How did the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt begin? Pharaoh announced a Public Works Project and called upon them to volunteer to labor for the public good. To set an example, he was the first to arrive and personally wielded a shovel to show his commitment to the project. The Jews came as well to volunteer as well and anyone who complained about the work being too hard was pointed to Pharaoh, who wore a brick mould around his own neck, and asked, whether he was less willing to contribute than Egypt's own ruler?
That is indeed how slavery begins. It may not always be with a public works project, but turning free men into slaves requires more than just force, it requires the cooperation of the would be slaves on at least some level. First the larger society must be convinced that a particular group should be enslaved, this is fairly easily done for people are willing enough that others should be made to work for their benefit, whether the "others" are an ethnic or economic group that has been rendered suitably despised. Secondly the slaves themselves must be convinced that they have no choice but to be slaves. This is far more difficult, and requires that they enter a state not merely of physical slavery, but spiritual slavery. The chains of slavery must not only be on their arms and legs, but in their minds.
In ancient times slavery was fairly simple, but the modern day rise of the middle class created a demand for a new kind of slave. The middle class slave. 1984 aptly described what the middle class slave would look like. While the lower class worker would be physically oppressed, his mind would remain relatively free, because the rulers did not think he had any ideas worth controlling. By contrast the middle class worker would be in a state of constant mental oppression, his television habits, his casual conversations and his ideas constantly scrutinized to drive him into a paranoid state in which he would have to shut down his mind to avoid the risk of ever implicating himself in anything. He would have to conform to the collective to survive. He would have to choose to enslave his mind in a pernicious form of spiritual slavery, replacing his mind with ideology, and his soul with conformity.
What does a new Pharaoh look like then? He isn't likely to look like the old kind. He is not a Pharaoh who turns sheep herders into pyramid building slaves, but one who turns middle class workers into government slaves. As the nature of labor changes, so too does the nature of slavery. Slavery could still consist of government organized work programs well into the industrial era, as Stalin's Russia demonstrated. But in the post-industrial countries, slavery is less likely to consist of organized work programs, and more likely to consist of a network of regulations and taxation that serves the same purpose. But slavery is not defined by pyramids and physical chains, but by compulsion and tyranny. By a totalitarian regime that defines how you work and controls your standard of living, while benefiting from your labor.
That web is what modern day slavery looks like, a network of sticky strands that does not seem like a trap for those who do nothing, but tightens with every action you try to take. A web that assures you that it is there for your benefit. That you are being trapped and consumed for your own welfare, and that the spiders who suck you dry, have only your best interests at heart.
Let us turn now to the modern day Pharaoh. When Obama visited Egypt, merchandise everywhere proclaimed him to be the new Tutankhamun. Pharaoh Tutankhamun started out as Tutankhaten before he took power. The name change was the difference between Amun and Aten. Where Aten was the monotheistic god who had been the deity of Egypt, a god that Tutankhamun needed to identify with in order to take power, once in office, he changed his name and turned Egypt into a polytheistic country.
The new Pharaoh understands that to control men, one must control what they believe in. That if you can make men believe that they are slaves even when they are free, they will believe that they are slaves. And if you can convince slaves that they are really free, they will proclaim their freedom even while serving you. He understands that absolute power comes from remaking men and using everything in their lives as vessels for that transformation.
Religion, culture and the whole world of ideas in totalitarian governments is usually indivisible from the state, because the state must control not only what men do, but what they think. Only in free nations can there be a division between the government and ideas, religion and culture. Because in free nations, men and women may choose what to think and believe for themselves. As a free nation becomes totalitarian, this process is reversed, and culture, religion and the world of ideas become more tools to be used by the government for their repression.
This finally then is the new slavery. The slavery of people who do not know they are slaves. And the New Pharaoh who wears a suit and tie, who smiles for the cameras as he ushers them into slavery. The chains of regulations. The whip of belief lashed across minds, not backs. For all our cleverness and technological prowess, we have not left the old evils behind, we have only cloaked them. But there is still a New Pharaoh and a New Slavery. And even to the New World, the dark ages of the Old World may still come.