The Grateful Slave

A man claims ownership over you. He declares his authority to restrict your movement completely, and to limit your social interactions indefinitely as he sees fit. He browbeats you with belittling criticism and public shaming for your every breach of authority. He chains you to your post, sending his guards to discipline you severely if you should attempt to escape.

All the while, he gives you implausible and untenable rationalizations for every form of oppression and abuse, every denial of basic liberty, every rejection of your claims to individual will, self-governance, or simple decision-making authority over your daily life and associations.

Eventually, the spirit weakens, the mind closes in on itself, and you begin to feel your oppression is warranted, resistance shameful, and daring to think and choose for yourself an affront to the dignity of the household, whose owners are, after all, feeding and clothing you — taking care of you for your own good.

Now, as reward for your submissiveness and “good behavior,” the master loosens your tether a little. You may roam the fields in your free time, as long as you promise never to leave his land. You may sit together in conversation with your fellow slaves, though only in small numbers of course, as long as you faithfully return to your shack by the appointed time. 

“They are letting us go to the park now,” you say to your kin with gratitude.

“They are thinking of allowing the children to learn reading and writing next month,” you whisper to your fellow captives with respectful hope. 

“Of course, we have to be careful not to abuse these new freedoms,” you intone with thoughtful deference, “or else the master will have to tighten the rules again.”

Of course. That’s only reasonable. After all, there is nothing more shameful and worthy of strict punishment than an ungrateful slave, a slave who dares to imagine he can choose for himself, who thinks he is a man deserving of a man’s birthright.

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