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My Family’s Slave (theatlantic.com)
1419 points by aaron695 on May 16, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 606 comments



My family adopted my female cousin nearly 30 years ago from Guatemala. The country was in civil war at the time so bringing her to the U.S. was in her best interest.

Unfortunately my mother and aunt (sisters of her birth father) kept her so locked down that she is effectively a slave. My aunt hasn't worked in decades because my little sister has always signed every paycheck over to my aunt. After working for nearly 25 years my sister has no money, doesn't have a bank account, has no friends, has dated only once (and they shamed her when she did), no drivers license, isn't allowed to do anything on her own. She isn't allowed to walk to work. She isn't allowed to have opinions, or a private conversation, or until recently, a cellphone.

I finally bought her a cellphone the day after my mother died in 2014. I thought things would change after my mother died, but my aunt continued her control.

My sister seems happy and genuinely loves my aunt and now deceased mother. My family always claimed that her original immigration paperwork had an error which puts her at risk at deportation justifying her isolation. But I doubt the sincerity of this claim given that is conveniently forgotten when it comes time for her to go out and earn a paycheck.

Even though I always objected to her treatment, I feel complicit. But now, I don't think I could suggest a better way to live. All I can do is set aside enough money for her retirement. Any thoughts or comments are appreciated but at the very least I appreciate this opportunity to share her story.


I'm floored, angry, and in pain over this story. It's abuse. Maybe it strikes something for me personally because of the abuse I suffered growing up...

I've seen first hand how family can be complicit. I mean you didn't mention beatings or other kinds of physical abuse, so it's not that bad right? No, it's that bad. It reinforces the behavior for both the abuser and the victim.

My advice, please stop doing nothing. Take her in, let her keep her paychecks. Help her find herself. Give her love, patience, and help her finally be free. I don't know. I want to say "do as much as you feel comfortable doing" but she needs the kind of help you're not comfortable providing.

You obviously care enough to set aside money for her retirement. I'd disown the aunt. It's going to get ugly. You're taking away her livelihood. But you know that. It's why it seems best to do nothing.

Then again, I didn't have a savior, I had a breakdown. I was willing to never speak to my family again. I was ready to be alone. And I was for a time.

I'm sorry, I wish there was a clear cut answer. I can't tell you the amount of physiological damage that was done and it didn't even become clear just how bad it was until I got far far away from it.

Even now, nearly a decade after I had enough, and broke away from it. It's still hard. So hard and fear inducing I created a throwaway account just to post this.

Please do something. If nothing else help clarify her immigration status right before referring the case to authorities.


You should talk to a experienced shrink or a psychologist about what the best outcomes for her might be. Sounds like she is dealing with what they would call traumatic attachment. Best outcomes for the individual won't be intuitive in such cases. Also there will be a psychological cost to you for opposing what your family might think is right. It's always good to be understand how to handle it before taking any stand.

This is where an experienced counsellor can make a huge difference. They usually have seen many such cases and have a sense of possible positive outcomes.


The big unknown here seems to be her immigration status. Your family actually may well not know it.

What her actual status is in the eyes of Uncle Sam, and what can be done to possibly fix it should be easily discovered by contacting your nearest immigration lawyer.

The first consultation is maybe $100 (long time since I dealt with this), and then they can tell you what the options and costs are.

Once the immigration status is understood, the options will be much clearer.


I would think fleeing a life of slavery is a good argument for asylum.


can you claim asylum for abuse suffered in the country you fled TO? Doesn't the abuse need to be in the country you are from (the one they will deport you to)?


Actually in the US there is a process for granting residency to abused spouses and children:.

https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/battered-spouse-children-...

I have heard that it's fairly lenient and the cousin described by OP might fit into that category for immigration status. IANAIL.


I think you already did the first step: you were courage enough to speak about the problem, even if anonymously. Now that your mother has died, you only need to fight your aunt where blood bonds are much weaker.

Don't stop now: your sister needs you and your mind needs peace.


Rhetorical questions (that you've probably already asked yourself many times):

Why are you letting this happen and what do you fear will happen if you do something about it?


Many people are hesitant to intervene in something that will likely destroy their own family. This should not be surprising at all. It happens all of the time in family abuse cases.


Family like this is worth destroying.


Said the person who didn't have to destroy their family. Once you are an adult, a family cannot realistically be replaced.

You can have children but children are not the kind of family you can depend on and look up to for advice. You can also marry into another family, but frankly the same strength of bond is just not there (guess which person that family will choose to side with if you get a divorce).

It takes a pretty seriously bad family for it to be worth destroying because people don't want to lose that irreplaceable attachment.


I know several people who cut ties with their toxic family. It's painful, but sometimes it's necessary. They replace their family with friends. Good friends who support them.

In cases where only one or a few people are abusive, it may be possible to gather the rest of the family and continue a healthier family without the toxic people.


That's incredibly easier said than done, especially from a cozy armchair. Have you not heard of Stockholm syndrome? Situations like this are not so cut and dry.


Worth thinking about: is it worth destroying a dysfunctional but happy family? Are our own standards for freedom worth enforcing on other people's life?

I'm also thinking about that last child in Arrested Development. A lot of families and people are dysfunctional. But are we functional enough to tell them what to do?


There is another aspect to this. Consider 911, you had 4 planes full of people and yet it is believed that only 2 - 3 people on a single plane did anything to stop the hijackers (ultimately saving many lives at the cost of their own).

Uncommon valor is prized and honored simply because it is so uncommon. It is easy to say how you would act in a situation from the comfort of your keyboard but when the shit hits the fan are you sure that you are part of the exceptional 5%? Or are you just another passenger trying to get home? Perhaps OP is just like most people, not wanting to rock the boat and trying to get on with his life. Having walked a few miles in his shoes are you certain you'd do any different? I'd like to think I would but I'd be dishonest to confidently claim it. "Some cats surf, Some cats make the waves"


At the time, the assumption was that the plane would be flown away, passengers held hostage for some demands, then released. The first planes had no reason to think that they were going to die when the hijackers struck. Passengers on the final plane heard by phone of the other attacks and so knew better what they were dealing with. And it was more than 2 or 3 of them that did anything once they did know that.


> dysfunctional but happy

That is an oxymoron. When someone is "happy" to live in the rain and snow on concrete without a roof, because some abuser told them if they move from there, the world will eat them and torture them in hell forever, they're not actually happy, they're trapped in a shit situation by the lie that any attempt to free themselves from it would make it worse. The fact that what they feel is happiness makes this worse rather than better. We can forgive the abused for not knowing better, but we can't stand by idly and pretend that's their free choice without becoming guilty.

> Are our own standards for freedom worth enforcing on other people's life?

Yes. If you disagree, and expect that to be any more than wind to my ears, you're just trying to force your standards for freedom on others, so your own argument defeats itself before it even hits the ground.

> A lot of families and people are dysfunctional. But are we functional enough to tell them what to do?

Same thing: Are you functional enough to tell me I'm not?


You setup a strawman and then tear it down (living outside with no shelter).

However, the scenario here is basically the same as having a garnished wage. You will need to provide some evidence that it is impossible to be happy living with a garnished wage.


What if they "do something about it" and it turns out no one wanted their "help" and they alienate both their aunt and the "slave"? That would be the obvious question on my mind. Especially if you do something irreversible like call the government to intervene.


This is a fine-edged and very delicate situation. That is why I encouraged the OP to seek legal guidance. The first step isn't to call in the government, but to gain access to advocates that can work with his/her family to separate fact from fiction.

With outside counsel (legal, psychological, or both) involved, if the OP has misunderstood the nature of the family members' relationships, it will be revealed. On the other hand, if the situation is abusive, having an objective third party there for support and advice will be extremely important.

I am not trying to downplay the emotional difficulties present here. Fearing that you may alienate portions of your family is entirely understandable. But not acting means you are complicit.

If you see someone who is in trouble and who needs help, face your fears and work to build the support structures that will return to them their "voice" and personal agency going forward.


I think this qualifies for Adult Protection Services, in the sense that there's a social disability due to the prolonged lack of exposure to the real world:

http://www.napsa-now.org

You may want to Google for the one in your region or city.

PLEASE report it.


My mother was telling me that in her village, in the country side of France, some of her classmates ran away to her house (my mother's father was the mayor of the village).

These were foreign kids that were adopted by farmers. They would get mistreated in class and mocked by other kids (which my mother found normal until this accident happened) and they would get exploited in the fields by the farmers.

Apparently this would happen a lot. Farmers would adopt these kids and exploit them. Don't know if this is still happening.


I was born in country side in France (Morbihan) but I never heard that farmers would adopt kids to exploit them. The closer to this that I know are some professional foster people [1] who have a bad reputation among the orphans that I met, that said I know also some perfect foster people. Those "professionals" are usually themselves quite poor and it is a second job for them (or at least for the spouse).

However I read on BBC news some stories that are more similar to slavery in UK and in Switzerland [0]. If we trust BBC (I do) in UK there are still awful slavery stories.

[0] http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29765623

[1] "Famille d'accueil" in French, see https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aide_sociale_%C3%A0_l%27enfanc...


I googled and found out that there is actually some nasty history related to my fact: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enfants_de_la_Creuse

> Les enfants réunionnais déplacés en Creuse étaient accueillis lors de leur arrivée dans un foyer de Guéret5. "Certains ont été adoptés, d'autres sont restés en foyer ou ont servi de main-d'œuvre gratuite dans les fermes6", les paysans à travers la Creuse les utilisant alors comme « bonne à tout faire » ou « travailleur sans salaires »


That is true, now that you mention this, I remember there were other similar cases in France.

Thanks for the information.


I have no helpful advice, but MAN some people are evil. I can't think of another word for it.


Rather than seeking counsel from HN, may I strongly recommend you find a practicing family and/or immigration lawyer if you really want to help?

I commend your action of putting money away, but based on your description, your cousin has been/ is being subjected to familial abuse. Reach inside yourself and find the courage to inform someone. Seek help from those qualified to give it, please.


s/"Rather than"/"In addition to"

I agree with @edward_rolf's criticism of my original phrasing, the first sentence can be improved.


Very good advise, apart from the "rather than".


> Even though I always objected to her treatment, I feel complicit.

As an adult who knows this is happening and allows it to continue, you are complicit. There's lots of good advice in this thread. Please do something.


> As an adult who knows this is happening and allows it to continue, you are complicit.

Do you use consumer electronics? Do you know the conditions at Foxconn, or any factory in China? More to the point, do you know how polluted China is right now, and how much manufacturing destroys the country?

So therefore, by your logic, you are complicit.


Go to the police perhaps? Enforce it? Lock through the paper yourself and try to figure out if this is okay?


Truly remarkable story.

One thing that struck me is that Lola did so much of the work of a traditional mother's role: raising the kids, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and even providing emotional support. The mother had to take on a traditional father's role in bringing home an income. And the actual father - well, he did neither role and seemed to just freeload, gamble, abuse, and finally disappear.

All of the work in a traditional mother's role, well it's usually uncompensated too. Sure it's a "labor of love" but it's also just a huge amount of work, for decades. An argument could be made that the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated labor. Just ask your mom.


I have seen career women kind of jokingly say "I need a wife." I was struck by the fact that Alex's mother, whom some people here are vilifying, managed to have a serious career like a man because she had Lola at home to do all the "women's work." This is mostly being overlooked in discussion and I didn't know how to bring it up myself. I appreciate you remarking upon it.


As a male, I'd personally prefer to live a life filled with traditional housewife work. Kids are fun, and I'd like raising them. I like cooking. Cleaning is pretty fun. More than that, though, employment sucks. If you keep me fed, clothed, and with an internet connection, I'd be happy as a clam, even spending eight hours a day doing nothing but housework. I sometimes wonder if there are others who feel this way, especially women who are mostly forced to work nowadays.

There's a strange sort of situation: In the past, women were forced to be housewives, which was awful. Nobody should be forced to be something they don't want to be. But now that women have the ability to do mostly whatever a man can do, neither men nor women really have the option of just "being a housewife." We kind of both have to work. I wonder if it would be better if, as a family unit, one person decides to do the housewife-type stuff, and the other decides to pursue a career? You could even switch off after a few years. That'd be a pretty ideal life for me, I think. But again, in most marriages, both people have to work.


>neither men nor women really have the option of just "being a housewife." We kind of both have to work....in most marriages, both people have to work.

Says who? Sure if you take out a fat mortgage and car loans that require two incomes to repay then, sure, you need two incomes. But you can also just choose to live in a smaller house and drive cheaper cars instead. The issue is the lifestyle inflation that comes with two incomes, it is avoidable.(1)

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/11/04/raising-kids-and-r...

>The median household income for families with two full-time working parents and at least one child under 18 at home is $102,400, compared with $84,000 for households where the father works full time and the mother works part time and $55,000 for households where the father works full time and the mother is not employed.

$55,000 a year provides a good life in 99% of the United States.

BTW, the share of two-parent households in which both parents work full time is only at 46%.

My way of handling two incomes is saving and investing the vast majority of the second income, not spending it. That leaves us in a much better financial position and also a lot of leeway for one or both of us to go without employment for an extended time. The ultimate goal being to retire early. Or at least semi-retire.


> Says who? Sure if you take out a fat mortgage and car loans that require two incomes to repay then, sure, you need two incomes. But you can also just choose to live in a smaller house and drive cheaper cars instead. The issue is the lifestyle inflation that comes with two incomes, it is avoidable.

I mean, my SO and I are looking at the fact that we need two incomes simply to buy any house. We recently saw a 650 sqft shack go for ~$500k, an we don't even live in California.

There simply aren't 'cheaper houses' in places where we think we could get work.


I think you are typing this sitting at your comfortable 1% Valley workplace.

Nowhere in the world does $55K a year before tax provide anywhere like 'good life'. It means endless misery and generational psychological poverty passed on to your children. Only reason of doing it is if your desire to exert psychological pressure on your wife is greater than even desire to consume. It simply doesn't sound healthy, and it is almost a crime against children, because they will grow dirt poor and view this crap as normal.

Background: i earned just $45K a year after tax one year in my life, 10 years ago. I had no children back then. I still spent $60K eating out some of my savings, having to cut on anything including some food, and it felt so crappy i don't advise anyone to repeat my experience.

Sure, $102K isn't too much either. But it puts you into a totally different league anyway. I can imagine how to survive on $102K with a kid in a cheap place, if your house is fully paid and you are an introvert, but not $55K.


Huh? You could easily live a comfortable life on $55k a year in say Tacoma, WA or Eugene, OR with a wife and a kid. I've earned less than $45k a year living on my own in Seattle not even 5 years ago, and despite shopping at expensive stores, eating out daily, and spending quite a bit on other random stuff, I always was able to avoid going into the red financially without watching my spending much at all.

Even in Seattle, I know of married couples who spend under $2k a month total, inclusive of rent, utilities, eating out, buying random stuff, etc while earning north of $120k each. Sure, its a meek lifestyle, but it can be quite fulfilling to know you aren't a consumerist whore.

If money = happiness, you are apt to lead a really sad life!


Yeah, I live in Michigan, and while I do make really good money (especially for this area - more than triple the median), my wife and I live simply in our 1100 square foot 2-bedroom house with our 10-year-old cars and no debt.

I know that I'm very privileged in that I could afford to live at a higher level than what we do, but I don't want that. I've got my American dream. I've got a wonderful wife who dotes on me (it's mutual), a small house in a quiet town, and a cat. That's all I really need in life. All the other shit (gadgets, new cars, etc.) is cool, but I realized about 5 years ago that none of it made me happy.

If we have kids, of course those expenses will go up, and we'll probably have to find a bigger house, but for now, we live cheaply not because we have to, but because expensive stuff won't make us happy.

(Just to be clear, I know what it's like to be poor, I grew up in a very poor family. I very much realize that I'm lucky and more fortunate than a lot of other people in that I have the luxury of living below my means, a luxury that not everyone has, even in the US).


I don't live in the valley. I live in a medium sized house on the east coast. I live in a very average neighborhood which is close 99% of what I need - work, groceries, restaurants, beach, fun. I live in the kind of neighborhood that the average high income duel income couple would scoff at... No two car garage, no granite countertops, I have a small lot, I'm close to the neighbors, I don't always have to get in my car to go places.

We have one car even though we could afford two, we both share our commute to work, I drop off my husband on my way to work and pick him up again on the way back. Most couples would buy too cars but we feel that our money is much better used on fun stuff than a second vehicle. A second vehicle is a large money sink for a small amount of convenience.

I made $30k a decade ago when I lived in the Midwest ($36,000 in today's dollars) and lived very, very comfortably on that. Making more than double that now along with two incomes allows us to have the sorts of comforts and luxuries I couldn't have at $30k (homeownership, guest rooms, expensive travel, booze/restaurant money, coffee at DDs every day) while still saving.

We are happy and we are very blessed. We could buy more but we are happy with less. Part of why we save so much is to avoid being wage slaves as I don't feel that to be an ideal lifestyle.


It's refreshing to hear something like this, from a couple that is obviously so well grounded and living a balanced life.


Maybe you should stick your nose outside a bit more often? In Poland if you make ~$20k/year you are super rich, can easily afford to not just buy but build a new house. There's absolutely nothing miserable about it. Saying that "nowhere in the world" $55k provides a good life is just hilariously wrong.

Even in UK, I make ~$35k before tax and I'm living a very comfortable life.


That is bullshit. At $20k a in Warsaw (75k PLN/year, 6250/month), your take home is about 5000. The absolutely cheapest houses, run down shitholes from the communist era with few windows and lots of stairs, cost at least 600k in the city limits. That's your entire salary for 10 years just to cover the capital. With a 30 year mortgage you'd be paying half your salary.

It's been a long time since I've made less than $20k and I do well, but I have a 25 year mortgage on a flat, much less a house.


You picked the most expensive city in Poland, that's like comparing median salary in UK to living in London - you would be borderline poor.

Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk - 6250/month lets you live extremely comfortably.


Let's not ahead of ourselves. Earning $20k in Poland does not make you super rich. It's probably like making $100k in the US excluding NY, SF, similar places. Statistically, you're rich, but you won't feel that way.


I live in Lithuania actually and spend about $140K a year. I don't scrap by, but no luxuries either, i fly coach and stay in 4* hotels. My kid goes to best private school, that's about the only luxury i can afford, and that's just because i am really determined to help her not live her life in same shit as myself.


where is your money going? According to wikipedia, the average net annual income in Lithuania is around 7,400EUR (or 8,000USD) so you are in a very high income bracket for your country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_...

The fact that you say your kid is going to the best private school and yet you can't afford other luxuries (while clearly holidaying regularly) makes me think you may be disconnected from the average person's idea of what a luxury is.


I don't know why you don't consider flying and 4 star hotels to be luxuries. They are something poor people simply cannot afford.


This is surreal to read. Unless that private school of yours costs $120K/year or you have huge debts, there is no way you cannot afford a lifestyle that would be considered unambiguously luxurious compared to the population that surrounds you.


Are you talking about USD? You are seriously burning money somewhere if so.


I am curious as to what your definition of luxury or bring well off is


Either you're missing a couple of 0's there, or I should retire to Lithuania right now.


140K of course LOL


These numbers aren't adding up for me. How much did you pay in rent? $1500 a month (which seems reasonable for 10 years ago) comes to 18k a year.

Median household income in the U.S. is $56k a year, meaning half of all families get less than that.


Um. I lived quite comfortably for years in a US city of a quarter-million people on around $50K/year, before tax. Granted I had no dependents, a cheap apartment, and rode my bike to work, but I had money to buy everything I needed and most of the things I wanted, and I ate out most days. In major cities where a one-bedroom apartment costs $2000 a month, it might be a problem, but I was paying $400/month for a 1000 sq.ft. place near downtown. My parents in a smaller town were paying that much for a three-bedroom house, and thought my apartment was expensive.

Where are you living, and how much does housing cost there?


What? Are you for real? This a very clueless and entitled thing to say. I'll just leave this here: the world median income is less than $3k. Maybe reflect on this for a moment.


The average global income is half that number. 71% of the world lives on less than $10 a day.


The world median income is very very skewed by large numbers of subsistence farmers.


Come to Berlin. Rent is about 11€/m^2, so about 800 Euros provide enough room for you, your partner, and a child. Add about 600€ for food for three, and for about 17k Euros you have food and housing. That leaves you a couple hundred Euros each month for clothes, transportation and entertainment.


Almost anywhere outside of a major city will allow you to live on 55k a year comfortably. You would have to be diligent about budgeting, but this is doable. I lived in Saint Louis on 48k a year as a single guy, but i was also spending a lot on rent because i lived near the city center.

My brother lives in Saint Joseph, MO and is married and their combined income was close to the 50k mark. So this is doable.


Where have you lived?

> Nowhere in the world does $55K a year before tax provide anywhere like 'good life'.

Are you defining 'good life' in relative terms or absolute? Because 55k a year would put you in the top 1% of earners in many parts of the world.


Holy crap, dude, I make $35k a year and my life is fine. What on earth were you spending money on (10 years ago!) that you were miserable spending 60,000 dollars a year?


Actually, my girlfriend is the same. She tried working as an employee and even self-employed. But finally, she's happy being a housewife.

My mother and even friends frown upon me. Like I push her to be a housewife. Actually, I supported her working and even helped her to be self-employed. But she's most happy being a housewife.

I think people just want to have a big home, 2 cars annually 2 holidays and that costs a lot of money. Which means both have to work to support this life style. Luckily I make sufficient money to support us both.


My wife has always had traditionally-feminine work preferences, but she's felt a lot of shame from her more left-leaning friends and coworkers (we're both moderate liberals). Similarly, my office is very liberal, and I often feel a bit judged if I mention that my wife cooked my lunch or otherwise mention that my wife's hobbies are traditionally feminine. Ironically, our conservative friends and family have never said a word about whether she works or tends home; they're very laissez-faire about the matter. I don't mean to make a political point here; just an observation I found interesting in light of popular political stereotypes.


It's more than symbolic that the left has dropped the 'liberal' appelation for the more militant 'progressive.' It's no longer about respecting individuals, now it's about enforcing a particular strict ideology (as you've found).


The left is not a hivemind. There are people who self-identify as liberals but not progressives, and there are people who self-identify as progressives but not liberals, and there's those who mix and match.


Ive actually noticed that really there appears to be a pretty interesting split between progressives and conservatives. Leaving the middle "liberals" (really from both sides) caught in an awkward situation.

For example, being liberal usually implies greater freedoms, such as being pro-choice. However, it can also be pro-gun ownership, or anti-war, pro-research, etc. To me that's the dichotomy the U.S. is facing is really about the progressives and religeous conservatives duking it out, but (I'd argue) most people are much more moderate.

It's interesting to me that a third party (libertarians, or someone else) can't capture that group. As many liberals differ pretty substantially from the progressives, and concervative minded people just lump liberals and them together because they all identify as Democrats


I think those labels aren't really helpful when discussing individuals. A lot of people are in pretty much every part of the political spectrum simultaneously.

In fact, I prefer to classify political views differently, by splitting them into two buckets: those who have figured out that every issue needs an actually effective solution, and those who follow their ideologies blindly.


I self-identify as liberal and not progressive, for the most part, but I still consider myself to be on the left, not on the middle.

For the most part, my politics are similar to progressives - higher taxes, public healthcare, more expansive welfare (I support UBI), and social justice in general.

The reason why I don't consider myself a progressive is that I feel that the progressive ideology in US has largely abandoned the traditional concept of natural individual rights in pursuit of all these goals. You have people openly claiming that freedom of speech is not worth it if it gets in the way of criminalizing offensive speech, for example. Or how due process is an outdated notion that makes it hard to prosecute sexual harassment properly. Basically, the further left you go with progressives, the more individual rights are sacrificed to collective ones.

That, to me, is the line past which you can no longer meaningfully call yourself a liberal, since liberalism is all about individual rights, ultimately. Where left-wing and right-wing liberals differ is on the matter on how to best maximize those rights, and to what extent government regulation is advantageous or detrimental to that, especially on economic matters.

And, to some extent, on what those rights are, precisely - for example, I don't consider property rights to be fundamental natural rights (but then again, neither did Thomas Jefferson, and he sure wasn't left-wing!). Note, it doesn't mean that property is a bad idea - I think it's a social construct that is broadly useful, it's just not an absolute right (and hence taxation and wealth redistribution is not inherently an infringement on such).


Same issue in the Uk. Momentum (militant whacko commies) have been trying to claim everyone who is against May and her various ruinous policies should vote for Corbyn and his various ruinous policies.

Fortunately in the UK there's another voice at the table in between the extremes. People tend not to vote for them because of fear, and a misunderstanding of the soft power available in politics.


Steven Pinker talked about the idea of the "Left Pole". A mythical place where any belief that doesn't conform to your ideology appears to be right leaning. You can say the same thing about the right.

If I started a political party and wanted to capture myself. I'd just steal all the good ideas from all the parties.


Yep, I'd argue the results of the last election were the hard core conservatives and progressives duking it out with no one in the middle (the moderates or traditional liberals) with anyone to vote for. I say this because Trump got less votes than Romney and Hillary didn't bring the numbers Obama. People thought Hillary was a shoe in because that's what CNN and NY Times was reporting from their polls and didn't really have a candidate so stayed home. The more gerrymandering and other factors polarized politics further making moderate candidates untenable, the more a lot of people will just abstain as moderates feel left out of the political process.


The libertarians and socialists will both sometimes disagree with the social progressives, but disagree on most everything else. We need at least 6 or 7 parties to even come close, but under first past the post, it's impossible.

Personally, I would prioritize extensive political reform and reconstruction, but I fear the level of financial capture and constitution worship in the United States makes thus impossible.


Unregulated capitalism trends toward monopolistic market dominance.

The fundamental problem with the Libertarian ideology is that the emergent outcome is of a fully economically captured state.


If you identify as liberal in the UK right now you're called 'scum' by the people who run the left.


what?


What specifically are you asking about?


> Ironically, our conservative friends and family have never said a word about whether she works or tends home; they're very laissez-faire about the matter.

The fair comparison would be to see how they reacted if your roles were reversed: if she worked and you made her lunch.


First off, this isn't meant to generalize to the broader population of conservatives and liberals, and the statistically insignificant sample size is the number one reason why this anecdote would be unfair for such a purpose. That said, if my conservative acquaintances are more tolerant of a "left-of-center" arrangement than my liberal acquaintances, why would it be more fair to push the comparison further left?

Conservatives are supposed to be the ones that pressure people into gender roles, and liberals are supposed to be tolerant of all lifestyles. What point would be made if liberals were tolerant of a very, very non-traditional relationship, and our conservative friends were uncomfortable? That both groups have gender roles which they use social pressure to enforce? That the left isn't actually more tolerant than the right? That liberals have enjoyed an undeserved positive stereotype?


First off I'm not excusing what you're experiencing from your coworkers.

That said:

> if my conservative acquaintances are more tolerant of a "left-of-center" arrangement than my liberal acquaintances, why would it be more fair to push the comparison further left?

That isn't a left-of-center arrangement. It's a hundred+ year old conservatives dream (see: traditional family values), of course they're accepting of it.

The point of the opposite scenario is that it's non-traditional, and I GUARANTEE you that the acceptance would be reversed on both counts.

Obviously preferably the acceptance would be there regardless, when both you and your wife's roles are self-chosen, but you must see that it's easy from the outside to suspect that it's formed by traditional gender roles, even if it happens to be unrelated?

In the same way people generalize about a white man with a pacific looking younger wife, or just a younger wife in general, which isn't the same thing people think when they see an older woman with a younger man.

These things could be great, loving relationships, but the generalizations about them are at some point rooted in truth, because of a traditionally asymmetric power dynamic.


Or if he would embroider as a hobby or decided to be kindergarten teacher.


The Left is not the epitome of tolerance it pretends to be any more than the Right is the epitome of morality it pretends to be.

I remember very clearly who it was that made my mother miserable for daring to enjoy being a housewife and mother, and it wasn't our conservative friends.

I also remember who made our family miserable for loving and caring for my gay brother as he died of AIDS, and it wasn't our liberal friends.

( http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything... for an excellent essay on the topic. )


> for loving and caring for my gay brother

Is this the right, or the religious right?


Both.


"Living well is the best revenge"


My wife works as a teacher, 30 hours a week. It's not lavishly paid, and taxes are kind of heavy here (.dk). If she were to become a housewife, we'd be able to cut down to one car and we could even pull our youngest son out of kindergarten. All in all, it would be a very modest strain upon our economy.

So why not just do it, at least for a period of time? Partly because having a job can give a sense of purpose, partly to not lose her options for later, but most importantly because staying at home all day with nothing but kids to talk to is kind of hard on your psyche. After all, almost everyone else is at work.

Contrast that with her grandmother who was a housewife in the 1950s. According to her, there was plenty of manual work involved, and it could be stressful in its own ways. On the upside, the neighborhood was full of housewives. They would drop in for coffee, they'd look after each other's toddlers when necessary, and when the older kids came home from school they would pretty much roam freely with the other neighborhood kids. For better or worse, this kind of "infrastructure" is missing today.


Being housewife in the past was not like today - washing, cooking, shopping and all that took much more work then today. You also fixed cloth by yourself and had to sew. Even embroidery was more then just a hobby it is today, it had more practical function. On farm or withing peasants, there was a lot of garden and animals related work to do too. Which is one of challenges of staying with children now, you feel useless and underused a lot of time.

In here, you are expected to take a lot of time away of work while the child is small. Colleges were honestly horrified when I told I consider staying shorter. You are "just a housewife" during that time. It is love or their life for some women, but definitely not for most. That time is actually considered risk time for depression and alcoholism - people drink out of isolation and boredom and depression. Good think through is that you can talk openly about all those negative feelings with other women, you don't get shut up with "that was your choice be happy".

If you feel like trying it, I would say try it even if you are a man. Maybe it will work for you. It is more practical in some ways, but you became dependent on partner on a lot - not just money but also social stuff. There is a reason why women were supposed to be so much more talkative and on the phone constantly by 1950 stereotypes - because alone in the house most of the day.

I don't think switching would work for most people, you have to make a lot of changes. It is major lifestyle switch and adjustment period is tiring (both into it and out of it after). You will basically need new hobbies (old ones will be frustrating or cease to be satisfying or are impossible), need new ways of finding people to socialize with (when I work, the society is sort of around you without effort - the challenge is to be alone once in a while. At home you have to work on not being isolated.). You have to get used to slow speed of doing things and deadly routine suddenly and basically having to wait for partner while he is out and it is depressing until you do.

One issue is, your partner will not understand your challenges, they are not real challenges from his point of view as an employed person with deadlines and crappy boss nor what it is like - while you will slowly forget what it was like to be at work. That is where nagging wife stereotype comes from - she is supposed to exist for the sake of family which includes partner, but from partners point of view nothing of interest is at home (neither much duty or really fun). Which basically means, it can work but both needs to be aware of this risk and communicate well.


It often feels like two income households are counter productive. Sure, we make more money, but it feels like 2x the dollars chasing 1.5x the pie out in the world. And then you have to pay for childcare.

As for the household work, I was just telling someone today how much I miss being able to work all the time. I love my kids and they come first, but it's a sacrifice to for me not to work 12+ hour days.


As with almost all optimization problems, applying twice the resources (in this case, work hours) won't bring you back twice the (net) bacon, due to diminishing returns.

However, I think on net it is still more economically productive, at least in a large portion of cases.

It's unlikely that housework and childcare would optimally take up a full 50% of our entire reservoir of workable-hours, especially in the age of household appliances and childcare centres.


However, I think on net it is still more economically productive, at least in a large portion of cases.

"Economically productive" in what way? If you want to adopt a short term perspective of a particular nuclear family making X dollars over Y years, maybe.

But that's a rather shallow and irresponsible way of looking at things without accounting for what's better for the future society of our descendants, economically and otherwise.

What in most cases will produce a better quality of individual, a child raised at home by a loving mother, or a child shuffled off to some "childcare" to be looked after by a minimum wage worker absorbed in a smartphone half the time? (Not that all non-motherly childcare is like that, but you get the point)


Economically productive as in

1. the economy is bigger and produces more goods. 2. much of those goods are distributed to the two-worker families. 3. a few bored minimum wage workers can look after a very large number of kids.

The quality of childcare is on average a function of how much you pay. The boutique ones have professionally trained staff that get more than minimal wage.

But what about the families that can't afford any but the most rundown centers, I hear you ask? Won't they be better off under the old system? You know, the one where the economy was 30% smaller due to halving the labour supply?

Perhaps they would be living poor but honest lives, perfectly happy in their squalid conditions and lack of medical care.


Great point and I agree with most of your sentiment, but I'm not sure you got all of my point.

What I'm saying, and a big component of what I'm thinking about is housing costs, is that we're chasing the same things with more dollars. If household incomes double, expect the price of houses to follow suit. Assuming supply doesn't change, it doesn't help to earn 2x the money when all the bidders in the marketplace also have 2x the money.


>we're chasing the same things with more dollars.

you're missing the part where more demand creates more supply.

Sure, sometimes the market is distorted due to zoning, like in SF, and also land is finite, but generally speaking the market responds to the added demand by creating more housing, possibly denser housing. Same with other goods. Those are not empty dollars that got added into the system by fiat - they represent additional productive work done, and the goods / services they create is added to the economy.


Agreed. And that's why I said "assuming supply stays the same" when talking about the housing market. I don't think I was clear with what I meant by 2x and 1.5x. I'm assuming those dollars represent productive labor and that means that there's more supply.

My point is that I think the supply side isn't keeping up. The economy itself isn't bringing home 2x the bacon, but rather 1.5x the bacon when you're feeding all this extra labor into it. And yes, this is due to market distortions and diminishing returns.


This is the crux: my point is that 1.5x the bacon is often still worth 2x the labour. Seriously, despite all the moaning about materialism and consumerism, the economy as a whole has suffered from a severe lack of bacon ever since the first monkey exchanged some bacon for a back rub, and this is definitely part of the solution.


This is a very astute insight on a micro-economic scale. From a macro-economic scale, this is the difference between USA and, for example, French labor laws creating 40 vs 35/32 hour work weeks.


That works sort-of when the majority of the population is relatively well-off, though still inefficient. Not so well now with the immigration crisis and change in demographics.

The choice to sacrifice wages for more time with your kids is a luxury good, even if people choose to spend some of that time doing housework.


My wife and I found ourselves in this situation, and it there are slot of side benefits.

- We don't spend our weekends shopping.

- my wife can volunteer at my sons school and church, which opens up more social opportunities and keeps us tight with school.

- We spend less in clothes, groceries and eating out. The value of this is much greater than anticipated.

Overall, life is better. We're not driving new cars anymore. Other than that, the sacrifice is minimal. Her skill set is such that she can basically become employed again at any time.


>Other than that, the sacrifice is minimal.

This is the difference. If you were making, say, a quarter what you're currently making, perhaps the sacrifice would be huge.


I think you're right about two income households being counter productive. Why do we work so much? It's crazy to me that both parents will go to work, missing out on spending time and raising children (if they have them). Is the comfort really worth the time we could be spending with our children or just ourselves? I don't think so.


I was looking forward to that myself, too. My wife earns more money than I - and so we'd considered having me give up work to do childcare, instead of her.

As it happens though I think neither of us is going to need to. Maternity/Paternity leave here is almost a year, and by the time that is ended I think we'll be in a good place where neither of us needs to quit entirely, although there may be some part-time working now and again.


Same, in our marriage its a practical decision of who makes more. I work in tech and make 6 figures, my wife, has a 4 year degree in the sciences and thanks to defunding of the sciences, etc, would be lucky to make 45k as a lab tech. We did the math when we first had kids, and what she brought home after taxes, etc would be just slightly more than day care for one child, and simply wasn't worth the effort of working 40 hours a week just make a few hundred more.

If my wife could make more than I do and she might one day (we're working on business she's starting), I would quit my job in an instant and switch places if she wanted. I miss my kids, work late/nights frequently and feel like I often don't get enough time with them some days. Part of that is my own fault.

In either case, we're incredibly lucky that only one of us has to work to maintain a good lifestyle and at least one of us has the option staying home to raise our kids, give them more individual attention and education, etc. Many households are in situations where both parents have to work one or more jobs to maintain just an average lifestyle.


Me too. My wife (housewife) and I was discussing about swapping jobs as we both envied the other's


It's because women's lib effectively doubled the labor force, halving wages. Now only the top 3% can afford a house-spouse.


You might look into the insane stuff that has happened to housing. That is possibly a better explanation for why it now takes two incomes to try to keep a roof over our heads.


I hear repeatedly that "real wages have been constant since 1970". What started happening around then? Labor follows the same supply demand curves as any other commodity.


"Labor follows the same supply demand curves as any other commodity."

Yes, it does. The demand dropped.

What you hear about real wages is in reference to the US and other parts of the global north. Those manufacturing jobs moved to the global south and now there is less demand for them here.


Yes. I'd add collapse of labor unions, but that's rather a consequence. The perception of women taking jobs from men also follows from loss of male-dominated manufacturing jobs. Women did that work during WWII, but they were enticed back home afterward.



Econ 101.

More income is chasing the scarce resource that is housing. Thus prices increase (supply/demand curve).

It is the same with the cost of education increasing horrifically due to the open firehose of student loans making price no-longer-an-object-of-consideration.

Both are enormously overinflated bubbles.


In the 1950s, new homes were around 1200 sq. ft. and housed an average of about 3.5 people. These days, new homes are around 2500 sq. ft. and house around 2.5 people. They also have more amenities, such as appliances. Meanwhile, homelessness is on the rise and the availability of affordable housing has been shrinking for decades.

Excerpt from my own writing:

http://whathelpsthehomeless.blogspot.com/2015/09/affordable-...

Wages may play a role, but "housing inflation" in terms of houses getting bigger and more luxurious and thus forcing costs up absolutely is a huge problem in this country. Plus, we razed something like 80% of SROs in the 60s and 70s.

There is a huge and growing shortage of actually affordable housing in this country. This has been true for decades. It is one of the reasons I am not crazy about the idea of basic income. If we don't do something about this trend, it won't matter if you cut a check to all the poor people. Many of them will still be either homeless or crowded together horribly in situations they find objectionable.

We basically assume these days that single people in their twenties with entry level jobs should get into housing really designed for a family and share it with roommates. This is basically a post 1980 expectation. Historically, people rented a room in the form of an SRO or a room at a boarding house when they were just starting out. Now, we view those as something provided for chronic losers who can't find another way off the street rather than just cheap housing for single people who don't need much space.


Doubling the work force should not lead to halving wages. It should lead to doubling productivity, or halving the time spent working. The problem is that the extra gains from increased productivity aren't going to the workers, but to the bosses.

Until about the 70s or 80s, salaries of CEOs and workers grew at a similar pace. After that, the salaries of workers stagnated, while that of CEOs rose dramatically. Looks like that's where the profit of the increased labor force went.


You might find the following book interesting - my wife recommends it to many people. It's by Australian political writer Annabel Crabb.

The Wife Drought - Why women need wives, and men need lives https://penguin.com.au/books/the-wife-drought-9780857984289

"'I need a wife' -- It’s a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it’s not actually a joke. Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It’s a potent economic asset on the work front. And it’s an advantage enjoyed – even in our modern society – by vastly more men than women."


In the US - the number of stay at home dads is definitely growing (doubling between 1989 and 2012), but even in 2012, only 21% of those are voluntarily staying at home to take care of kids, while the majority are either disabled, or can't find work for another reason.

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/06/05/growing-number-of-...


Can't remember where, but I saw a stat recently implying that (on average) even when the unemployed father was the primary carer of children, the working mother still put in more time doing domestic chores, etc.


I'm not vilifying her because she found a way of succeeding in male-dominated world. I'm vilifying her because she kept a slave that she abused horribly. This story could have been a heartwarming tale of a non-traditional family if the parents weren't basically monsters towards Lola.


FWIW, I went and checked your comments and nothing you said was what I was talking about. I don't think your remarks about the mother had even been made when I made my comment.

There are people who are talking about the terrible thing the mother did when her own father wanted to punish her for lying and she said "Lola will take my punishment." Why vilify her and not her father, who made Lola a slave to begin with, who decided lashing was an appropriate punishment for lying and who went along with his daughter's suggestion that Lola could take the punishment? What teenager wouldn't want some means to get out of abusive treatment from their parent of that sort? Why is this so damning of her instead of her father?


> FWIW, I went and checked your comments and nothing you said was what I was talking about. I don't think your remarks about the mother had even been made when I made my comment.

I'm talking about what's in the article we're discussing. If you were talking about one specific incident only, you should have said that.

If the mother isn't responsible because her father was abusive, why assume that her father was responsible either? Maybe his parents were also abusive.

The cycle of abuse is an awful thing, but adults must take responsibility for their own actions.


For the record, I think you are misunderstanding my point.


Camille Paglia is a someone worth paying attention too on the changing roles of men and women, on what we loose and what we gain - https://www.c-span.org/video/?425137-2/camille-paglia-discus...


It's not uncommon to find situations like that in some areas. Families where both parents have well paying and intensive careers, and they hire a live-in domestic servant that ends up being somewhat of a substitute parent.


> All of the work in a traditional mother's role, well it's usually uncompensated too. Sure it's a "labor of love" but it's also just a huge amount of work, for decades. An argument could be made that the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated labor. Just ask your mom.

I mean the key difference here is the obvious one, which is that spouses have complete access to the other's money. period.

If Lola had been the equivalent of the mother and the mother the father, Lola wouldn't need to ask the mother for money -- she could just go to the bank with her marriage certificate and take it herself.

My wife and I live in California, a community property state. At the moment we married, everything that is mine became hers and vice versa.

Right now, for various reasons, she's not working and she does a lot of the housework. She's hardly a slave though. Firstly, if I didn't give her enough money to live on, she could just go to the bank. Secondly, if I hid my accounts from her, she could sue me for neglect. Thirdly, if I were to take on a mistress, she could sue me again for spousal neglect. Of course, the same would apply if the situation was reversed.

Let's not compare marriage to slavery. The entire institution of marriage is meant to prevent one spouse from controlling the other by simply making ownership joint. Show me a system of slavery where the slaves own the entirety of their master's estate, and I'll show you justice.


I understand your defensiveness over feeling that what I'm sure is a loving and nurturing union between you and your partner is being compared to forms of slavery, and you raise good points why a direct comparison would be overblown. However, I would be more careful with your choice of words here:

> The entire institution of marriage is meant to prevent one spouse from controlling the other by simply making ownership joint.

The way this particular point is phrased makes it sound like this was always the case. However, it is a very recent change in how the laws work, as a direct result of mainly women fighting for their rights. It used to be the case in many countries that only the men can decide to end a marriage, and I'm sure that is still the case in many places.

Maybe the legal framework of modern marriage in California is decent at guaranteeing equality, but that is not something to be assumed to be the general way marriage works, let alone something to be taken for granted. And I'm sure you'll agree that the institution of marriage is important enough that it deserves critical examination.


> My wife and I live in California, a community property state. At the moment we married, everything that is mine became hers and vice versa.

This is not correct according to my understanding. Community property is anything that is acquired after marriage (not including inheritance), any house that you both live in, or any accounts that become commingled during the marriage. If you have an investment account before marriage that you don't use to pay for stuff and don't add to with salary, then it remains individual property, even in California. I think being a community property state just means that community property is mandated to be split 50/50, not that all property becomes instantly community.


Consider what happens if one spouse loses a job and is forced to take one with half the pay. The spouse doing the work at home suddenly has to make do with less, even though their work has not really changed.

My point is not really about slavery, it is about how this example shows how much work there is and how difficult it is, and how we don't seem to account for it even in normal life.


The mother had to take on a traditional father's role in bringing home an income

This is the primary reason these domestic labourers are so common in the Philippines and in pinoy culture. Also, many men's involvement in their children's lives is non-existent or minimal. A lot of men get their girlfriends or wives pregnant and dump them quickly. So there's also a huge number of single moms in the Philippines. It's a matriarchal culture, and women (including servants, nannies, and housekeepers) are the glue that hold the culture together.


do you have any suggested reading about this topic? it sounds interesting


> the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated [domestic] labor

Absolutely. This observation was/is the catalyst of many leftist movements, for example Wages For Housework:

> The Campaign was formed to raise awareness of how housework and childcare are the base of all industrial work and to stake the claim that these unavoidable tasks should be compensated as paid wage labor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wages_for_housework


Who's supposed to pay these wages? To take a completely economic lens to it - not passing judgment - weren't these wages already priced in to a degree when middle class families were largely single-income by the male breadwinner, since those labor sectors largely excluded females, keeping worker supply low and allowing a higher prevailing wage?


Childcare is avoidable if you avoid making children.


Cool, then who's going to pay the bills when you're retired?


I understand your implication.

There are a lot of grown up adult children that are being supported by their elderly parents.

It doesn't always work out as you are implying.


Others children, of course. Unless there aren't enough, and then there's a problem.


Alrighty. Celibacy for the nation? Greatly better sex eduction? Greater access to birth control? Free sterilization for those who desire it? What about the times these things fail? And so on.

Most folks aren't cut out for celibacy, honestly. And every other option costs money. Besides, we actually need some folks to have kids, so we still have to deal with this sort of issue.


So, her name wasn't actually Lola. It was Eudocia Tomas Pulido. Lola was literally her slave name.

There's a lot to talk about in the article, and I'm not super-excited about digging deep into that here on hn, but I think it's worthwhile to point out her real name.


"Lola" was not her "slave name."

"Lola" is an affectionate nickname that means "grandma" in Filipino.


"Lola" was the name her owners called her. Affectionate is a complicated word here, considering that affection didn't change the fact that a woman was held in servitude to the Tizon family. The least we can do in this situation is try to stop erasing her real name.


I think you're reading far too much into my comment — of course it's deeply disturbing and troubling that this woman was a slave. I was not suggesting at all that calling her "Lola" in any way mitigates the horror of that. I'm only stating that in standard usage, that is what the word means in Filipino.


Lola means grandmother in Tagalog.


In US history some black slave women working in the house were called "Mammy"


"Lola" in latin america is a common feminine name. "Lola" in Philippines simply means grandma. You dont have have to be their real grandma to be called Lola. Any elder can be called Lolo (grandpa) or Lola (grandma) as a sign of respect.


>it's usually uncompensated too

In Western society, the act of marriage confers (often vastly) increased wealth and status to the lower status partner, and it is usually women who prefer to "marry up". Furthermore, it is also vastly more fulfilling and satisfying to care for one's own children than one's mistress's children. No two roles could be more different, frankly.


* Furthermore, it is also vastly more fulfilling and satisfying to care for one's own children than one's mistress's children. No two roles could be more different, frankly."

Speak for yourself. I'd much rather take care of other people's children. I can go home to a nice, child-free house, as I have no desire for children of my own.


    it is usually women who prefer to "marry up"
Regardless of preferences, what I'd expect to happen is that this would end up pretty balanced. Are a substantial fraction of high status women deciding not to get married? Much more than the fraction of high status men?


I've seen a number of articles about college educated women having trouble finding enough college educated men to meet the demand. Also consider the factor age can play in this, given that people tend to gain wealth throughout most of their life. If women married men who were a bit older than them, you would see a marry up effect and you would also have more widows at older age since their older husband has passed.


> An argument could be made that the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated labor. Just ask your mom.

My mom grew up during the Cold War. I haven't asked her specifically but I'm pretty sure she would just be confused by your comment. Women in the Soviet Union didn't get compensated either for domestic duties, like spending an hour standing in line to buy food staples.


I probably should have said "all economic systems since the dawn of time" but I took a shortcut that covers most of the modern world's economy instead. I certainly didn't say that communism was somehow different or better in this regard.


Welcome to HN, where all ills of modern society are labelled 'capitalism'.


Women actually control the majority of discretionary spending, and not because they make more money. The fact that there is no contract does not mean the work is not compensated.


Needless to say, spending and income are two different things. This is very easy to see if, for example, one spouse loses their job and the other continues to do exactly the same housework and child rearing -- but now can spend much less.


> but now can spend much less.

... or more (for the same amount of homework), if her spouse started earning more.


Yes, women control most of the discretionary spending in the Philippines as well.


Cite? I'd be very interested to read your sources.


Google for 'women control majority spending'. I'm not being snide- it is important to see how widely covered this is. You will find dozens of legitimate articles and papers discussing it. It isn't a controversial fact at all.


Marriage is a conteact, and usually entitles you to 50% equity.


Did you forget the /sarcasm tag, because history shows otherwise.

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you forgot that intent doesn't convey well through forum posts.


> "An argument could be made that the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated labor."

What? Non-capitalist societies don't have housewives?


Ever know a farm family?

I worked on a farm in high school. The wife drove a school bus and was like your grandmother. But... she ran the books, ran the pipeline of hard working students for summer labor, could throw 50lb hay bales when necessary and change a tractor clutch in a field with an just a wrench and a hammer.


Pre-Industrial agrarian societies have quite a different structure. A "housewife" is defined by a wife performing domestic labor supporting a husband who in turn participates in the market economy. That's not how it works on a farm, where the husband and wife both work on the farm.


And who owned the farm? In many such societies, only the husband--meaning the wife's work was still uncompensated.

The problem of uncompensated labor by women does not break down neatly on the borders of economic concepts like captitalism, agrarian, industrial, etc.


I thought mostly the farm was owned by landlords, with the people who worked there (male or female) being tenant farmers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenant_farmer



> An argument could be made that the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated labor.

In isolation, I think I can agree with that. But in context you seem to be making a moral point using "slavery" as a jumping-off point to an economic argument.

Needless to say, slavery isn't well-defined by "compensation". That whole "freedom" angle tends to be more important to most people.


Certainly one could question to what extent wage earners are truly "free" given the need to continue to perform wage labor to survive.


Thereby the term "wage slavery".


Yeah, but that one's been repeated so often people just tune it out.


Because if you think critically about that concept for a moment it falls apart. If people didn't have to work to earn wages in order to survive and simply had their needs provided by society there would be little incentive to work, thus few would work, and thus workers would have to be compelled to work by the state. Thus slavery. It solves no problem.


It seems strange that for the vast majority of human history most people were not wage workers and yet now we're positing that there is absolutely no other way to organize a society.


Prior to that you had feudalism where you farmed land and shared the spoils with a king, prior to that we simply murdered the unproductive and socially unacceptable by removing them from the village. So far this seems like the best option.


That seems like a pretty facile summary of the entirety of human history.


One could, and in response I think one would point to this very linked article, which does a really compelling job of exploring the distinction between a housewife (or wage-dependent employee) and a near-literally slave. It's not the same.


The traditional mother's role is compensated. They have their expenses, like heating, electricity, shelter and groceries, paid for by the breadwinner.

They are of course not compensated for what they provide their children, but the same applies to the breadwinner, whose expenditures on the children are not compensated. That's what child-rearing is: an expense in money and/or time.

This is not exclusive to the "capitalist system", and it does not just apply to the traditional mother's role.


Money is just a medium of exchange. An exchange without money is not 'uncompensated'. That makes it sound like she's living in a slave shed and has to come into the house every day to cook and clean.

The housewife and the traditional father consume the same products. They go on the same trips, eat the same meals together, live under the same roof, drive the same car(s), watch the same TV, sleep in the same bed, etc. Her work is just as compensated as his.


An argument could be made that the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated labor. Just ask your mom.

Are you insinuating that in a traditional nuclear family, where a father provides all the money for housing, food, clothing and sundry - the mothers house work constitutes "uncompensated labour"? And that this is the basis of capitalism?

What's your humane socialist alternative? Collectivising the children and raising them in a commune?


My point is that the systems we've built optimize for things we choose to measure. We're very much measuring and optimizing for money and the kinds of goods and services money can be exchanged for. But to a startling degree we're not choosing to measure all the other hard work that has to get done if we expect humanity to exist beyond one generation.

This article just puts it in stark relief for me. All of the work that Lola had to do for so many decades, working herself to exhaustion... all of that work still needs to get done for every other family too.


>We're very much measuring and optimizing for money and the kinds of goods and services money can be exchanged for.

"Money" is just a metric of economic value, and basically everything has an economic value, including leisure. The emotional and educational value of raising your own children instead of putting them in a daycare has a real economic value that can be measured in dollars. Just like housework has an economic value. Every family I know has weighed these values when they have children.


we could as a society pay (women) people for emotional labor and for taking care of children and elderly. we could choose to economically value teachers and nurses instead of economically devaluing "feminine" roles -- and creating economic value specifically for masculine-branded roles. (those moments when piloting and programming became branded and $$ as male professions)

in order to end professional segregation, we need not end capitalism so much as the patriarchy. we could redefine "masculinity" as cooking for one"s family, providing emotional support, and other domestic labor -- and stop assuming women need to do it or that a "masculine" worker's time is too important for doing their own laundry or their own dishes.

it's complicated, and testosterone may even be a disability in a sense, but many of the differences between genders are not biological so much as social constructs that re-enforce constructed economic inequality.

we can stop accepting and propagating a narrow status quo.


we could as a society pay (women) people for emotional labor and for taking care of children and elderly.

This tends to not work. Paying people to care often means paying people to pretend to care. This often goes bad places.

Furthermore, the history of paid work suggests that the unpaid labor of mothers in the family is the critical thing and we shifted "jobs" (gender based work) around to make family life still function while freeing up men to go do paid work in order to benefit all involved parties. Until around 300 years ago, most people were literally and directly working to put food on the table. Men hunted or raised crops. Women had vegetable gardens and did the cooking. Women did the sewing to provide clothing. Etc. Money was generally in short supply.

I write at times about such things on my blog. I hope we can find better solutions than what we are doing now. But your position is not really all that well thought out or researched. Reactionary stuff of this sort is not helpful. It tends to just entrench the problem.


"the history of paid work suggests that the unpaid labor of mothers in the family is the critical thing"

Thank you for this much needed shift in perspective. It should be obvious: mothers' work has been on the critical path for humanity, and other work has shifted around to accommodate it. This is such a forehead slapping observation.


You might enjoy the book More Work for Mother. (I don't know why this is being downvoted, but the book is about the history of how domestic labor was shifted off men to women to free men up to get paid jobs.)

http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-history-...


Thanks, will check it out.


>we could as a society pay (women) people for emotional labor

They already get paid for emotional labor with emotional reward.

>we could choose to economically value teachers and nurses instead of economically devaluing "feminine" roles

Maybe you could stop being sexist and calling things like education and nursing "feminine."

>in order to end professional segregation

If you can point out actual instances of sexism in professions I'll be happy to back you up. Differential outcomes is not sufficient evidence of sexism. There are sexist people out there, and I'll be happy to metaphorically march alongside you against any of them.

>it's complicated, and testosterone may even be a disability in a sense

LOL, testosterone is a disability? According to you testosterone lets one gender "win" so it sounds like estrogen would be the disability, right?

>, but many of the differences between genders are not biological so much as social constructs that re-enforce constructed economic inequality.

Maybe money isn't the most important thing in the world? Maybe instead of complaining that there aren't more women at the top of the income food chain, we should be asking why any men at all are willing to work themselves to death to get there? Maybe women enjoy better lives than men because they realize earlier on that it's our connections and family that matters the most in life and they live their lives accordingly while men generally don't figure that out until much later in life. Maybe the reason why reported happiness among women has been on the decline since we wrote all these laws encouraging families to break up and shoving women into the shitty corporate ladder lifestyle men have been on for longer should tell us something about life.


> They already get paid for emotional labor with emotional reward.

Great, so they can just pay the rent with emotional reward then.

> Maybe you could stop being sexist and calling things like education and nursing "feminine."

Clearly these occupations have a larger percentage than average of female workers, they're associated with women, and probably not coincidentally, they also have low pay and low prestige. I don't know why it's the "enlightened" move to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend that's not the case.


>Great, so they can just pay the rent with emotional reward then.

Keeping with gender roles... should we pay men to mow their own lawn? Of course not, people cut the lawn themselves to save money when compared to hiring a lawn service. Every dollar a family doesn't spend on lawn service or daycare is a dollar that can be spent on food or shelter. We do put an economic value on the domestic work that women do and every family I've ever known has seen it exactly that way.

>Clearly these occupations have a larger percentage than average of female workers, they're associated with women, and probably not coincidentally, they also have low pay and low prestige.

I feel like you just have a complete lack of understanding of how market value for skills and labor is determined. Picking crops is a field of work that has a larger percentage than average of male workers, it's associated with men, and probably not coincidentally, it also has low pay and low prestige. See how silly that sounds? The only thing that matters is whether or not women are intentionally being kept out of fields they're qualified for. Find specific instances of sexism, let's go get them! If salaries of teachers are too low it's only because there are too many qualified people in the market willing to perform that labor.

>I don't know why it's the "enlightened" move to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend that's not the case.

The fact of the matter is that sexism has a real economic cost. If it's true that women are underpaid then hiring men comes at a premium. If it's true that women are being undervalued in the market then certainly there's at least ONE business owner who can hire up all these women and take over any given market because they can keep all that extra profit, right?

Look, I'm not saying there's no such thing as sexism. I'm not even saying that there aren't likely many cases of sexism in employment. But we know rather scientifically that after a relatively low income level more money doesn't increase your happiness. Maybe women are wiser than men and choose career paths which afford them a better work life balance so they can spend their time doing other things that matter to them. Maybe being a top tier lawyer where a client can call you a 3am on Christmas morning and expect you to work for the next 12 hours because they have $100 million on the line is a shit way to live, and maybe we shouldn't be all that concerned that women tend to choose a different path in life.


> If salaries of teachers are too low it's only because there are too many qualified people in the market willing to perform that labor.

Alas, in the environments I've been in, that's definitely not the case. A shortage of qualified teachers doesn't trigger pay rises, it triggers a change in the qualifications required to be considered a teacher. 15 years ago, my Biology teacher was a fresh-out-of-university BioChem major and graduate, with no teaching experience or qualifications, but a nice enough personality and thrown into teaching sixth form A-level Biology (last 2 years of school before university, for which the results are used to determine whether or not you get into your chosen university or not)

I got lucky, and still managed to pass my exams and get into university, but he's the first to admit he wasn't qualified for the job, and that we all succeeded mostly in spite of him, rather than because of him.

The point being is that salaries are not just a pure function of supply and demand. There are many other factors at play. The markets are not always right.


>The markets are not always right.

"Right" is kind of a loaded word. The markets may not reflect your personal values towards education, and also don't really reflect mine either in this case. But I suspect that the market still reflects the aggregate value society places on education. There's a small caveat here for government legislated requirements and salaries will lag because government is slow to react. For what it's worth though, my understanding is that private school teachers, whose salary and benefits are not legislated, tend to be paid less than public school teachers. They are probably a more accurate reflection of the market value of teachers.


It really is up to society if they want to subsidize child rearing. On one hand, we really don't have a dire need for population - reproductive rates right now are sustainable, and we should be trying to disincentivize those from having kids who cannot afford it. They are very expensive and time consuming.

On the other hand, people have kids anyway, and then the children suffer when the parents cannot afford them (in either money or time with them, as is the case of most two income households). It isn't a black and white moral situation though, because you don't want to put people in the state of mind that having children can be profitable.


We did optimize for that, and our optimizations became gendered division of labor that enforced rigid gender roles.


> What's your humane socialist alternative? Collectivising the children and raising them in a commune?

This was tried in the kibbutz and is almost unanimous that it failed completely.


I'm aware of that.

People often make indirect little attacks against capitalism here as some kind of socialist dog whistle. I want to call them out, and asking what concrete things they propose. Anything they can put to words has likely already been tried and ended in disaster - people advocating for misery need to be exposed for what they are.


Is there argument here that literally nothing whatsoever could be better than the system we currently live under? The one where we're hurtling toward ecological catastrophe and essentially no mitigation is being done?


Is there argument here that literally nothing whatsoever could be better than the system we currently live under?

Potentially, I suppose. The only alternatives I hear being peddled are socialist though. So I associate any petty wry remark about "in capitalism, so and so" as a socialist agenda pushing.

In 2017, I don't think it should be considered at all acceptable to advocate socialism in polite company. We've failed that experiment every time we've tried it, we're witnessing two horrific failures in Venezuela and North Korea right now.

Socialism is an extremist view, that ruins peoples lives, and should be marginalised at every turn - the same way Nazism is.


Don't take a criticism of capitalism as socialist agenda pushing. Acknowledging that some services are best provided by the public sector does not mean that one wants the private sector to disappear. Extreme socialism has been a disaster every time, extreme capitalism seems like it also brings some horrific injustice and poverty for many of its subjects.

In one case there are no groceries on the shelves, in the other the shelves are fully stocked, but you can't afford anything anyway. Either way, a few are very powerful and many have their basic needs go unmet.


The main problem here is acting like there are two simple categories that we can easily sum up, "capitalism" and "socialism", with no gray area or alternative conceptions available for consideration.


Even if we accepted your view of the topic I don't think advocating a policy that has ruin as a consequence is the same as advocating a policy whose explicit goal is ethnic cleansing. Also, the reason you're seeing a resurgence in interest in alternatives to capitalism is that it's working out poorly for more and more people. Policies like for-profit medicine are equally capable of ruining people's lives or outright killing them.


well, who has more economic freedom in the traditional nuclear family? the humane alternative would be to figure out some way to let housewives have their own money, based on the labour they do, not have to depend on their husbands' whims for it. the problem isn't staying at home to take care of the kids, it's that that role gives you less societal advantage and autonomy than the "going out and getting a job" role.


An argument could be made that the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated labor.

This is kind of an odd damning of capitalism, because no matter how we organize society, there is going to continue to be mothering so long as our species is to survive. And whatever societal system we may have, that society is going to be built in large part by mothering.


Yes, be we can do different solutions.

I'd also like to point out that the statement would not only include mothers, but children and slaves of different sorts. The current equivalent is likely things like community service, prison labor, homeless working in stores to stay in shelters, and charities - at least in the US.


Unfortunately, things were no better in Soviet-block countries. Perhaps, working women were a little more common, but it was (and probably still is) a far cry from true equality.


Soviet-block countries, especially USSR itself, were actually rather socially conservative, at least from Stalin on. Traditional gender roles in general, and as they pertain to nuclear family, were part of their internal propaganda.


Well, even the boss you have a lawful signed contract with would take your free work without much complaint.


"An argument could be made that the entire capitalist system is built upon uncompensated labor"

right. time to move to venezuela.


It's like ... slavery-lite. Fundamentally what's the difference between Lola's role and a common role of a wife a hundred years ago?* And second – a dangerous question – is it necessarily wrong? I ask not to lead one to believe to think that it isn't, certainly there are aspects which are unquestionable immoral, but is there room for such a social construct? More importantly, answering why not in a robust way could make the societal goal of maximizing each individual's personal freedom a little closer.

* not that every wife was treated like a slave or that there aren't still women who are


There never wasn't room for unpaid domestic labor, insofar as cultural acceptance of the role. The economy has stagnated the incomes of so many people for so long most cannot afford, on a single salary, to provide living arrangements for such a job plus children.

There is no room in a civilized society for bondage and servitude through violence. Eudocia in this story was never given the choice until she had lived the slave life so long she was no longer able to adapt out of it, and that is fundamental to any moral discussion.

Strangely, it seems if you give people the necessary tools to have an option, ie, a public education, then nobody seems to willingly choose this lifestyle. There is no real barrier to stop someone from the street knocking on my door and asking to be my surrogate housewife for free, as long as they are doing it of their own free will.

What is important to remember is that Eudocia's behavior was conditioned through coercive violence. She never had the chance to live for herself. She was forced through threats and abuse to be the person she was, as a product of an environment that gave her no reasonable alternative. We should never wish that on anyone.


>There is no room in a civilized society for bondage and servitude through violence.

Absolutely, I think the point I'm trying to make is that slavery or something a whole lot like it has existed long since explicit buying and selling of human lives ended. To make an inappropriate cultural reference, many different situations "just sound like slavery with extra steps"

> a product of an environment that gave her no reasonable alternative

I think a whole lot of poor people in America and the world beyond don't really find themselves it conditions much different than this sort of slavery. Coercive violence and lack of choice not excepted. The illusion of choice and freedom that a tiny wage give doesn't necessarily make liberty real, it just makes slavery a little more difficult to recognise.


The Fine Article mentions a number of times where Lola was not allowed freedom of movement. She had no freedom of movement, no pay (or ability to direct money), no personal life, no say in what she did, and was kept in place by fear. It certainly wasn't the common role of a wife a hundred years ago to be kept from a dying parent, for example.

The nature of her labour is not what made Lola a slave; it was the circumstances around that labour.


I am not readily finding citations, but I recall one of my history professors stating that the veil was heralded as a vast improvement for women in terms of freedom in some parts of the world because, historically, women in a lot of places left the house twice in their life: Once to get married, a second time to get buried. The veil allowed them to at least leave the house.

I don't think you know as much about the history of women as you think you do. This is probably not due to personal defect. Most history focuses on the accomplishments of men out in public. The lives of women tend to be more private and a lot of it just does not get recorded or noted. But I am a woman, I have been a history major, I did the homemaker and mom thing for a lot of years and I have had a class in the history of women and have read books out of personal interest on both women's history and the history of slavery.

The role of a wife and mom is often not as different from Lola's as you seem to assume.


> I don't think you know as much about the history of women as you think you do.

Well, I know enough to know that 'women only left the house twice in their life' is an outlier, not a yardstick. You can just as easily point out nomadic herder groups where there is almost zero gender power imbalance, with the women and men sharing equal power, and it's just as wrong to suggest that that is somehow historically representative as 'normal'.

I'd call a woman that was kept to a house and never allowed out to be a slave anyway. Well, perhaps a 'prisoner' if not forced to do work.

> The role of a wife and mom is often not as different from Lola's as you seem to assume.

My point was that Lola was a slave not because of the kind of labour she did, but because she was forced into that labour and not allowed freedom of movement. The list of things I wrote wasn't meant to be a canonical description of what defines a slave, but parts of her life that defined it for her. Unlike wives (who by definition at least have a husband), Lola had no-one and no permission to even try. She didn't even have a bed to sleep in when the others did. But in history, some slaves were encouraged to have families, homes, beds. Some slaves historically did get some pay, and likewise direct money. The article even describes slaves that owned their own slaves.

The mistake the GP made was confusing role with circumstance. Just because Lola's role was mothering, doesn't mean that mothering is slavery.


An awful lot of women have so little real choice that they are de facto forced into the role of mothering.

It boggles my mind that with all the years I have participated in good faith on this forum while largely failing to make the business connections I came here to make that men on this forum can say this sort of stuff to me with a straight face. I was one of the top students of my entire state in high school. I have six years of college. I worked for a Fortune 500 company for over 5 years. Yet I continue to be frustrated in my attempts to figure out some way to establish a successful and profitable business, but you are telling me women are free to choose something else at will in a world where men typically make more money than women and being a woman is a huge obstacle to breaking into business or otherwise having a serious career.

There is a reason an awful lot of women throw their hands up and either go along with marrying well or go into sex work. If my medical situation did not preclude sex work as a viable option for me, I would have thrown in the towel years ago and just moved to Nevada where that is legal.

The odds are very much stacked against women having career success like a man. To some degree or another, most women get a large portion of their money from a man they are either related to or sleeping with. Thousands of years of progress has not fundamentally changed that fact.


I thought this was a reasonable and strikingly good faith comment. I do not know why it is receiving such punitive downvoting. Thank you for sharing your historical perspective.


How did my grandparent comment strike you?


Generally on the right track, but ham handed in delivery.

If you really want to engage such ideas in public effectively, it helps to up your game in terms of framing. People tend to be unforgiving and will tend to remember what they thought you meant and will tend to not give you a second chance to clarify. There are a number of people on HN who are quick to vilify people as presumed MRAs etc. Due in part to the generally high education levels here, it is a tough crowd.

Best.


It might not have been the nominal role of a wife, but shared characteristics of that life were not uncommon.


The heartache in Lola's story is not the bit about her caregiving.

You ask what the fundamental difference between Lola and last-century wife? Hiding her from public view and not letting her out of the house seems like a pretty big one. Refusing to let her visit sick and dying parents seems to be another. Expecting her to sleep on the couch or the laundry looks like another. Not letting her have friends outside the family seems to be yet another. There's tons of differences if you look beyond the kind of work she spent her life doing.


It also shared characteristics with the life of an animal that were not uncommon. I think the comparison risks trivializing what is described.


I'm not trying to trivialize slavery but force a recognition that's there's a hair's breadth difference between many instances of being a domestic slave and very many instances of being a housewife. One is demonized and the other is celebrated.

The way you hear a minority of Bible-enthusiasts talk about the role of a wife is in _no way_ different than the slavery described in the article.


While there may be some similarities, "no difference" is way too far. Even the most extreme fundamentalist at least in principle is going to acknowledge that Paul wrote in Ephesians that as Christ loved the church a man should love his wife as his own body. And in a more practical sense I can't imagine most of even patriarchal husbands would let their wives' teeth fall out and deny them dental care.


Having a servant who is paid but is well-cared-for is problematic, but not necessarily wrong. Having a servant who is abused daily, made to sleep on the floor, kept away from her family, forced to work when sick, denied medical care for no good reason, and not allowed to leave is blatantly obviously wrong. There's nothing but physical/sexual violence distinguishing this from the horror stories of the pre-Civil War American South.

That much at least is pretty black and white, and even 100 years ago that was not the default state of most wives, so I'm not sure what point you're trying to make, and I'm certainly not sure what you think is "lite" here.


That should say "unpaid but well-cared-for," of course.


Slavery-lite strikes me as a very unfortunate neologism.

I think you are putting too much emphasis on the formal status of wives a century ago, and not enough on actual social mores, but regardless of whether that is so, it is not much of an argument for what is right.

I am so confident that a robust case against slavery, that is also applicable to this situation, has already been made, that I will take my chances that someone calls "citation needed" on me.


Great read! Many Asian countries have the concept of live-in housekeepers. I think the 'best' (scraping the bottom, here) arrangement is in Singapore, where the government, laws, and law-enforcement ensure that immigrant live-in housekeepers are treated fairly- kinda like au pairs, etc. in the US. I knew someone in India who brought their live-in maid's sister to the US in some capacity (and AFAIK, paid her wages- she returned happier and was able to put her kids, etc. in better schools).

I am pretty sure some of these arrangements, especially in poorer Asian countries like India, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc. are effectively, slavery.

In most cases in Asian countries, live-in housekeepers are paid wages and their families are provided with various amenities and help- kinda like a very small-scale version of the servants' lives in Downton Abbey. But, there are at least two very serious problems: 1. cultural norms allow the servants to be treated very poorly- as second-class citizens, 2. while obscure well-meaning laws exist to prevent trafficking in India, law enforcement doesn't care much if they are treated shittily (physical/mental abuse, nonpayment of wages, etc. often go unreported or are ignored by cops).


Abuse is rampant in Singapore as well though. For example, if a maid becomes pregnant, they have to leave Singapore immediately and the employer gets fined -- so it's common to lock them in the apartment 24/7/365 for however many years their contract is.

Legally, they're supposed to have one day a week off, but in practice this is not enforced and the maid has no leverage: many have paid large sums to brokers and need to work several years just to repay their debts.


Yes, I've seen families in Malaysia and Singapore that really treated their housekeeper badly. In a lot of cases, they are not allowed to go out of the apartment either because of potential pregnancy or because they are scared of the housekeeper stealing things from them.

They bring housekeepers from Indonesia and pay them very little. The housekeepers have to work a lot of hours and are pretty much treated as slaves. Often, the housekeepers are not allowed to eat at the same table, they have to eat after everyone has eaten, they don't sleep in a proper room but rather in a storage room.

At least, there's a contract and they do get money at the end but it's really a hard life and hardly more freedom than being a prisoner.

It always shocked me when I saw people that I thought were educated and friendly treat their housekeepers this way.


I only can speak for malaysia and yes this issue doesn't get brought up much, it's quite sickening to be honest. What is even more interesting is that most of the housekeepers are hired by the middle class, the same middle class that is wants racial equality in malaysia..


Exactly, it's the cognitive dissonance of those people wanting racial equality: being open minded and then hiring housekeepers and treating them badly. That cognitive dissonance surprises me and shocks me.

I have no issue with people hiring housekeepers but the work conditions absolutely need to be decent. And if for some reason they feel that there's too much risk in being decent, then they shouldn't hire a live in housekeeper, they could also easily hire locals to help with some housework.

Of course, that's not everyone, I have some Malaysian friends who treated their live in housekeeper with respect, let her take some holidays and even helped her set up her own business when she went back to Indonesia. But, that's the exception rather than the norm.


You'll find that a lot of people want equality when it means they gain something, but get quiet when equality means they have to do something.


Middle-class non-ethnic-Malays?


No middle class malaysian citizens.


wouldn't Malays and non-Malays have differing enthusiasm for racial equality?


urban malays although less enthused about it tend to skew towards having an equal playing field.


Very true; a former coworker grew up with a "housekeeper" in HK. She told us stories about how her dad slipped the housekeeper extra pay and Christmas bonuses because her mother refused to allow it. She said her mom would have been irate if she had found out. To her mother such people were disposable servants not worth consideration.

I really can't understand such a mentality.


I would add the counterpoint, however, that HK housekeepers can live lives much better than some HK citizens.

Room and board is given to a housekeeper. That in and of itself can translate to thousands a month in rent and many times, are better living conditions than HK citizens can afford.


Humanity is both so strange and so static. We got 'rid' of slavery in most of the world no later than a century ago. It was bloody and difficult to do, but we managed it. Yet, there are still people living as just the same as slaves century or more ago, in a world of space ships and the internet. Yeah, tech has helped, we don't have smallpox anymore and the mass famines have stopped recently, but the deeper gestal psyche is the same. The old saying of history repeating itself if you do not listen to it comes to mind. But, what can we do, humans are still humans, basically the same for the last ~10k years. No matter how much we want to change, how much time and effort and writing and money and sweat and blood and death and war, we cannot. Its not that we are dystopian now, maybe, its that we have always been so.


When you go searching for meaning, chase all the leads, trying to separate wrong from right. What you find is that beyond all the pop culture tropes, the outrage and terror about the latest and greatest paedophile revelation, evil greedy capitalists banker stories, murderous terrorists and backstabbing trophy wives and all the other stories about 'true monsters'. You'll find that all the monsters are just humans. Just like you and me.

It's easy to see from far away what is bad, people all over the western world can point at Hitler in their history books as an example of absolute evil. But then we'd be missing the complete picture, which is so much worse if you cling to a traditional view of good and evil. Normal school curriculum (at least where I'm from) does not teach about the horrific things Belgium did in the Congo up until the 1960s Or any of the other decimations/genocides caused directly or indirectly as a result of occupation by the various colonial powers. Or all the terrible things our ancestors did even further in the past when news spread so much slower or not at all.

There was a Byzantine king named Basil. Who, after defeating a Bulgarian army and capturing a number of their soldiers, blinded 99 out of every 100 captured soldiers and sent them back to Bulgaria to cripple their economy and to sabotage future war efforts. Man is a savage evil creature imo. I don't think we ever truly can change. The civilization I and many others enjoy in the western world is a fragile thing I think. And if we can't make it stick and spread, and I don't think I can, then when the troubles get too bad we'll be back to savagery soon enough, or not as the bomb is still hanging above our heads even if it doesn't feel like that any more.


There are good people and bad people. There are monsters and humans even if monsters may have human shape and form.

There is good and there is evil.

One evil act does not absolve another.

Goodness lives forever and evil does not die either


“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Jordan Peterson talks about how one of the most important things you can do to become a well-formed person in terms of moral reasoning is to realize that you're a Nazi. You're a concentration camp guard. You'd do it, by choice. It takes a lot of discussion and examples and thought to get to the point where this is really understood, but it's true and it's important.

I'd say the main thing that convinced me is that I realized that there are people I'd like to see suffer. Not because it'd lead to some external outcome, but just because I want them to suffer. You can see this every day in politics too. People who want to hurt just for the joy of hurting. You can hear it in their voices when they knock people down at a protest and hurl dehumanizing snarl terms at them.

And this is present on every 'side'. The only possible difference is in how much each side embraces this impulse.

Once this is understood - that people aren't divided into good and evil groups, but rather that every person is both good and evil - a lot of questions and problems look quite different from the common "good people vs evil people" frame. A lot of policies and historical judgments start to look pretty dumb.

And, in fact, the idea that some people are evil is a foundation of evil acts. The false belief that someone is pure evil is what gives you the excuse to feel good about making them suffer.

It's ironic that wrong beliefs about the shape of evil in the world are themselves a foundation for evil.


Thank you for that. It is very hard to remember that good also lasts just like evil. So, I guess, choose what you will and know that they both will live on past yourself.


When I was in the Boy Scouts, we had this saying for when we were out camping and hiking. It was "you're only as fast as your slowest hiker". I realize that the context here isn't the same but the concept is still very much applicable. We as a species can only be judged and advance as fast as our as the 'slowest' of us are willing to move.


This is a very good point! Thank you. If this is the case, that we can even be judged as a whole, then it is sad. But it gives the proper perspective on what our species should be working on in a moral way. Bringing up the 'bottom' though difficult, is much more noble and better for us all than the efforts of trying to get the 'top' even higher. Maybe this is something many older religions have recognized


The past is still with us, it just isn't evenly distributed any longer.


While Lola's story is certainly tragic, it's a tangibly different class of slavery than that which existed in the western world 2 centuries ago. Chattel slavery is far, far crueler and not comparable


The dystopia has been abstracted.


Having lived in Brunei, culturally very similar to Singapore, I know a thing about this. I was a kid at the time and we had an "amah" and her family living in our house (or rather, in the servants' quarters on the ground floor, while we lived in the main residence on the floor above that). Most of the foreigners were Dutch and English people, in the employ of Shell. For us, a Dutch family, the concept of having a servant was a very alien concept.

Our amah was a very friendly lady and had a relatively easy life with us -- helping with the cleaning of the house, doing the laundry, and washing the dishes, no cooking or raising us kids -- and was paid quite well. Even though it's been 30 years, I still remember helping her out by drying the dishes and visiting her family.

What shocked me personally was the exploitative nature of many other families, from what my parents told me, the British tended to have this more than the Dutch, though I can't be sure. My parents actually got in trouble with others who didn't appreciate their "spoiling the market" -- by paying wages that they considered fair, which was at approximately 250% of the going rate -- and by not working them to the bone. It still boggles my mind.


Can you elaborate on why some live-in maids in those countries are effectively slaves, but a maid that comes to the house daily would not be?

What is the significance of the live-in part?


It makes the maid dependent on the family -- you can't quit or look for a better job because you'll be homeless.


It is very similar to the now illegal idea of a Company Town, but at a smaller scale.


You're trapped in a house with no way to leave, no money, no options.


If they live elsewhere they definitely have freedom of movement.


> Many Asian countries have the concept of live-in housekeepers.

As educated as the HN crowd is, I'm surprised so many people are susceptible to stereotypes.

Perhaps because most people on HN are rather wealthy and well off, when they visit Asia they hang around other rich Asians.

So yes, among rich Asians, the idea of a live-in caretaker maybe common, but they are the minority.

This would be like some rich Asian people hanging out with rich Westerners and saying, "many Western countries have the concept of live-in butlers and maids."


It's incredibly common. A live-in caretaker/helper in Hong Kong is about $500 USD/month. In South East Asia, it's a fraction of that.

You are completely ignorant of the situation if you think otherwise. The Hong Kong government has even set up special visa programs for helpers: http://www.immd.gov.hk/eng/services/visas/foreign_domestic_h...


As others have mentioned, it actually is quite common. Part of the reason is that the going rate for hiring any sort of unskilled labor is much lower in Southeast Asia and South Asia, compared to North America. (Another way to say this is that income inequality is greater.) So if you're "middle class" in South/Southeast Asia, you're more likely to be able to afford a domestic helper than if you're "middle class" here (where you could only afford to hire your own domestic help, say a babysitter or a nanny or a maid or a food delivery guy, for only a small portion of your time) simply because of the wage differences.


Incredibly ignorant statement. In many parts of Asia, including South Asia, having live in servants is very common. Philippines and Indonesia are just two examples.

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