Life Among the Slaves

We sing and dance. We tell easygoing jokes and eat delicious food. Our owners tighten the yoke sometimes to keep us humble.

We watch our strongest boys play games and cheer for “our side,” just to imagine what it would be like if we were the owners, rather than the owned. The master jerks the chain, ever so judiciously, to remind us that we have work to do.

We have competitions and tests to display our patience, our forbearance, our submission, and our willingness to do as we are told with so much enthusiasm that one might almost believe we had chosen the actions for ourselves. The monitors smile, sometimes even clap, and tell us we are good, except on the relatively rare occasions when they decide we need prodding or punishment due to our forgetful excesses of independence or waywardness.

We write songs, tell stories, and draw pictures to please ourselves. We scratch all our itches with readymade pleasures and readily available companions, and this scratching is our happiness. The owners want us to feel happy, because they know happy slaves will not run away.

We make babies for the owners. The owners’ representatives collect our babies and train them to follow the rules perfectly, because they know we do not understand the social machine deeply enough to make the children properly obedient ourselves. But they let the children sleep in our pens with us at night, and even eat most of their meals with us, which is kind of them. Watching the children play cheerfully adds to our own happiness. We enjoy thinking that they will grow up to be faithful and compliant servants, as we are.

At certain set times, the owners call us all to gather in the field, and they ask us, sincerely, whether we wish to continue working for them, or whether we would choose a new owner, or even (whatever this means) live without any owner at all. Of course, out of appreciation for their generosity, and in thanks for the honor of being offered this choice, we always and invariably shout our approval of the owners, and plead with them to keep us. Often, as a show of good faith, we even ask them to tighten the yoke a little further — “but not too tight all at once, please” — and if they deem it useful and beneficial to do so, they will smile at us and tighten it, but usually not too much all at once. The owners know what is good.

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