The U-Bend #13: SPEW Two (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love SPEW)
by Andrew Lee and Robert Lanto
“Dobby is free.”
-Dobby the House Elf (Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets)
Author’s Note: Did you read Mad About SPEW first?
Freedom is something that everyone takes for granted. But there is the fine line between enjoying freedom while removing the freedom of others. Which brings us back to the case of house elves. The SPEW campaign is dedicated to the freedom of house elves, which is a worthy goal. And in order to keep a ‘fair and balanced’ (slogan copyright of Fox News) view of certain ideas (and to keep civil rights lawyers off Mugglenet), we’re going to present why the success of SPEW can only bring great things to the magical community and the wizarding world. In the end we’ll answer the question: is house elf liberation still worth it?
First off, it is true that the success of SPEW will bring great social and economic upheaval to the wizarding society. However, doomsayers that predict that house-elves will be living out of butterbeer bottles and that normal wizards will lose well-paying jobs are greatly exaggerated. To begin, house elves aren’t stupid. They can be taught spells (to apparate, for example) and how to perform household tasks. Any house elf can tell when kindness is being exchanged for rudeness or exploitation. Along with that, if the house elves are free they can explore their options so ‘evil’ masters will be left without a house elf while those who are not will benefit from the extra help. Also, there will be no such thing as a house elf market of products as it already exists. House elves currently live and work using the wizard’s everyday items, so why would there be a need to build special things for house elves? There isn’t, if Blitzy can already do the laundry with what is currently available, why would being free change any of that? To predict economic collapse due to a population of house elves being free is totally ludicrous.
Next, society will adapt to free house elves. While there will be those who will never accept liberated house elves, the rest of society will. If anything, the liberation of house elves will be a boon to the highly racially charged wizarding world. Giants, centaurs, merpeople and humans all share the same level of intelligence (okay maybe giants are a little more socially awkward with the whole bash, smash, crash way of doing things) and yet they all prefer to be separated from each other. Since house elves have spent the most time with humans, equality and integration into the wizarding human society would be easiest for them. House elves have lived with humans so long that they share many common ideals. A house elf already lives in homes, wears clothes and eats whatever a human eats. There is nothing so radically different from a house elf to a human that would create barriers for either. Also, this would pave the way for normalizing relations with the giants, centaurs and merpeople as if a non-humanoid species can be treated as equals with humans, the other species may realize that humans aren’t that bad.
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 principals of our society and to take away the ability to choose is wrong.
In a post-Voldemort world (his return, not his probable defeat in Book 7), it is becoming apparent that Voldemort is trying to separate the different facets of wizarding society. By gaining the support of the giants, Voldemort has shown just how clever he really is. He needs their strength to keep the forces of the ministries at bay. But by letting them ally with him (although with bribery) and not forcing them to join, this shows that he clearly understands that he must let the giants choose (or appear to look like they are choosing) on their own. They will make much better allies if they think they’re doing it out of their own free will and not being arm twisted into it. Now let’s translate that to house elves. Right now they are willing to work for nothing and while they seem to enjoy it, the problem is they are forced to do it. This is why there is resentment within certain house elves. They don’t want to feel like they have to work for a master, they want to work for themselves. It has been proven that a happy worker is a more productive worker, so liberation will give them a goal. If house elves work for themselves, they can now dream of things they want. And to achieve those dreams, they will work harder than ever to achieve it.
Finally, to understand the idea of house elf liberation is difficult, yet there is an easy way to look at it. One of the unforgivable curses, ‘imperius,’ basically takes away free will. If it is a high crime to remove free will in the wizarding society, why are house elves not allowed to have any? They certainly are just as smart and clever as any human, yet they cannot have the same rights? There is something wrong with that logic. If Voldemort were to declare himself overlord of the wizarding world and remove the right to choose from all human wizards (think mass imperius cursing), would there not be a resistance? A wizard should not say that ‘rules’ of choice only apply to certain intelligent groups and not others. It just isn’t fair, nor is it right.
Which brings us back to the start of this conversation: SPEW. By reading these two articles we hope you understand that house elf liberation is a worthy goal. Although, it won’t be a perfect transition. Any great change in society will be met with interference and resistance, but in the end it comes down to one thing: free will. We can all scream until our faces are blue, but it is the choice of the house elves, not the master, not the government and not the protestor. If even one elf realizes that they can make a choice, without interference from ‘master’ or being coerced to do so then, yes house elf liberation is worth it. For liberty is the right to choose for yourself, not have others choose for you.