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Bees at work (XI): Homo Sapiens History of Work – Our Past

Have a beautiful week. I will publish today instead of this coming Friday, because my brother (who resides in the USA) is visiting us in El Salvador, and I want to have time to appreciate the presence of my brother in town. I was unwell because of the Pfizer BioNTech side effects last week, so I am trying to catch up with you and produce all the material that I had to deliver for this week. I want to leave all my job done on your table beforehand. So let´s begin.

For you.

What can I write about the past history of work? I do not mean to offend our ancestors, but if we were able to read history and take courses of our past civilizations, we all know and understand that for thousands of years the establishment of slavery was the standard manner for working. As a civilization, we were not able to seat aside from slavery work on a global basis until the last century. It was not until the 10th of December of 1948 only after Hitler experimented to kill half of Europe. It was not until the genocide of millions of jews at the hands of the Nazis, that humans agreed to declare two articles about work in the United Nations. For the first time in history, the world accepted a declaration of the meaning and the right of working in freedom for all of us on the planet.

Can you believe that the meaning of work in freedom -as we currently know it- was proclaimed at The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) just 74 years ago? So, if we can handle this truth, the meaning of work “in freedom” has less than 1.23% of existence, as a principle or doctrine “in theory”. If we have 6,000 years of historical records about human slavery work, only 1.23% of this time represents work in freedom as it was declared by the United Nations.  Let´s read the two articles that define the meaning of “work” in freedom.

Article 23

Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, and to protection against unemployment.

Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Before World War II work was portrayed as slavery. The meaning of work was decoded with a different significance than what the United Nations articulated. There was a precise explicit separation among those who owned the empires or kingdoms (who inherited the power from whatever divine power they worshiped) and perpetuated the ruling of the land and its yields, generation by generation.  These domains expanded by arranged marriages or by conquering the land through battles and eternal conflict campaigns.  Those who happened to live in the territory of each kingdom had to adapt to the “work” system that was enforced by that kingdom: slavery.

The winners of the territories usually destroyed the culture, the social enlightenment calm of the battle losers, by exploiting them in enslavement or serfdom (for feudalist regimes).

Our work meaning has been characterized by bondage for thousands of years. Slavery or enslavement is the state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or patron who owns the servant in slavery as much as it owns an ox or a donkey, or cattle or a chicken or a belonging. A slave has been considered by law as a property, or chattel, or as a resource to be exploited for land production or any other industry of production for economic goods and services (manual or intellectual). The practice of owning slaves was considered normal for thousands of years. It was not a casual thing that the rulers chose slavery as the mode of production in which the bondmen or bondwomen constituted the principal workforce.

Origins of Slavery: The origins of slavery are lost to human memory. But there are historic records and artistic oeuvres of reference that show us that slave-owning societies were the norm in ancient China, in Korea, in India, in Dynastic Egypt, in Persia, or Babylon (as far as to the times of the old Sumerian Empire), in several regions of Asia, in Europe (particularly England, France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, and Scandinavia), in several Middle-East countries, particularly in all Islamic societies including the Muslim countries in Africa. Slavery happened way distant from us in time, landing in the Greek Athens domain, the Roman and Ottoman empires, and in every single civilization, you can recall. Including the New World. When Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America received the European conquerors, slaves already existed in the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Incas, and the Native American settlements. Of course, the vanquishers from Spain, England, Portugal (mainly) came with their own imported slaves, when all the natives from the New World were wiped out by extermination and diseases in the early 16th century. The new strong slaves were imported mainly from Africa, because of labor shortage.   

If you read the history of each and all civilizations in the globe, whatever traces we have gathered as of 10,000 B.C (Neolithic stone age); there are evidence of remnants of slavery. Bondage was commonly accepted as a working system of domination, power, and production up to the end of World War II.  Some countries as Saudi Arabia persisted with slavery until the 1960s decade.

Types of slavery. There are several types of slavery throughout recorded history. The most common is called household, patriarchal or domestic slavery. The second is called productive slavery, which was predominantly used to deliver marketable commodities from mines or plantations. With time slavery received “make-up” terms such as serfdom, indentured labor, and peonage. All these terms are also synonyms of pure slavery. Feudalism was also based on concealed slavery. Feudalism was the political and economic system of Europe from the 9th to about the 15th century based on the holding of all land in fief or fee and the resulting relation of lord to vassal, characterized by homage, legal and military service of tenants, and forfeiture. So during feudalism, the term slavery received a maquillage called servitude or serfdom.

Nowadays there are still forms of modern slavery. This means that slavery has not been completely eradicated in the world.  Forms of modern slavery are (1) human trafficking (used for prostitution, gang criminality, organ removals, compulsory and early marriage); (2) debt bondage (bonded labor); (3) descent-based slavery (people are treated as property, and their “slave” status was passed down the maternal line); (4) Children domestic slavery; (5) Jobs in exploitative conditions for cheap supply chains production in Asia or for massive infrastructure oeuvres as stadiums, dams, petroleum or transportation systems, spacial rockets or anything of great and urgent dimensions; (6) Female servant captivity, represented in many societies by religious norms and marriage. As soon as a woman marries a man, she passes to become the slave of the man and the household, with no chance to be economically self-independent or to do anything else than the house chores and children upbringing.

The ten countries with the most people in modern slavery (victims of human trafficking).

In summary, the homo sapiens history of work – our past, is a legacy of slavery. A rapacious and predatory working system that all societies during human history timeline have implemented using racism, punishment after conquering, and unfair domination of those who lose. Enslavement has been exercised in multiple occupations. From slave ministers or slave supervisors, to temple slaves, to military-soldiers, to estate managers or bailiffs (dispossessor agents), to merchants or dealers, to petty shopkeepers or craftsmen (carpenters, tailors, jewelers, shoemakers, and masons), to mining workers, to agriculture workforces (growing commercial crops of olives, grapes, sugar, cotton, tobacco, coffee and rice, coconut, species, peanuts, sesame, cocoa, avocados, almonds, etc.). Even though domestic service workers have been probably the major slave occupation, the condition of a slave doesn´t relate only to the most degrading physical labor that a society has to offer, but also to artistic designers and sophisticated prestige career pursuits (such as engineering, architecture, physicians, professors, economists, government officers, etc.). If the person was or is considered as a property, regardless if captured because of a conquering war, or through methodical feudalism or by economic blackmail; thus, if he or she belonged or is at the disposal of someone else, no matter the profession, this person was or is a slave.  Our history of past work is a chronicle of different forms of slavery, and we are still very far from being authentic free people. Modern slavery still survives, in a hidden way, but still exists. Moreover, please read the next phrase with careful attention: Nowadays, digitalization and communication technologies are perceived by the experts of work matters, as the new mediums to be used to reverse our freedom and convert us into slaves again.

But what is to work nowadays? We will continue our narrative in our next subject number 12.  How humans work now-our present.

Strategic reflection music section:

Why did we pick Phil Collins? Phil Collins has been one of the British core band groundbreaking musicians during the last 50 years. He worked hard for decades, writing lyrics, and arranging melodies of beautiful pop and rock progressive music. He is still scrambling (with his hip in deep trouble); but he still sings, regardless of his health limitations.  How not include him here? Impossible. There is no generation for fine and awesome art. Phil Collins has won his spot here. We choose music of performers who have worked so hard to gain the respect of carats for their music, their poetry, their literature, their art. Someone who discriminates against people in any “artistic discipline” because of “being old” is not worthy of respect. Someone who discriminates against artists of a resonant work tradition – work that has been proven with evidence of his or her efforts year over year – doesn´t deserve my respect.

Song for today: Darlene Zschech. An Australian Christian composer who has the ecumenic spirit to visit the Vatican to meet Pope Francis and sing there around the year 2015. I have chosen three songs from her: The first one, “Shout to the Lord”. The second one is The Potter´s hand. And the third one, “The Power of your Love”, is interpreted by the Oslo Gospel Choir, in Gouda, Netherlands. Enjoy!

Thank you for reading to me. See you next Tuesday 15th with chapter number 12. Blessings!

See you next week!

Sources of reference used for this publication


Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, most of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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