Thursday, 11 July 2013

BBC "Ancient Greeks" We do have slaves. Wrapped up in prog 1

I have now seen episode 1 of the Ancient Greeks and slavery is given its place in the final ten minutes. Kind of. As Scott says, the 'civilisation rested on the labour of the slaves' and in an excellent sequence he takes us to the silver mines and uses contemporary writing about the conditions. All fine. However, the problem is that this is presented as 'another thing'. Having said that the civilisation 'rested' on slavery, the programmes together aren't able to show the links between that notion of humanity, the very extraction of wealth that he describes to the 'contradictory' ideas and practices he talks about.

In a modern context, we could compare it, say, with the 'strivers and skivers' rhetoric (or whatever they call it). We might say, for example, that this division of working people in the minds and rhetoric of our rulers is always present but a) it has a function ie it's not arbitrary and b) the fervour with which it is expressed and taken up government-friendly media varies over time. In a time of acute crisis for those that rule and those that own and control the wealth, it is absolutely essential for them (not for us) that they keep the lid on dissent, revolt and rebellion. Part of this is punitive - clamping down on demonstrations, longer prison sentences, part of this is divide and rule - claiming that one set of the exploited are better off than another, nastier than another, acting against your interests etc etc. But however it happens, it's all related to a basic underlying structure whereby those in power, those in authority, those who own and control most of the wealth, extract wealth from the labour of those without wealth. If you were making a TV programme about that in 2500 years time, you could of course tuck this fact away in the last ten minutes of programme 1, showing the remains of a factory or call centre, you could show the fabulous wealth of bankers and then in episode 2 scratch your head with puzzlement about how such obviously civilised people as David Cameron or David Starkey could have found such startling inequalities tolerable; or why and how it was possible for the Hillsborough case to have taken so long to unravel, or how it was possible for News Inc. to carry out illegal practices for so long etc etc...