Slavery Should Have NO Place
Although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery is a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.
– Abraham Lincoln
I’d like to take the opportunity to respond to the U-Bend if you don’t mind. While the authors are well-intentioned, I’m sure, it is quite clear that the authors are not African-American Muggles in the United States, witches in the Middle East, or members of groups that have directly experienced slavery, or serious oppression of any kind. I’d like to address the guy’s article carefully and thoughtfully.
There comes a time when the choices we make have a greater impact than anyone has ever expected. Hermione Granger, for example, has constantly and insistently asked for the liberation of all House Elves from their owners. However, while it may seem ideal to release all the house elves from captivity, there are severe economic consequences for any such liberation. While one situation may be advantageous to all involved in the magical community, the other outcome would be disastrous for house-elves in general.
The idea that there would be “severe economic consequences for any such liberation” is purely subjective and not supported by factual evidence. Thanks for refuting this in article two, but the argument wasn’t strong enough. Let me add some thoughts.
We know that only wealthy wizarding households have House-Elves. (29, CoS), and as such, they should have no difficulty paying House-Elves fair wages. Considering that House-Elves in abusive wizarding homes will be liberated and that compassionate masters will pay fair wages for continued work if it became law, there is no situation that supports the “severe economic consequences” theory. There is no place with more House-Elves than Hogwarts. And since Dumbledore has already expressed a willingness to pay House-Elves, no one else really has a leg to stand on here.
As all NEWT students of Muggle Studies know, the “severe economic consequences” theory presented here is almost identical to the one that was used by pro-slavery writers in the United States prior to their civil war. See William John Grayson’s The Hireling and the Slave. But I digress…
The magical community owes a great debt to the patient, hard-working House-Elves. Giving them forty acres and a wand would not be out of line. Muggle history has shown us that liberation has always been a benefit to any liberated class, not a disaster. Also, considering that House-elves can do magic, reason, and can cower from Lucius Malfoy (CoS, Dobby and Lucius in the sock incident), it is purely speculative to say that “the other outcome would be ‘disastrous’ for house-elves.”
However, it appears that more often than not, house-elves generally take orders and prefer not to think on their own.
Ouch! Again, the authors here are speculating. It is true that house-elves take orders, but this doesn’t prove that house-elves “prefer not to think on their own“. Indeed, employees at the Ministry of Magic take orders but still exercise independence of thought. We haven’t seen enough of the house elves to know how they really think. We only know how they appear to those who support their enslavement, and what they say to magical humans. This is hardly objective criteria. (I wouldn’t trust children, even magical ones, with my desire to be liberated, should I be in House-Elf’s shoes, I would just repeat what was expected of me while secretly plotting. If you were a slave, would you trust underage children who come to you for food your secret desire for freedom? I think not). We’ve never had the opportunity to use extendable ears and listen to them privately speak among themselves. Perhaps Fred and George could loan us a few…
As for Those, like Dobby, currently seem to be the exception to the rule, yet Dobby still works at Hogwarts under the supervision of a new master (possibly Mr. Filch or Dumbledore). “The question isn’t whether or not a house-elf wants to be free, but whether or not they can live free. Should a group like SPEW succeed in liberating all the house elves, would they have the capability to live on their own devices?
Ouch again! I asked Hermione not to send a howler about this paragraph, but I can’t answer for the National Organization for Witches or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Phoenixes. As trolls can successfully live on their own, I’ve no doubt that House-Elves could do likewise. This is the exact same line of reasoning used to justify slavery in the Southern United States.
So, what are the outcomes of house-elf liberation? Well, besides social reform (which we’ll probably address some other time) there will be a major shift in the wizarding economy. Blitzy the house-elf (our example elf) may be free but what’s next? From homeownership to finding a job, there will be a new area in the wizarding economy: the house-elf market. But, will the outlook always be rosy?
Times are not rosy. You-Know-Who is gaining power, allies, and friends. Indeed, it is the magical community’s discrimination against the giants that may cause them to defect to his camp. Let us not endanger ourselves further by continuing to enslave another group. Who is to say that You-Know-Who won’t make attempts at befriending House-Elves. Liberate them, educate them, and pay them while they still like us. For the days are getting dark, and we all must stand united.
The first possible outcome of any liberation is that (in theory) a house-elf should demand payment for services rendered. Even in this great age of magical devices, some wizards don’t have the time to tidy the house or perform other household tasks. That’s where the house-elf would generally come in, to assist their master in completing these tasks leaving more time for leisure. This leads to the first problem: reduced earnings. With extra funds now diverted to the house-elf, wizarding families will have less to spend on themselves.
As mentioned before, as only wealthy wizarding families have House-Elves, the impact on their Galleon savings would be minimal.
This would be great if the house-elf choose to spend that money, but house-elves have a general tendency to not want anything for themselves. So should house-elves get paid (and refuse to spend these savings) we could see a general downturn in the wizarding economy. When I pay Blitzy the house-elf 5 Galleons for services rendered, that’s 5 Galleons less for spending at Quality Quidditch Supplies. If the house-elf places all their money into Gringotts vaults, it is possible that large sums of money will never be spent, only to sit within the vault until the end of time.
Again, the authors are merely speculating. It does not follow that just because House-Elves do not purchase things for themselves, that they would make no purchases. Indeed, Dobby, with his own earnings, routinely spends his funds on yarn and suchlike, to make presents for his friends. As wealthy wizards such as the Malfoys have a great deal of savings, I am not convinced that the added savings of House-Elves would affect the wizarding economy in such a horrific way.
There was also a critical point in the second article, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love SPEW“:
Along these lines, it would be morally better to allow a house-elf to become free beings on their own accord. House-elves have the capacity for independent thought, yet to impose your will on them is morally wrong. If other wizards have the capability to decide things on their own, why should Walter the wizard force (the equally intelligent) Blitzy to do his will? Even though they physically look different, there is no excuse to impose your will on others. Sure house-elves may say that they ‘enjoy’ the work that they are doing but is that something they feel themselves or was it something they were told? If the house-elf has the capability to think for themselves, let them decide their own fate. Freedom of choice is one of the fundamental principles of our society and to take away the ability to choose is wrong.”
I’m sorry, but this is incorrect. This just gives “nice wizards” an opportunity to do nothing, while waiting for the oppressed to come around.
The Stockholm Syndrome is a well-established fact. It’s a medical philosophy that explains how people who are terrorized or oppressed gradually become attached to their oppressors. Winky is a poster child for this syndrome. Patty Hearst was famous for this; African-Americans called such people “Uncle Toms” and there are many other examples, that I need not go into here. The authors here may not realize the deep psychological damage that slavery can cause. “Stockholm Syndrome” is well established and perfectly fits the situation for house-elves. If someone is being abused, and you know it, the proper thing for a child to do is to alert someone who can stop it. An adult is morally obligated to intervene. Waiting for the oppressed to stop it is always immoral.
::stepping off soapbox now::