What, exactly, is wrong with slavery?

Our man Crude wrote the following about the immorality of slavery (http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-quick-thought-on-slavery.html):

If I ask you what your problem is with slavery, and you immediately cite the cruelty of a slaveowner, the pain of being whipped and the exhausting labor, what you’re telling me is that you don’t really have a problem with slavery per se. You just dislike cruel slaveowners.

He is correct, and pinpoints why, aside from its aesthetic excesses, I didn’t like Django Unchained. What if Django had been well treated and his master had supported him and his entire family together over generations? Where would Tarantino’s moral outrage be? Instead, he had to concoct an exaggerated composite of bad masters, more to sate his and his fans’ lust for gore than to make a calm yet profound statement about slavery. Same thing with Inglourious Basterds (“Nazis are bad because they’re mean, get it, see how nefarious they are?”). It’s a sign of the moral myopia of our times that everything is calibrated based on its empirically detectable pain factor, rather than on the intrinsic moral reasoning involved.

This is why I dislike arguments against abortion based on pain, and the increasingly common extension from such utilitarianism to animal rights and veganism. Once you implicitly grant that “pain” is the basis of moral injustice, then contraception and abortifacients become morally unobjectionable (not to mention a host of other sins, such as homosexual acts and voyeurism). I know one Catholic vegan in particular who goes from the Star-Trek ethics as I call it (do no harm) to the near-absolute defense of animals, but this is a dead end. I asked him once what’s wrong with technology that delivers animals from pain (e.g. lifelong narcosis or genetic modifications for headless chickens, etc.), and he said killing animals for food is wrong even apart from pain, since animals are pillars of the wisdom of all creation (i.e. they embody cultures of non-human knowledge willed by God). The problem, of course, is that this puts fetuses on an even lower moral footing than animals, since no one claims fetuses are morally inviolable because of what they contribute to the sphere of experience, but simply because they equally possess the intrinsic right to life and liberty.

About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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