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Free people do not rent themselves

Most oppression succeeds because its legitimacy is internalized. That's true of the most extreme cases. Take, say, slavery. It was'nt easy to revolt if you were a slave, by any means. But if you look over the history of slavery, it was in some sense recognized as just the way things are. We'll do the best we can under this regime.

Another example, also contemporary (it's estimated that there are some 26 million slaves in the world), is women's rights. There the oppression is extensively internalized and accepted as legitimate and proper. It's still true today, but it's been true throughout history. Take working people. At one time in the U.S., in the mid-19th century, working for wage labor was considered not very different from chattel slavery. That was the slogan of the Republican Party, the banner under which northern workers went to fight in the Civil War. We're against chattel slavery and wage slavery.

Free people do not rent themselves to others. Maybe you're forced to do it temporarily, but that's only on the way to becoming a free person, a free man, to put it in the rhetoric of the day. You become a free man when you're not compelled to take orders from others. That's an Enlightenment ideal.

Incidentally, this was not coming from European radicalism. There were workers in Lowell, Massachusetts, a couple of miles from where we are. You could even read editorials in the New York Times saying this around that time. It took a long time to drive into people's heads the idea that it is legitimate to rent yourself. Now that's unfortunately pretty much accepted. So that's internalizing oppression.

Anyone who thinks it's legitimate to be a wage laborer is internalizing oppression in a way which would have seemed intolerable to people in the mills 150 years ago.

- Noam Chomsky: "Liberating the Mind From Orthodoxies"