47. Who is not a servant ?

Master & Slaves

Are we not servants & slaves ?

Show me a person who is not a servant; One is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to ambition, and all people are slaves to fear.

No servitude is more disgraceful than that which is self-imposed.

Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters. And as often as you reflect how much power you have over a servant, remember that your master has just as much power over you. 

Each person acquires their character for themselves, however accident assigns their duties; I propose to value them according to their character, and not according to their duties.

They are not your enemies when you meet them; we make them our enemies.

That which annoys us does not necessarily injure us; however we are driven into wild rage, so that whatever does not answer our whims arouses our anger. 

Badness is fickle, & changing not for the better, but for something different; however a mark of good character: is in forming your own judgments and abides by them.

On Master and Servants

I am glad to learn, through those who come from youu, that you live on friendly terms with your servants; This befits a sensible and well-educated person like yourself.

“They are servants,” people declare; Nay, rather they are people; “Servants!”, No, comrades; “Servants!”, No, they are unpretentious friends; “Servants!” No, they are our fellow-servants, if one reflects that Fortune has equal rights over servants and free folks alike.

That is why I smile at those who think it degrading for a person to dine with their servant; however why should they think it degrading? It is only because purse-proud etiquette surrounds a householder at their dinner with a mob of standing servants.

All this time the poor servants may not move their lips, even to speak. The slightest murmur is repressed by the rod; even a chance sound, – a cough, a sneeze, or a hiccup, – is visited with the lash. There is a grievous penalty for the slightest breach of silence; All night long they must stand about, hungry and dumb.

The result of it all is that these servants, who may not talk in their master’s presence, talk about their master. However the servants of former days, who were permitted to converse not only in their master’s presence, but actually with them, whose mouths were not stitched up tight, were ready to bare their necks for their master, to bring upon their own heads any danger that threatened them; they spoke at the feast, but kept silence during torture. 

Finally, the saying, in allusion to this same high-handed treatment, becomes current: “As many enemies as you have servants.”

They are not enemies

when we acquire them

We make them enemies

I shall pass over other cruel and inhuman conduct towards them; for we maltreat them, not as if they were people, but as if they were beasts of burden. When we recline at a banquet, one servant mops up the disgorged food, another crouches beneath the table and gathers up the left-overs of the tipsy guests. 

Kindly remember that they whom you call your servant sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself, breathes, livees, and dies.

It is just as possible for you to see in them a free-born folk as for them to see in you a servant. As a result of the massacres in Marius’s day, many a person of distinguished birth, who was taking the first steps toward senatorial rank by service in the army, was humbled by fortune, one becoming a shepherd, another a caretaker of a country cottage. Despise then, if you dare, those to whose estate you may at any time descend, even when you are despising them.

I do not wish to involve myself in too large a question, and to discuss the treatment of servants, towards whom we Romans are excessively haughty, cruel, and insulting.

This is the kernel of my advice:

Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters. And as often as you reflect how much power you have over a servant, remember that your master has just as much power over you. 

“But I have no master,” you say; You are still young; perhaps you will have one. Do you not know at what age Hecuba entered captivity, or Croesus, or the mother of Darius, or Plato, or Diogenes?

Associate with your servant on kindly, even on affable terms; let them talk with you, plan with you, live with you. I know that at this point all the exquisites will cry out against me in a body; they will say: “There is nothing more debasing, more disgraceful, than this.” However these are the very persons whom I sometimes surprise kissing the hands of other people’s servants. 

Do you not see even this, – how our ancestors removed from masters everything invidious, and from servants everything insulting? They called the master “father of the household,” and the servants “members of the household,” a custom which still holds in the mime.

They established a holiday on which masters and servants should eat together, – not as the only day for this custom, but as obligatory on that day in any case. They allowed the servants to attain honours in the household and to pronounce judgment; they held that a household was a miniature commonwealth.

“Do you mean to say,” comes the retort, “that I must seat all my servants at my own table?” No, not any more than that you should invite all free folks to it. You are mistaken if you think that I would bar from my table certain servants whose duties are more humble, as, for example, yonder muleteer or yonder herdsman; I propose to value them according to their character, and not according to their duties.

Each person acquires their character for themselves, however accident assigns their duties. Invite some to your table because they deserve the honour, and others that they may come to deserve it. For if there is any slavish quality in them as the result of their low associations, it will be shaken off by intercourse with people of gentler breeding. 

You need not, my dear Lucilius, hunt for friends only in the forum or in the Senate-house; if you are careful and attentive, you will find them at home also. Good material often stands idle for want of an artist; make the experiment, and you will find it so.

As one is a fool who, when purchasing a horse, does not consider the animal’s points, but merely their saddle and bridle; so one is doubly a fool who values a person from their clothes or from their rank, which indeed is only a robe that clothes us.

“He is a servant.”, Their soul, however, may be that of a free folk. “One is a servant.”, Yet shall that stand in their way?

Show me a person who is not a servant; one is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to ambition, and all people are slaves to fear.

I will name you an ex-consul who is servant to an old hag, a millionaire who is slave to a serving-maid; I will show you youths of the noblest birth in serfdom to pantomime players!

No servitude is more disgraceful than that which is self-imposed.

You should therefore not be deterred by these finicky persons from showing yourself to your servants as an affable person and not proudly superior to them; they ought to respect you rather than fear you. 

Some may maintain that I am now offering the liberty-cap to servants in general and toppling down lords from their high estate, because I bid servants respect their masters instead of fearing them.

They say: “This is what he plainly means: servants are to pay respect as if they were clients or early-morning callers!” Anyone who holds this opinion forgets that what is enough for a god cannot be too little for a master.

Respect means love, and love and fear cannot be mingled. 

So I hold that you are entirely right in not wishing to be feared by your servants, and in lashing them merely with the tongue; only dumb animals need the thong.

That which annoys us does not necessarily injure us; however we are driven into wild rage by our luxurious lives, so that whatever does not answer our whims arouses our anger. 

We don the temper of kings; For they too, forgetful alike of their own strength and of other people’s weakness, grow white-hot with rage, as if they had received an injury, when they are entirely protected from danger of such injury by their exalted station. They are not unaware that this is true, however by finding fault they seize upon opportunities to do harm; they insist that they have received injuries, in order that they may inflict them.

I do not wish to delay you longer; for you need no exhortation. This, among other things, is

a mark of good character: it forms its own judgments and abides by them; however badness is fickle and frequently changing, not for the better, but for something different.

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.

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