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My Family’s Slave (theatlantic.com)
1419 points by aaron695 40 days ago | hide | past | web | 606 comments | favorite

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:.


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:


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)


>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 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?


"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:


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.


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.


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.


> 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.)


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.


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.

What an incredibly deep and well written story. I did not know or appreciate that the author Alex Tizon died a few hours before publication - and this piece was his Faustus, the one personal story he struggled for years to write.


I rarely use the word masterpiece, but it feels appropriate here.

I wholeheartedly agree, I was deeply moved by this and loved his writing style so much and wanted to read something else by him. Shocking that he died so soon, seemed like such a good man.

well said -- I just came here to post that same link

Most of the guys I went to engineering school with were Indians (Brahmins), and they'd frequently mention how the jobs here paid more, but they still wanted to go back to India because they'd have to treat their servants "differently" here. I just assumed it was a payroll issue. Perhaps I assumed wrongly.

It varies from area to area and case by case, ranging from servants who live in nearby shanty towns who are payed "technically livable wages"; To live-in servants who are paid what we would consider unfair wages, but compensated in food and board.

Even among the live-in servants there will be huge ranges in the fairness (or in this case, existence) of the wages they get, the amount of respect they are given, the quality of the food/board, the amount of free time they get, and the amount of rights they are allowed to express.

There is a saying : “To the privileged, equality feels like oppression.”

If you already belong to a community in a geo-location which holds and controls entry to key places in every walk of life. It makes zero sense to migrate to a different place and stand in the queue like a plebeian.

That's a good one. Is there a source, or is it just a folk saying?

It's not great, as it's often abused as a soundbite to defend any unreasonable accusation of privilege.

Did you usually ask your Indian clasmates' caste? Or did they volunteer that information themselves?

Many Brahmins I know can't help themselves but tell others about it, unlike people from other castes.

Ha ha, you must know enough people from both sets ;)

I've found that vegetarian-ism is a stronger indicator than someone telling me they are Brahmin. Or, if they are somewhat practicing, their sacred thread is sometimes visible.

Do only Brahmins wear a thread?

If you're familiar with Indian culture you can kind of tell the caste from the surname.

Don't know how contemporary this advice is, but this seems to be the guidance: http://www.hindubooks.org/scriptures/manusmriti/ch2/ch2_31_4...

In many parts of India, in most cases, Mr Foo Bar's kid will be called Baz Foo. So as people start calling their kids more modern names not derived from Sanskrit, the text you linked starts getting outdated.

Not really. Sure you can most likely tell a Brahmin by their surname. But anything below that in the caste hierarchy and hard to tell. For example in Gujarat, many lower caste people have last names that are same as Rajputs. They changed their names to avoid discrimination.

Oh definitely agree their. I've met a quite a few Indians (I assume some were Brahmin) in university. They all shared the same surnames like Chakrabati, Mithra, Gupta, etc. Yet, none of them were even remotely related. I was told the names were derived from castes.

In the west we still have nobel names like "de la", von, etc. as indicators that this person is of royal decent.

I'm a little bit familiar with Indian culture; I think it's not that easy to tell the caste from the surname. It's probably easier to figure out if someone is Brahmin I guess.

Whenever we'd talk girls, if I suggested someone who wasn't a Brahmin, first they'd look at me as if I were asking them to date livestock, then they'd tell me they only date Brahmin girls.

Here in HK I sponsor the visa of a Domestic Helper from the Philippines. Her situation is obviously better that Lola but the cards are really stacked against them.

They are literally second-class citizens: their visa doesn't entitle them to any hope of becoming full-time residents, regardless of how many decades of their life they spent in the service of others. The whole Domestic Helper's contact is a sham: there is rampant abuse and very little interest in enforcing any of the few rights they have.

It is a form of institutionalised slavery. Hundred of thousands of helpers are taking care of people's kids and the elderly, they are indirectly essential to the success of the economy, yet get little recognition for it.

Weird question, but why do you still do it if you feel they are second-class citizens? What's the general local attitude towards domestic helpers.

I've been to HK and I was personally shocked at my local acquaintance's attitude towards them (negative). At a philosophical level, this is a form of slavery/racism/caste system. At a pragmatic level, nobody in HK wants to do their work, people in the Philippines need the income, and most situations are mutually beneficial. So why not?

You hinted at the reasons: the work they provide is useful and they need it to provide income to their families.

The system is skewed against them but it doesn't mean you have to take advantage of the lack of protective rights to abuse your power over their life.

The helper I sponsor is basically free to do what she wants. She comes a few hours a week doing basic household chores. She is paid decently and is able to take holidays back home a few times a year and work for other people to increase her income.

It's one of those situations where it only feels horrifying because you're seeing it.

Assuming these helpers aren't being tricked into taking the work, they are choosing it. Which means that whatever alternatives they face in their homeland (and out of sight of the wealthy intelligentsia) are even worse.

What would be terrible is if this opportunity was cut off to assuage the consciences of the wealthy, whether by preventing these visas or by forcing minimum compensation up such that people demand fewer of them.

This is like building a wall around a starving village so you don't have to look at the suffering kids, and pretending you've solved the problem. You didn't solve their problem - you solved yours.

In truth the problem has to get solved in the home country of these workers, and most of that solution has to come from them. Foreigners can't descend on a stable society and improve it, they often make it worse.

> Assuming these helpers aren't being tricked into taking the work, they are choosing it. Which means that whatever alternatives they face in their homeland (and out of sight of the wealthy intelligentsia) are even worse.

I don't think this is correct. In Tizon's case, and in many cases, the "choice" of the helper is taken away. In this example, by moving to the US (with lies that she would be able to visit her family back in the Philippines). That can also happen on a smaller scale when a helper moves in with a family, and can be slowly cut off from their life outside. There are probably countless cases where the helper would return to their old life if they had the choice, but that agency is taken away from them.

For Filipino domestic workers, its a deliberate choice driven by lack of work opportunities at home.

For those who think it can't happen here, there was a recent case in Silicon Valley where a group of small business owners was keeping slaves. I actually ate at their restaurant and had no idea what was going on.


It also happens in London, with many nail shops basically having slaves.


And there are also a lot of illegal cannabis growing locations which basically have slave boys from Vietnam tending them.


This happens in the Chinese community all of the time. In my area, waitstaff in restaurants are often shipped in via the Chinatown bus from up to 200 miles away. They are like ghosts, movie game from place to place.

But the article is already about how it happened here (the US) isn't it?

Isn't spain a reasonable high wage country? I wonder what made these people accept such lives in the US.

from the article:

Desperate to make a living after the global economic collapse in 2008 hit Spain particularly hard, at least three victims accepted the jobs without meeting the restaurant and salon owners, Estanislao said. In some cases, the group paid for their tickets and told them they could work off the debt.

I visited Hong Kong a year ago. It is famous for its night markets, its abundant partying, and the massive financial powerhouses that make their home here. I did all the tourist things, I partied, I explored, it was great.

A couchsurfing host showed me around the city on a tram. She pointed out masses of ladies in plain clothing sitting around on the sidewalks and in streets. It was a Sunday. This was the "maids day", the one day a week when maids are required not to work.

There were thousands of them, all sitting in groups around the streets and buildings that were closed on the weekends. Groups of street vendors dotted the scene. They appeared when the maids did, a sort of "maid economy", where extremely cheap goods and snacks are sold to the maids on their time off. At night they sleep on the street, and are easily victimized.

The maids have no place to live. During the week they sleep on the floor in a closet, or on a cot in the kitchen of a typical Hong Kong home, and work all day and night, 6 days a week. The little money they make they send home to their family. They are mostly Filipino, mostly illegal immigrants, and as such, they have no rights. And because they have no status here, they also can't get a legal job, leaving them with no other choice to make a living.

There are an estimated 200,000 female domestic workers in Hong Kong (336,000 migrant domestic workers overall), and they are effectively slaves. As many as 56,000 migrant domestic workers here endure forced labor. http://money.cnn.com/2016/03/15/news/hong-kong-forced-labor-... As you might imagine, a large number of these maids are victimized by their "host families".

The really scary thing? I would have had absolutely no clue this was going on if my host hadn't pointed it out to me.

They're not illegal immigrants. All of that happens with the approval of the HK government.

When I first saw Hong Kong I fell in love with the place and have wanted to live there ever since. But I also quickly realized that it is a hellish place if you have no resources.

They aren't permitted to go back home and sleep on the weekends? Why not?

What is this home of which you speak?

The place that they sleep during the weekdays. Or do all the maids always sleep on the street?

It's not their home, is the distinction GP was making

That's a distinction without a difference. They have a bed during the weekdays; why can't they sleep there on the weekends too? That was the question.

Apparently the author, Alex Tizón died days after finishing the story and never knew it was chosen for the June cover.

He was 57.

I read a lot, but I don't usually pay attention to who the writer is, so I wasn't aware of what he has written. I've read a lot of his articles. They're just exceptional pieces of writing. The last one I remember keeping me reading almost to a point of missing my train station is his article about the missing in Alaska:


There's something appropriate about this being his final work. It's beautiful and complete in a way that's challenging to do in any work.

Alex Tizon built an exemplary career by listening to certain types of people—forgotten people, people on the margins, people who had never before been asked for their stories. [...]

Alex did not know that we would be putting his piece on the cover of this issue; he died the day we made that decision, before we had a chance to tell him.

How... serendipitous.

A serendipity is a happy accident. I don't this really applies.

Yeah, couldn't come up with the right word, hence the ellipsis :\



Indeed, I missed that, there's a small link at the top of the article [0]

[0]: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/a-repor...

Horribly compelling story.

When Ulysses S Grants father-in-law died a few years before the civil war, he left them his slave. The Grants were dead broke, Ulysses had failed at farming and the slave was worth a lot of money, they could have worked him or sold him to make the their life instantly better. Instead Ulysses took him to the courthouse and made him a free man.

How hard is it to have empathy for others?

While the historical record is clear that Grant freed a slave named William Jones in 1859, Grant's father-in-law, Frederick Dent, died in 1873 at the White House (Grant was president at the time).

It is clear that Jones was previously owned by Dent, but when and how Grant acquired him from his father-in-law, as well as Grant's motivations for freeing him are not known.

See http://www.snopes.com/confederate-history-slave-ownership/ or https://www.researchgate.net/publication/297734845_Ulysses_S... or almost any other reputable source.

Interesting correction, thanks.

It appears that Jones worked on Dent's farm with Grant, so maybe he freed him when the farm failed?

How hard is it to have empathy for others?

Harder for most people than you seem to think.

> How hard is it to have empathy for others?

That really depends on the person. Some people don't have empathy. As a sufferer of DPDR, a lot of times I don't even feel I have emotion.

I think that even people with extreme mental disorders can probably imagine that they themselves would not very much like to be slaves who are beaten and scolded on a whim.

and yet would continue to support an industry and enjoy the result of torture.

As if DPDR blocks empathy...True empathy is based on logic. Based on knowing ones' situation isn't a one-off.

I wish I could upvote this more than once.

judging from history, pretty hard =[

A well written story. I'd be interested in hearing from any Filipino commentators how common this practice still is/is perceived to be in the Philippines today. It's ranked 33/167 by Global Slavery Index[0] as compared to the US at #52.


Filipino here living in the Philippines.

What I can tell you is that this kind slavery-level practice is virtually non-existent. Maids/Housekeepers/"Kasambahay"s/"Katulong"s are expected to be paid. The practice of employing kasambahays is still common among the middle class and is expected of rich families. In lower classes families that are more well off sometimes takes in relatives, of course paying them something for them to save up or paying for their tuition if they're studying. Houseworkers are mostly needed to take care of little children as it is now more common for families to have both parents working.

Here in the Philippines a LOT of television dramas are with protagonists coming from lower classes, often with plots where they are being employed as houseworkers (and you kind of get where this is going :). And television viewership is almost universal here, even in remote villages. I think this really helps a lot for people who identify with these drama characters.

We have now laws setting salary, benefits and treatment standards for houseworkers. This is the landmark law that was signed into law in 2013: https://www.dole.gov.ph/files/Q%20&%20A%20on%20Batas%20Kasam...

Still a very common practice, especially in the Philippines. I'm making stats here based on my personal observation, but here's how it goes: - The lower class (below or near poverty line) would usually have relatives (sisters or mothers) helping them out - The middle class are more likely to employ help, especially once they start their own families. - The upper class definitely employ help. The number of employed help is sometimes even bigger than their own family. And they are treated as employees -- complete with uniforms etc. It's pretty common to see them eat out at a restaurant, and not have the help sit at the same table as them.

> The number of employed help is sometimes even bigger than their own family. And they are treated as employees -- complete with uniforms etc.

I think it would be helpful to distinguish between a true remunerated employer-employee relationship like what you appear to describe above, and unpaid slavery like what is described in the article. The former is a valued part of the economy in many developing country (if you're wealthy and employ no household staff in some such countries you're considered stingy). The latter is slavery, nothing less nothing more, as the author of the piece was able to recognize at a fairly early age.

>I think it would be helpful to distinguish between a true remunerated employer-employee relationship like what you appear to describe above, and unpaid slavery like what is described in the article.

That's the thing, though. It's very difficult to distinguish. I know my parents and some family friends who treat their helpers like extended family. But at the same time, it's not uncommon to find others who do it worse. Still, there are those in between.

Like the author, I was raised with a helper around the house. As long as I remember, even when I was a kid, they were there. Unlike the author, though, my parents take care of them, (they're paid, they get vacations, even help when the situation with their families in the province is tight, etc.) but looking back, I can't help but think if having a helper at all (no matter how well treated) is part of the problem.

There's some effect to society that feels like a barrier. The mentality of "I'm just a helper" is real and even when you invite a friend's driver or helper to eat lunch with the group, they'll lie ("I ate already."). What's difficult too, is you don't know if "I ate already" means they weren't given allowance, they're saving to send some to their family, or just prefer to eat with others i.e. go make friends with the other helpers.

My childhood helper sometimes tells stories of some realities of other helpers that he befriended, and the variance is huge, but it's not a binary good/bad thing. It's more like a range of possibilities.

You're right. In the middle class, the relationship isn't as distinguished. Usually, the salary really is just an "allowance", like the author stated. Other families already consider feeding the help & providing a roof for them as their salary.

Those other families are masters in a master-slave relationship.

Not really. Historically, slaves were often not fed by their owners. They worked all day on the plantation in the Deep South, then went home and tended their own gardens because their owners did not feed them.

"Room and board" is valid compensation in some jobs. There are valid jobs to this day where having a place to stay is a large part of the compensation you will receive.

It is not as black and white as you seem to think.

I would argue that the salaries aren't enough, but as long as they have freedom to quit and leave, and their children aren't beholden to their debts, it isn't slavery.

That's where the complexity and much of the salient issues lie in the 21st century version: formal (de jure) freedom vs. de facto freedom.

To put some clearer relief around the point: the author's parents had no means of keeping Lola in their home by force. They had no right to shoot or maim her if she attempted to leave, and would have been convicted of murder if they did. But where would she go and what would she do, illiterate, with no education or practical experience with worldly matters, no skills, and uncertain legal status?

Few human beings will cope with that level of uncertainty, and to imagine that they ought to is, I would say, a conceit of someone who is unable to properly situate themselves in that person's shoes as a mental exercise. The familiar, with all of its unpleasantness, can be a welcome refuge from the fear and uncertainty of the outside world, especially if the familiar is all you know, you have few bases for comparison, and weren't brought up socially to embrace fear or uncertainty to any degree.

It was common among my (upper-class) extended family, but (disclaimer) I only ever visited every year or so until I was 15.

A lot needs to be done in terms of triangulating proper compensation and upping respect for some families, but I think people also need to maybe visit the Philippines.

That's not to say I didn't find it weird, I totally did. They were privy to such intimate aspects of our lives, but sitting in the car next to them was weird, and they wouldn't really be "allowed" to eat with us (although my mother, around Alex's age, was fine with them eating with us). It was unsettling to me even as a young kid. It was like they were these pariahs and I didn't exactly know why and couldn't really ask why, but they were so present in the day to day that they would know when I cried over something stupid or if I had a period stain I had trouble washing out.

But, I think it's also good to have some frame of reference. Again, proper compensation and respect are essential. But also realise that it's a country trying to grow it's middle class and that there's no way to go from point A to point B in the major metropolitan area without seeing children digging through trash, shanty-towns that may or may not wear the next rainy flood, etc. In these situations, proper compensation for a live-in helper to a middle class family maybe (I wouldn't know) is the stability of room and board and food, even if that means sleeping on a futon with the other live-in workers (who do different roles) in a tiny spare room.

My philosophy tends to be that if you can reasonably afford to give them better standards, then do so. So if you're a foreigner, give them that extra $20 because they will certainly appreciate the exchange rate. If you're well-to-do and regularly have live-in help, having proper "maids quarters" and cots can't be too much of an ask over time.

for people who don't click the link: a larger number is better.

it's ranking by prevalence, so countries like North Korea (rank #1) worse than countries like the U.S. (#52) and Australia (also #52).

I couldn't find a country that was ranked #167 out of #167, though. I think #52 is as high as it goes.

Yeah, looks like most of the West is tied for #52.

Due to all of them having an estimated 0.018% in slavery, which seems kind of arbitrary so they should really mark that as some sort of minimal slavery standard rather than make it look like an estimate actually based on the country.

Site seems pretty good overall but is missing a hard facts and figures section to go alongside the nice graphical interface. They appear to offer a pdf report but they wanted me to request access to get it.

> Due to all of them having an estimated 0.018% in slavery

So they didn't count prisoner labour?

If it's forced labour, it should count. If it's voluntary (to allow inmates to make some money and have something to do), then it shouldn't.

Prison itself isn't voluntary, so it's a biased choice.

True, but whether inmates are forced to provide cheap labor still makes a lot of difference. After the abolition of slavery in the US, prison labor has been used as a replacement in areas that used to rely on slave labor.

> whether inmates are forced to provide cheap labor still makes a lot of difference

What is 'force' though? "Do this or I hit you with a stick"? "Do this and you go back to your cage"? "Do this or there will be nothing positive in your life"?

The prison gets cheap labour. Slavery is just a border on a map of human exploitation, I think some distinctions need far more qualification to be relevant.

It seems that a higher ranking is worse.

> The Index presents a ranking of 167 countries based on the proportion of the population that is estimated to be in modern slavery. [0]

North Korea, with 4.37% in slavery, is ranked 1.

India, with 1.4% in slavery, is ranked 4.

Philippines, with 0.4% in slavery, is ranked 33.

China, with 0.25% in slavery, is ranked 40.

USA, with .02% in slavery, is ranked 52.

[0] https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/findings/

EDIT: number -> ranking

How is a higher number worse if there is less slavery in countries with a higher number?

I should have phrased it as a higher ranking rather than a higher number. I assumed 'higher' was clear in the terms of ranks, rather than a larger number.

GP's claim makes it seem like they interpreted as I did.

> ...countries like North Korea (rank #1) are closer to 0...

NK is not close to 0 in relative or absolute slave counts, and I don't see the utility in pointing out that 1 is closer to 0 than 52.

Yes, I replied before you edited your post, I get your meaning now. Thanks for clarifying.

What surprises me is that Netherland, while praised for doing the most to fight slavery, is, at #50, ranked lower than the US, which I believe has forced prison labour.

Maybe it has to do with prostitution being legal here. You'd expect licensed and regulated prostitution to reduce slavery in prostitution, but apparently it's still a serious problem. Still, 17,500 people in slavery? That's a lot. I'd like to know where they got that figure.

I meant 'higher' as in 'larger', sorry.

I don't know how common it is in the Philippines, but it's very common in rich parts of China and Taiwan [0].

Although they probably do get paid something and have freedom, the situations are very similar. Dropped into a location without the ability to speak the language or financial resources to escape.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EHNSDKK/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...

What? It's not similar at all.

Not only are they paid well, there are government restrictions on who can hire a foreign live-in caregiver.

Usually there has to be a compelling reason like the person is handicapped or extremely elderly.

The reason it's so heavily regulated is because they are taking away jobs from native caregivers.

That book was published in 2006 and if that's what you got from it, then it's extremely outdated.

A friend of mine has talked about the situation in other island nations nearby where some will have young staff; males as drivers, gardening, running errands, and females for cooking, cleaning and sex. I imagine there would be a serious power imbalance with that last item.

Here in the Philippines you can hire a young female "housekeeper" who doesn't actually do any housework, if you know what I mean. The job title is for the neighbours and the tsismosas (town gossips).

Ethnically Chinese people are hated in Indonesia and the Philippines.[0] As in, during times of unrest and civil disturbance, there is a lot of murder and rape of Chinese people.

Partly for this reason. The addition of ethnic differences to economic inequality is a volatile mixture.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/World-Fire-Exporting-Democracy-Instab...

A live-in househelp is very common and it is true that even the not-well-to-do families even have their own katulongs, normally a relative who are a lot poorer than them. In fact, we had several throughout my childhood (all have wages btw). we call them Yaya instead of Lola (ymmv). My Aunt was like the authors Mom the way she treated the "katulongs" but that story is for another time. My Mom even used to be a katulong. Her story is probably the same as many other Filipinos born in poverty. Her mom (my grandma) worked for my-now Aunt, and let my mom stay and help with house chores, in exchange for school tuition as my grandmas wage can hardly cover it. We have househelps until now, they stayed with us for like 15-20 years and becoming our secondary parents/aunties. We give them health care plan, weekend holidays, bonuses. They have their own rooms too. Whenever I visit Philippines, I always makes sure they get their extra bonuses. Every time I send "balikbayan" boxes, they are first in line to rummage ;P. They dont really have anywhere to go after living with us for so long. They have become family. I have heard similar of Alex Tizon's story in HK and Singapore. Filipino overseas workers basically becomes the primary mom, stays with the host family till theirs kids have families of their own and yet treated like shit (ie. they dont get to eat dinner on the same table of the host family but responsible for raising her kid). Id say wtf now but I remember my Aunt... rest in peace.

as a follow-up to my post above, we have poor relatives who would ask for financial assistance to their schooling. My moms approach would be, sure I'll give you your tuition money but youll have to stay in hour house, free food and lodging but youll have to help with the chores. My mom lives off on the "pension" we send her on a regular basis (no income nor pension money from govt) so I think thats just fair. There aint no such thing as free lunch. Youd be surprised that some of these relatives would refuse but hey choose your own life path.

I watched a few years ago a French movie about a Parisian family owning a quasi-slave, a young woman from (IIRC) Africa. The son of the family finally sent an anonymous mail to an organization which had it taken care of. The interesting character was the grandmother who was vehemently supporting her son (the father of the boy who sent an email) until she realized how the slave-girl was treated.

The movie was average but I am mentioning it here because contemporary slavery (or almost slavery) can happen next door, today. Even a an average movie (we call these in French "TV movies) can be eye opening.

What's the name of the film?

Possibly "L'esclavage moderne de Fatou"

Unfortunately not. I watched the movie some 5 to 10 years ago and I cannot remember neither the title nor the actors. Sorry.

This story highlights just how blurry and complex things can get.

Maybe to a lesser extent we are all slaves of the system because we have to work increasingly long hours for an ever decreasing wage.

I think that the most kind-hearted and generous people tend to slowly slip into slavery over time because the system tends to reward greedy, selfish people.

The sudden, massive collapse of the system will come when there won't be enough altruistic, productive people left to support all the greedy, non-productive ones which are currently winning the game of natural selection.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb - "The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary".

My parents were born and have lived in Pakistan for their entire childhood up to adulthood. They then moved to the United States, where I was born and have lived for my entire life.

On occasion, I visited my parent's home in Pakistan, although the trips became increasingly scarce as grandparents passed (now all four are gone).

The house has always had domestic workers present, a single family. The first few times a maid, who we called Maacy whose children went to a nearby school and whose husband would work nearby.

Her family was among the lower classes of the country, and her salary brought her and her children opportunities she could never otherwise have had. I remember talking with her in the small room that was her quarters; sometimes I would help her with her work.

On later visits, she had left and another family, whose father served as the household driver occupied the same space. One time, I saw the previous maid attending a gathering that was taking place. She recognized me immediately, sharing an embrace and leaving me on my way.

The situation you describe seems to involve inequality, but it's significantly different than what "Lola" is described to have endured. The decision to move to the U.S. was entirely the author's family's. Lola was promised that she would get paid enough to move back, but the family never kept that promise. When she begged for them to allow her to visit her dying parents, they refused. And then her 5-year visa ran out, and because the family did not deal with that lapse, Lola was now forced to live in slavery forever because trying to send her back would jeopardize the entire family's immigration status. Stupid Lola!

The author is a great writer, and obviously a distinguished journalist. If this article had been written by the real-life version of "Silicon Valley's" Peter Gregory (including the untimely death), I have a feeling sentiment toward the piece would be much different.

I think that is really rather different from being a "domestic worker" who receives no pay and is never allowed to leave the home, however.

I had a terrible "Billy" moment a few years ago.

I was travelling and a friend said I could use her house, because it was empty. This was perfect for me, since I had a wife and kid.

It turns out there was a housekeeper. She did everything for us, made us feel very comfortable, cooked, served, helped with the kid, etc.

Then one day I found out she didn't have her own room, despite the place being a multi storey mansion. In fact, she slept on a mat in the kitchen. And not only that, there would be a phone call each morning to wake her up, from the master of the house. He didn't want her to get too comfy while the family was out.

It was all a bit shocking. I still haven't chatted to my friend about this, because what on earth do you say? And otherwise ordinary western educated person -in fact a feminist, globalist, left-leaning idealist- who has a slave? What if I've misunderstood something? Maybe my friend didn't approve of it? Maybe he did? I'd never be able to talk to my friend again.

I got the housekeeper a present when we left, as she'd been so good at taking care of us. But naturally I didn't enquire any further into her relationship with the family.


My main thought is there's a sort of Stockholm syndrome going on. Lola still had thoughts for her family back home, but she was so integrated in the new family it became part of her life, too. I guess it's a coping mechanism. Even slaves need meaning in their lives, and taking care of kids is meaning.


Ok, enough of moralizing. Actually I find it comforting that there is at least some sympathy for my predicament. At least one or two of you think it is possible that they would behave similarly. Or at least acknowledge the awkward situation.

I will talk to this friend in person next time I'm in that part of the world, which should be soon, about this incident, and get the full story of how their housekeeper lives.

My main thought is there's a sort of Stockholm syndrome going on. Lola still had thoughts for her family back home, but she was so integrated in the new family it became part of her life, too. I guess it's a coping mechanism. Even slaves need meaning in their lives, and taking care of kids is meaning.

OH, puhleez. This is so much worse than theories of "codependency," as if a woman with young kids being financially dependent on her alcoholic husband isn't an actual serious problem, it's just some sort of emotional disorder. If you are married and financially dependent on the guy, you wake him up and help him get to work and you cover up his alcoholism because you and your kids are dependent upon his money, not because you need therapy or something. Geez.

Lola had no papers. She had no means to job hunt. She had no social connections outside the family. They uprooted her and moved her repeatedly. They never gave her the allowance they promised. This was her only means of survival. And she had agreed to it to get out of being married off to some asshole twice her age. So, she could do domestic labor or she could be de facto a sex slave. That would have probably involved all of the same abuses this involved, only add into it routine rape as part of the deal. She came from a place with no prospects. Then, having taken this deal, she was incredibly trapped.

It is abhorrent to westerners, but indentured servitude used to be pretty common and was often done somewhat willingly/by choice as a means to pay a debt with labor at a time when money per se was hard to come by. Historically, it was not uncommon for people to pay for passage to the U.S. by agreeing to 7 years of indentured servitude following their trip here.

That is still reality in a lot of places in the world. We don't want to hear it, but there is some truth to the idea that you need a middle class income to afford middle class morality. There are parts of the world where large numbers of people have no hope of anything resembling a middle class American lifestyle.

> That is still reality in a lot of places in the world. We don't want to hear it, but there is some truth to the idea that you need a middle class income to afford middle class morality. There are parts of the world where large numbers of people have no hope of anything resembling a middle class American lifestyle.

Not only that, they likely don't even have hope of anything resembling a poor American lifestyle.

We don't want to hear it, but there is some truth to the idea that you need a middle class income to afford middle class morality.

So much this. You win the Internet today!

Yay! I winned!

> because what on earth do you say?

For starters: Why is a woman sleeping on a mat in your kitchen?

you need new friends

Have you considered he has the friends he has because they fit? He didn't speak up because it wasn't a big enough deal for him.

He is at least aware that what is happening was not quite right. It is concerning that he cared more about rich friends feelings than the woman sleeping in dirt but there isn't really enough here to label him a sociopath :)

Maybe my friend didn't approve of it? Maybe he did? I'd never be able to talk to my friend again.

I've got to say that slavery as a moral ill outweighs social awkwardness, and rationalizing the situation by saying that maybe it gives slaves' life meaning is an abdication of moral responsibility.

I mean, yeah, you could find meaning in that. I'm pretty stoic, I can find meaning in things like dying of cancer or whatever. But that doesn't make it acceptable to put someone in that position, since there's an implicit assertion that their life would lack meaning without this structure.

I think you should swallow your anxiety about this and discuss the matter with your friend, who essentially coopted you into participating in an abusive relationship by not informing you of this in advance.

I guess I would have taken her to the authorities and helped her get whatever help she needs as soon as I determined her situation.

And your friend is no feminist or idealist.

I see a lot of ads in the highway rest areas against slavery translated in multiple languages. There is hotline phone number on them. Its so easy to report to authorities they even encourage you. Every time i saw them i thought slavery in our day and age??? Now i know better.

How likely would that be to lead to a better outcome than both the slaver or the slave being deported?

Any solution that grants immigration status to people (who are often, as the woman in OP's story, not even literate) "just" on the basis of them having been enslaved is probably not politically tenable in the US. The most you can hope for is some sizeable amount of damages to be paid, and depending on the legal framework of the source country they subsequently get expelled to, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the slaver could just reclaim the money once they are back.

if his friend was indian, the authorities would have been mightily puzzled. this is standard treatment for live-in servants, right down to the sheer meanness of making sure she "didn't get too comfortable" by way of an unnecessary phone call each morning.

> And your friend is no feminist or idealist.

No Scotsman either!

Feminism is the idea that women have the natural right to make decisions for their own lives and pursue those decisions to the best of their abilities. Taking part in the detention and mistreatment of a woman is orthogonal to being a feminist.

Idealism, well I'm assuming she's not an adherent of the philosophical kind and aspires to some sort of 'ideal' which I would have a hard time reconciling with slavery.

So in conclusion, I reject your charges of No True Scotsman. Some things are cut-and-dried.

Would you say it is misandrist to harm any man, anywhere? But I agree like most people they are likely a realist not an idealist.

I usually refrain from telling people who they are instead of what they do, but your friend is not a feminist or a left-leaning idealist if they have a slave, full stop.

Well, men have owned slaves for ages, so it's only fair for women to catch up in this measure.

Yes, please, do something about this. Talk to your friend. Call the cops. Leave an anonymous tip and try to follow up. Something. Custom, law, and your own sense of right say so.

Billy isn't the villain—but is he the role model you aspire to? If your kid learns your online identity some day and they stumble across this, is this the end of the story you want them to hear?

This sounds like a question you would be asked to think about in an ethics class. The kind I would probably dismiss as so unrealistic that it's not worth taking seriously, so I'd give some canned answer that I think is supposed to be the correct one. I don't know what I would do in that situation either to be honest.

You need to take a look at yourself in the mirror.

It's still not too late to talk to your friend and express your utter disgust at how that lady is being treated. Why haven't you done that?

One reason is I almost never hear from this friend since his relocation to another part of the world. Another is they have enough issues going on, personal issues requiring a lot of work, and being told they are a slave owner would not help.

Perhaps most importantly my friend is not the direct slave owner, if that is indeed the relationship. It's my friend's dad, a guy I've barely even met. Perhaps if he was around, and caning her as I walked into the kitchen, I would have said something, who knows? But I was receiving his hospitality through a third party, and I am a foreigner to their country and customs.

Did you ever read the article and wonder why Billy or his family didn't do anything? They probably felt it was so alien they didn't know what to do.

You also gotta ask yourself, if you owned a slave, why you would allow that slave to be the only attendant when a western family comes through town?

You understand that you are now complicit in her abuse, yes? You understand that you are an accomplice to this crime?

> You understand that you are now complicit in her abuse, yes? You understand that you are an accomplice to this crime?

FFS, you literally know next to nothing about the situation. Why do you feel like you're in a position to self righteously adjudicate him as being a criminal? None of us, not even lordnacho himself, know enough about his friend's housekeeper to legitimately make claims like that (or casually throw around terms like slave).

Seriously, the housekeeper's situation may not be too far off from the archetypal startup employee working 18 hour days and sleeping under his desk. None of us know, and none of us should claim to know.

>Seriously, the housekeeper's situation may not be too far off from the archetypal startup employee working 18 hour days and sleeping under his desk. None of us know, and none of us should claim to know.

Do you really believe that some 23 year old fresh out of college programmer working 18 hours days by choice in hopes of either a significant payoff or at least experience that will anyways lead to a very well compensated job is at all similar to a women who is sleeping on a mat in the kitchen of an empty house full of empty rooms who is then woken up every morning by a phone call explicitly designed to be demeaning so that she can start her menial, low payoff, worthless experience work?

> in hopes of either a significant payoff or at least experience that will anyways lead

You're moving the goalposts. It's not about whether they have equivalent opportunities, it's about whether they're slaves. The overworked-and-sleeping-on-a-mat-programmer and the overworked-and-sleeping-on-mat-maid may both simply have paid jobs with shitty bosses. People here are jumping to the conclusion that being worked hard + sleeping on a mat = slavery, when clearly it doesn't.

What about the slave?

I think there might be some conflation between this story and the article posted. We and the OP don't actually know if the person was enslaved by forced labour.

All they know is that they slept on a matt in the kitchen.

If they were being paid adequately, I would not call it slavery. Poor labour practice, certainly, and distasteful in the extreme but not the same thing as forced labour and bondage.

> I think there might be some conflation between this story and the article posted.

Yeah. My sense is people are angry at what the OP described, and their anger has clouded their judgment. They're twisting ambiguous stories like lordnacho's into a version of the OP's, so they can play-act their sense of righteous superiority.

> I still haven't chatted to my friend about this, because what on earth do you say?

> But naturally I didn't enquire any further into her relationship with the family.

I just hope I would do the opposite. This is so wrong.

Was she a slave? When travelling in Vietnam (and probably plenty of other places) its pretty common to find the staff at little hotels all sleeping on mats on the floor in the kitchen. Its not a big deal - to get to the fridge you might need to step over and around them. None of these people are slaves, though they are certainly lowly paid workers.

Is it unusual to have this arrangement in a private home? I don't know.

The opprobrium from other commenters seems a little steeped in our own western views as to what's right and wrong, and I think your plan of digging more into the situation sounds an appropriate one.

This is why US government employees and employees of contractors get mandatory training in how to recognize human trafficking.

In this situation, at the very minimum, you need to ask "Do you feel your employer treats you fairly? I will keep your answer confidential."

If the answer is "yes", then your moral obligation is satisfied. If the answer is "no", you may have to dig down through "uncomfortable situation," potentially to "friendship-ending argument about unethical behavior."

If you discuss the answer with anyone... you've not kept the answer confidential.

Well obviously, if there is an ongoing crime being committed they will speak. Even lawyers, priests, and doctors will speak if there's an ongoing crime being committed by someone who they'd otherwise hold confidence to.

You can discuss your own observations without ever referring to your conversation with the housekeeper, or even admitting that a conversation happened.

So you're trying to tell us that your feeling of uncomfortness is the only thing stopping you from growing a spine and standing up for such an inhumane treatment, that apart from you nobody else can witness?

Have some decency and confront your so-called friend. How can people be rich and not have the decency to give the person feeding you and your family a freaking room.

And I really had to constrain myself from using expletives in this reply.

Seems like he's so hypnotized by being rich adjacent he couldn't ask some questions about something that weird.

HN is the closest thing I have to a portal into the private lives of people with nigh infinite money, and eeeevery so often I read something like the gp that makes me want to gulag the rich and seize the means of production.

Now I know there's evil people at every income level, but infinite money really increases the ability of a person to project evil. My intuition tells me this story isn't even that exceptional. I bet the evil rich hedonism spectrum has some real nightmare fuel.

> makes me want to gulag the rich and seize the means of production.

I feel the opposite way. This sort of thing rarely happens in the west, but quite openly happens in other places, and that fact makes me want to help fix the inequities in OTHER countries that cause this, not tear down my own country.

Specifically (and proselytizing to a degree) it makes me more determined to give a significant portion of my income to https://www.givedirectly.org/basic-income so that at least some of the poorest people on the planet can be empowered to make their own choices.

Why not both?

> your feeling of uncomfortness is the only thing stopping you from growing a spine and standing up for such an inhumane treatment

> Have some decency and confront your so-called friend.

I think your advice falls into the "much easier to say (from a great distance) than do" category.

The people who unfailingly and immediately know and do the moral thing, regardless of personal cost or expectation of results, are often literally saints. The rest of us muddle through; being uncertain, un-confident, and only occasionally recognizing and mustering the strength to act against an injustice.

> I think your advice falls into the "much easier to say (from a great distance) than do" category.

What of it? You still don't allow people to remain in a state of slavery when it is within your power to free them with just a phone call to the police. It doesn't have to be easy to do to be unacceptable not to do.

You know, I have a life threatening genetic disorder. This is the root cause of my homelessness and the one thing I most need to get my life back is an online income adequate to support myself. I am an active participant on HN and I appear to be the top ranked woman here.

I assure you, no one on HN is valiantly trying to help me solve my financial problems. In fact, I am routinely treated dismissively by people claiming they are not being dismissive and crap like that.

Given that context, it is incredibly difficult for me to read the many remarks on HN in this thread by people claiming unequivocally that they would know the right thing to do by this woman sleeping on the kitchen floor and they would absolutely do the right thing when my experience suggests the exact opposite is probably true of most members here.

Maybe some folks could get down off their high horses and quit making me just spastic today. It would be a kindness, though probably more of a kindness than most of the incredible hypocrites here are capable of.


I'm sorry for your troubles. But being confronted, in person, with a situation that you think is domestic slavery and being asked on the internet for money by a stranger are two different things.

I'm sorry for your troubles. But being confronted, in person, with a situation that you think is domestic slavery and being asked on the internet for money by a stranger are two different things.

I am not asking for money. And you are just proving my point.

I'm sorry. I must have misinterpreted "solve my financial problems." Typically that's a euphemism for giving money. Forgive me.

... the one thing I most need to get my life back is an online income adequate to support myself...

I stated it as clearly as I know how, yet people routinely assume I am "panhandling the internet." Because prejudice etc.

Here is another viewpoint - it's not clear what you wish for when saying

> 'I assure you, no one on HN is valiantly trying to help me solve my financial problems.'

I gather you have financial problems and are working hard to fight them. There seems to be some relation with the people on HN that don't help, but how? Did you ask for help and nobody offered? Is it sarcasm and people are actively hindering you in your job? I am confused, and I can see how someone could understand that you're asking for money. (I'm female, in case that matters.) So, I also concur that your way of expression is a bit unclear.

Or because of how you phrase things, maybe. I won't rule out that I'm prejudiced -- it's all but a certainty that I am, to some extent or another. But despite that, I don't normally think women are asking me for money on the internet.

I am the highest ranked woman on HN because women are generally not all that warmly welcomed here. So if you don't think women are asking you for money on the internet, maybe it is because you are mostly talking to men.

It is hard to ask for anything at all when silenced by the general behavior of men online. I offend in part because I fail to shut up, in spite of the sometimes horrible treatment I receive through no fault of my own.

I routinely hear men here tell each other that their high karma is evidence of competence. No one says that about me -- except me. When I say it, it gets ridiculed.

I routinely see men here ask for help with making their businesses profitable. They are not misinterpreted as begging for money. When I do it, I am accused of panhandling or ignored or it otherwise typically is not very helpful.

It would be nice if you would just stop digging your grave deeper. Your first remark was just sort of dumb. But you get more offensive with each iteration of telling me it is somehow all my fault that I can't get taken seriously no matter how hard I try, a thing I have been doing for literally years, which is part of how I ended up the highest ranked woman here.

The next closest openly female member is many, many thousands of points behind me, yet I am far from the bottom rung of the leaderboard. So all the evidence suggests that, sadly, I get taken more seriously here and get more respect than most women who basically don't bother to open their mouths, even when they have serious tech jobs.

I have many thousands more karma than the only female cofounder of Y Combinator, Jessica Livingston. She currently has 3521, which is hundreds more than she had the last time I looked. https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=jl

You felt it was appropriate to interject in a conversation about slavery to wonder why none of these people online haven't helped you out financially, which a typical person would construe as asking for money, despite being a woman with the highest internet points (or something). Maybe I don't frequent HN enough to know who's who, but your replies to obstinate read like the ramblings of someone with mental problems (I don't mean that as an insult).

You felt it was appropriate to interject in a conversation about slavery to wonder why none of these people online haven't helped you out financially, which a typical person would construe as asking for money

No, that is not what I did. There are comments here comparing the woman sleeping on the kitchen floor to homeless people. There are multiple comments here where people are getting up on their high horse swearing that if confronted with such a situation, they would a) unequivocally know "The right thing to do" about it and b) absolutely do the right thing. They are berating this person on the internet for their moral failure in doing nothing when that individual doesn't even know the full details. But when then confronted with a homeless woman who participates here regularly, none of these supposed paragons of virtue is stepping up to valiantly go to bat for me -- which is exactly what I expected, given my long standing experience online.

No one owes me that intervention. But the people berating this guy for not automatically knowing the right answer and not immediately rescuing the woman from presumed slavery are quick to tell me I am somehow in the wrong and somehow asking for something from them when I point out the obvious example that, no, it isn't always immediately clear and obvious how to help and, no, they wouldn't valiantly rise to the occasion and feel compelled to rescue some pathetic woman from her plight just because it came to their attention like some of them are claiming.

Those are incredibly easy boasts to make when talking to some guy on the internet about his supposed moral defects. But no one here is going to back up those boasts by doing whatever it takes to extract me from my plight AND, on top of that, I am going to be inundated with accusations of mental health problems, panhandling the internet, etc for pointing out that all these supposed paragons of virtue absolutely will not have all the answers and absolutely will not go the distance involved for every case of injustice they casually trip across in the world, such as my situation.

The only thing I asked for in my remark was for people to get down off their high horses in regards to how they are talking to this guy. I am not expecting anyone to rescue me. I am only pointing out that the expectation that this individual is obligated to rescue this woman sleeping on the kitchen floor is a crazy, ridiculous expectation. Such situations are almost never solved by making a single phone call to the police and poking it at may even do enormous harm to the woman's already not enviable life.

It is easy to be a high handed braggart claiming moral high ground on the internet and trying to bully someone else into "doing the right thing" while ignoring the fact that it is rarely clear and obvious what that is and it is never easy to actually right a tremendous injustice, even when you do know all the details. Such things come at quite a high cost, if they can be pulled off at all.

Your karma is very impressive, to be sure. :)

> it is within your power to free them with just a phone call to the police

Maybe not. Sounds like the situation was in another country. Who knows if the police there would care or not. And applying the term "slavery" to the story in the comment is jumping to a conclusion that provides more moral clarity than there may actually be. We don't know enough to say if the situation is that of a shitty employer or that of a slaveowner, and our only source of information doesn't even know himself:

> I will talk to this friend in person next time I'm in that part of the world, which should be soon, about this incident, and get the full story of how their housekeeper lives.

I only say that to emphasize that this stuff, in reality, is probably a lot harder to deal with than some people seem to think.

> Who knows if the police there would care or not.

That's not a reason not to call.

> We don't know enough to say if the situation is that of a shitty employer or that of a slaveowner, and our only source of information doesn't even know himself:

Well, if police were to check, all the "friend" would have to do is provide proof of salary and most everything would be fine if it was a mistake.

I think you're pretty mistaken in thinking any proof would be available or required. All these maids are typically paid in cash.

Unless the person has bruises, or complains that they're not being allowed to leave---the police would ignore the situation.

Compounding this effect is that most 'maids' are distant relatives in the western sense---being 3rd cousins or nieces through marriage to the hosting family. When push comes to shove, the host family just claims truthfully that they are all a single family, and the sleeping conditions of an adult who isn't being forced to do anything is really no ones business.


As an edit. What I'm describing is the traditional lifestyle of West African maidservants. All maids are relatives, since no one trusts anyone who isn't related to them to live in their house.

The world is a big place though. I wouldn't be surprised if maidservant lifestyles in Asian countries or Middle Eastern countries was much different.

Middle Eastern countries even use foreign-born servants, something that'd be seen as the height of insanity in someplace like Ghana.

> I think your advice falls into the "much easier to say (from a great distance) than do" category.

That may be true, but that doesn't change the fact that it's the right thing to do. The parent's language was perhaps a bit more inflammatory than it needed to be, but sometimes you need someone outside the situation to be more objective and remind you -- possibly rudely -- what needed to be done.

I hope I would have the wisdom and fortitude to do the right thing in that situation, but I won't know until and unless I'm put in it.

> Have some decency and confront your so-called friend.

Sounds like you haven't been in this situation.

You know, there's often a gap between how good we think we are, and how good we are. I feel terrible about it, and the subject comes up now and again of whether we should say something, and my wife and I feel bad.

It's easy to tell people what they should do, I do it all the time as well, even to myself.

Picture yourself telling this story to your kid one day.

Then your kid asking you "and what did you do?"

Then yourself telling them what you did or what you did not do.

If you are honest throughout that mental exercise, your next steps, whatever they may be, should be a lot easier to take.

Going through it in my head now, actually.

It seems there's an opportunity to meet my friend in person soon. I'll use it to ask about what exactly happened. It's not the kind of thing that comes across well electronically, you really need to be there in real time looking at the reaction. It also needs to be managed properly because this friend is in a somewhat fragile state for completely separate reasons. The last time we met this other issue meant nothing else could even be discussed.

But the key takeaway for my kids is his parents aren't perfect. Hopefully he will have learned that in other ways by the time he's old enough to understand this situation.

Perhaps the situation you find yourself in is so egregious that it is "worth" the risk of losing a friendship, possibly troubling your friend even more, and you yourself going through much emotional distress leading up to, and during the conversation.

I've been accused by a friend for not doing enough in a much less egregious situation (but also in the category of morality and equality), and understand the social difficulty in broaching such a topic, especially if you don't know them well.

It's easy to say "do the right thing" on an internet forum to a stranger, especially if you yourself haven't been in this social situation where you know what the right thing is in a vacuum, yet our survival instincts push us towards not stirring the water. I think your reaction thus far is completely rational given such an alien situation (which is where I found myself in the past).

I just want to say that your internal turmoil is being discounted too much by other commenters. I hope that you can find internal peace and understanding of where you stand and what you believe in for yourself, not because someone tells you that's what people "should do", before doing or saying anything, because that is the only way we can sustain both our moral and emotional health.

I upvoted your comment because I think it's the kind of positive, supportive remark seen too rarely online. I say this with complete sincerity.

However, part of your response gave me pause: "I just want to say that your internal turmoil is being discounted too much by other commenters."

I would offer that we cannot underestimate the internal turmoil, stress and emotional trauma of the aforementioned "housekeeper" (slave), who sleeps on a mat in the kitchen, and that any internal turmoil by those of us with freedom pales in comparison.

Immediate, unambiguous action is the only moral response to slavery.

"Hey, when I was at your place, [housekeeper's name] was sleeping in the [location] - is that normal? Does she get a room? Surely there's a spare room for her?"

"I need to keep rooms spare for when friends visit."

"When does that ever happen though? Come on man, they would understand if they had to stay nearby or squeeze into a room. [Housekeeper] is there every day. She is a gem and works so hard. I couldn't do that to someone. I think if you have a better supported employee or helper or whatever, they're more likely to be happier around your family and feel naturally interested in their role."

"She doesn't mind."

"I bet she would, but do you really think she'd feel comfortable raising that with you? You should do the right thing. Think about how valuable a comfortable room is to you. Everyone should be able to appreciate that and not sleep on a mat."

Phew, thank you. I'm just a stranger on the internet, but i'm immensely grateful that you're planning to investigate this.

Thank you for sharing your original story, and your thoughts and conflicts over the situation you face. I wish you and your loved ones the best.

way to at least try to engage with the issue. best of luck.

Agreed. What I've been discovering lately is that, the first time you speak out and experience that intense awkwardness (making waves, creating conflict, etc), it's hard. Then it gets easier. It's like standing up for what's right is a muscle that needs exercising.

I understand your reasoning and try acting decently (even though I probably fail often). Of course it is easier to point out mistakes instead of changing oneself to the better. I think it is commendable that you were so open about your thoughts, which empowered a stranger like me to take a moral shit on your behavior in this specific situation.

I have some acquaintances with weird/antisocial/borderline illegal behavior and never addressed it directly with them, just avoided them.

I've had some acquaintances do some weird, antisocial, definitely illegal things. I can't recall a time when an acquaintance has done something that appears as evil as the situation we're discussing.

Best case interpretation that I can make, ignoring the floor mat. They were micromanaging when their employee wakes up despite their daily responsibilities being temporarily reduced (home owners were away).

If I had a friend doing even the above, I'd at LEAST ask "explain to me how this isn't you being a dick." That's just getting to know them. Don't you want to know the people you're friends with?

> If I had a friend doing even the above, I'd at LEAST ask "explain to me how this isn't you being a dick."

Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it sounds like the "master of the house" (the one calling in the morning) wasn't the friend, but the friend's father?

You might be right. If that's the case, I offer this errata: "Explain to me how this isn't your father being a dick."

I have confronted and ended friendships over things like former friends talking to service people like they are somehow better than them or own them. I can't look at someone the same after that type of behavior. Your friend literally owns a person.

yeah, i get you, and i'm not saying i'd necessarily do better. though i'd hope i would[0]. but just because you acted in a way that others would find relatable, or because others might act in the same way, doesn't make that action right. sometimes we need to call each other out on the hard stuff.

if you feel that bad about it, you should probably bring it up with your friend.

0 - also, i'd hope that my character judgement is good enough that i wouldn't be close friends with someone like that. though of course, people change, we don't always choose who we like, etc etc.

You feel terrible about it because you haven't done anything about it even though you know its wrong. If you heard about it second or third hand then it would be better not to judge because you don't know the facts, but you've said that you do know this person doesn't even have a bed, sleeps on the floor, and gets a wake-up call every morning.

There is no question in my mind that I would confront anyone I knew engaging in the situation you're describing. Among my circles, injustices always seem to be a third person. Mostly bosses. Boss doesn't give you a day off despite a month of notice. Boss dicks you around on hours or a promised promotion. The people I consider friends are folks I can talk to about morality. I've grown as a person based on the critical things some friends have told me.

Never anything in the same time zone of FRIEND MISTREATS LIVE IN HELP, MIGHT BE SLAVE, I DIDNT KNOW WHAT TO SAY. This whole thread is hysterical to me. This is a parody of real life, right?

I hate to edge in on godwin territory, but this has reminded me that our society has not grown at all in the last 100 years. We've accreted a card house morality that collapses for SO MANY people at the slightest breeze. Can't let a slave come between friends am I right?

> There is no question in my mind that I would confront anyone I knew engaging in the situation you're describing. Among my circles, injustices always seem to be a third person.

But there should be a question in your mind unless you've actually confronted something like this yourself (with all of it's associated complexity). Until then, your certainty is only a fantasy.

Sure, a fantasy. I doubt you can be convinced, but let me try.

I was always sure that if someone broke into my home, I would confront them - lethally - if necessary, despite any complexities. Dignity is important to me, and I'm willing to take risks to keep it. When I was a sweet summer child I used to think that was the default state of adulthood.

Well, recently someone did break into my home at 3am. Coincidentally I was sleeping on the couch right in front of the front door. My eyes opened to the sight of a strange man in dark clothes standing inside my home. I went from half asleep to awake and armed faster than I've done anything else from deep sleep. If they had shown me any signs of aggression I'd have shot them. Fortunately for both of us they panicked and fled.

You're right, the action itself wasn't a thing I deliberated on or decided in that moment. I told myself I'd do it, but the way I responded in that acute moment was instinctual and adrenaline fueled.

There are actually some weak parallels between a home invasion and finding out your friend might be a slave owner.

I can understand why some people would respond to a home invasion with submission. For some folks, that doesn't even touch their personal definition of dignity, the function is life > stuff and I can respect that completely.

Yet, when you see your friend possibly engaging in slavery, and mistreating them to boot.. it's like home invasion with the personal stakes all lowered. Your life isn't on the line, just potentially the life of the victim and your friendship. Not only that, but the time frame is extended from do-or-die adrenaline to days of deliberation if you want. I'd have to work real hard to come up with some complexities that shake my confidence on how I'd react here. Basically the maid would have to be skeletor or a war criminal. I really wish more people were backing me up on this. I'm pretty blown away.

But yeah my knees would probably buckle and i'd let them continue with their evil so things wouldn't get awkward. Lol nope.

For what it's worth, this entire thread is making me feel like I'm taking crazy pills. Typically, I appreciate the nuanced, thoughtful, and introspective discussions we tend to have here.

In this case? Like, what the fuck is there even to discuss here? This is black and white. You free the slave and deal with "social inconveniences" or whatever. Jesus Christ.

To me, I'm wondering where the mistreatment is.

We have someone sleeping on a matt, and getting a daily wake up call to do their work.

Work which presumably they are being paid for---we don't know if they're not being paid for the work.

Now in the USA, sleeping on a matt in the kitchen is some kind of terrible situation that no one would live with but....

In my country, I slept on a matt as a child. I wasn't poor. We had a house, food, private schooling, etc. but kids under the age of 7 slept on a matt. It was just the way things were done.

Even today, I have relatives who sleep on matt's despite being totally capable of buying western style beds.

Now as for not having a room of their own, I don't understand the attachment to a private room as opposed to simply a lockbox or a place to keep your things. Private rooms seem like a luxury that one can do without, not a must have.


Our families maids have private rooms, and beds (which ironically they endlessly complain are too hot compared to the breezy floor mats they're used to). They also have savings accounts, and pension funds because the family matriarch is a western trained banker and believes that in the absence of good governance, private individuals have to take better care of their employees livelihood.

So much this! I am appalled at this thread possibly full of non-asian people who think having a room and board househelp is slavery.

They are free to quit and renegotiate salaries. Their children are free to do whatever they want, infact we help in their education and give them gifts. If anything it tends to be a more empathic employer-employee relationship, albeit with shit salary.

There is real slavery however, bonded labour, forced child beggars. Seeing this not being mentioned at all, I don't think we have many asian people here, just westerners speculating.

I think we don't have enough information to decide either way. The guy who visited his friend's house seems to think everything wasn't above-board there. Maybe he's wrong, but the responsible thing to do is follow up on it with the friend, promptly. It doesn't need to be an accusation, just an "I noticed something odd; can you tell me what's going on?" type thing. And if the explanation isn't satisfying, you get the authorities involved, immediately.

Regardless, just because something is culturally acceptable (like Lola's slavery back in the Philippines), it doesn't make it right.

"free the slave" is not always trivial, though. Simply taking them out of the house moves them from a mat in the kitchen to sleeping on the street without a mat. They need a place to live, friends and family, and confidence to look for a real job.

Modern slavery is rarely keeping someone physically locked up (though sometimes it is). It's often more a matter of keeping the slave socially isolated and with too low confidence to dare to walk away.

I don't mean that they like their situation, but it's often what they're familiar with. Setting them free requires support and commitment.

And it's not as though my reaction would be to open a door and yell "Run! You're free!".

My first reaction would be to confront the friend about the situation. Next steps would happen next. Ignoring it because it's challenging, awkward or complicated is wrong. It just is.

Absolutely. It's an attrocity, but at the same time, I'm not sure I'd know what to do about it. In a society not equipped to handle this, I fear they might simply lock up the "owner" and set the slave free, but that's unlikely to do the slave much good in extreme cases like this.

Setting them free is great for people who have family that can take them in, as is often the the case when the slavery lasted a couple of months or years at most (which is probably the case with adolescent girls pressured into prostitution, for example). But in cases like in the article, where someone has groomed to be a slave from a young age, and has lived that life for decades, been moved to another country even; the family that owns them may be all they have. You've got to free them, but that might take away the only thing they still have, and sever the connection with the only people they know and care about.

It's a seriously fucked up situation.

But yes, when you know someone who seems to have a slave, that is absolutely something to confront them about.

Yeah, I'm with you on this. This doesn't even need to be accusatory in the first place, just something like "hey, when I was staying at your house I noticed that your housekeeper was sleeping on a mat in the kitchen: just was wondering what's up with that". The guy could decide based on the answer if it was legit ("that's weird; she has a room... it's the third door on the left on the second floor; I'll check on her and make sure she's ok") or suspicious ("oh, she's strange and I think she likes it there") and if it made sense to press more.

I really _really_ hope I'd confront this "friend" if I were in that situation. It's definitely the right thing to do.

Confronting suspicions about friend mabey being a slave owner is 100% something I would do and I assume most people would. But mabey im naive? Peoples rationalisations for gross unethical behavior in this thread are indeed troubling.

I wish I could upvote you more.

When this story hit HN earlier today, I was taken aback by how so many of the responses basically were of the hand-clasping, oh-what-a-touching-story nature.

This is fucking slavery. There is nothing to admire. Treating slaves-in-all-but-name nicer after the fact does not make it any less repellent.

One human being owned another, and had final say regarding all aspects of their lives. It is abhorrent in all forms, and should called out as such. This isn't something that a sad-face emoji or hashtag campaign fixes, and isn't something that should wait until a more convenient time lest anyone be offended.

Jesus Christ, this may be one of the most vile things I've ever seen on HN.

Phew thanks for making yourself known. This could be bias, but the blob of people on the internet seems to have become a lot more casually sociopathic over the last 15 years. Sure back when folks used to troll for laughs, but it always seemed like a mask to get a rise out of people.

I've only noticed people recently openly talking convincingly and casually about weird shit like this.

Either A) The world has always been a much worse place than I realized B) Society is morally decaying C) Kids these days have perfected some artisan grade, gluten free, premium master craft trolling.

I sympathize with the idea that we don't know what's going on, even based on that guy's post, so it might be a bit premature to point fingers and declare that, without question, this is an instance of slavery. Because really, that's the case. We don't know enough. And maybe the guy who visited his friend doesn't know enough to call it either.

However, the thing that gets me is that this guy had a moral responsibility to find out more, promptly, and he hasn't done it. I'm glad that some of his follow-up posts suggest that he's going to do so soon, but it's waaaaaaay overdue, and that's pretty messed up.

I mean....the world is a far better place now than it was 200 years ago. Society has always had weak morals as a whole. It was the few and strong willed that built American society -- with a heavy disdain for the decision making capability of the proletariat. If anything what you see on the Internet simply isn't real. It is a fake and dangerous to absorb ideals from. Some of it is real, but which part?

I vote for B & C.

I think it's A.

It's just always been easy to close our eyes to it, but western shops are full of products created through slavery. A couple of years some people (at least in Netherland) drew attention to the fact that nearly all chocolate is grown by people who are effectively slaves, and there was no way to eat chocolate while being sure you didn't support slavery. A lot has been done to improve that situation (at least in Netherland; no idea about other countries), but the same is still true with other products. If your smartphone is not a Fairphone, chances are that some of the materials used it in, have been dug up by slaves. Cheap clothes are often made in sweat shops, often by children who should be in school.

The public face in western developed countries may have been freed from the appearance of slavery and oppression, but that's just a thin veneer. Slavery, child labour and really awful working conditions are still appallingly common, and are a big part of the reason why so many products in our shops are so cheap. And most people close their eyes to it because it's easy to ignore, and we like cheap stuff. And when we do see it, it's so easy pretend it's not really slavery, because once you take up that fight, it never stops, because there's so much injustice that still needs to be righted.

And even in western countries, vulnerable people (illegal immigrants, young women, people with mental disabilities) are conned or pressed into all sorts of situations that are disgustingly close to slavery.

I could try to free the slave, but on the other hand, it might cause a bit of unpleasantness with my friend. So it's six of one, half a dozen of the other!

Yes, my goodness, do something about this!

In some parts of the world a lot of people make do with a spot on the floor. I stayed at a guest house in India recently and the staff all slept on the roof or in the kitchen. Places are poor.

Sure, and that sucks. But we're talking about someone wealthy who has a lot of space. Making your live-in housekeeper sleep on a mat when you have plenty of space to spare as at best being a horrifying asshole, and if this guy is truly a "friend", I would hope he'd find out what's going on.

Yeah, all I could think of reading that was "If I found out my friend kept a slave (outside a consensual BDSM context), that person would no longer be my friend."

In some parts of the world a lot of people make do with a spot on the floor. I stayed at a guest house in India recently and the staff all slept on the roof or in the kitchen. Some places in the world are poor. Better that than on the street.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

It's tough, but you really need to say something. It won't hurt to ask who she was. Maybe it's legit and there's a sensible explanation.

But if it's not, think if it were you or one of your family or friends in the housekeeper's position.

> there's a sort of Stockholm syndrome going on

Imprinting basically.

Just send your friend the article with a vague message like, "Wow, this article was so powerful!"

full writeup here https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/lolas-s.... no idea if this is related or not but "slavename" is the same

Stop thinking about thinking about it, and do something about it for god's sake "Lord" Nacho.

at least share this article to your friend and ask her innocently what she thinks. and then pounce on her for being a hypocritical evil b1tch. good luck. im just kidding but pls do it. lol.


This comment is not OK on Hacker News no matter what you're replying to.


Take a homeless person and let them sleep in your kitchen in exchange for mowing your lawn -> moral hero.

Build a mansion around this kitchen -> morally reprehensible

It seems contrast in an unrelated area has confused the morally righteous over here.

Do you own a nice car? Have a room in your house that is currently empty? There are people out there who could use some of that wealth for food.

How would you feel if this wasn't a mansion but instead a small shack with only a kitchen and an adjacent room?

It seems we're ok with: Low contrast at any distance, High contrast at large distances.

But not high contrast at short distances

It's good the woman in the story has shelter and a place to sleep.

I don't think people are arguing that it is bad this woman has shelter and a place to sleep.

I think people are arguing that the treatment of said woman, between the infantilizing phone call to wake her every morning to insist she doesn't "get too comfy", and her sleeping on the floor in a house that sounds like it had more rooms than people to live in them, is unnecessarily demeaning at best.

High contrast at short distances, indeed, is the problem for one of the above two points - sleeping on an open space on the floor when everyone else has their own bedroom and bed is at least one tier beyond "just" wanting to put yourself above those you employ to help in your home.

The other, though, is possibly the more damning to me - calling someone every day to insist they be awake at the same time even while you're out of town? At best, that sounds like an overly controlling homeowner trying to make sure the staff are keeping the house up, but that dynamic would usually imply (to my mind) a trusted person in charge of the staff in their absence, to contact, not the two persons combined in one.

The whole situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it implies that the people whose home this is do not think it necessary to treat this woman well, and that does not, in my experience, bode well for how they treat others whom they have no obligation to.

> that dynamic would usually imply (to my mind) a trusted person in charge of the staff in their absence, to contact, not the two persons combined in one.

Exactly. Although its a touch shameful, the first thing that went through my mind reading the story in the comments was "what kind of person has a mansion and only one maid?".

Multi-room houses aren't easy to keep clean. Add cooking, driving, and shopping on top of that and we have a situation where:

(a) Someone is being severely overworked

(b) Someone cannot keep up with the work, leading to frustration on the employers part and an unnecessarily bad relationship

Sorry man, but that's dangerous thinking. I might understand if all rooms in the mansion were occupied by family members, or if the house was small such that the housemaid didn't have a room to stay in. But having her sleep in the kitchen of a huge mansion is inexcusable.

I made no comment on whether it was or was not inexcusable. This isn't about what I believe is correct.

Merely on the paradoxes and hypocrisy in this rather large stream of replies.

What exactly makes it inexcusable to you though? The fact that the owner of the house could but did not, and the proximity of the rooms?

That's what I'm talking about.

It's inexcusable because it's expected that the housemaid gets his/her own private area. Remember, they are employees, and their job is to maintain the household. They are not "homeless" people skulking around the house.

I've lived in a country where live-in housemaids are quite widespread and this kind of behavior would definitely be out of the ordinary, especially among more affluent families. Yes, worse things can happen to housemaids, but I'm talking about the general case.

> I've lived in a country where live-in housemaids are quite widespread and this kind of behavior would definitely be out of the ordinary, especially among more affluent families. Yes, worse things can happen to housemaids, but I'm talking about the general case.

That's pretty typical of what I've seen in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and China. The maid gets the worst room and in many cases that room is basically an unfinished store room with just concrete. In China, it's usually a bit better, the live-in housekeeper is not locked in the house/apartment with no possibility to go out. Nor do they strip the houseworker before allowing her to go out to make sure she didn't steal anything.

I'm a loudmouth, it disgusts me, and I like to think that I have principles so I make my opinions about the treatment of those housekeepers clear. I've lost acquaintances over this and from what I've seen telling them that what they're doing is right almost never changes things for the housekeepers in question.

I strongly believe that the main issue in all those cases is that the housekeeper lives in the house, this is what creates the abuse, this is what causes the extreme dependence of the housekeeper with their employer.

Yes, it is the relationship between them that makes this strange. The closeness.

This is the second time a text has brought tears to my eyes. The first was "Where the red fern grows". Read this, it's well written and worth the time.

Yeah I was listening at work and teared up near the end.

When I was in elementary school in the 80s one of my friends has a "nanny" who slept on a cot in the laundry room in the basement. I didn't think much of it, a few of us had housekeepers and I just imagined a few other people had live-in help too, like on TV shows...

A year or two into our friendship, I was over at their house after school and around dinner time I asked if I could stay. The parents said, "Sure, no problem... just let your parents know..." They went to talk to the "nanny" -- who didn't speak any English -- and let her know to set another plate.

There was some miscommunication, the "nanny" didn't expect the father to be home for dinner, so they didn't quite have enough food prepared for me too, since they were already one up. That's sort of what my friend translated after... anyway all I saw was two adults arguing and then the father, not liking the "nanny" talking back to him, slapped her face. Hard. Then stood over her with a clenched fist and yelled at her in a language I didn't understand.

My friend was mortified, he started apologizing to me that I had to see it... and the mother came to yell at the father... and ultimately I didn't get to stay for dinner... for weeks my friend just kept apologizing, saying he was sorry I saw what I saw and sorry his father wasn't kinder to their "nanny"...

At some point, 25+ years later, I saw the "nanny" walking with the mother in a grocery store. She still didn't speak English, but she smiled at me and knew who I was. My friend's mother and I caught up, and it hit me... this wasn't really a "nanny" and I probably didn't have a word for that relationship in my vocabulary.

She was part of the family, went to all the school functions and plays and soccer games... cooked for them... kept house... but wasn't related... and who knows if she was paid or not -- but I doubt it... Still she always doted on children. Seeing her all those years later, the facial expressions she made when seeing me were just like seeing a grandmother or aunt. Her face lit up, and she was just excited and proud to see me all grown up.

Anyway this story was really powerful and reminded me of that woman, and got me thinking we probably all know a Lola -- some degree of Lola anyway. Slavery probably isn't as uncommon as we'd like it to be.

> we probably all know a Lola

Not sure what your value of "we" is. I've never met anyone like Lola, and I've never heard a story like this from anyone I know. Then again, I didn't have a housekeeper or know anyone who did. People in my social class were glad to keep the electric bill paid and have a working car to drive.

Degrees of Lola...

I bet if you peek your head in the kitchen of your top 5 favorite restaurants, you'll find someone on the dishwashing or cleaning staff who is an immigrant and signs over most, if not all, of their paycheck to a "sponsor" here who looks after them. Gives them a place to stay, helps them with language barriers, etc. Or if you know of anyone who has done a mail-order-bride-type thing...

While you may not interact with these people, I bet you see them in your day-to-day life.

A few people I socialised with at university had live-in housekeepers, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of them had a rough time.

Most of the students from Asia or the Middle East, whose parents were paying tens of thousands of pounds for their child to attend a British university, had staff at their parents' home.

One close friend was a British girl who'd grown up in Hong Kong, with a full-time au pair. She complained that the other HK and Chinese girls she shared a kitchen with didn't know anything about cooking or cleaning, since their au pairs had always done everything for them. In her case, her parents told her to "help" the au pair with chores, in the same way I helped my mum, so she'd learn. Presumably, her parents knew the arrangement in Hong Kong wouldn't last forever.

I've also met a couple of people working as au pair's here, both ~20 year old women mixing the work with studying, which is the usual sytem in Europe. It looks like a very poor deal, for example [1] £320/mth for what's not far off full time hours (37.5hr/wk would be full time in a government job).

[1] https://www.aupair.com/en/job/lisburn-united-kingdom-765795....

While in Germany the concept of a full time housekeeper is a rich people thing only, we also have this special case of au-pairs who are do not fall under the same regulations, cultural constraints and protections as normal employees. You would not treat an employed housekeeper like people use their aupairs nor would you be allowed to.

I guess this one of the privileges of a certain class that just goes unmentioned and untouched by politics.

That's pretty insane and a stifling arrangement for everyone involved I'd imagine.

Why does a college kid need a live-in housekeeper?

Back home.

Not at university in London.

Maybe I didn't make that clear.

Look at it the other way: If people in your social class were glad to keep the electric bill paid and have a working car, some of them could have ended up like Lola.

Boy, I'm so glad that I grew up in a socialist country!

Really? Which one?

Keep in mind that "capitalism with higher taxes" is still capitalism so I'm curious of what of the few really socialist countries you're from.

> Then stood over her with a clenched fist and yelled at her in a language I didn't understand.

Which language?

Lola comes from central philippines, probably it was Kampampangan language

I found so much of this fascinating. Not just the circumstances of Lola being brought over here, but the children's recognition of what was happening. Learning family horrors (and trying to rectify them) such as this can be one of the hardest things to deal with when growing up.

Here is a damning Twitter thread comparing the article to Lola's published obituary: https://twitter.com/caulkthewagon/status/864656017480708102

It makes the author and his family a lot less sympathetic.

I didn't find the author very sympathetic. He obviously knew something was wrong but never did enough to fix it. I think the article was more of a confession than anything. I get the feeling that the author was wracked with guilt.

I'm sure he and his siblings were pretty sympathetic, which is why the tried to defend her from their parents and help her with her duties. This made their mother angry because they would take their Lola's side.

This is actually quite typical of kids (especially in asian cultures?). Being timid and following your parents orders wholeheartedly are so ingrained it's criminal. The children could only do so much as young teenagers; I question the eldest more because he was 20 and has noticed the slavery for a while yet didn't do much to help their Lola (or maybe he did, the author just failed to mention it).

Regardless, it seems like you're being unsympathetic to the author and his siblings. You don't know what they've been through: poverty, fear, abandonment, humiliation, anxiety, etc (speculations). It's a whole lot easier to judge someone's situation based on your current status and upbringing. Just because you think you would've been more resolute if you were in his place doesn't mean that you actually would have been. Remember, this is a family from Asia in the 60-70s.

Not an attack. Just a reminder to put things in perspective.

I am Mexican. I had domestic servants too. While their conditions were slightly better (they could visit their families every few months, they had a pittance of a salary), they still live in almost slavery. I too feel guilty for having participated in that and not done enough to stop it. I know what it's like to be perpetuating a class system and not do anything about it.


how would you fix it as a teenager? did you get to the part where he took Lola to live with his family and treated like a real family? she was already family. looks like you didnt read the whole story.

I read the whole thing, and I still think he didn't feel like he did enough, because she couldn't stop acting like a slave, because he couldn't pay enough money to send her home once he was an adult, because he couldn't turn his back on his parents over what they did to her.

I get the feeling he felt very guilty, even as an adult, and was trying to confess (shortly before dying, interesting).

He did send her home. Then he went to visit her a month later and she asked to come back to America with him. She intended to go live in the Philippines for her last years, but died unexpectedly before that could happen.

It doesn't seem particularly damning (relative to the Atlantic article). It's pretty much what you'd expect out of someone who was hiding the truth.

The obit reads more or less as you'd expect from someone both trying to hide a horrible secret and honor that person's memory.

Note - This is a modern tale, and the title is accurate. This isn't about unearthing stories from the 1800; this is by the son raised by the slave in question.

This was very much worth the read. It's touching and troubling and a human story.

Someone commented on twitter that it's weird how much he empathizes and is complicit with his mom, especially after owning a slave. He also points out that he mentions she worked at Fairview Training Center, which doesn't exactly have a good history - http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/01/erasing_...

Usually I feel like pointing out these things is sort of not understanding the perspective, but also after reading Lola's obituary (http://o.seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016807437...) it seems like Alex Tizon resolves himself of a lot of the responsibility for the cruel things his mother has done. Am I missing something here or does this seem to humanize her cruel actions a little bit too much...

Seattle Times published a followup yesterday:

Why the obituary for Eudocia Tomas Pulido didn’t tell the story of her life in slavery, http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/why-the-o...

Interesting that the author and his siblings had empathy for the servant. In most American Slavery stories the entire household, including young children, are portrayed as being evil and unforgiving towards the slaves. In these situations I wonder if there is any sort of innate feeling of compassion and decency and how that manifest itself in a culture where slavery and cruelty is the norm.

Many such American slavery stories are just that- stories. There are plenty of real examples of American slave owners across the spectrum from evil cruelty to compassionate caring, even love.

you can't be compassionate if your compassion only extends to the point that it starts to have any negative effect on your life.

Then you're just a dick that wants to pretend you are a better person than you are.

The author is as compassionate as many of the Republicans in Congress. They care! They really do, just not enough to vote in anyway that would make a difference to the things they proclaim to care about.

I really appreciate the author sharing something so personal, but his entire family is less than human.

> you can't be compassionate if your compassion only extends to the point that it starts to have any negative effect on your life.

How much of your income do you donate?

Yes, except as a full grown adult, the author never reported the situation to the authorities, took this 'secret' to the grave and even 'inherited' his slave from his parents. He said he paid her an allowance (which didn't sound like much) and also didn't make her work after she lived with them, but that's a token effort to right the injustice of decades of work without pay.

Devil's advocate:

After the mother passed, Lola had nowhere to go, and no job or career or savings. She had nothing, except for the kids that she helped raise since their birth. The author gave her not only a place to live rent-free, but paid her some amount of money he could afford so she could better enjoy her life.

I'm not saying either of our comments are 100% accurate, but you are taking a pretty 1-sided viewpoint to the situation. You can't pretend like the relationship between the author and Lola was strictly one of slave-master - that's disingenuous.

It's really easy to judge someone else for what they didn't do when you have no understanding of what their lives were like.

What do you think would happen if you report the family to the authorities? it was a tragedy but I bet making her life a lot less miserable is the best one can do. In case you havent realized yet from reading the story, he considers her second mom and Lola considers him her son and his offsprings her grandkids. Your "authorities" will just throw everyone into a bureaucratic hell.

Are you an American? If so: America has never paid reparations to former slaves or their descendants. He may have only paid her a token sum, but it's better than the rest of us have done, so don't act holier than thou about it.

Also, he clearly didn't plan to take his secret to the grave, it's on the cover of the Atlantic.

So, obviously my citizenship or my country's history has no bearing on the merits of my criticism. It seems you want to have a completely different argument.

I think it's fair to criticize someone for being aware that a person is being enslaved and not doing anything meaningful about it for the same reason that it's fair to criticize onlookers who fail to call 911 on a crime in progress.

Lola happens to be the word for Grandma in the Philippines.

The description of this idea of a live in slave is alive and well in many parts of Asian and the Middle East.

Life in the Philippines is quite a struggle especially in the provinces. I know of a few people that live and work in Hong Kong doing the same job described in the article, but they are doing it for two families for very little pay.

I was surprised the author didn't include the detail about lola meaning grandmother.

I am wrong to think that this kind of thing is more acceptable in Asia than anywhere else?

It's more acceptable outside the west. Western cultures were the ones who decided slavery was a universal sin and had to be eradicated everywhere.

There are still whole races of people kept as slaves in sub-saharan Africa, for example. And I mean outright slavery, no ambiguity about it.

Abolitionism is a Eurocentric concept.

Another example from Asia. Two people were kept as slaves for 14 years in a tofu factory. This is in a developed country with a GDP per capita comparable to Spains. They were caught and fined 40k USD, no jail time.


It's worth noting that punishments for 'employing' unfree labour in the west are also often astonishingly small, when it's prosecuted at all. Despite there being a fair bit of it around few people end up in jail over it.

Western cultures were the ones who decided slavery was a universal sin and had to be eradicated everywhere.

Were they wrong?

No, they were not. Slavery is a universal wrong.

Only because we were fortunate enough that the culture that ended up banning it won out. In fact we are lucky that Western culture took this path at all.

Well, I agree. I just am surprised that its condemnation seems rather....muted in some of these replies.

Right or wrong is relative. Including slavery.

Wow that's super progressive. I'm not one for cultural relativism though, I'm afraid. I'm quite the reactionary, unenlightened provincial bore, with my outmoded beliefs like "slavery is unjustifiable".

It's just about whether you believe in equality and freedom or not.

Yes, not all human care or believe in that.

Depends where you define Asia as. Saudi Arabia plays in the Asian conference in FIFA, but so does Australia. Australian and Saudi values differ ever so slightly :)

This idea is definitely more acceptable than it is in the west in all the world. Africa. Asia. Middle East. Maybe not South America, but even there it would be more acceptable than it is in say Norway.

As for the absolute level of acceptability in each area or country, that is hard to work out, especially in Asia where saving face means something can be unacceptable in theory, but practiced quasi-openly, as in the example of the article, where Lola was an open secret in the guys family.

Even more so in parts of the Middle East.

yes you are wrong to think this

From Steve Sailer:

> Affluent Immigrants Culturally-Enriching Modern USA with Their Diverse Customs, Such as Slave-Owning


I'm late on commenting on this. Saw the story passed around here and on social media and figured it'd be worth waiting until the evening to read...

I actually ended up reading Tizon's piece after seeing this Tweet from someone I follow, which pointed out sanitized obituary, which Tizon played a part in informing:



I greatly appreciate Tizon's life work and his decision to write about Lola, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling a great sense of disillusionment, in some ways greater than I've felt about any recent purported journalism scandals, or even the classic infamous ones [0].

It's a complex story and well-told, one in which I simultaneously feel great hatred for Tizon's mother while also seeing Tizon's conflicted perspective. I know how I'd want to act if I were in Tizon's shoes, but (assuming a reasonably reliable narrator) I empathize with how he was constrained to take what seems like obvious moral action. Journalists, even Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters, are just human, I suppose. But to know that someone could have the moral impetus to do such important investigative reporting on behalf of the victimized in our world, yet could not himself call out the modern-day slavery present in his life...that is deeply unsettling.

[0] https://www.cjr.org/the_feature/the_fabulist_who_changed_jou...

Well, like you said, he's only human. And in order to write about his own family's story in a compelling and provocative way, one has to have some journalistic thesis to offer, not just to give a matter-of-fact descriptive account. That requires reaching some conclusions and finding some closure on one's own first.

Don't underestimate the psychological escape velocity required to overcome the pull of that which has been presented to you as normal--and which you believed in some measure to be normal--for much of your life, notwithstanding occasional misgivings and questions. That pull can persist well into middle age, and long after you've realised the problem intellectually. And of course, there are practical questions to consider, such as how such a revelation might tank one's career or credibility as a journalist. That might seem unprincipled, but remember that any moral position is diluted by one's own ongoing deliberations.

Finally, writing about people who are still alive and who may be impacted by your story is an often overlooked source of sensitivity. Imagine how this story might have impacted Alex Tizon's own mother if published while she were still alive.

The story is very well written, but the perspective of the slavemaster's son was jarring for me to read.

Editor's note: a reporter's final story



Wonderful and deeply moving narrative.

Unfortunately through modern capitalism & the global supply chain we are all complicit in slavery.

The lowest cost of labor is zero or near zero. The challenge for miners/garment makers/manufacturers/industrial farms/etc. is to circumvent local laws & regulatory bodies while expanding their profit margins. Once past the local regulatory hurdle, the global supply chain adds successive layers of obfuscation and legitimacy until finished goods reach our homes. At that point, we can't tell anymore the amount of slave labor (or environmental externalities for that matter) that went into the product, so most people buy with little regard.

The solution is to strengthen regulatory bodies at all steps of the process worldwide with punitive damages to violators making the cost of circumventing labor laws greater than the benefit from exploiting poor/at-risk populations. This is an ongoing challenge for all governments worldwide - the difference is only of scale. Whether it is the plight of poultry workers in the midwest, slave fishermen in asia, trafficked women in Europe or indentured workers the world over, exploitation is an intertwined economic and moral problem.

As for Lola, I found it heartwarming that the author accompanied her home twice.

I grew up in Subic Bay Naval base. Every military family had a local filipino house keeper, and I remember one of ours vividly.

I had to text my mom and find out if we paid her--I couldn't imagine my family owning a slave.

So, What did your mom say?

> So, What did your mom say?

"Paid house keeper plus all supplies and food. Helped her family also."

While I have no proof, I'm inclined to believe her. It's hard to imagine my parents owning a slave AND the US Military allowing it's personnel to keep slaves AND word of that not making it back to the US Mainland.

Knowing how base authorities handle off-base housing, I'd say the chances of this are next to zero. I doubt there's a military officer who isn't fully aware that the US's war with the most casualties was the one to end slavery.

"Has the US military come to rely on an indentured workforce?"


"[Iraq and Afghanistan war] foreign workers are known, in military parlance, as 'third-country nationals,' or TCNs. Many of them recount having been robbed of wages, injured without compensation, subjected to sexual assault, and held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by their subcontractor bosses. Previously unreleased contractor memos, hundreds of interviews, and government documents I obtained during a yearlong investigation confirm many of these claims and reveal other grounds for concern. Widespread mistreatment even led to a series of food riots in Pentagon subcontractor camps, some involving more than a thousand workers."


I hope you're right, but it's also worth looking into the history of the Philippine-American war, which like many smaller wars seems to have been largely forgotten by history. I wasn't even aware of it until I came upon a gruesome picture of US soldiers posing in front of a pile of thousands of skulls in one of my history books.


Completely forgotten, and one of the most brutal and disgusting genocidal military campaigns in (fairly) modern time.

I'm sure some of the strategists in Vietnam were well aware of the horrors of chemical warfare but chose to coat many acres of forests with Agent Orange regardless. Just like any sufficiently large organization, the military has members on every rung of the empathy/introspection spectrum.

By that logic no American institution would ever countenance racism, given that the 14th Amendment was intended to give equal protection under the law for all and was also a result of the Civil War.

Curious, How do base authorities handle off base housing? My husband is in the military and our off base housing is just a normal house we bought. Base authorities have nothing to do with our house. I'm wondering if you're talking about military owned off base housing? Here they are wholly operated by a private company and also rent to civilians and aren't really much different than renting normal private housing.

We've never lived overseas though. I imagine that's pretty different.

I totally believe you have different experience than me, I'm curious to what they are.

I grew up in a town with an air force training base and the students seem to have some oversight from the base housing authority to make sure they aren't doing anything to piss off the locals.

Couldn't hold my tears at the end.

Steve Sailer in the comments suggesting the best idea for reparations in this case blew my mind.

the bit he mentioned about this guy's autobiography was really something else

One thing that I find somewhat surprising will all stories involving slavery is how masters are consistently portrayed as assholes in a way that goes further than what would be a "normal" master/slave relationship.

Even if you think as a slave not as a human being but as, say, a working dog, or even a nice tool, it is not proper treatment. Most dog owners genuinely love their dogs and don't punish them more than what is strictly necessary. Most people naturally respect and grow attached to their "partners", whether there are humans, animals or even inanimate objects.

So why do slaves, who are are capable of empathy, speech, and everything that make us human get treated worse than a mechanic's favorite wrench?

It's very simple - for keeping them under control and keep them from thinking of themselves as human/equal or even having any independent thought at all. Neither your dog nor your wrench have to be taught their place in the world. You want your slave to internalize their existence as a slave. It's also to prevent yourself from seeing your slave as anything other than a slave.

It also has to do with what's the socially acceptable and normal way of behaving in a given society.

What exactly makes you think the average master/slave relationship is "not normal" for a master/slave relationship? I would think the average story would be, by definition, normal.

> Neither your dog nor your wrench have to be taught their place in the world.

Have you ever had a dog? Dogs definitely need to be taught what's acceptable and what's not.

Excuse me? No, just no. Not in the same way a human slave needs to be taught. Not at all. And besides I said dogs "don't need to be taught their place in the world" not "what's acceptable and what's not." They do in a sense, of course, but not remotely in the same sense as a slave.

I'm objecting to your sentence, saying it's objectively false. Whether or not training another human being is ethical or not is another argument (e.g. children).

A dog needs to be taught what is acceptable behavior and what is not acceptable behavior. If you have somebody living with you, they need to be educated on what they can and cannot do. And since dogs and human are pack animals, you need to enforce the idea of a hierarchy where you are above them to ensure obedience.

The fact that you're denying them contact with their families and not paying them is one thing. However, it's a completely different thing from saying that the modification of behavior of humans is wrong, categorically.

I understand what you're saying, but his implication is that dogs do not have to be taught not to aspire to be better than dog-status. They cannot be any more than dogs.

This is clarified by using an inanimate object (wrench) as a the other example.

Human beings though have to be molded in order to keep their 'place'. They can even aspire to want to be things that they cannot achieve, such as my never ending desire to be the first man to set foot on Mars.

That is also objectively false.

Often, dogs will try to be part of the family and try to assert dominance over family members, especially younger, more timid children. They're aspiring to be a higher place in the pack than they should be, and they need to be trained in the fact that they're objectively and necessarily not equal to any human being.

When a dog ever thinks it is the equal of humans, bad things happen, such as bites and euthanasia of the dog, and maulings. That's why you need to train it early as a puppy, that it should never bite/be aggressive to humans, as it'd be harmful to the dog.

The same reasoning can be applied to humans, but cannot be applied to wrenches. Equating wrenches to dogs is another logical dead end - either dogs have feelings and emotions and hopes, otherwise the beating your dog is equivalent to leaving a wrench out in the rain without oil, as both are just tools to you.

> When a dog ever thinks it is the equal of humans, bad things happen, such as bites and euthanasia of the dog, and maulings.

You've pretty much laid out the limits of dog rebellion against human control.

Dogs' however can't foment revolution, conspire to free all the other dogs in the state, create an army, capture or hold territory and enslave their former masters.

To put it bluntly, even in the worst case scenario dog-revolt is an annoyance to humanity in general. No one is going to wake up with a collar around their neck, because a dog decided it was 'equal' or 'superior' to humans.

Dogs' are simply limited to dog-level actions, regardless of how hard they're trying.

Human slaves on the other hand have no technical barrier to acting as competently as their masters.


Now if you say "that is objectively false", let me remind you that we're not talking about dominance, submission, correct behavior, or otherwise. We're talking about objective status in society as determined by humanity in general.

Even if you can find a single person who says "aha! I am dominated by this dog!", humanity in general will never agree that a dog---any dog---has somehow achieved equality with humans. Imagine that: dogs voting, dogs marrying, dogs taking wages, dogs running for president.

When people say they are superior to dogs; they're just making things up. If you think "that is objectively false", well then you'll need a better argument than "oh dogs can bite you if you're not careful".

Edit: ... they're just making things up ..

I meant to say they're NOT just making things up

Yes, thanks for your accurate well written, and polite reply. I didn't reply myself because I wasn't able to keep my cool.

> So why do slaves, who are are capable of empathy, speech, and everything that make us human get treated worse than a mechanic's favorite wrench?

It's quite simple -- if you think of your slave as a human deserving of empathy, you have to recognize yourself as a monster. If you think of them as a creature less than you, you're cruelties are unimportant,

Exactly for those reasons. With a pet or tool there is no existential question whether the master could in another universe be the slave instead.

Thus a worldview of superiority is cultivated to prevent the illusion from fading that slaves could be non-slaves or even the masters.

Slaves often serve as a reference point for social standing in society. If you can push the bar lower, you can effectively raise your own position. I also imagine the standard appeal of bullying others and holding power over others played a role.

Just to be clear I think this behavior is abhorrent, this is just my attempt to understand the mindset.

That's the attitude that maintained Jim Crow in the south (and still maintains anti-black racism today). "We may be poor white trash, but at least we aren't black". (Black isn't the word that would be used, though)

When you look down on other people, you inevitably look down on yourself.

It could be simple memetics. Stories about slaves who are treated in an outrageous manner are more likely to be shared than stories about "nice" slave owners. Such stories might even be mistaken for endorsements of slavery.

My mother is from Jamaica and I have a similar story. I was in Jamaica last summer visiting my grandmother. We were sitting on he porch and she was telling me how disappointed she was in her sister, who she raised as a daughter​, as she "gave" the daughter of the women who helped raise my mother to her sister. I remember being struck by that language. I began wondering what the real nature of the relationship between my grandmother and the woman I affectionately knew as "aunt erma." I wonder how common these kind of arrangements are around the world.

>The night ended when she declared that I would never understand her relationship with Lola. Never. Her voice was so guttural and pained that thinking of it even now, so many years later, feels like a punch to the stomach. It’s a terrible thing to hate your own mother, and that night I did. The look in her eyes made clear that she felt the same way about me.

The mother makes me wonder if losing your humanity means becoming an animal.

For a lot of people with experience of abuse, animal relationships are arguably superior to human ones because animals are more emotionally reliable.

Another way to look at this is to consider humans as eusocial animals and speculate on whether someone is more concerned with their identity/position within a given or monolithic social body or their position as a discrete conscious individual. Over time the dichotomy between these positions might result in acute psychic stresses.

There's a conjectural argument that schizoid tendencies are an evolutionary remnant of social organization, most famously explore din Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which is worth reading even if you reject his thesis.

I guess that being human means being part of a human society, and the acts of someone who loses their humanity means that they are excluded from human society.

An honest question: Is the "animal howl/cry" something normal to write? To me as a non-native speaker it sounds tinted in a bad way.

On something else: "I tapped the cheap plastic box and regretted not buying a real urn, made of porcelain or rosewood." Even in the very end, she's still not one of them for him. I'm glad though, he was brave enough to write this article anyways.

> An honest question: Is the "animal howl/cry" something normal to write? To me as a non-native speaker it sounds tinted in a bad way.

I'd say so, I think it refers to a sort of primal response to pain, a reaction you'd have if you were deeply wounded.

It's amazing how people who see themselves as virtuous people are complicit in netting out such abuse in someone they all rely on a lot.

I'll posit that this happens a lot.

it's very easy to "miss" - because of the power of social proof. You see so many people mistreat someone and thus it's easy to fall into the same behaviour.

Check your own relationships - I think you'd be surprised at what you'd find.

This is heartbreaking but it is well written. I'm born and raised in the Philippines and still here. There are still a lot of people here who hire maids or domestic helpers with very low pay and no benefits such as healthcare. My family used to have domestic helpers as well.

Slave is not the term but the employer is usually referred to as the "master" ("amo" in Filipino).

The practice is seeded deeply into the culture and society. It will probably need generations before this thinking is changed. Some see it is a way to "help" those from the countryside with little to no education to be employed.

It's easy to spot - go to an upscale mall and spot a young couple with kids. There's a good chance they will have a young nanny that's underpaid, overworked and may be badly treated.

Wow that was a remarkable piece of writing

Absolutely, my immediate reaction was just wow. Past the amazing story, the way he tells it really makes it seem so real. I never imagined modern slavery to be so casual to the slave master, and I certainly never thought about how it would effect the slave master's children.

I usually never read something this long. But this is well worth it. A very touching story as well.

It's been a while since I read something that truly brought tears to my eyes.

What a moving, eye-opening and well-written piece of literature! Everyone owes it to themselves to read this story.

Lola was indeed a victim, but she was as much a victim of a culture and religion that raised her to be subservient and compliant and uncomplaining as she was one of human hand.


My God, what an amazing article.

Beautiful story. That's all I can say.

such a sad story.

I must say theatlantic.com's Adblock is reallly annoying...

Magnificent story

I assume the writer of the article will be imprisoned... /s

(Hate doing this, but as it's not a typo but a common mistake that may spread)

The noun is advice. Advise is a verb.

(AFAIK this isn't a British/American difference.)

We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14355449 and marked it off-topic.

This is bizarre. Informative, factual posts that are not rude or insulting are "off topic" now?

It wasn't a grammar Nazi post or about a typo, advice/advise is a common and easily corrected error that should be corrected, and I did so as politely as possible. Most people would appreciate it (I know I would).

All you've done by removing a single post (with multiple upvotes) from the thread is increase the chances that other people will copy/make the same mistake.

Edit: in fact it's even more baffling than I first thought, you didn't even remove it, you simply moved it to a position where some people, if they get that far, will not understand what it's about.


We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14354665 and marked it off-topic.


Attacking someone who has just shared a difficult situation is cheap. It's not ok to treat others that way here, so please don't do it again.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14354665 and marked it off-topic.

Why are you typing comments on HN instead of atoning for your countless sins?

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here. He wasn't calling the OP a sinner, or even questioning his posting on HN, he was telling him to do something to stop the abuse of his sister.

Some people would rather criticize the critics than admit there is a problem. :(

It's obvious that there is a problem. Adding a second problem does no good.

Indeed. Rather than worrying about hurting the feelings of someone sharing a "difficult situation" (the horrible exploitation and abuse of someone else, that they admit themselves they "feel complicit" in), perhaps some people here should spare more concern for the actual victim.

Comments on HN do nothing for the victim, and it's self-righteous posturing to pretend they do. We don't do this kind of thing because we care about someone we'd never heard of until a minute ago. It's an opportune way to get some of our own anger out and see ourselves as moral at the same time.

Lashing out at the person you're talking to, on the other hand, actually can do harm—and that only means hurting the victim further as well.

> Comments on HN do nothing for the victim

What was the point of the original comment then, in your opinion? Just to upset people here?

> and it's self-righteous posturing to pretend they do.

This is nothing more than your opinion, based on nothing more than your imagination.

> We don't do this kind of thing because we care about someone we'd never heard of until a minute ago. It's an opportune way to get some of our own anger out and see ourselves as moral at the same time.

So if someone you didn't know a minute ago was hit by a bus, or tripped on the pavement, or dropped their shopping, the only reason you'd stop to help is because you want to show how moral you are?

Most people are not that sociopathic, and I doubt you're unaware of that fact, so I'm not sure why you're pretending other people's motives can only be selfish or insincere.

> Lashing out at the person you're talking to, on the other hand, actually can do harm—and that only means hurting the victim further as well.

Can you quote where the poster "lashed out" at the OP, because all I remember is they called him complicit in the exploitation (which the OP said himself is what he feels) and then said "free her".

And as per usual, downvoter/s (assuming they are genuine downvotes) are totally incapable of addressing any of the points made. Just more mindless dislikes.

I'm afraid your comments to HN have been breaking the site guidelines badly for quite a while. You've been uncivil—often egregiously so, such as repeatedly accusing others of being Nazis—and gotten into lots of flamewars. This is unacceptable, we ban accounts that do it, and I'm banning yours now.

If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com. We unban accounts when people give us reason to believe that they'll follow the site rules in the future.

You're banning my account because I had the temerity to ask you to back up your claims, including the deletion of another poster's comment then falsely claiming he "lashed out" at someone in it.

Who you're trying to kid, other than yourself, by pretending otherwise is anyone's guess, but if I'd genuinely been badly violating the rules for quite a while, why was I only banned now, after posting something to you that you're unable to answer?

As for "repeatedly accusing others of being Nazis", now you're not even trying. That's simply a blatant lie that anyone reading this before you delete it can verify is false merely by checking my posts.

The only time I've even called someone a "Nazi sympathizer" is WRT an actual Nazi sympathizer, in this thread:


As I say in that thread:

     Just as Holocaust denial isn't *literally* saying the Holocaust
     didn't happen, being a Nazi sympathizer is not about shouting 
     Sieg Heil, it's about picking away at small things here and 
     there. Minimizing or ignoring the crimes or victims of the Nazis
     (which cyberferret did), emphasizing the offences of the Allies
     (which cyberferret did), posting misinformation and/or lies 
     (which cyberferret did). All textbook far-right/neo-Nazi tactics.
cyberferret posted lies straight from the David Irving school of Nazi atrocity denial and was upvoted by the resident far-right crowd here at Hacker News, who, as all crybabies do when they lose the argument, also started flagging posts they don't like, to be rescued by the mods.

My correction of him - using facts taken from his own link that he hadn't even bothered to read - was downvoted, and I was attacked by the mods for calling him what he is, just as you're doing now, in line with the far-right bias of Hacker News.

Another example of that far-right bias - that I'm not the only person to have noticed or remarked upon - is mentioned in the same thread, where you or some other mod deleted an entirely civil undisputed historical fact:

"Maybe we should also remember that most of the people who signed this document owned slaves"

because it had so many upvotes it couldn't be buried in downvotes by far-right racists here.

This is the site you're running. Apparently you're not ashamed of it.

Thanks for reminding me.

not appropriate for HN


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14353421 and marked it off-topic.

I invite you to point out a flaw in my observations.

Sometimes it's good to be able to rationality ground your morality instead of merely feeling it. Guess which one will hold up when actually challenged in real life.

Any attempt to rationally ground morality is going to boil down to some set of axioms that are just taken for granted: this is good, that is evil.

Sometimes people try to get around this by choosing different words - for example, a popular adage is that rational morality is "do no harm, except to prevent greater harm". The only problem with it, of course, is that you then have to define "harm", and it something fundamentally just as subjective as "evil" (as evidenced by the fact that the same thing can be harmful or not depending on consent - i.e. on the subjective determination of a person).

Your entire post is a strawman.

And in my opinion your observations are shameful. I am ashamed FOR you.

Your whole post is disingenuous and full of logical fallacies.[1]

>Take a homeless person and let them sleep in your kitchen in exchange for mowing your lawn -> moral hero.

This is a flawed thesis if you're still trying to argue w.r.t. lordnacho's post.

>Take a homeless person

First off, there's no reason to believe that that person was or was not homeless prior to the situation. This is called an "Argument from ignorance"[2]

>let them sleep in your kitchen in exchange for mowing your lawn

This premise is really a False analogy[3], and explicitly ignores the other warning signs in his post that would indicate that this is not what the situation truly is.

Also, in most developed countries, there are very specific labor and tenant laws. "I'm letting him sleep on my couch if he mows my lawn once a week" is not a legal agreement. It is also not equivalent to "I have a live-in maid" - which also has a buttload of legal protections.

All of your other statements are riddled with half-truth bullshit and I'm not interested in explicitly explaining the rest to you. If you are, in fact, serious about being able to "rationality ground your morality" then I suggest you take a look at some of your statements and think about how grounded in reality they truly are.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_analogy#False_an...

My comment was not an argument/direct analogy to the parent.

They were a series of observations designed to illustrate a particular/contrasting point. Or rather an attempt to show where the boundaries lie in the grey of such thought.

Read the reply again without assuming the parents context. Do you agree with the observations presented?

Morality is an inherently grey subject. Boolean morality only exists in a vacuum. I do agree with your underlying sentiment that it's all about perspective, but I don't feel like you're adding anything to the conversation, as your post could essentially be boiled down to "morality is about perspective" - which, in my personal opinion, falls into the realm of common sense.

However, after reading some of the other comments in this thread, I might have to rethink that. It's interesting to see how many people seem to be unable to see through their own moral outrage.

I think we both are in agreement in sentiment, but I do not think you effectively communicated your ideas in a way that would be beneficial to a constructive discussion. It's too easy for people who disagree with you to point out flaws in your argument as opposed to understanding and discussing your true point.

Lola was a servant, but not a slave. She was much closer to being a volunteer than to a slave.

Servants get paid and have the freedom to choose their own destiny. Lola had neither of those things.

If I had to read the grandparent's comment charitably, there is a formal distinction in that Lola's relationship to the family was not legally institutionalised. If they tried to stop her from leaving the house by force, they would be committing a crime.

Whether it amounted to de facto slavery is a different question, as I pointed out in another comment on this article.

I fail to see how the distinction matters. If you are treated like a slave, act like a slave, required to do a slave's work, and aren't compensated and are coerced into giving up your freedom, then you are a slave. The legalities or formal relationship is irrelevant. The de facto nature of her slavery is all that matters.

I don't disagree with you in the slightest, personally. I was just trying to provide some interpretation of the possible guiding sentiment behind ancestor comments.

> Servants get paid

Not necessarily. They could be volunteers.

> freedom to choose their own destiny

Lola had the freedom to choose when she was deciding to move to the US. She also had freedom to choose when she was deciding whether to keep working for that family. If she wanted - she could walk out any time.

Lola also wanted to keep working even when she retired and was even discouraged from working.

Calling that relationship "slavery" is not fair to actual "slaves" who were forced to work against their will.

> Lola had the freedom to choose when she was deciding to move to the US.

She agreed to go based on lies and false promises. She was emotionally manipulated into moving.

> She also had freedom to choose when she was deciding whether to keep working for that family. If she wanted - she could walk out any time.

Having "choice" in name is one thing, but actually being able to execute that choice is another. There are several points in the original article that illustrate that even if she was given a choice, or could have theoretically taken matters into her own hands, she was constrained by her lack of funds, illiteracy, lack of US citizenship, lies told to her by her slave masters, and just plain fear.

Sure, slaves in the South back in antebellum America could "choose" to get out of their situation, and many did... and often it resulted in injury, death, or return to their masters, where they were further brutalized. While the situation may not have been the same with Lola, that does not make her in any way less a slave.

> Lola also wanted to keep working even when she retired and was even discouraged from working.

So what? Kidnapping victims who experience Stockholm Syndrome often feel emotionally attached to their kidnappers and want to stay with them, but that does not make them any less victims of kidnapping. Lola's actions at that point were in the same vein.

> Calling that relationship "slavery" is not fair to actual "slaves" who were forced to work against their will.

She was forced to work against her will. Period. Any other reading of the original article is pure fantasy, and I'm absolutely appalled and disgusted that so many people in this thread are acting as apologists and downplaying the severity of this situation.

I'm curious how this story fits into today's US politics. For those that are unaware, the Atlantic is a politically left USA website, so typically there is some connection to modern politics in the life-story pieces.

The Atlantic is a 160 year old magazine that leans a lot more to the center than to the left.

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