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Of Clients and Parasites

One can not understand the whole of human societies without the presence, practically universal (except for some honorable exception like the ancient Bushman culture of the Kalahari) of the figure of the client and the parasite.

Primitive human civilizations were initially based on the figure of the » important man » who was trying to stand out from the rest of the tribe or clan for their altruism, which brought him some kind of prestige at the cost of providing material goods.

This basic principle, that of the patron who provides tangible goods and that of the client who receives obedience in return, forms the basis of most human relationships. They are asymmetric relationships where the pattern is always above the customer. Examples we have them everywhere:

  1. The family, where the father (or mother) is the patron and the children the patrons. The parents contribute goods in exchange for love and, above all, for obedience,

  2. The teacher-disciple relationships,

  3. Employer-employee relations,

  4. Those of the general with his troops,

  5. Those of a nation conquered with its metropolis,

  6. Governor-governed relations, etc.

It is evident that in an egalitarian society the clients do not have to exist, and if there are no clients there are no patterns. The patronage is conditioned, therefore, by the existence of customers.

Although patronage relations are the translation of tribal relations in an extended urban environment, their formalization dates back to the Roman Empire, where they legislated about them. It is even said that the same founder of Rome, Romulus, with the aim of promoting links between patricians and plebeians, so that customers could live without envy and employers without faults to the respect that are due to a superior.

Client comes from the Latin cluere which means to obey or obey. It designates a free man who placed himself under the patronium of a patronof higher socioeconomic status. The more clients a patron had, the more dignitas a Roman who pretended to be important agreed.

Here we see that the important man surrounds himself with clients to be able to be. He thus becomes the head of his own tribe. The bigger and stronger the tribe (that will depend on the number and quality of the clients) the more power the patron will have.

It must be made clear that we are talking about relationships between free men. Under this social structure were the slaves, mostly owned by the employer, who constituted a labor without salary, source of the wealth that was distributed from the patron to the clients.

Client relations or patronage obliged to maintain «loyalty» and pietas«devotion» on the part of the client). As they consisted of private agreements, they were outside state control; but they were considered a mos maiorum («ancestral custom») and a bond of religious order, which included dependence on the patron for the consultation of patronage and offerings to the heavens. The Law of the Twelve Tables (449 BC, although it picks up much earlier oral traditions) declares sacer («cursed», exposed to the wrath of the gods) to the patron who defrauds the loyalty of his client.As of this law, the clients had as a second name that of their employer’s gens .

The relationship also had strong legal consequences, since employers and clients were not allowed to sue before the courts or testify against each other, and they should refrain from any type of insult among them. It also had military consequences, the client being obliged to accompany the employer to the war and to contribute to their rescue if necessary.

It began as a semilaboral relationship that ceased to exist in the time of the Republic. From then on, the clientele relationship was purely personal and was established in the urban environment: the clients put their services, especially the political services (when the vote was required in the numerous elections of the Roman political system -comicios romanos-), at the disposal of a rich employer with political and social ambitions, who became his benefactor and gave him financial protection and assistance.

The domus or roman family house included a room at the entrance that allowed to welcome customers; and according to the range allowed access to more private spaces (the humblest stayed at the entrance, as in the farmhouses of Extremadura). The more clients expected each morning at the entrance of the house, the greater the prestige of a family.

There were three classes of clients: those who come to greet you at home, those who take you to the forum and those who follow you everywhere. It was advisable to agree on a price to the exclusivity of the former, to avoid the frequent abuse that supposed that some customers came to greet different employers on the same day; It was also advisable to take as many as possible to the forum, because the number of clients that accompany a candidate determines their reputation, in a situation similar to the political leader and his caucus of deputies who follow him everywhere.

The extravagant whims of the patrons, and the adulation and servility of the clients, could reach ridiculous extremes, as Petronius, 24 Juvenal25 and other satirists (not a few of them, like many other Roman literati, also protected clients, precisely for that condition -see patronage-).

With the Latin word parasitus (in Spanish «parasite»), coming from the Greek παράσιτος ( parasites , «commensal»), pejoratively designated customers considered as lazy living at the expense of their employers.

This status, that of parasite, will be the one chosen by many heirs of Rome, all those who, in exchange for flattery, want to earn a living without working or contributing, at the expense of the boss and, ultimately, the slaves of the Pattern.

We must look at this fundamental figure, that of the parasite. Its existence and proliferation will make the difference between models of state and government and will determine, finally, social and economic structures over time.

The clientelistic relationship in Roman social and political life was declining since the 2nd century BC. C. to almost disappear in the imperial era, but was reborn strongly after the fall of the Roman Empire.

When urban life collapsed when the cities were destroyed, the people returned to the countryside, where the clientelistic relations that, little by little, would lead to feudal relations were re-established. The boss became the lord, the clients his vassals and the slaves, servants.

In this state of things, the power was in the gentlemen called «nobles». The church copied this scheme, and the patrons were the bishops and the friars the clients. Above the nobles, there was the figure of the king who, in the beginning was elected among the nobility, like the pope, who was elected among the cardinals. It happened over time to be hereditary, but not in the Church because the children of the Popes could not be recognized as such.

Without being noble, or noble heir, the way to escape the curse of work was vassalage or enter religion. And, once inside, optimize your situation becoming a parasite.

If you strip a noble or boss, a vassal or client and a servant or slave, you will not see any difference. They are social relations based on tribal power relations that are transformed into legal relationships using lies, by agreeing between those who suit them, who is superior and who is inferior. For what is crucial the support of the parasites, since, without them, the servants would kill their master.

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