression (vv1-3) seem to capture the slavery forced on others.

And slavery into which people take themselves may just find itself expressed in vv4-6 which pictures an envy, a busyness, even a lazyness.

If this is the case I wonder what the subsequent verses (vv7-12) about friendship and companionship have to contribute in a world enslaved...
Paul Findlay said…
Here is my attempt. I'm not really a fan of dualistic schemes. If we moderns label something as slavery, we're usually labelling it so because the person involved is not what we consider free (now what is that?), attempting to claim 2 Peter 2:19 "For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved" (ESV) or "For you are a slave to whatever controls you" (NLT) for perhaps too much. Most people commenting here have given an example of this type.

We should be making a distinction for people treated as property of another. Slavery is being a chattel. That of course, is the traditional meaning that the above draws on. Fewer people commenting here have given an example of this.

I think the first usage falls prey to Keith's criticism. Oh well, but it appears to me that this is how people use the concept of slavery.

If you are dealing with slavery, I think you'll need to at some stage deal with freedom. In other words, what are you freeing people to? For me, Jesus has messed up all my categories by defining himself as freedom, and then Paul (apostle) goes and defines himself as a slave to Christ.
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