Workers from ancient times


In the Middle Ages and antiquity, how did the powers of the day retain the labourers who worked their land?

Slavery was one way. Feudalism entailed a relationship between the landowner and the ones who worked the soil where the latter were forced to work in exchange for the landowner’s protection. There was also indentured servitude. With all these systems the labourers were tied to the land where their labour was required by laws that favoured the landowner, and by measures such as tax, which kept the tillers of the land poor and dependent on their masters.

How are people today bound to the “land” where their labour or service is required? By amongst other things cheap credit and long-term pay-back options: monthly income minus payments on products that are already in use – like a new living room set, or a car, that leaves the average citizen with insufficient money to “get away”.

Of course, many do get away, and many never fall in. There are drop-outs, criminals, and people who wander around in other countries for years earning money in any way they can. As long as a certain percentage of the population can be bound to the “land”, though, the rest can be written off – or used at a later stage, like the drop-out who becomes a musician or a writer and who then provides entertainment or comfort for those in bondage.

It is important to note that this situation is fluid. People make their own choices at the end of the day. So I’m not implying large-scale manipulation, or sinister behind-closed-doors planning … no wait, manipulation does occur. As many people as possible have to be reached, and “turned” …

~ From the Purple Notebook