Commentary on a Shield Hero and Slavery Post

Recently, Beneath the Tangles featured a very long and well-written post on the topic of slavery in The Rising of the Shield Hero.  It is worth your time to read when you have a good chunk of free time:

Guest Post: When a Shield Hero Becomes a Slave Owner

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Slavery is a very interesting topic in regards to Christianity, because the Bible never condemns it in explicit terms.  This has led to epochs where rulers and nobility saw slavery as permissible, especially in the Age of Exploration and when the wars between Christendom and Islam became more advanced.  Thus, the papacy had to condemn the practice several times in encyclicals and statements in the years 1462, 1537, 1639, 1741, 1815, and 1839.  (See Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life by Stanley M. Elkins.)  I might also add the 1435 encyclical commanding that Canary Islanders be freed from the condition of slavery.  That slavery could be countenanced is rather odd when one considers that Medieval society had made great strides in eliminating slavery with its borders so that it was virtually non-existent by the 11th century, which coincides with the end of the Viking Age.

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But, I am getting ahead of myself.  Slavery saw its first decline with the Fall of the Roman Empire.  You see, there often needs to be a combination of practical and moral reasons for an evil institution’s demise, and people perpetuate slavery by the threat of punishment and hope of liberty.  In the case of Roman slavery, the idea of revolt was kept down by the threat of the Roman legions and by the impunity with which a master could punish a slave.  On the reward side, privately owned slaves could hope for earning enough to purchase their freedom (slaves were allowed to work on the side and their “freedom fund” was protected by law), have their former master as their patron, and become a Roman citizen.  Pretty good rewards, and the Roman Empire boasted a large class of freedmen–including the father of Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known to students of Latin literature as the poet Horace.  However, I must add that slaves owned by the Roman government were worked to death with little hope of freedom.

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The demise of the Roman Empire took away the threat of the Roman legions, which placed slave owners in the necessity of working out a new relationship with their slaves.  This new relationship was serfdom.  (See Hilaire Belloc’s The Servile State.)  Like the slave, the serf was bond to the land, but he owned more of his produce and could not be sold–nor could his wife or children be sold.  In much of Europe, serfs would become peasants who had freedom of movement and more freedom of labor, as long as they could pay their lord rent and the Church a tithe.  At the same time, the peasant retained a right to live on the lord’s fiefdom and could not be dispossessed.  Some peasants actually managed to become rich.

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Sadly, this anti-slavery momentum was often not applied to enemies of the Faith.  Pope Nicholas V permitted captured Saracens to be reduced to perpetual servitude in the bulls Dum Diversas in 1452 and Romanus Pontifex in 1454.  The only things which could remove this sentence would be ransom, a prisoner exchange, or the will of the master to manumit the slave.  However, the Catholic Church came out strongly against the enslavement of peaceable persons.  The Holy Inquisition in 1686 gave the penalty of automatic excommunication to anyone who enslaved “Blacks and other natives who have harmed no one” [italics mine].  (See Rodney Stark’s Bearing False Witness.)  Sadly, Spain, France, and Portugal often ignored or suppressed many such condemnations of slavery and commands not to enslave Native Americans and Blacks.  Legal slavery was totally effaced from the Americas only in 1888 with its abolition in Brazil.

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Despite all the best moral arguments against slavery, the labor shortage in the Americas along with fertile ground for various cash crops induced colonists to resort to it.  Slavery was made profitable as a labor system again!  Where something evil is profitable, often arguments justifying its existence come to fore.  And, I will say that early modern Protestants have more of an excuse than early modern Catholics for believing that slavery is legitimate.  The reason for this is because Protestants have cut themselves off from the development of doctrine, essentially placing themselves in the same position as Christians circa 100 A.D.  On the other hand, a Catholic must ignore the entire development of doctrine, the teaching authority of the Magisterium, and the authoritative pronouncements of the Pope in order to own slaves.  Not only were lay Catholics guilty, but even some bishops tolerated the institution while admonishing masters to be humane.

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God sometimes does not rule definitively against certain immoral practices until people are ready to accept them.  Hence, polygamy and divorce are not condemned until the New Testament, where Christ commands people to follow the original pattern set by Adam and Eve (Mt. 19) and where St. Paul and the Apostles only describe a marriage union between one husband and one wife.  The New Testament, while not explicitly outlawing slavery, does describe all people as equal before God (Galatians 3:28), admonishes us to be one another’s slaves (see Mark 10:44), and describes the great desire of Christ that all men be free (Galatian 4:31).

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Still, it is excusable that a 2nd century Christian might be ignorant of the fact that slavery itself is an evil.  And, if we take into account the fact that Protestant doctrines have their beginning in the Age of Exploration (1517 marks Martin Luther’s break with the Church) and don’t accept the Catholic development of doctrine as reliable, the pro-slavery arguments put forward by Rev. Leander Kerr and Rev. Josiah Priest in the post on Shield Hero linked to above make sense.  And, with no central authority like the Magisterium or the Pope to rule on doctrine, how is one to determine whether Anti-Slavery or Pro-Slavery Protestants are correct?  From the standpoint of a 21th century American, it’s obvious that slavery is wicked and abhorrent–not necessarily so for someone living in the 19th century.

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That which determined right, i.e. that which swayed public opinion for the majority, essentially was slavery’s profitability.  The North’s ties to slavery had to do with shipping and manufacturing, while the South’s had to do with agriculture.  The South produced the raw materials.  The North refined these materials, shipped them, and brought new slaves from Africa–to be sure, along with the Dutch and the Portuguese.  While both profited from slavery, only in the agricultural field was slave labor more profitable than free labor.  The high risk of injury while working in a factory made it cheaper to hire free day laborers whom one could fire without a major loss.  Ships require skilled and obedient seamen, not unskilled persons with many opportunities for desertion and mutiny.  Thus, slavery was never popular in the North.  However, Pennsylvania still had slaves into the 1850’s and New Jersey’s last slave was not released until 1865–both states possessed large farming economies and opted for gradual manumission.  Money easily blinds people from the evil they do or permit.

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I doubt that slavery could have existed in the South longer than Brazil’s date of abolition in 1888.  After the Civil War, many former plantation owners kept former slaves as sharecroppers and paid servants.  I have not heard of one who said that free labor was more expensive than slave labor.  In the Antebellum South, one had to pay the slaves’ housing, medical care, food, and the initial investment was equal to the cost of a modern person buying a car.  Many poor whites harvested crops alongside of slaves for only a daily wage.  It is no wonder that only five percent of Southerners owned slaves by 1860!  (Some people inflate this number to 25% by including everyone in a household which owned slaves, including the wives, children, and relatives of the actual owners.  This is like saying 91% of Americans own cars when one means to say 91% of households have the use of a car.  I suppose the figure gives one a sense of the ubiquity of privately owned vehicles.)

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People dispute this, but a good argument is to be made that slavery would have collapsed of its own weight without the War Between the States.  Maybe it was better for the descendants of slaves that it did not: Virginia almost banned slavery in 1832, but this proposal was voted down because they did not have the money to transport freedmen back to Africa.  Sending blacks back to Africa was part of the abolitionist program in the 19th century.  Only the massive property destruction and huge increase in the national debt caused by the war deterred the government from enacting that part of the abolitionist scheme.

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I knew that my thoughts on the above post and the relationships between slavery, Christianity, and America would be too long to fit in a comment.  If you want to learn more about slavery in America, I heartily recommend Eugene Genovese’s Roll, Jordan, Roll: the World the Slaves Made–the greatest work on the subject–or a shorter work of his, A Consuming Fire: the Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South.  Rodney Stark’s Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History has a great chapter on the history between Christianity and slavery.

Thanks for reading to the end of this long post!

20 comments on “Commentary on a Shield Hero and Slavery Post

  1. Thinking about how topics like these are usually approached, I find myself crowded with or deafened by people like me: hypersensitive and emotional about what we think is right and wrong. I think that’s one thing among what usually holds us back from critically tying religious and political practice together well, as we forget and even ignore the need for reason along with emotion in practice, which also needs a good moral and spiritual center (which is more than just intent, as it is more a set of rules that can be applied, difficult they may be, though that’s another story, considering how we look down on rules and their inherent value these days thanks to things like postmodernism, which, if left unchecked, doubts anything and everything we can think of without better standards of progress, and we certainly don’t want to doubt the Ultimate Truth, nor do we want to just stay in place pointing out all our flaws), or else we’ll just go in circles about things. The Enlightenment only sucked at reason because it didn’t have a good center morally and spiritually, and what followed that was a propagation of a false dichotomy between reason and emotion, which was aggravated by movements like Romanticism, movements ran on such a dichotomy, even though they stood in opposition against the ideals of the Enlightenment. What’s funny today, though, is that while I find a lot of people criticizing the practice of romanticizing things, I still find ourselves getting really emotional about it. Though I should also say that there should be no room for cynicism, which, from my experience, comes from prideful delusions regarding how much power I have over things and all that. I really like to think that I know everything, which then leads me towards swinging between the extremes of pandering to popular opinion and believing in myself too much, sadly.

    Thinking some more about what I just wrote above, I’d like to apologize for the messy organization of my thoughts, which are actually more about the criticism of the main topic than the main topic itself, as I find myself grappling with my emotions more than the matters which I try to use my emotions against. Though at the same time, I feel like I shouldn’t fear criticism so much, for no matter how many mess-ups we make here, having faith would help us do our best and turn even the most seemingly negative of things into fuel for improvement towards following God’s will. Seriously, I don’t think we can improve after getting a thrashing without the power of God, and the fact that He can make it happen within reason makes Him even more mysteriously great! That, and the only fear we should have is the fear of God. So yeah.

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    • Sounds like you’ve been thinking a lot about the Enlightenment and Progressivism lately. I don’t think the false dichotomy in the Enlightenment was between reason and emotion, but between faith and reason. Essentially, the Enlightenment, following the cue of various Protestant Reformers, denied that faith and reason could be joined. Martin Luther even referred to reason as a whore! This goes against the Medieval Synthesis of faith and reason promulgated by figures like St. Thomas Aquinas. Amusingly, it often seems these days like Progressives rely more on emotion and faith than Christians!

      But, I hope that I approached the topic of slavery with more reason than emotion. There are several reasons why it was countenanced during the early modern period. Christians often made the best they could of a bad system. Even though I am harsh on Catholics in particular –particularly on the kingdoms of Spain, France, and Portugal, Catholic slave codes were often more lenient. Thus, 41.7 percent of blacks in New Orleans were free compared to 6.7 percent in Charleston, South Carolina: the Protestant city with the highest percentage of freed blacks in 1830. And, if Catholics in the New World and elsewhere should have known better according to the historical record, we must remember that information was not as easily accessible back then and that many individuals might have been simply ignorant and caught up in the zeitgeist–like all too many Catholics who believe that abortion is not wrong. If modern day Catholics can be ignorant about that fact with all of the media now available, it is even easier to believe that, say, Raphael Semmes of the C.S.S. believed that slavery did not transgress against his Catholic Faith.

      Conservatives and Liberals look at facts differently. A liberal looks at something and asks “Is it true?” Conversely, a Conservative asks, “What does it mean?” The only way to avoid becoming overly emotional about past flaws and injustices is to be more concerned about what they mean than to look at them according to the morality or zeitgeist of the present.

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      • Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Apologies again, then. It was actually faith that the Enlightenment was going up against, and progressivism today still goes with the faith versus reason argument, when in fact, faith and reason should work together, considering thoughts like Saint Augustine’s “I believe so that I may understand,” if I remember correctly.

        And I think you approached the topic of slavery with the best of your reasoning abilities so far, Medieval. I mean, I think we tend to be caught up thinking about the fact that slavery happened and that there are those who support it more than about how the relevant facts can help us fight it AND do better. I’m now reminded of what I learned about forgiveness in secular justice yesterday in class, which, if I remember correctly, noted that forgiveness is done with the belief that the forgiver will be on the moral high ground and that the forgiven will get karmic retribution eventually that way. That got me noticing a flaw, that lack of God Almighty as its center, which ignores how we should love our neighbor as much as we do ourselves, along with how we should love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In other words, forgiving isn’t condemning ourselves, nor is it condoning evil. That, and focusing on proving that we’re better than the other would just backfire more than we think, because we’re all in this together.

        Going back to the topic of slavery, then, it’s certainly not justifiable, but it’s still worthwhile to think about why those who supported it did so in the first place. We’re all trying to do good, after all, but we just have poor senses that need to be powered up with the help of each other, and, of course, the help of God Almighty. We all have to admit that something bad happened and that it sucks, but we also gotta move forward and do better. It’s not easy, of course, but that can still be more of a reason for us to work together and better more, nah?

        By the way, I get the feeling that I may take a deeper dive into Christian apologetics, especially considering the direction of my thesis and research in university right now. Do you have any good suggestions for references that I can start out with there, then, Medieval? I’d also appreciate it if you have suggestions for literary references as well. And to give you an idea of what I’ve been into so far, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters and Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People are among the sources I’ve been drawing inspiration from lately.

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  2. All very clever observations.

    However you are wrong that the New Testament abolished Polygamy. The Roman Church adopted strict Monogamy for the same reason ti tolerated Slavery, it was a Roman institution inherited from the Greeks.

    Galatians 3 contains a popular verse cited by Abolitionists, however if you want to be intellectually consistent, you can cite that verse and calling for the Abolition of Slavery without also seeing it as calling for the Abolition of Gender.

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    • Thanks for reading! I think that one can even find hints that the Old Testament does not favor polygamy–even if it does not outright condemn it. Marriage to one wife is the norm. I can only recall the Patriarch Jacob and King David and King Solomon keeping more than one wife among the Hebrews. In chapter 11, the first book of Kings recounts how Solomon’s lust for women and taking many brides turned his heart to idolatry. The implication here is that a man who will not remain faithful to one wife will not remain faithful to one God. Then, the way Christ points to the marriage of Adam and Eve as the norm with the two becoming one flesh indicates that this is the kind of marriage Christ wants for his followers.

      That the Romans and the Greeks also practiced monogamy shows that monogamy is part of natural law and that it is unnatural to have more than one spouse. In Scripture, it is only rich and powerful people like the three I mentioned have more than one wife. Without that wealth and power, people would not likely tolerate giving their daughters to become a man’s second or inferior wife. So, while the Bible does never explicitly says “don’t take multiple wives” (or husbands, for that matter), that it pushes the norm of one man and one wife along with strict rules against divorce and remarriage essentially makes polygamy unconscionable.

      You’re referring to Galatians 3:28. Yes, to say that this verse advocates abolishing slavery might be trying to get it to say too much. Much stronger arguments involve how the Gospels urge charity and freely giving of oneself. Also, God Himself no longer wants a master-slave relationship with human beings, but the kind of relationship which is had between friends: “I will not now call you servants [doulous in the Greek, which means slaves]: for the servant [doulos] knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you,” (John 15:15). So, if the Creator wants His creature to be His friend rather than His slave, what right does one man have to enslave another? However, this truth had to be teased out over time, and, as I wrote, the Fall of the Roman Empire greatly helped the end of slavery in Christendom.

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      • That the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn polygamy might just be because polygamous unions were not a problem when Christ preached. The major problem was that someone would divorce his current spouse and marry someone else. That Christ describes the second marriage taking place after someone has divorced does not mean the second marriage would be legitimate if the divorce did not occur. How do you justify the idea that a second or third or fourth marriage is okay as long as none of the women are divorced from the husband?

        The Bible often praises monogamous marriage, but I read no such endorsement for polygamy. The Bible praises virginity and monogamy but not polygamy. If God had actually wanted men to have several wives, He would have told us in Scripture and Tradition would have affirmed it.

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      • I only condemn what The Bible explicitly condemns. Genesis 3 shows Satan’s preferred tactic is to make God’s Law seem stricter then it actually is.

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      • Before we think about what Satan’s preferred method of temptation is, we need to think about the nature of virtue. God commands us to be virtuous, while the devil wants us to fall into vice. Aristotle was correct to say that a virtue is the between two vices: one an excess and the other a deficiency. Thus, courage falls between rashness and cowardice, temperance between gluttony and insufficiency, and justice between cruelty and permissiveness.

        In the realm of virtue, most people tend towards excess or deficiency and need to train themselves towards the mean. So, Satan has two choices to draw people away from virtue and thus away from God. Excessive strictness, i.e. going beyond the requirements of justice in an inhuman or harsh manner, is only one option Satan has. Perhaps, he attacks Type A personalities in this way so that they become scrupulous and judgmental. That is not to say that he will try the same thing towards someone with a Type B personality: I daresay it would prove utterly ineffective.

        In the realm of human sexuality, there are people called to be virgins/celibate, and there are people called to marriage. Both count as the means, fornication and adultery count as the excess, and–if you are married–depriving your spouse of regular intercourse counts as the deficiency. (If a deficiency exists for the virginal state, it must relate to the fact that a single man or woman lives to please God. So, perhaps not praying, not receiving the sacraments, not expanding one’s understanding of God, and not otherwise seeking God and His will count as the deficiency. But, that is speculation.) Having more than one spouse is also an excess, despite the forbearance shown by God to certain patriarchs (Or patriarch, if Jacob was the only one) and to the Kings of Israel.

        But, thank you for your perspective on this question concerning marriage.

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      • I”m someone who’s firmly against trying to Christianize Plato and Aristotle.

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      • Philosophia ancilla theologiae.

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      • The New Testament consistently refers to Philosophy as bad.

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      • No, there is only one direct reference to philosophy in the entire Bible (Colossians 2:8). It does not refer to all philosophy as bad, but warns against the deceitful traditions of men. But, does not St. Paul tell us to seek out everything that is good and true (Phil. 4:8)? If we take apart the word philosophy, the Greek means “love of wisdom,” which the Bible is wholeheartedly in support of. Faith is not irrational even if it requires us at times to go above reason, e.g. that the world has a Creator is something which can be demonstrated by reason but that this Creator loves His creatures with an infinite love is something we hold by faith. This is why philosophy is the handmaid of theology, the Queen of the Sciences: philosophy helps us understand the Faith and defend it while still needing theology to refrain philosophy from error. A servant is a servant in part because he needs a master’s direction; while the master needs a servant because the master cannot accomplish all of his desires without help. Without philosophy and rational vigor, religion often strikes intelligent persons as vapid. The result of not teaching philosophy leads to the young being turned away from the Faith by the weak sophistry of the world. Without being able to argue on the level of worldly men, the elites of society have generally turned against Christianity, and the conversion and the Faith of peoples has more often than not relied upon the conversion of the elites. Did not Christ Himself plant the initial seeds of Faith into the elite of the Jews (Luke 2:46)? Seeking them out even before his three years of public ministry.

        What has happened to Christianity since Martin Luther gave his angry tirade against “that whore reason”? There are an estimated 33,000 Protestant denominations. How this must disappoint Christ, who wanted all Christians to be one (John 17: 20-23). Without reason, there is no unity in Faith. Where Christians imbue young minds with philosophical discipline, the Christian Faith is strong also.

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  3. Interesting post. Of course, in technicality, the same sin has been hidden under a number of titles: slavery, human trafficking, …. “employment”, “deals”, “patriotic duty”… Sounds odd? That’s because I’m touching on something bigger: The sin is exploitation. Exploitation is the using of others as tools for one’s own benefit, which by definition, makes it plain old selfishness. Such exploitation need not be in a master slave relationship. It could be an an employer/employee, husband/wife, parent/child, loan shark/debtor, or a number of other relationships. It happens all the time. The banning of slavery just makes illegal one explicit expression of it. People recognize that slavery is “too far”, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try exploiting others on a seemingly less significant scale.

    “Slave” and “master” are humanly contrived labels. I found that ownership (apart for God’s ownership) is actually meaningless wordplay (though I haven’t yet posted my long thoughts on it), so the whole system is a ruse. God knows. Slavery is a mentality, not a mark on a legal sheet of paper, and people of the world don’t understand that when they demand laws to “force the hand of God” so to speak. I mean really, “shotgun marriages” are illegitimate. Two same-sex people can’t be “married”. The legal paper does absolutely nothing. I’m happy to see this particular anime you’ve written about (and I read the article on Beneath the Tangles) recognizes that slavery is not so much a state as it is a mentality.

    Every seven years was the year of Jubilee for the Israelites, and that meant they had to release slaves. However, slaves could and sometimes did freely choose to remain slaves, in which case they would (if I recall correctly) have their ear stamped or given an earring (I don’t remember the details) or some sign that they were a bond-slave for life.

    There are a number of “free” people today who are, in fact, ideologically bound and not free to do as they please. Fear is their binding factor, as I’ve just written about as the case with liberals in a very, very long blog series: https://chronologicaldot.wordpress.com/2019/03/28/the-heart-of-political-division-1/
    The opposite state can also be true: You can be considered a slave by society, but if your willpower isn’t broken, you’re free, not a slave. Raphtalia is the example of this. My compliments to the writer and director of “The Rising of the Shield” for drawing attention to this.

    Christ wants us to be free from the slavery of sin. It’s a mentality. You aren’t forced to sin. You choose to, falling under the deception of the Devil. The Devil is a very crafty master. It takes the progressive teaching of God to break the spell.

    If I wasn’t so against anthropomorphic characters (which deserves its own blog post), I might actually watch that show.

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    • I’m not sure if exploitation itself is exactly a sin–even selfishness is not exactly a sin. Human nature has many needs, and each man is not able to fulfill all of his needs without help–at least, not usually. I suppose that one can be a self-subsisting farmer, but even then one might need to trade for various tools and items one would not otherwise possess. Then again, people are naturally inclined to be social, to mate, and raise children. The multiplication of people only produces more needs and the need for more people to serve them. In St. Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue, God says that he distributed virtues and talents unequally among mankind so that they would be compelled to practice charity towards one another. That seems to be the right of things.

      So, it seems like we must use people as tools for our own benefit. We can’t exactly be friends with everyone we meet or with everyone who provides some kind of service to us. The problem comes in when there is some injustice in the transaction, which is the case in the master-slave relationship. A slave does not have the minimum of freedom a human being deserves to have, which even a serf or a peasant has. But, this is a very interesting problem, since I do believe a part of the human psyche tends towards slavery–either in the drive to dominate or the desire to be taken care by someone else (irresponsibility). And, most of human history has found various forms of servitude and bondage to the advantage of society, e.g. the serfs found advantage in being protected by the warrior class and the warrior class benefited from the food and labor of the peasant class.

      I’m glad that you are also enjoying Shield Hero. It’s a great anime and I hope to have a post on it soon.

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      • By “exploitation”, I was referring to the second definition here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exploiting (I believe you’re referring to the first one.)
        For example, a used car salesman is interested in what you give him (your money) not whether or not you get a good deal (a good car). The trade seems like it’d be mutually beneficial, hence both of you get involved, but the reality is, the salesman only has his interests in mind. Yes, that’s a sin. Any time the hope for benefit is one-sided, I call it exploitation. It’s basically saying, “I only care if I benefit even if you don’t, but we might both benefit.” I’ve been on the bad end of such interactions, and it can make you bitter and turn the interaction into a competition. It can be expressed very subtlely (because obviously the guilty party doesn’t want you to know their intentions). That said, there’s nothing wrong with trade or mutually beneficial “deals” if both parties ensure each other’s profit.

        Selfishness is always a sin. However, I suspect we have differing definitions in mind here too. By “selfishness” I mean seeking to get what I want at the EXPENSE of others, hence the relationship with exploitation. It is asking how the world benefits me rather than how I can benefit the world. Yes, we’ll get plenty of things we want, and people may willingly give to us at their own expense, but we should never seek it. For example, a little kid is fed by his mother at her expense. But that kid would be selfish to demand his mother feed him. He should be grateful instead. We live in a country with plenty of food and equipment to make it easy to harvest, but we should never demand the farmer work for free.

        It’s interesting you note that humans have a tendency towards slavery. Having read Theology of the Body by JP2 (which is an amazing read and free to read on ewtn), I’d discovered such mentality of us being gifts to our spouses as manifesting itself strongly in the emotional realm. We are so passionate at giving and accepting of each other bodily to our spouse, that it comes out in very strong ways. Heck, it’s not hard to find pictures of bondage (sexual or otherwise). It’s not hard to find music of people offering themselves bodily (Bruno Mars “Grenade”). You’re right though – there are some people who prefer comfort more than freedom. It just depends on the personality. That’s a nice long blog post.

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      • That is a nice reply, which could easily be a post. The definition of exploitation you use is indeed by its very nature a sin, since it requires acting “meanly or unfairly.” This conversation rather remind me of a comment that St. Francis de Sales made that, though our natural desire is to sell dearly and buy cheaply, we ought to only pay or sell at reasonable prices. I suppose that his goal was to curb greed, because selling dearly and buying cheaply allow us to amass more goods, while keeping to the real value of items does not encourage greed. Still, is it really a sin to want to buy cheaply and sell dearly?

        Such decisions admit of various motivations, which can affect the morality of the act. Car salesmen are terrible to deal with, but all salespeople and merchants must keep their business profitable. Keeping their business afloat and keeping their workers at the dealership employed are other considerations behind the price besides the desire for personal profit.

        God tells us to love one another as we love ourselves, so our self-love has a moral dimension to it. Selfishness tends to refer to the inclination of people to love themselves more than is just. Doing good for oneself can be just: a drive towards self improvement is a good thing—even if oneself is the only beneficiary, e.g. exercise, diet, and certain “useless” fields of study. In a certain sense, self-love and selfishness refer to the same principle in human beings, but they differ in their fruits.

        I really need to read more about JPII’s theology of the body. So far, I’ve only read Christopher West’s discussion of it in The Eclipse of the Body. It offers some fascinating insights into the problems of our times.

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      • Good thoughts.
        There is indeed that blurry line regarding buying low/selling high, but remember, this is outward appearance. “For man judges the outward appearance but the Lord judges the heart.” It’s hard sometimes to say anything about the intrinsic good/evil of an act, and the line is fuzzier considering we have to work within an artificial system (namely, capitalism or communism) governing the economy. That’s a long topic.

        I agree with your other thoughts, too, and to an extent, we just have different understandings of the terminology we’re using.

        And yes, PLEASE read JPII’s TOB.
        https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2TBIND.HTM

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      • Thank you for that link. I had no idea that EWTN had those kinds of resources on its site.

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      • It’s a bit of a messy website, kind of like a university website (but bigger). Sometimes the only way to find your way around is via search engine. I’m sure there’s a long chain of links to get to it if you wanted to find in “manually” but good luck.

        Other treasures include prayers and biographies of the saints, old ecclesiastic letters, daily reflections, forgotten podcasts, and the list goes on.

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