Wednesday, 5 November 2014

I am a serf, like a medieval peasant

In medieval times, the Norman Lord was entitled to a percentage of the Saxon serf's labour - the serf was compelled to work on the Lord's domain for - say - half his time. And he could not leave the Lord's domain without permission.

Same now, my Lord - the government - coercively takes about half my labour, by coercively extracting half my income in taxes. And I cannot leave my Lord's domain without a passport, which he can give me or not or withdraw at his will.

The point of this analysis is the cunning of modern serfdom. Coerced labour has been - mostly - eliminated; but coerced extraction of the product of labour continues - but in the abstracted realm of money.

The system is maintained by the Lord using the wealth he extracts to build a castle to protect himself, a retinue to look after himself, and an army who keep me down and keep me at work.

Nowadays, the Lord finds it expedient to include in his retinue a truly a vast gang of sturdy beggars, drifters and brawlers, idlers and drunkards, travellers and squatters and assorted other dependants - to whom the Lord has given  a 'right' to the product of my labour.

So, I am grossly outnumbered and out-weaponed, and the church (i.e. the mass media) is solidly against me - and - in short - I am in the usual situation of a serf; of holding-up society and being despised for it by the Lord who coerces me by his self-appointed right, and by the church who sustains the Lord, and by a vast and always-growing retinue whom I am obliged to feed, clothe, shelter and entertain.

And, realistically, there is nothing much I can do about it - because the system benefits the majority, including almost everybody who has power and influence.

I am, indeed, in the situation of Piers Plowman - but in a society far more corrupt and with far less sanction than was his; and my recourse is to his consolations, and my authority is his authority - or none at all.


The text of Piers Plowman, by William Langland


A correspondent points-out that that I have one option that P. Ploughman didn't have - viz to become one of the beggars, drifters, idlers, drunkards, etc.

This is correct, people like me could, perhaps, do what many friends and colleagues have done and retire early and live opulently for another thirty years without working. This explains why the Middle Ages was sustainable over many generations, and why modernity is not.

Furthermore, I am a vastly better-fed, warmer, more comfortable and idler serf than Piers.

However, serfdom (or slavery) does not as a matter of fact imply greater poverty than 'freedom' (that is a modernist myth, which goes with the suggestion that modern people are not serfs, not really, not in any way that actually matters. But many times and places, slavery or serfdom means security; and freedom means starvation.

My point is not to say that freedom is better than serfdom; but to point out that I am a serf; a serf is what I am - and a serf to a corrupt, dishonest Lord with an inverted moral system.