Slavery is a set of laws that allow for legal ownership of another sentient being. The practice was started by the Merfolk when they captured Avians and sold them to the early Humans. As time has gone by slavery continues to exist in one form or another throughout all of Gurutama. Because of the many variants of slavery, it is difficult to classify the particulars of the practice without specifying a form of slavery.
Forms of Slavery
When people think of the evils of slavery they most often think of chattel slavery. This form of slavery entails the complete ownership of another sentient being's life. Most forms of slavery have some restrictions on what owners can do to their slaves, but no such restrictions exist for chattel slavery. Chattel slaves are their owners' property and nothing else. Owners may continually send their slaves into life-threatening situations (such as working in a mine) with no compensation to the slaves and no fear of legal repercussions for the owners. In some places it is even legal for owners to kill their own slaves.
Chattel slaves are often used as manual labor in a business managed by their owner. That business may be a farm, a mine, a steel foundry or a number of other things. Typically owners view chattel slaves as expendable and attempt to get as much work out of them before they die. Naturally, chattel slaves resent this treament and slave revolts are fairly common in areas that practice chattel slavery. Consequently, the governments in areas with chattel slavery are also prepared to put down slave revolts before they spread into full-scale rebellions.
Serfdom is similar to chattel slavery except that serfs have limited legal rights. An owners or lords found guilty of unjust punishment of their serfs will face a punishment of their own. The punishment inflicted upon a cruel slave owner takes the form of a fine or public embarrassment (such as requiring the guilty owner to wear a specific time of clothing indicating his crime for a week). In severe cases, such as unjust murder of a serf by their owner, the victim's family will be freed. Similar laws protect serfs from attacks by people other than their owners.
While the law protects serfs from some actions, it is still abundantly clear that they are below the other classes. Serfs, like other slaves, must work for their master without pay. They cannot marry without their master's consent. Courts often do not recognize cases brought by serfs, forcing them to implore their master to press their case for them. In some areas, when serfs are called to testify in court, they are tortured to ensure that their testimony is accurate (the effectiveness of this practice is highly questionable). Serfs work for their masters six days out of every week (five if the master is generous). The other days may be used for rest or for additional work that the serf is paid for. Serfs may use their pay for whatever they desire. Some save up to purchase their freedom, others provide for their families, and others spend their wages on entertainment.
House slaves are much better off than chattel slaves. While they can still be treated cruelly, often house slaves are treated well by their owners. Sometimes house slaves become almost like a member of their owner's family. A house slave's duties often include typical household upkeep such as cleaning, shopping, and repairing things around the house. Some house slaves are also used as scribes to write down their master's thoughts as he speaks them out loud or to read books to their owner or their owner's family.
People can collect a large amount of debt without thinking about it. The bankruptcy process does not exist in Gurutama to allow people to recover from debt. Instead, there is the practice of debt slavery, taking ownership of a person if they are unable to meet their financial obligations. Selling a child into slavery in order to make ends meet is another form of debt slavery.
Debt slavery need not be for life. Depending on the amount of debt, a person could only be enslaved for a few years before they are freed once more. Typically, children born during debt slavery are not themselves enslaved. If debt slavery is temporary then the enslaved person has legal rights similar to those of a serf. If the enslavement is for life, then many governments give the owner the right to treat their slave as a chattel slave.
A wage slave is legally free and has no obligation to serve or perform labor for his employer; however, the employer has set up the conditions of employment in a way that makes leaving extremely unfavorable. This can be done through paying abysmally low wages, such that the worker can only afford food and shelter and cannot save up to move to a new location. Another method is to pay workers in a limited currency that is only valid at stores owned by the employer. With no way efficient way of transferring their work into liquid wealth, the workers are trapped in their current state of employment. Wages slaves have the freedom to leave their situation, but not the ability.
Indentured servitude is similar to debt slavery. The indentured servant provides free labor to his master for a period of time in exchange for a service. This often takes the form of an apprenticeship where the servant learns a trade in exchange for five to seven years of labor for their master. The service could also take the form of transportation, such as the master paying for the servant's transportation from one continent to another. Just like serfdom, there are laws that protect indentured servants but many restrictions placed upon them as well.
States slaves are slaves owned by a government. The state gains slaves from three main sources, gifts from wealthy individuals, captives taken during war, and criminals sentenced to labor for the state. In the case of sentenced criminals the slavery can be temporary, depending on the severity of the crime that resulted in their incarceration.
The duties a state slave can fulfill are varied. Some might be put to work in a state owned mine while others could be put to work. Other state slaves might assist in public works projects, work in administrative offices, or even patrol the streets as police officers to keep their collective "owners" safe. State slaves can even rise to the role of direct advisers to the leaders of government, effectively ruling from the shadows like the Najaran slave, Dagon Barsa, who secretly ruled Farpoint for years.
Sexual slaves are forced to have sex as their primary duty to their master. While the majority of sexual slaves are young women forced into service for their master other types of sexual slaves exist, including mistresses, who only serve their master; concubines, who may be called on to please their master's guests; and brothel workers, who function as a source of income for their owner. That said, the majority of sexual slaves are female brothel workers who would most likely prefer another line of work if it were available to them.
One of the most notable sexual slaves in history was the Najaran Lady Carreen Lub'dal. She was for all intents and purposes, the wife of the Dwarven Lord Cormak. She was constantly at his side, performing all the perfunctory duties that a noble Syluki Dwarf lady would perform around the household. Cormak trusted her more than any other person in the world. This turned out to be a fatal mistake as Carreen was feeding information to the Najaran army through her servants. Her espionage assisted in destroying the Dwarven army that attacked Najar in 563 NA.
Slavery by Location
The Upper Maw
The Eastern Maw
The Hykman League
The Lower Maw
The Dark Nation
The Maw Islands
Where do Slaves come from?
Some types of slaves are provided through clear and obvious avenues. Debt slavery is a result of a person going into debt. Without alternative collateral, the creditor repossesses the person's body or the body of their children until the debt is repaid. Indentured servants and wage slaves also become "slaves" through well laid out processes as their "slavery" is only a term of employment.
Most slaves do not become so voluntarily. A prisoner of war can be enslaved. A criminal may be enslaved as their punishment. Most who are born to slaves are themselves enslaved. Someone traveling alone could be knocked unconscious and sold into slavery by bandits.
Morality of Slavery
Occasionally a question as to the objective morality must be answered in Gurutama. Slavery may one of the more controversial moral issues. If slavery is evil and widely accepted in one form or another across Gurutama, does that make the majority of Gurutama’s population evil? No, but in order for slavery to be good, or at least not evil, several conditions must be met. There must be some semblance of choice for the slave. Either by choosing to become a slave through one's actions, such as enslaved convicts or debt slavery, or by having meaningful choices after enslavement, such as choosing who to marry, what to wear, etc. There must also be some method, however rare, for slaves to attain their freedom. Serfs may purchase their freedom or earn it through extreme gallantry displayed as a soldier. State slaves can be freed once their sentence is served or upon official pardon for some other exemplary action. As long as these two conditions are met and the slaves are treated fairly then slavery is a neutral action.
This simple answer may not satisfy all those examining the objective morality of slavery in Gurutama. To thoroughly examine the morality of slavery it must be examined as two separate acts, the act of enslavement and the act of keeping a slave. They are often independent and not always evil.
The morality of enslavement depends heavily on the realistic alternative to enslavement. Enslaving convicts instead of executing them, if that is appropriate for their crime, is an act of mercy. Allowing criminals to lessen their sentence through labor is another clear good. Even forcing prisoners to labor for the public good of the society that has enslaved them can be a good or at least neutral action if the prisoners themselves belong to the society. Enslavement often occupies the rank just below capital punishment in the law codes of Gurutama. This stance should not be taken as an unequivocal endorsement of capital punishment and slavery, neither of which is always the appropriate punishment for a specific crime. Slavery can be mercy when compared to death, but that is not always the correct comparison.
Raiding for the purpose of enslavement is unquestionably an evil act. Enslavement in this form is just an elevated form of theft.
Acquiring slaves through indentured servitude, debt slavery, purchasing them, or even wage slavery are not always evil actions. Neither are they good actions. Assuming that the slaves were acquired legally according to the law of the land, then enslavement is lawful. Slavery represents a clear imposition of the rules of society upon individuals. However many forms of slavery are outlawed within regions of Gurutama making the contractual acquisition of slaves a chaotic action in those places.
Owning a slave and profiting from their labor without just compensation can be situationally good or evil. The situation should be compared to that of an employer and employee. It is not acceptable for an employer to beat his employees when they fail at a task, but some lesser form of punishment is acceptable. Similarly, a slave owner that beats his slaves when they fail is acting malevolently. It is a neutral action if the owner instead makes the slaves work an extra three hours to complete the task correctly as a punishment.
The employer/employee analogy breaks down when one remembers that employees can quit their jobs, slaves cannot. Even if a slave were free to leave, emancipation is not always a preferable event for them. Most Gurutaman societies require owners to provide food and shelter for their slaves. Emancipated slaves are often left with empty stomachs and no roof over their heads.
Regardless of the consequences of a slave’s freedom, many slaves still yearn to be freed. What is the moral response in this case? Imposing one’s will upon another person is not necessarily evil. After all, is it evil for the church to tithe people’s income to feed the poor? In this case, the church takes a percentage of the people’s income in order to perform a good action. A slave owner takes labor from a slave instead, but income is produced through labor so the exchange remains equivalent.
What is different between a church tithe and a slave owner? First, Slave owners usually own slaves for personal gain and charity work funded by or enacted by slaves is a rare occurrence. Second, a tithe typically only takes ten percent of the product of a person’s work. Slave owners take one hundred percent of what their slaves produce. The only just way to offset this imbalance is to allow slaves to occasionally work for themselves. This is typically done by letting slaves hire themselves out to a third party one day out of every week. The slaves collect the income from this labor and may do whatever they wish without. Many choose to spend it on small luxuries that would ordinarily be beyond their grasp. Others save the money with the eventual hope of purchasing their freedom.
Every situation is unique and the particular nuances of a slave/owner relationship may contradict what is written here. Regardless, this should serve as a good guide for judging the actions of others when it comes to the treatment of the enslaved.
Slavery in Gurutaman Culture
- The Red Valley is sung by many serfs in the Najaran Empire as a small act of rebellion.