04 October 2012

A Slave Unto Oneself

As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery. MARTIN LUTHER KING, speech, Aug. 16, 1967 

The enslaving of the mind is akin to physical slavery and in fact, is a necessary step to enslave one. A body, a physicality, can not function outside the control of the mind. Hegel has argued that  if a man be a slave, then it is done through his own free will, and not that of the enslaver.

There are many forms of slavery, some literal and many less so. Are there any cases of slavery where one is not responsible for being the slave? Where one is enslaved entirely against one's will? Is Hegel wrong?

First off I need to address the question of non-possession, a principle of satyagraha. Basically it is the belief that one does not possess anything nor is possessed by anything. It is a circular argument much in the same way as arguing whether a person with a starving family who steals food to feed them is doing the moral/immoral thing. I will address non-possession in a future post. So I shall set it aside for now.

To narrow the scope of my argument, I will focus something Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables. Hugo claimed that slavery only applies to women and it is the case of prostitution.

There are obvious cases of women who choose to be prostitutes, and by extension adult film actresses. These women are not slaves as the are maintaining their commitment to their own absolute freedom. They choose to sell their bodies for sexual gratification in exchange for money or other arrangement. They are not slaves, but utilizing their free will.

Next are those that come to the profession through drugs/necessity. Both of these cases involve the women surrendering themselves to slavery with their full acknowledgment. They choose to take the drugs and lie that it is the addiction that makes them do so. Addiction is merely a state of being where one surrenders one's freedom to the affect of a drug. Combined with prostitution and it becomes a sort of double-slavery. Or they mount their bills to the point where all they see is the "quick money" of being a prostitute. They lie to themselves and say that they will only do it to pay off whatever they have to and then stop. If they were truly able to do that, they would not be slaves. But how few actually accomplish that?

Lastly are those that are stolen in the night and forced to become prostitutes through intimidation, violence, and addiction. In this last case is there an argument against them being slaves of their own will? For one to be abducted, one has to allow it to happen. A person who ultimately desires to maintain their absolute freedom would never allow oneself to be taken. All that follows the abduction are means to maintain control over one's desire for freedom. But it is the one who allows one's freedom to be usurped. Death, to paraphrase Hegel, is the ultimate expression of absolute freedom.

So aside from actively choosing prostitution, all other examples lead to slavery through one's own free choice. One surrenders their commitment to absolute freedom, exercises free will and  becomes a slave by choice.

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