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Post Slavery Seen from Two Perspectives; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 04/21/17 5:00 AM

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Slavery Seen from Two Perspectives; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 04/21/17 5:00 am)

Gary Moore writes:

Again WAIS discussion refines the focus on a cultural watershed often lost in haze.

The dialectic between Robert Gibbs's (April 20) well-founded skepticism about the size of ships in the transatlantic slave trade, and JE's wonderfully relevant rejoinder on how large and packed the ships documentably could be, helps again to take the inquiry beyond its usual confines of polemics and into defining the emotional or "sympathetic" bedrock involved. I'll seek (poorly) to parse this treacherous ground:

Could it be said that underpinning opinions on panoramic issues of cultural harm like slavery are (perhaps among others) two general opposites:

1) The viewpoint finding paramount importance in sympathizing with the victims.  Such a viewpoint may emphasize--and hence may be led to exaggerate--the disempowered aspect of a cultural interface; and

2) The viewpoint finding paramount or at least parallel importance in sympathizing with the overall value of a mainstream culture that had done the harm, seeing more urgently the question of how a familiar and admired mainstream could have stooped or been carried to the alleged depths--and hence seeing glaringly the dissonance of claims or exaggerations--that seem to demonize the empowered culture.

However poorly I've phrased this, it strikes me that I may at least have the credentials--since maybe I've been on both these sides.

Maybe the word "dissonance"--as in cognitive dissonance--is part of the key here.  What is intuitively dissonant to whom, and how to cross that bridge mutually--if only we could find the tools...

JE comments:  We could further parse viewpoint #2 to include the "it wasn't so bad/let's not exaggerate" school of reasoning and the classic Soviet tu quoque/"you are lynching Negroes" retort.  This latter category likes to say how warring African tribes were responsible for rounding up the "human resources" sold into slavery.  This of course begs the question of how the slave market incentivized war by making it profitable.  A related tactic is reminding the listener that Native Americans slaughtered each other just fine before the White Man showed up to do his own slaughtering.

We could add a third viewpoint:  the empowering idea that the colonizers' culture is irrevocably changed by the people they subjugate.  Just for starters, consider cuisine, language, the arts, and British tea and chutney.

Well phrased, Gary.  Tell us more about how you've been on "both sides."  No doubt I'm oversimplifying, but can I take this to mean that you were once an unapologetic apologist for imperialism?

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  • Thoughts on Colonization and Imperialism; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/22/17 8:48 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    Now JE is exaggerating my implications about exaggerating, with
    regard to my attempt to articulate the two sides in the debate on cultural harm,
    including colonization and slavery.

    In my post of April 21st, I tried to see if I could see from both sides
    of such debates, saying one side emphasizes victim viewpoints and one side
    emphasizes mainstream culture viewpoints--and I said I thought maybe I had
    been on both sides. But I meant right now, not in some nefarious past: right
    now I can feel both sympathies.

    Example: JE also noted the claim that slavery
    was promulgated by the Africans themselves when they were at war, taking
    captives to sell, and he said that was a red herring since it was the Europeans who
    were providing the market for the slaves. True, but, sad to say, that counter-argument
    is another form of the blindness--because no war was needed and there were
    well-documented native organizations and societies that specialized in capturing
    whoever they could, simply for profit. It doesn't make the European depredation
    any less, but the disproportion here is in minimizing the parallel native flaws,
    so the Europeans are left as sole demons--sort of the way Roots removed the
    African captors and had Europeans ranging out through the jungles on hunts
    (which also did occur, but was not the main action).

    JE phrased his reply to me like this: "Were you [Gary] once an apologetic spokesman for imperialism?"
    That's not only like asking, "When did you stop beating your wife?" but like the
    fundamentalist's insulting challenge: "Do you believe in God?"--insulting because
    they're packing into that one little nugget a message that says: "You do define the
    things you hold sacred exactly as I do, do you not, and I need not specify this since
    the way I view sacredness is the only possible way."

    In the two-sided debating teams I imagined, can't we all feel both sympathies
    to some degree? And might fanaticism be the complete loss of one or the other
    balancing magnetism?

    And by the way, thanks for that great reminder of the old Stalinist answer-for-everything:
    "You also lynch Negroes." Maybe somewhere there's a compilation of such arguments
    down through history: the tu quoques, red herrings, ad hominems, and simple shrugs,
    perhaps including: "Kill them all. God will know his own."

    But as a former "unapologetic spokesman for imperialism," I feel inadequate for such discussion,
    and that I should instead be concentrating on penance.

    This whole notion I had--of trying to reconcile polemics--smacks a bit of walking into a Sunday-school
    class and asking can't they see that atheism has a point, too. A great way to paint a bulls-eye
    on oneself.

    How do I get myself into these messes?

    JE comments:  No offense was intended, Gary, but I apologize nonetheless.  And there might even be sound and--dare I say?--politically correct apologies for imperialism.  The emergence of English as a lingua franca, like Latin in its day, is a good thing to combat the Tower of Babel phenomenon of chaos and misunderstanding.  Granted, misunderstanding is all too common, even when you speak the same language.

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    • Enslaving Ourselves; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 04/23/17 4:53 AM)
      Ric Mauricio writes:

      Once again, a very interesting discussion on WAIS. The debate on slavery got me thinking. Isn't the debate not really on whether it was Europeans or Africans who promulgated the practice of enslaving, but rather the treatment of human beings by other human beings? What if I purchased slaves and treated those slaves with respect and love and not as property? What if I viewed my wife not as my property, thus forcing her to adopt my surname as hers, but rather as my partner? What if I provided clean lodging to my farm workers (a form of slavery or indentured service; I know I couldn't work in the hundred-degree temperatures in California's Central Valley)? What about the Chinese rail workers who were forced to be the canaries in the tunnels being built and yet had limited access to marrying? What about the Native American Indians who were forced to live on reservations, which I could never understand?

      But let's amp up this discussion even further. I find that right-wing or left-wing believers will only believe in right-wing or left-wing rhetoric, always dismissing the other side as fake news. Are they not enslaving themselves by only listening to teachings that support their beliefs?

      Have we not enslaved ourselves to fiat currency, thus abdicating our economic power to those in government who choose to debase the fiat currency because they can? But going one step further in this discussion, is not that part of the government really not part of the government at all, but controlling the economics of the government with its policies? Oh, yes, I am talking about the Central Banks, whether they be in the US, the UK, Europe, or Asia. The real shareholders of the Central Banks are really the financial institutions. In the US, the shareholders are led by the likes of Citibank, Bank of America, Chase, and Goldman Sachs. In Europe, it is led by the likes of Deutsche Bank. And through the talking heads on TV and other forms of mass media, they propagate their enslaving lies.

      In the Ivy League Universities, we are enslaved by the economic teachings of the Keynesian theory, pushing other economic theories such as the Austrian School as irrelevant.

      In religion, we are enslaved by the teachings of the Churches. I find it interesting that the Christian Church bases most of its teachings on the apostle Paul. His teachings comprise about two-thirds of the New Testament and they many times contradicts the teachings of Jesus. But realize that Paul was a Pharisee in his pre-Christian life and therefore his beliefs crept into his teachings. Not to just pick on Christianity, but I find that teachings in other faiths have been expanded and bastardized in the same way by the formal institutions that go forth to spread the Way. Siddhartha was a skinny dude, not a fat-looking Buddha. In fact, Buddha is not even a person but a state of being. Is not the Hindu view that we are all little gods an attempt to deslave ourselves by explaining that we are all part of the life force of the universe, that life force often referred as God or Allah or Yahweh? Isn't the Holy Spirit another explanation of the Zen enlightenment?

      In physical fitness, we are enslaved to workout myths, that, looking at the obesity rate in the United States, are obviously myths. Spending two hours a day to burn off calories does not work. Doing Crossfit does not make you fit. In fact, I have members who come in injured from Crossfit.

      So, in life, there are those who choose to enslave others, but many of us choose to enslave ourselves.

      JE comments:  This post from Ric Mauricio is part Rousseau, part William Jennings Bryan, and 100% food for thought (a nourishment which never leads to obesity).  Many would say, however, that you cannot compare "self-colonization" or "cultural hegemony" to the very real slavery of the whip, the market, and the genocidal transatlantic passage.

      A question for our economists:  Is Keynesian theory truly the "gospel" in Ivy League schools?  My first exposure to the Dismal Science was during my year as an exchange student in Chile, where the Austrian-influenced Chicago School ruled the roost.  Is/was U Chicago an outlier?

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      • Yes, But... (Timothy Brown, USA 04/23/17 5:46 PM)
        I enjoy Ric Mauricio's thoughtful "if only, but then" thoughts.

        They remind me of a saying from my youth: "If the world were flat, we'd never have to walk uphill."

        JE comments: Yes, but then how would we ski?  (Cross-country skiing is tedious.)

        But seriously, Tim, isn't "but then" the central syntactic structure of WAIS, the cornerstone of critical thinking itself?

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      • Does Paul Contradict the Teachings of Christ? (Enrique Torner, USA 04/24/17 3:49 AM)
        I really liked Ric Mauricio's post on enslaving ourselves (April 23), that is, until I reached the part where he stated that the Apostle Paul contradicts the teachings of Jesus.

        I would like Ric to support his statement with verses from the Bible, because, personally, I don't see those contradictions. I do agree with him, though, that we are enslaved by the teachings of the Churches. That's why I am against formally joining one: I don't want to be enslaved by any church or anybody! I have my own beliefs, which I base on my understanding of the Bible, the only authority I want to have. The Catholic Church has been an example of an institution that tries to control their members (and non-members) by threatening and punishing them to unbelievable degrees. Even Pope John Paul II recognized this by apologizing for over 100 of their wrongdoings, including the Catholics' involvement with African slave trade!

        Wikipedia lists many of them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apologies_made_by_Pope_John_Paul_II

        The Bible states that we all are enslaved to sin, and that only God can free us from it, so we can become enslaved only to Him (Romans 6:16, 6:22; Titus 3:3; 2 Peter 2:19).

        Regarding the initial discussion on slave trade, I am ashamed to admit that Spain was guilty of that since the times of the Greeks, and by the time of the Renaissance, Spain had the highest rate of African slaves in Europe (Wikipedia). Seville became the main entry port of slaves, where 7.4% of the population was enslaved. African slaves ended up replacing the Native American slaves Spain had in the New World, partly because the African slaves were immune to the European diseases that Native Americans were dying from. This is what led to the development of the Atlantic slave trade. Later on, Native American slavery would be banned, while African slavery continued being legal. Why would this difference be? (I'm being sarcastic here).

        After this free time I used to write this post, I will now go back to the slavery of grading tests and papers, a chain I cannot break, no matter how hard I try! When I finally return papers, students hand me more! I feel like an Egyptian slave.

        JE comments: By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground!  I feel your pain, Enrique.  It's finals week at the College and I too am in grading purgatory/peonage.  But students truly appreciate thoughtful feedback on their essays.  We must remember that it's a privilege to labor with the pen and not the plow.

        Who can help us with our Paul/Christ discussion?  For starters, wasn't Paul, not Jesus, the one who came up with mulieres in ecclesiis taceant, which silences women in the Catholic Church--specifically forbidding them from the priesthood?

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        • Does Paul Contradict the Teachings of Christ? From Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 04/25/17 7:10 AM)

          Ric Mauricio writes:

          Ah, horror of horrors.  If only the world were flat...we would have not exhilarating downhill runs at Heavenly or Squaw Valley, the awesomeness of Yosemite Falls nor the Grand Canyon, and the romance of cable cars to the stars.

          But in response to Enrique Torner (April 24th), I will try to illustrate cases where I humbly (I am not a biblical scholar by any means) present my insights to the teachings of both Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

          Jesus says Nations Of The World Are Under Satan, But Paul Says Their Rulers Are Agents of God

          Secular authorities are stated by Paul to be God's own agents. (Romans 13:1-5.) Wow, I thought when I first heard this: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were God's own agents. Paul exhorts us not to rebel against these agents of God. Paul also contradicts Hosea 8:4 (700s BC): "They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval." (NIV) Compare Luke 4:5-8 (Satan offers his authority to Jesus to rule the kingdoms of the world), John 18:36 ("my kingdom is not of this world") and Acts 4:26 ("rulers of the world rise up against the Annointed One").

          Paul Exhorts Celibacy, But Jesus Clearly Says It is A Choice Not Within Everyone's Power

          Paul's teachings against marriage really threw me for a loop. If all men can control their passion (oh, a bad thing), then none of us would marry, thereby dooming the human race into extinction. Makes sense, right?

          Paul taught against being married. He wrote in 1 Cor. 10:27-28: "Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage." Sounds like Paul equates marriage to enslavement.

          In line with this Paul also wrote: "I wish all were as I am," meaning unmarried. (1 Cor. 7:7.)

          To help prevent the desire to be married, Paul said: "It is good that a man should not touch a woman." (1 Cor. 7:1.)

          Obviously Paul clearly endorses celibacy for us as a superior way of life.

          However, Jesus speaks differently of celibacy as something for some but not all disciples. It is not a command or even an exhortation. It is merely a legitimate option. "He who is able to receive this, let him receive it." Matt. 19:12.

          The contradiction arises because Jesus never says or implies "do not seek marriage." Significantly, Jesus never applies any moral pressure to be celibate, while Paul clearly does so.

          Paul Excludes Eating With Sinners But Christ's Example We Are To Follow, and the Lost Sheep Parable, Is Contrary

          In 1 Cor. 5:9, Paul clearly writes:

          I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such n one do not to eat. 5:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? 5:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

          What did Pharisees like Paul say was Jesus' sin or error? Eating with sinners.

          In Luke 15:1, the Pharisees accused Jesus of error, saying: "This man receives sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus defends this practice in a Parable of the Lost Sheep--that if you have a lost sheep, you don't wait for it to come home, but you go out to where you can find it, and then lead it back home. Jesus defends proactively socializing with sinners so as to bring them home as lost sheep, which included eating with sinners:

          Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 Then Jesus told them this parable:4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:1-4.)

          In another context, Jesus gives a similar defense when the Pharisees similarly accused Jesus of the alleged error of eating and socializing with sinners:

          15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:15-17 NIV.)

          Jesus defended the practice of making an effort to socialize with sinners to bring them back from a lost condition to a saved one. For the "healthy" don't need a doctor to call upon them--only the sick (sinners in context).

          But Paul says the opposite. Don't "eat" with sinners, Paul clearly says. Hence, 1 Cor. 5:9 contradicts Jesus's clear practice of eating with sinners. This is akin to Paul's idea of "turning" people over to Satan, abandoning them and praying Satan takes control of their lives. Jesus says this is an error--Jesus instead says you seek to turn such people from Satan and back to God.

          Jesus made a point to eat with tax collectors and sinners as representative of "my sheep who are lost" and need "repentance." Jesus included them as if they were his sheep previously--implicitly saved sheep at one point--but are now lost. The good shepherd exclaims when he comes home "I have found MY sheep who was lost." (Luke 15:6.) These are "sinners who repent" in distinction from "righteous sheep" who need no repentance. Luke 15:7.

          Paul was exclusionary; Jesus advocated inclusion. Paul was a persecutor of Christians, but found that when he couldn't beat them, he simply hijacked the teachings and molded it to his Pharisee mindset.

          There are many more contradictions, but these are the ones that really get my ire. I will continue to eat with my non-believer friends; I will continue to eat with my Muslim and Jewish friends (as well as Christians); I will continue to eat with all my friends of different ethnic, cultural and sexual orientation groups. God forbid that all people were alike. What an absolute boring world this would be. And I will not blindly follow our leaders (political or religious), thinking of them as agents of God.

          And I still believe that love and passion is a good thing (although I do believe that sex without love is just an animal act).

          JE comments:  To go one further, might we say Paul was a misogynist?  (Granted, that would be a "presentist" appraisal.)  I hope David Duggan will join this discussion.

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          • Reconciling Paul and Christ (David Duggan, USA 04/25/17 5:43 PM)
            Do I dare attempt a reconciliation of Paul with Jesus? Can the sun be reconciled with the moon? Can the tides be reconciled with the shore? Can Athens be reconciled with Jerusalem? Can Antonin Scalia (rest in peace) be reconciled with Ruth Bader Ginsberg? Looked at from the standpoint of us mere temporal mortals, of course not. But looked at from the aspect of eternity, of course they can, for all are subject to the love of God against which Paul and Jesus, sun and moon, tide and shore, and Scalia and Ginsberg are judged, weighed and redeemed.

            Jesus' blameless life, moral teachings, miraculous healings, and out-of-the-box associations exemplify His death, resurrection and ascension. Without the former, the latter would seem a Divine circus trick: wow, how'd He do that? Without the latter, the former would make Him a sort of cross between Albert Schweitzer and Diogenes. The pairing of human action and Divine intervention reinforces the Nicene Creed's statement that Jesus was both man and God, begotten of the Father before all worlds.

            Paul bears none of these indicia. He was born in Tarsus of modern-day Turkey and early on came under the influence of Gamaliel, the chief Pharisee of the 1st Century of the common era in Jerusalem. As such he was a scholar, but one with a mission to eradicate followers of the Way, as those early believers that Jesus was the Christ or Messiah called themselves (sort of like a Eugene Genovese or George Wald, legitimate academics with political-social agendas). His Damascus Road conversion of course changed not only his life but the life of Christianity. For no longer was it a fringe sect, but one with a body of scripture, and an advocate who not only braved Mediterranean seas and unruly mobs, but defied the same Roman authorities which had put the One whom he had persecuted to death. The Gospels began to be written shortly after his conversion, and Paul's letters followed.

            Of course there will be contradictions. Paul was writing to specific audiences at specific times and for specific reasons. The passage of time does not diminish the value of the message however. WAISers might well wonder what the world would look like if husbands did not love their wives as Christ loves His church, or if children did not obey their parents. (I'll leave for another day a discussion of wives' obedience to their husbands; suffice it that there is a flip side.) But the Gospels were written that others believe in Christ, and the 4th Gospel (John) so that His life could be seen in the context of a theology--an understanding of God--which had cleaved time in two. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. ...No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father's side, has made him known" (John 1: 1 & 18, NIV, capitalizations in original).

            Back when I was practicing law in New York, I idolized two judges of the United States Court of Appeals: Augustus Noble Hand, and his younger but more famous cousin, [Billings] Learned Hand. Though they shared one quarter of a gene pool, they were near polar opposites: Gus an originalist before Scalia, Learned a progressive before Ginsberg; Gus a devoted churchman, Learned a skeptic. The word then was "quote Learned but follow Gus." The same could be said about Paul and Jesus: quote Paul, but follow Jesus. We could do worse.

            JE comments:  Excellent essay, David, but I'm puzzled by your concluding analogy.  Isn't Jesus more of a "progressive" than Paul?  Granted, I may be out of my league on matters of Christian theology.

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      • Enslaving Ourselves (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/25/17 4:40 AM)
        Ric Mauricio (23 April) made some profound statements regarding the most important human problem: How more powerful human beings treat the less powerful ones, just like other animals do. Everything about humanity depends on this problem. These "what if?" questions may seem silly to some people, but they are critical if mankind is to ever rise above the miserable conditions that most humans live under today. And it seems to be getting increasingly worse lately.

        Ric followed up with the observation that humans engage in stupid ideological debates akin to religious confrontations, where both sides believe they are right and the other side not bothering to get to the truth behind the arguments. That was exactly my primary motivation for writing the book God for Atheists and Scientists, whereby God is Truth and humanity's only way to get there is through scientific methods, not ideology, and certainly not religion. To the extent that we avoid the Truth for immediate selfish reasons or just plain stupidity, we become slaves to the wrong master and are more likely to become evil.

        Lastly, I agree with most of Ric's statements regarding fiat currency, the manipulative Fed, the need for less religion, less corruption and politics, and more science in the discipline of economics. Keynes seems to be right about the need for consumer demand (give them income and they will spend) as the primary driving force for economic development. Schumpeterian economics (Austrian School) is also truthful but is heavily dependent on innovation (which, supposedly just like poetry, humans are much less fond of).

        JE comments:  Isn't innovation what humans do best?  Am I too optimistic?  Look at it this way--we are far better at innovating than at bringing justice to the world.

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    • Enslaving Europeans (John Heelan, UK 04/23/17 5:27 AM)
      When one goes back in history, one discovers that European victors in conflicts collected slaves as part of their tribute. The Romans were large users of slaves taken from their conquered peoples and displayed when the triumphant military leader paraded through Rome. One recalls Pope Gregory's (AD 540-604) comment on seeing the pale-skinned English (Angle) boy slaves "Non Angli, sed angeli."

      It is thought that much of Cicero's works were in fact written by his slave secretary whom he later freed. (One hopes that there was not some form of pederasty afflicting the Church at that time.) I am currently reading a novel about the Danes (Vikings) ravages of Saxon kingdoms a few hundred years later. Their slaves were called "thralls" (from which we get the verb enthrall).

      Then we can fast-forward to the 20th Century and remember the slave labourers in Germany and the USSR. So we should not be too hard on the Arabs for being slavers as they learned from Europeans.

      JE comments:  And let us not forget etymology:  Slave comes from the word Slav.

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