Greek Slave

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The Natural Slave

I'd like to discuss the ancient concept of the Natural Slave, and how it may be updated and applied to Internal Enslavement.

To be a Natural Slave - to be a slave by nature - implies that the individual has some inherent, innate or inborn character trait which predisposes them to slavery in some way.

One of the earliest and most influential analyses of this concept was by Aristotle in the 4th century BC:

The same holds good of animals in relation to men; for tame animals have a better nature than wild, and all tame animals are better off when they are ruled by man; for then they are preserved. Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.

Where then there is such a difference as that between soul and body, or between men and animals (as in the case of those whose business is to use their body, and who can do nothing better), the lower sort are by nature slaves, and it is better for them as for all inferiors that they should be under the rule of a master. For he who can be, and therefore is, another's and he who participates in rational principle enough to apprehend, but not to have, such a principle, is a slave by nature.

Aristotle, Politics, 1.V (translation by Benjamin Jowett)

Aristotle associated his concept of the Natural Slave with inferior intellect: that slaves are not competent to run their own lives. Many of the domestic servants and labourers of his time were no doubt deprived of the chance to develop the competency to run their own lives. (We can compare this with long term prisoners and patients who have become institutionalised in our own time.) However, Aristotle's belief is clearly not generally true of slaves: in other ancient societies (Imperial Rome was largely administered by slaves and freed slaves), in Eastern civilisations (the Ottoman Empire was governed by slaves, and slaves led its armies and, as the Janissaries, provided their elite troops, artillery and corps of engineers) and in our modern experience of IE and TPE (infact, submissive women appear, as a group, to be disproportionately intelligent and drawn from demanding professions such as teaching and healthcare.)

Instead, I believe we should step back from Aristotle's position, and just start from "it is better for them ... that they should be under the rule of a master", and then define people who are suited to slavery due to their nature (ie Natural Slaves) in an IE-relevant way.

We've already suggested in the discussion of Reactance that submissives may experience lower levels of total Reactance (roughly stress) when their freedom is restricted, compared to when they are free; and that they also don't experience the depression and low performance which psychologists observe with "normal" people in psychologically defined Helplessness.

We can go further and use Reactance to define a type of slave: a Natural Slave is a slave for whom slavery can be better than freedom, since they have the capacity to experience less Reactance when living in that condition, without the depression normally associated with Helplessness. Thus they are suited to slavery by their nature - by some inherent quality of their psychological makeup.

Even though Natural Slaves in this IE sense may experience slavery as a positive experience, other factors in their environment may prevent this. Notably, if the Master behaves in a destructive way, ignoring fundamental needs, then the Helplessness may become negative rather than positive for the slave.

This approach accomodates all literal uses of the word "slave", both historical slaveries and IE. For many of slaves in history, slavery was a deeply negative experience, leading to wasted and unfulfilled lives as needs were disregarded and slaves sank into depression, alcholism, seeking short-term sensual pleasure and suicide. And in turn, these behaviours are used by slave owning classes to characterise slaves, from Greek drama with its lying, stealing slaves, to the 19th century American stereotypes of sullen, feckless negroes.

In stark contrast to this, however, some slaves - especially some women owned as concubines in Eastern cultures - seem to have flourished in slavery, and I believe we could call those that did Natural Slaves in the sense I am suggesting.

It seems plausible to argue that this is part of the wider set of phenomena like Paradoxical Gratitude ("the Stockholm Syndrome" - in which kidnap victims become sympathetic or even allied with their kidnappers) are evolved survival strategies to cope with defeat. In particular, there may be a sexual dimension when the captor is male and the captive female, since the female's reproductive success may be best served by accepting the situation. The instinctive tendency to find captors sexually attractive if they provide for the captive's needs would facilitate this acceptance. This may be the root cause of the Enslavement process we observe in IE between Masters and female slaves.

This would suggest that Internal Enslavement may only be possible with Natural Slaves, since the trust and intimacy (in the Transactional Analysis sense) that forms the emotional bondage would be inhibited if the helpless state were destructive rather than positive for the subject.

I suspect there may be very large numbers of what I've called "Natural Slaves". In fact, it may be a trait of most submissives, which can emerge given the right circumstances.

Last updated 6 April 2002.

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