“So, wait,” Nifai said, “how many of our allies endorse slavery? Isn’t that – you know – evil?”
“There is no evil in biology. Any so-called ‘inherent’ goodness or evil in a mortal species, in terms of morality, is inherited from and dictated by the Gods and Their philosophies,” Hastan Müllick adopted a lecturing tone, clearly ready to carry on for some hours – possibly without taking a breath. “But that is not something that touches on the thoughts and deeds of the common man. Those are overwhelmingly organic in origin. It was only once we became complex enough, psychologically, to have feelings – and more importantly to share and discuss those feelings with one another – that the things we did became ‘good’ or ‘evil’ as though guided by some great hand enacting a cosmic play. That’s where Gods came from.
“The proverbial cruelty of nature is the result of sentient beings ascribing conscious will to an unconscious biological environmental process. The proverbial evil of social practices is the result of those same sentient beings ascribing conscious will to an unconscious biological cultural process.”
“A natural condition for a species that evolves beyond its natural predators. It will create its own predators, like vampires and serial killers and the master-slave symbiosis.”
“Explain. And don’t think for a second I missed that bit where you slipped ‘vampires’ in there alongside two things that actually exist.”
Müllick smiled. “A species will maintain a slave class for as long as it can, and when it is no longer able to contain the pressure … evolution happens.
“Eventually a species will realise that, except under extremely controlled conditions, the slave class is not a stable, profitable or maintainable phenomenon. At that point the species’ morality will adjust to new parameters, and in doing so the species has the opportunity to skip the stages of respectively oppressing and having the ever-loving tar kicked out of it by a slave class … and evolution happens again.
“Slavery and the trafficking of sentients is generally outlawed on various grounds, from employment to transportation law, but its rightness, its morality, is a matter of perspective. If the oppressed race is sentient and deserving of freedom – another arbitrary and false definition – sooner or later it will fight for that freedom. It will prevail, and stand on its own, or it will be obliterated, or it will enter a cycle of revolution and retaliation that will grow either steadily more or less severe, but it will not continue as an animal class. Another self-declared higher species fighting that fight for them is generally seen as defeating the purpose of declaring them sentient in the first place.”
“If a species can’t stand up and free itself, it deserves to be a slave?”
“As I said, ‘deserves’ is missing the point all over again, ascribing conscious will to something no more conscious than gravity. We act to free slave classes, because we feel it is our moral duty as enlightened creatures. A species enslaved by a far more advanced one, with no hope of emancipating itself? How awfully unfair! O, mean old nature! It happens all the time, everywhere. We ask one another, ‘is it the slave’s fault he is less advanced? The master’s fault he developed in such a way as to make enslavement possible?’, all the while failing to notice that the very idea of blaming a fact of nature is purely nonsensical!
“That moral judgement is a line in the sand. It is a fine thing that we draw that line. It is a fine thing that we fight the good fight against such oppression, such advantage-taking – but I only say this because it is my social and cultural obligation to do so. To say this is ‘good’ is just as much missing the point as saying the initial enslavement is ‘bad’. Of course we think it is bad,” Müllick levelled a finger at Nifai. “You have organisms living in your stomach, whole colonies of them. Should they be freed? Should they have a say in their own self-determination? Enjoy longer and happier lives at the cost of your own?”
“But – ”
“Yes, support and encouragement and non-interference are accepted as the civilised things to do. The general idea is that when a species reaches the point where it stops practicing slavery, it is ‘advanced’ or ‘enlightened’ … there are a lot of flattering words. But the truth is, it’s no more significant than mastering mechanical propulsion, or abandoning natural shelter for artificial.”
“To be fair, those are pretty big steps.”
“Granted. But they don’t speak to inherent goodness or evil. Simply to practicality and sustainability. A master-species will evolve to a point at which slaves are more hindrance than advantage, their drawbacks outweighing their benefits. They have to be fed, maintained, monitored … all things that, once technologically at a post-scarcity level – or, more usually, once at a level where doing so consumes more resources than the master-species can afford – those doing the feeding, maintaining and monitoring will consider illogical and wasteful and pointless. And from there, amend their definition of morality to exclude the keeping of slaves.
“A slave-species, conversely, will evolve to a point where it can no longer accept the conditions of slavery, at which stage it will become a master-species of one stripe or another, either ‘enlightened’ or otherwise … or it will evolve to fit the conditions imposed upon it and the question of whether the creature is a slave or not becomes moot. It’s not a slave any more than your shoes are slaves, or a field of grease-peas are slaves, or a non-sentient machine is a slave.”
“Sounds like evolution has a habit of happening either way.”
Hastan Müllick spread his hands. “Well, it takes a God to stop evolution from happening, generally. And it’s one of the few crimes we can lock Them up for. The point is, vilifying the concept of slavery is a mark of enlightenment, sure enough – indeed, even the very suggestion that one might ‘endorse’ it is an exceedingly uncomfortable one to countenance – but the practice itself? A biological urge, a cruelty of nature projected artificially into the sphere of sentience and civilisation and given the false attribute of a cruelty of morality, and like every other brutality that living things visit upon one another it contains the seeds of its own resolution.”