XLVIII – Slaves to the Past

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

In
one of his boldest pronouncements since taking office, and at the
risk of losing the support of white supremacists, President Bush
came out against "racial bigotry." He went on to call
slavery "one of the greatest crimes of history," an observation
of such profundity that one newspaper decided to subject it to the
ultimate test of validity for any proposition in our culture: a
public opinion poll.

At
a time when Bush's approval ratings have been dropping, I can just
imagine his neocon advisors sitting around the White House, prior
to this speech, wondering how best to reveal the depth of this man's
thinking, and the breadth of his vision. They were doubtless careful
to avoid Bush saying anything of a controversial or thoughtful nature
— such as Barry Goldwater's famous "extremism in defense of
liberty is no vice" — settling, instead, for words that would
neither confuse nor upset members of his cognitively-challenged
constituency.

What
other significant issues might this man choose to confront? Shall
we hear him orate about the evils of wife-beating, infanticide,
or drunk-driving? Perhaps his penchant for banality is genetically
derived. You will recall, no doubt, his father's resort to the "pledge
of allegiance" as his major campaign issue in his run for the
presidency. On the other hand, such traits may run with the office
itself, as Bill Clinton demonstrated in his efforts to inform Americans
on "what the meaning of u2018is' is." Or, the fact that each
of these three men had been educated at Yale may have had something
to do with it.

It
has been a long time since political rhetoric has had any appeal
to thoughtful minds. If Jefferson, the Adams's, Madison, Henry,
Franklin, or any of the other articulate minds of late-eighteenth
century America were around today, they would find their political
progeny an utter embarrassment to behold. It's not that I have any
problem with having the system embarrassed: quite the contrary!
I was delighted with Bill Clinton's re-election in 1996, since his
buffoonery helped to continue the federal gridlock that gave a bit
of breathing room for the expression of liberty.

I
love it when these boob-bumpers reveal to even the most witless
of true believers that the emperor's new clothes are but a birthday
suit. To this end, I welcome the candidacies of people like Jerry
Springer, whose election to the Senate would make committee hearings
all the more entertaining for C-SPAN audiences! I long for even
more of such embarrassments to the system. Perhaps Anna Nicole Smith,
Mike Tyson, Howard Stern, Bill O'Reilly, or Rosie O'Donnell could
be induced to take their shows into the beltway. In this day of
virtual realities, Beavis and Butthead might even be transformed
into statesmen. If Caligula could name his horse to the Roman Senate,
what possibilities are beyond the reach of our modern culture?

The
expansion of such mindlessness in Washington would probably go unimpeded
by the media. They not only feed on this kind of foolishness — anything
for ratings, after all — but most of them are, themselves, unable
to subject political discourse or programs to any kind of critical
analysis. This is why the public opinion poll is indispensable to
modern "journalists."

One
newspaper emphasized the fact that Bush's remarks failed to include
an "apology" for slavery that some civil-rights leaders
had demanded. Perhaps I have missed something: did President Bush
own slaves in his past? Do his multi-national business interests
include some wholly owned subsidiary catering to the servility trade?
Or is this just another example of the kind of loose rhetoric inherent
in socialistic thinking?

The
practice of slavery derives from collectivist premises; from the
idea that the lives and property of individuals may rightfully be
claimed by others. Slavery does not depend on racism: historically,
those vanquished in wars were often made slaves of the conquering
tribes or city-states. This raises an essential question: to whom,
and on whose behalf, ought George Bush apologize for the practice
of slavery? Is the guilt for past slavery to be borne by all modern
Caucasians, on the grounds that some of them are descendants of
persons who owned slaves? Is an apology owed to men and women whose
ancestors might never have been slaves?

To
demonstrate the foolishness of such thinking, let us go back in
time two thousand years. Let us imagine some Roman soldier — we'll
call him Claudius — had enslaved, tortured, and then killed another
Roman by the name of Octavius. Would the descendants of the victim
have a plausible claim for an apology — or, perhaps, reparations
— from the descendants of Claudius? Who would be the parties to
this collective mea culpa?

The
mathematics, alone, are overwhelming. Assuming thirty years to a
generation, if one went back two thousand years, one would have
to account for sixty-seven generations of ancestors and offspring.
The direct ancestors would total 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 men
and women! If Octavius had had no children, there would be no one
to whom an apology could be made and, likewise, if Claudius died
childless there would be no one to make an apology (assuming, of
course, that one is buying into this collective guilt game in the
first place).

But
if both of these men had produced children and grandchildren, each
of them would have contributed to the 147.5 quintillion descendants
above. This makes it mathematically certain that everyone living
today would be offsprings of both men. That being the case,
should I stand in front of a mirror and apologize to myself for
the wrongs one of my distant ancestors did to another of my ancestors?

It
may be pointed out that my example goes back too far, and that only
six generations would amount to but 128 direct ancestors, a more
manageable number. But of these 128, which ones were culpable, which
innocent, and which opponents of slavery? It happens that my grandfather
and his three brothers fought for the North in the Civil War. Am
I entitled to some dispensation for their contribution to ending
slavery? My three great-uncles died in this war: am I entitled to
reparations, from modern blacks, for having been deprived of untold
numbers of cousins whose would-be fathers died to end slavery?

I
regard the Civil War as a great wrong done to the South, and acknowledge
that that bloodbath was not conducted for the purpose of
ending slavery. Do I owe an apology to modern-day southerners for
my grandfather's part in bringing about their subjugation? Would
I owe that apology to current southerners whose ancestors might
also have fought for the North?

Once
we start doing a simple analysis of the situation, the absurdity
of the proposition of some people apologizing for wrongs done by
others becomes quite evident. Furthermore, this is the kind of mass-minded
thinking that generates more of the collective conflicts for which
future generations must, in turn, make amends!

Socialist
systems – such as the one created by Hitler's National Socialist
German Workers' Party – have joined collective ownership with
collective guilt, and fostered the organized violence, genocides,
wars, and other conflicts that continue unabated into the 21st
century. As soon as we begin identifying ourselves and others through
mutually-exclusive groupings, and begin to ascribe "rights"
and "wrongs" not on the basis of individual
conduct, but on collective grounds, the concentration
camps, gulags, holocausts, and ethnic cleansings become inevitable.
When we believe that members of one race — or nationality, or religion,
etc. — owe another such group apologies or reparations on the basis
of what previous members of such groups did to one another, social
mayhem is assured.

I
suspect that George Bush loses about as much sleep over the "sins"
of slavery as he does for the "heartbreak of psoriasis."
But in case I am wrong, and he is truly desirous of eradicating
slavery's wickedness from our social system, I would invite him
to take steps to end the current system of state slavery in America,
whereby over 45% of the wealth produced each year by Americans is
taken via taxation. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution
did not end slavery: it nationalized it, giving the
state a monopoly on the practice!

He
might also proceed to dismantle an ever-grasping state regulatory
system that dictates how people are to live their lives, raise and
educate their children, what food and other substances to consume,
etc. Such controls, coupled with the extraction of wealth from the
producers, represents the essence of any slave system. So deeply
has the slave mindset worked its way into our culture and thinking
that we continue to refer to ourselves as "assets" or
"resources" to our community, while many states declare
"our children" to be "our most precious
commodity."

In
the 1905 U.S. Supreme Court case, Lochner v. New York, Justice
Harlan made the point about as explicitly as one could expect from
a state official. A New York statute limiting the number of hours
people could work in bakeries was struck down by the Court. In dissenting,
Harlan stated that excessive hours of work "may endanger the
health, and shorten the lives of the workmen, thereby diminishing
their physical and mental capacity to serve the State, and to
provide for those dependent upon them" (emphasis added).

Though
the institution of slavery has been modified in form over the years,
its exploitative premises remain intact in the apparatus of the
state. It is well to understand its nature and, to this end, a reading
of history is essential. But for history to be of value, its lessons
need to be made relevant to the present. To search the rosters of
modern collective groupings for both "victims" and "wrongdoers"
of past wrongdoings is but to continue energizing the vicious game,
all to the benefit of the state.

As
wars, slavery, genocides, and other oppressive practices teach us,
it takes a long time for the entropy generated by political systems
to work its way out of society. But if we are to end such inhumane
destructiveness, either we must confront its modern ugliness, or
hope that someone else, at some time in the future, will exhibit
the sense of responsibility that we prefer to avoid. We cannot continue
to find comfort in empty, mindless bromides babbled by empty-headed
politicians, and imagine that we are "doing something"
about the destructive world we have created. We should rise to the
task, if for no other reason than to save ourselves from having
to apologize to our children and grandchildren.

Next
Chapter
                               Table
of Contents

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare