Please feel free to read this and make comments even if you have not read the discussed books. This does not involve any significant spoiler to the plot of the story, but an ancillary plot device that I thought itself raises good questions.
My family is in the background right now, watching a Bones episode that happens to involve undocumented immigrants being charged with murder and the hell they go through often being trafficked into this country and enslaved without rights.
And that subject reminds me of Russell’s world, in which she has one of her main characters having grown up as a child in Brazil, orphaned and in hopeless poverty. In Russell’s predicted 2018 future (she wrote the book in the 90s) she portrayed private companies in this “futuristic” world as having figured out that all of the masses in poverty represent a potential human resources to be … “exploited” (the word a cynic would use) … or “redeemed” (the word that capitalistic enthusiasts might prefer.) Here is how it worked in Russell’s world: companies would subject hopefull masses of impoverished kids to just enough of a barrage of tests to be able to select out a few of the best and brightest (usually with regard to very specific sought-after skills). After all this vetting, the company would extract the (lucky?) child from their poverty, provide all the best schooling, training … everything needed. And in return they would “own” the emerging trained adult, and enjoy returns on the high-paying job this “redeemed adult” was trained to do until the investment has shown its return. A defender of the practice (if we set aside the disturbing word: “own”) might liken this to med students needing to serve in the army or in a certain state until the investment into their medical degree is considered sufficiently compensated.
Russell’s character is a brilliant world-respected analyst who is nonetheless “with obligation”, but doing quite quite well for herself in comparison to her childhood of selling herself for prostitution. I.e. at some point she ostensibly “consented” to choose this future with its obligation, and was probably the envy of any other impoverished childhood street friends she may have had.
I don’t for a moment defend slavery in any form, historically or now. That said, what do people think of these kinds of situations which, as today’s news shows is far from merely hypothetical. What do we say to people who because of how horrible their present situation is, are willing to try slavery as a means toward gaining a different life?