The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The 101 returns

I got a comment from a Conservative, seems to be a nice fellow, who seems to think I make up the attitudes I've heard from his side of the aisle. Especially he claims that "You ask if conservatives think that welfare is more damaging than slavery to black communities. We don't. Anyone with a functioning brainstem doesn't think welfare is worse than slavery." Sorry. That just isn't true. If I hadn't heard this stuff from Conservatives a nauseating number of times (specifically: that Welfare has done more damage to black families than Slavery) I'd probably be one myself. If I hadn't gotten the: "oh, come on, Steve, you're not like them, you're like us..." speech so many times, ditto. The liberal side of the equation has just as many blind spots, and just as many assholes per capita, I'm sure. And are just as blind to it, I'm equally certain. But my attitudes are mine: please specifically attack what I have said, not what someone else said that kind of reminds you of me. I am never responsible for the attitudes of others.

##

Looking at the equations of beauty and power between human beings doesn't limit us at all--it sets us free. If a man's primary value in a relationship is power, and a woman's is beauty, it suggests a path of action for reaching a goal (becoming attractive to a particular type of person.) What if a woman is...well, ugly? Well, that's bad news, but no worse than a man being stupid. But if you REALLY believe that these standards are unfair and superficial, then you should be willing to totally, unhesitatingly embrace someone who is as far from THEIR "mark" as you are from yours, right? I remember a woman asking me what a woman should do if she has been, well, SERIOUSLY mistreated by nature. To tell you the truth, less than 1% of people seem to me beyond the practical effects of makeup, diet and exercise. If, for instance, she had been disfigured in a fire. Well, I replied, if I was that woman, I'd get a job working at the Braille Institute. She was dumbfounded. But blind men have friends who will whisper that she is ugly, right?

Yeah, but he doesn't have to look at it every minute. And as Ray Charles once said, "A pretty woman got no advantage with me. She's got to SHOW me what she can do." Boom shaka-laka, if you know what I mean.

##

The trick is that if you love yourself, and accept yourself at the same time that you move forward toward your goals, you will learn massive amounts about the human condition. In all likelihood, in order to really connect with your heart you will have to penetrate the illusions concerning things like beauty and power. And when you do that, IF you have done that, you should gain the insight to see more deeply into the essence of other human beings...and be willing to accept and embrace someone who is on the same road you are walking. If you cannot, then you are trying to cheat: you want someone more evolved, or more gifted, or more focused, or more awakened, than you are. And that just doesn't work. I know of some wild matches: a body-builder with a VERY middle aged lady who makes no effort to tone her body. But you know what? Their relationship works. They have a slight Mother-Son energy about their marriage, but you know what? I could be wrong, and what they have is just love off any chart I can devise. But she is extremely advanced in a discipline that he admires--so she has great power, and he has great beauty, and that balances in an odd way. But they are also business partners, so he isn't a stay-at-home plaything. It really is interesting to watch.

Obviously, my conclusion is that she HAS to be better than him. If he was as deep as she in their chosen arena, I don't believe they'd be as compatible.

##

The 101 Program is totally, totally free, and available at LIFEWRITE.COM. When I first created it, the plan was to polish it and make it a commercial product. But I watched people thriving over there, and just didn't have the heart to put a price tag on it. So...I'm using it as a testing ground for concepts I'm using in the coaching business.

The basic idea arose after about thirty years of searching for answers in my life, and turning over many, many flat rocks in many, many odd places to find them. And I started noticing that many of my most powerful and useful experiences and models of reality had fascinating overlap. And when I consciously compared those models, there were interference patterns where the same ideas emerged again and again. I came up with a basic rubric:

1) When the same ideas crop up in cultures widely separated by distance, pay attention.

2) When the same ideas crop up in cultures or philosophers widely separated by time, pay attention.

3) When ideas are successful at creating self-sustaining communities, and nurturing children to maturity generation after generation, pay attention.

4) When ideas are applicable to both extremely practical (say, survival) and esoteric (say, Human Adulthood and Awakening), pay attention.

And I started cross-referencing these things. About seven years ago, I had a real breakthrough in my understanding of writing: by creating an X and Y axes of the Hero's Journey and the Chakras, I started seeing/feeling a kind of Dynamic Sphere of storytelling (yeah, I know...a sphere has three axes. Sue me.) And I saw the rest of my life's work as a writer as filling out the wire-frame instinctive shadow of this "sphere" that now lives at the edge of my perception.

And about two years later, that "sphere" began to show up in my interactions with other people. And understanding of myself. Shadowier (if that is a word) and less distinct, but still there. And I "got it." I woke up. There is really no other way to put it. I saw clearly, both myself and the path I have walked. Jeeze, not really surprising: if you work at this stuff long enough, you get what you were looking for. The only question I had then was: how do I share this? And: HOW can I share this? And: What is the minimum time it would take to reliably bring people to this place? The 101 arose from this drive, this need inside me to share the light I had been given.

Man, do I still have work to do. I am REALLY aware...more aware than I ever was before, than I ain't enlightened. I'm what might be called "restlessly awake" with a tendency to slip back to sleep if I'm not careful. The "101" program uses the "safety rails" of goals in career, fitness, and relationship at least partially because I've watched so many spiritual seekers trash these parts of their lives trying to "evolve." And it just isn't necessary. So, while I have zero doubt that there are valid paths of growth that do NOT use these standards, I'm not qualified to guide anyone along those paths, especially if I'm coaching from a distance.

But if a student commits to all three arenas simultaneously, it's very unlikely to damage your life. And even if there is no such thing as "awakening" (I hear the doubters out there) you get the nifty results of a Soulmate, a career that gladdens your heart, and a slammin' body. Not so bad at all, really.

So heading into the end of the year, I've decided to start going over the 101 days of the program, answering questions and taking requests, as a way to supplement the free program that represents, in a way, my life's work. I think it will be sort of like going through it again, myself. And that sounds like fun to me.

35 comments:

Travis said...

Conservative and liberal are far to shallow of terms to describe the breadth of human thought. They're just labels and like most labels ought to be discarded.

Mike Ralls said...

>(specifically: that Welfare has done more damage to black families than Slavery)<

Well, are you talking about "families" as an _institution_ or "families" as individuals?

Because if you are talking about "families" as an institution in which Blacks beleive mothers and fathers should both live with their children;

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/25/AR2006032500029.html

"I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin."

That is a tremendous shame and it is a RECENT cultural change too. The drop in the black marriage rate really did begin right around the time that welfare came into full force. Now correlation does NOT prove causation, but it is an important data point.

But if you are talking about families as a collection of individuals than of course it's BS of a most offensive level (getting a check for doing nothing is more damaging than being whipped if you don't work for nothing? Come on).

Dark Eden said...

"But my attitudes are mine: please specifically attack what I have said, not what someone else said that kind of reminds you of me. I am never responsible for the attitudes of others."

Well this works both ways. I've never in my life heard a conservative make this point, and I certainly don't share it. So when you label 'conservatives' as having this opinion, you're doing a disservice to millions of people.

Maybe you need to seek a different group of conservative friends and acquaintances?

Now, if the conservatives are making a point similar to Mr. Ralls above, then I can sort of kind of swing on that. Welfare is a true blight, whether you're black or white or whatever, its a horrible program.

Shady_Grady said...

There are different welfare programs of course but the food stamp program has become much more widespread. 1 in 8 Americans and 1 in 4 children are helped by food stamps.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/us/29foodstamps.html

I have no problem with my taxes helping to fund the food stamp program, especially when we've given trillions to banks, hedge funds, auto industries and airlines to bail them out not to mention defense contractors, and other Pentagon approved companies.

I have also heard and read many self-identified conservatives make negative comparisons between slavery and welfare. Lots of times. It doesn't mean that EVERY conservative thinks that way.

Tim Nichols said...

Steve,
I hadn't checked in for a while, and just caught up on your shift toward coaching. Let me add a "me too!" here:
I know you feel like the rock only moved a few inches in the field as a whole, and you might be right. But your novels and blog posts, in combination, moved it miles for me, and I'm grateful. If I'd never gained anything else from your work, the way you woke me up to racial issues would be worth every dime I'd ever spent on your books and every minute I'd ever spent reading your work.
I wish you every success in your new endeavor, and I'll still be buying your books as soon as they hit the shelves.

Dan Moran said...

That is a tremendous shame and it is a RECENT cultural change too. The drop in the black marriage rate really did begin right around the time that welfare came into full force. Now correlation does NOT prove causation

So true. The single parent rate changed among all segments of society during this period. What's your theory for everyone else?

Mike Ralls said...

>What's your theory for everyone else?

In short?

1) Changing sexual mores. A far higher % of people have pre-martial sex than in the past and sex makes babies. The pill and what not make the risk smaller, but people make mistakes all the time especially if they are horny.

2) It used to be a real social stigma if people found out you were born out of wed lock, not so much any more. People still seem to fear the financial burden (sometimes) of raising a kid without a father, but they don't seem to fear that that kid will be looked down upon because they didn't have a father.

3). Urbanization: Farms were family affairs because you really couldn't run a farm with just one person. Too much damn work. The family was a natural fit for this. As late as 1940 25% of Americans lived on farms, not small rural towns but actual farms.

4) Welfare. Decreased the financial danger of having an out-of-wedlock kid. To what degree is a matter of debate, but I think that it's indisputable that if you subsidize something, you get more of it.

5). We're just plain richer. The money to buy food to feed a kid just doesn't take as many hours of work as it did in the past.

My theory for what factors would cause the black out-of-wedlock birthrate to rise far higher than the white rate during the same period?

1) Blacks and Southern culture are heavily intertwined. The white northern marriage rate is higher than the white southern marriage rate, but they are all averaged out under the group "whites" so this hides this some. And when white southerners move north they are assimilated into the white northern society in a generation or two (and thereafter tend to have northern marriage rates), while blacks remain largely unassimilated when they move to the north.

2) When marriage rates began to fall (in the 1960s, essentially) the Black community (collectively) did not regard it as a serious problem needing to be faced and instead often celibated it. When "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action" aka the Moynihan Report came out Whitney Young, the civil rights leader, said that family instability was a “peripheral issue.” William Ryan said it was “blaming the victim.” Multiple books came out disputing the thesis (essentially that that marriage orients men and women toward the future, asking then not just to commit to each other but to plan, to earn, to save, and to devote themselves to advancing their children’s prospects.”) and instead arguing in Black Families in White America, All our Kin, The Strengths of Black Families, and Tomorrow’s Tomorrow, "that the current reality of Black family structure, characterized by high rates of divorce and nonmarital childbearing, does not represent deviation or decline, but rather resourcefulness and resilience."
http://center.americanvalues.org/?p=72
Robert Hill of the Urban League (publishers of the Strength of Black Families,) said “Research studies have revealed that many one-parent families are more intact and cohesive than many two-parent families.”

I disagree with that immensely and I think the statistics bare me out.

By 1980, fifteen years after “The Negro Family,” the out-of-wedlock birthrate among blacks had more than doubled to 56 percent. The white by contrast was only 9% and in 1985 Newsweek ran an article called, “Moynihan: I Told You So.”

Dan Moran said...

Did marriage rates drop for whites on welfare, or only for blacks?

Dark Eden said...

I don't have stats in front of me but I'm pretty sure the problem is welfare not blacks on welfare.

Mike Ralls said...

>Did marriage rates drop for whites on welfare, or only for blacks?<

Both, but worse for blacks than for whites;
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=6001&page=7
"Table 2 summarizes results of 68 studies of effects of welfare on marriage and fertility, by type of study and by the race of the population studied. Across all methods, a majority of the studies find a significant effect of welfare (positive on fertility, negative on marriage). Although many studies also find insignificant effects and many others find a mixed pattern of results (some significant, some insignificant), an equal weighting of studies strongly suggests the existence of some welfare effects on demographic outcomes."

"When methods are used that many researchers find more credible ("cross-state changes"), the picture is muddied slightly: EFFECTS ARE GREATER FOR BLACK WOMEN BUT SMALLER FOR WHITE WOMEN." (Emphasis added)

Dan Moran said...

OK, thanks for the effort there. So my question becomes, if there's an argument there that welfare contributed to the collapse of the families that were receiving it -- I'm not agreeing that the facts support that, but it's at least a plausible argument -- and that blacks receiving it suffered worse from it than whites -- again, plausible -- what's the solution?

Is there any evidence that people moved off welfare get married and rebuild traditional families, even as a marginal effect? Marginal effect is about all I see regarding welfare-marriage in the first place; I find it plausible that there might be a marginal improvement when they move off. If you don't have the answer to hand, I'll take a shot at looking it up.

Dan Moran said...

Mike, for the record, despite occasional snarkiness about spelling ... and your own occasional spelling mistakes to go with them ... :-) ... I will say that you're the only guy on this blog who's moved my thinking to any noticeable degree. I appreciate the rigor you bring to the conversation.

Dark Eden said...

I can only use the anecdote that both of the women I knew on welfare wanted to get married and felt they couldn't lest they lose their welfare benefits.

I think a simple solution is changing how welfare works... obviously we need something like welfare but one that encourages you to get back on your feet, trains you, gets you job contacts, gives you child care for your kids, provides a path to returning to society hopefully on a rather quick path.

The current system is designed to abandon you if you try to get out of it, and that's just ass backwards.

Marty S said...

On the subject of welfare resulting in more one parent families, I wonder how much is fact and how much is fiction. I have known a number of couples who have lived together unmarried till either they decided to have children or until the woman was pregnant. If I were receiving welfare and in this situation I might well consider not getting married and continuing to live together if that was necessary to keep the welfare coming in. In that case we are talking about a two parent family in fact even if its a one parent family legally.

Steve: If by pay attention, you mean look upon institutions that take place separated in time and space favorably I have to disagree with you. At least as far as 1) and 2). Two of the most common institutions that have occurred in cultures widely separated in time and space are war and slavery, which the less we copy the better. Perhaps the most common cultural institution is the belief in one or more gods. I know many on this blog don't see that as a positive.

Dan Moran said...

Ethiopian Infidel (and anyone else who may be interested) ...

I said a while back that the economy performed better under Democratic Presidents than under Republican Presidents, and Ethiopian expressed some skepticism. So ....

~~~~~

Here.

REPUBLICANS vs. DEMOCRATS ON THE ECONOMY....Did you know that Democratic presidents are better for the economy than Republicans? Sure you did. I pointed this out two years ago, back when my readership numbered in the dozens, and more recently Michael Kinsley ran the numbers in the LA Times and came to the same conclusion.

The results are simple: Democratic presidents have consistently higher economic growth and consistently lower unemployment than Republican presidents. If you add in a time lag, you get the same result. If you eliminate the best and worst presidents, you get the same result. If you take a look at other economic indicators, you get the same result. There's just no way around it: Democratic administrations are better for the economy than Republican administrations.

Skeptics offer two arguments: first, that presidents don't control the economy; second, that there are too few data points to draw any firm conclusions. Neither argument is convincing. It's true that presidents don't control the economy, but they do influence it — as everyone tacitly acknowledges by fighting like crazed banshees over every facet of fiscal policy ever offered up by a president.

The second argument doesn't hold water either. The dataset that delivers these results now covers more than 50 years, 10 administrations, and half a dozen different measures. That's a fair amount of data, and the results are awesomely consistent: Democrats do better no matter what you measure, how you measure it, or how you fiddle with the data.

But it turns out there's more to this. Via Brendan Nyhan, I recently read a paper by Princeton's Larry Bartels that adds some fascinating details to this picture.


More at link.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

Thanks, Dan. As one of Pournelle's correspondents says: "The numbers are sacrosanct; they tell us what happened". It seems the Republicans are the party of Plutocracy after all.

Marty S said...

Dan and Ethiopian: The key point in the article from my conservative Republican point of view is in the next to last paragraph. This paragraph indicates Republicans focus on inflation, while Democrats focus on employment as the reason for the numbers. Here's why this is important and neglecting inflation in your analysis leads to bad conclusions. Lets say that this year apples cost $1.00 dollars a pound and next year due to inflation they cost $1.05 per pound. Suppose that under the economic policy that generated this inflation rate I earn $90 the first year and $110 the second year. I have a spectacular income growth rate, but in real terms over the two years my income purchases 199.5 lbs. of apples. Now under a different economic policy I earn $100 dollars in each of the two years showing zero income growth, but inflation is also zero. I can now by 200 pounds of apples over the two years, so the low growth policy actually puts more food on the table.

Marty S said...

Oh and let's look at one other fact pointed out in the article without a good explanation. The Republicans really out perform the Democrats in election years. Here's one possible explanation. You can't turn the economy around on a dime. So lets assume a change in economic policy from help the poor to "trickle down" takes one to two years before the rich feel the effect of the change and it starts working its way down to the rest of us. Then it would be the fourth year, election year before we felt the full positive affect. One the other hand when the Democrats switch to a tax the rich help the poor strategy it takes the same three years before the economy suffers in the election year. This does an excellent job of explaining the data observed in the article.

Steven Barnes said...

If I have heard many members of a group take a position, I think it is fair to generalize, while remaining open to new members of that group offering divergent opinions. And I know enough Conservatives to stand on my opinion that while intelligence and ethics seems equivalent between the political poles, there does seem underlying variation on their position regarding the Nature versus Nurture, or "Essence versus Existence" arguments. Liberals tend to believe we are creatures of social programming, Conservatives tend to believe we enter the world as souls already possessed of personality and capacity. While simplifications, I've heard variations on these themes from thousands of people over the years, and trust my perceptions of this. That doesn't mean every Liberal or Conservative thinks this way, but these differences, if they exist, would make sense of a gigantic amount of social policy.

Steven Barnes said...

Regarding the universality of war and slavery. Looking at their widespread practice, I would come to two conclusions:
1) War is damned useful. If you don't know how to wage it, or defend yourself against those who do, your culture will probably die unless you have massive natural barriers like mountains or oceans.
2) Slavery isn't enough of an aberration to be considered "evil." It is just a form of energy efficiency, using human beings as machines. If technological society crumbled, we'd have slavery again in a hot minute. This leads me to admiring technology, no kidding. But it also leads me to looking at the conditions under which slavery is a greater or lesser toxin. And to come to my own conclusions about when it is most poisonous. And the conclusions I come to are the following:
1) If the slave cannot earn his freedom.
2) If the children are automatically enslaved.
3) If the slave's cultural memory is erased, and replaced with beliefs and values that make them submissive and dependent.
4) If the society promotes beliefs that the slaves are inferior human beings who are fit only to be slaves.
5) If those beliefs outlive the institution itself.
6) If there are no legal protections for the slaves: no laws against rape, murder, etc.
##
Back to the main point: a behavior nearly universal needs to be understood as a human attempt to maximize survival of individuals, tribes, or values. Demonizing it accomplishes nothing. Trying to understand how we as human beings can conduct ourselves to minimize the need for the behavior seems a better choice.

Mike Ralls said...

Hey Dan,

Thanks for the compliment, I try to be objective about things and have hard quantifiable data to support my positions on as much as possible. I don't have the data you requested off hand, and will be pretty busy the next few days so probably won't try to find it right now, but if you find it I'd be interested in seeing it.

Cheers,
Mike

PS. Dyslexics of the world UNTIE!

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

Dan,

The analysis you supplied can be interpreted as validating the effectiveness of the US electoral process. If Republicans focus on lowering inflation, and Democrats on creating jobs, then voters did well to elect Reagan (To quote Darwin, it's like confessing a murder!) in '80, and Obama in '08. Since the problem was hyperinflation in the late 70's, and is currently massive unemployment, the Republicans were clearly the best choice to tackle the former, and the Democrats the latter. Perhaps Jefferson, whose faith in the commonsense of well-informed common-folk was the article informing the Constitution, was right after all.

Steve,

Baring disputable exceptions among Aboriginal Australians, war appears to be universal among humans and their close primate kin such as Chimps. Interestingly, the skills required for war blend seamlessly with other ubiquitous activities like hunting and sport. IMHO, woefully insufficient inquiry has been made into the role war prowess may have played in selecting for human physical and cognitive skills. Few activities are as ruthlessly Darwinian as combat. A weak or stupid soldier is usually a dead soldier.

Marty S said...

While I fit the Conservative mold on the topic of nature over nurture, I definitely see a big role for both. My view is that nature defines an individual's potential in any area and nurture determines how close we rise to that ultimate potential. By the way I am of the opinion welfare does more good than harm and that food stamps is an excellent program.

Clint Johnson said...

I'll come down on the side of the argument that says slavery is a greater harm to a group than is welfare. I'll also say that the welfare system that is now in place is having a greater ill effect on the current population than the residual (albeit still nasty) effects of a system that enslaved their great-great-great grandparents.

Slavery's "saving grace" is that it is such a horrible institution that it was reviled by many that actually benefited from it, and those who are enslaved will usually strive for freedom. Even for the sake of argument, trying to come up with any socio-economically positive aspects of slavery actually repulses me intellectually. It is a great good thing that technology has made slavery so inefficient as to be indefensible on even the most grossly utilitarian grounds.

Welfare on the other hand, has the unfortunate aspect of doing a greatly desired good along with the harm and so is held sacrosanct by most- and unlike slavery, many welfare recipients will fight tooth and nail to remain in that condition.

Slavery is a blatantly ugly system that is very difficult to defend and enforce while welfare is an insidious system that is difficult to oppose and is self perpetuating. Unless welfare is seen as a last resort and a source of at least some shame... it is at best simply another "job" and at worst it metastasizes into a fundamental right that is considered due simply for drawing breath.

I most certainly don't advocate abolishing welfare, but trying to save the baby from drowning in the bathwater. The state run welfare system was not designed to get as many people onto welfare as possible, that is just the unavoidable outcome of bureaucracy. That the usage of things like foodstamps is increasing is a sign of failure- unless the goal is to get more people to use foodstamps.

That is one of the reasons I would start by phasing out and eventually abolishing STATE welfare with the expectation that altruistic PRIVATE welfare systems would step up and do a far better job. I do believe that the charitable nature of the populus is exhibited in the votes cast in support of the myriad promises that politicians make to get elected- if only we could get away from the belief that it is the governments job to help our neighbour and ours is simply to shut up and pay more taxes.

When people are using their own limited resources to face a problem they tend to be more concerned with the efficacy of their actions and more resentful of those who abuse the system. I'm not saying these people don't exist inside the system as it is- but ask any of them if they feel the system is working?

As a libertarian I would also be remiss in not belabouring the point that what the government is doing is neither noble nor charitable, you can't be altruistic with someone else's money.

Clint Johnson said...

On nature versus nurture, I also have seen ample evidence to support that liberals see nurture as the arbiter of who we are, and conservatives see nature as the decider.

I put forward my understanding from a libertarian individualist perspective (that is synonymous to Marty S above), contending that the genetic makeup of the individual sets a hard limit on what we can and cannot become while the environment defines how close to that envelope we get.

Of course the coming technological singularity will make all of us look like slope browed knuckle draggers compared to the meanest intellectual of the latter part of this century... and... oh crap, are we going to be slaves to our robotic overlords? How is that going to feel when we are objectively and unequivocally inferior in every way to machines?

Maybe if we're lucky they will simply take care of us and look after our welfare... and... ahh fu¢k.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"I'll come down on the side of the argument that says slavery is a greater harm to a group than is welfare. "

I'd think a simple comparison of mortality stats for slaves vs. welfare dependents makes this obvious. Then there's beatings, whippings, rapes, malnutrition, ZERO education, forced illiteracy, unrelenting stress from living under the penultimate tyranny..

Clint Johnson said...

One thing I've wondered about is the actual treatment of the slaves. As repugnant as the ownership of another human being is, I've never understood the mistreatment of valuable "property" that is portrayed in every look back we take- be it factual or fictional.

Did the slave owners uniformly treat them as horribly as our sensibilities seem to require of them?

I would still find it wrong if they treated them with great kindness and compassion, like a prized racehorse, but it may be that we are not comfortable with ascribing them anything less than the most vile treatment of slaves. Maybe we feel that attributing any but foul behaviour to the slavers is in some way tacit approval of slavery?

If they genuinely believed that blacks were inferior to whites then I would expect them to treat the slaves with the same care and consideration that they gave to their horses and houses. Some would be bad but the majority would be reasonably conscientious in their treatment of someone who had cost them (inflation adjusted) tens of thousands of dollars.

Unless they realized, consciously or subconsciously, that this supposed inferiority was an ugly rationalization of a morally bankrupt institution and to protect their own self image reacted with animosity toward their victims?

Also, I suppose that most people's quite natural unwillingness to accept being a slave could lead to them being far harder to "break" to that station in life than a horse- meaning that the slaver may have resorted to a more brutal treatment throughout the slave's life to instill compliance through fear.

All things considered though, I would expect that the average slave who was purchased a hundred and sixty years ago in New Orleans and cost $1,000 in 1850 dollars would have been treated better than any of the slaves that will be sold in Port-au-Prince this weekend for $100.

Humans are often such ugly animals.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"One thing I've wondered about is the actual treatment of the slaves."

No need to wonder; read about the debasement and brutality of slavery in Frederick Douglas' "My Bondage and My Freedom". For many slaves, the standard fiscal practice of greatest returns for least investment determined their treatment. Thus Douglas describes being kept nearly naked in winter, and he and his fellow slaves subjected to hunger so severe, they where often moved to pillage fish from a neighboring lands. As always where absolute power's held, casual brutality's exercised, as show in several horrifying vinyets. Thus Douglas tells how a slave who cared for plantation children was brained for sleeping on the job.

In general, slave treatment varied with the ratio of slaves to masters, and with the nature if their duties. Caribbean plantations, where a handful of Whites ruled thousands of Blacks, were tropical Gulags. As also recounted by Douglas, slaves who worked as house servants were cared for well physically to cultivate attractive appearances and demeanors. Slave foremen were even granted power over brethren and sometimes behaved like Master's peers. However, as Alexis de Tocqueville stated, such "exalted" slaved were constantly mindful that the Master could instantly "level them with the dust".

Clint Johnson said...

Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist and that book was written as a rallying cry. He would probably have emphasized the many wrongs of slavery and diminished actions that showed slavery in any but a bleak light. I feel relatively safe in saying that because it is exactly what I would have done- and I've lived a privileged and comfortable life so can't accurately imagine the indignation, anger and resentment that Frederick laboured under while writing that book. I'm sure that there was no need to lie, exaggerate or prevaricate through omission – but I'm also pretty sure that I personally couldn't have written anything pre-13th Amendment that wasn't condemnation from front to back.

Maybe there was a near uniform grotesque treatment of fellow humans, it just strikes me as unreasonable to treat something so valuable, so poorly. Then again, history is replete with examples of whole populations behaving unreasonably for generations.

Thinking further on contributing factors to this mistreatment, I would also conclude that the category of slave owner is self selecting toward those with less empathy and an innate drive to control others- like in politics, there would be a disproportionate representation of sociopaths in this class.

I certainly don't want to sound like an apologist for slavery, it is wrong to the core. To my mind, the Confederate States Constitution was actually a slightly better document than the original Constitution but was rotted by the explicit protection of slavery. Like Frederick, I think they realized that a strict reading of the original Constitution made slavery illegal and so wrote a protection for that institution into their document. So while I disagree with the consolidation of Federal power that was expressed by the Union, and laud the more local and limited power of the Confederacy, the single overwhelming wrong that is slavery would have morally obligated me to take up arms against the CSA.

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Anonymous said...

"...What if a woman is...well, ugly? Well, that's bad news, but no worse than a man being stupid. But if you REALLY believe that these standards are unfair and superficial, then you should be willing to totally, unhesitatingly embrace someone who is as far from THEIR "mark" as you are from yours, right?..."

Either that or totally, unhesitatingly embrace being single while you accept "no means no" from people who are unattracted to you the same way you want to people whom you're not attracted to accept it from you. After all, being single is better than pushing yourself to endfure sex with someone whom you're just not attracted to (especially painful if you're the one being penetrated).

Meanwhile, it's worse when those standards get applied to *employment* instead of sexual attraction. Like when an interviewer thinks "her breasts are too small for her body [something "makeup, diet and exercise" can't fix because if her body burns fat off her body that'll incl;ude what little breast fat she has left to lose], therefore she's not sexy, therefore she can't do this accounting/janitorial/etc." job*. The unfairness isn't in the "therefore she's not sexy" part at all (and people who think so are barking up the wrong tree), it's in the "therefore she can't do this job" part.

Should someone who can crunch numbers or sweep floors with the best of 'em but is "too ugly" for employers and who doesn't believe in beauty standards for those totally, unhesitatingly embrace not making a living?

"I have no problem with my taxes helping to fund the food stamp program, especially when we've given trillions to banks, hedge funds, auto industries and airlines to bail them out not to mention defense contractors, and other Pentagon approved companies."

Yeah!

"So true. The single parent rate changed among all segments of society during this period."

That's because improved contraceptives let the birth rate drop among sexually active singles (like going from 1 or 2 kids total conceved between long dry spells between partners to 0 or 1 kids total) and PLUMMET among sexuall active married couples (like going from 1 kid per 1 or 2 years of marriage to 1 or 2 or 3 kids total and focusing on them), right?

"4) Welfare. Decreased the financial danger of having an out-of-wedlock kid. To what degree is a matter of debate, but I think that it's indisputable that if you subsidize something, you get more of it."

4b) Welfare policies designed by people who believe the "if you're married you can always afford children, your husband will provide!!!" stereotype and declared children ineligible for welfare if their parents were married *no matter how low their fathers' incomes were IRL.*

How many loving, married, low-income couples who couldn't afford to feed their children themselves split so that their children could qualify for welfare instead of starving on what little their fathers and mothers could scrape together? How much better could welfare policies treat families if they recognized that *married men are people too* instead of never-empty walking wallets?



* see the article and comments at http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2010/05/14/frank_battles_for_transgender_workers_rights/?comments=all&plckCurrentPage=1 while remembering that even some non-transgender people still have bodies that don't look "feminine" or "masculine" enough to escape transphobia, and see the article and comments at http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/08/08/looks/?p1=Upbox_links

Anonymous said...

"Steve: If by pay attention, you mean look upon institutions that take place separated in time and space favorably I have to disagree with you. At least as far as 1) and 2). Two of the most common institutions that have occurred in cultures widely separated in time and space are war and slavery, which the less we copy the better."

Good points! War, slavery, forced marriage, and legalizing marital rape all suck no matter how many creeps in charge liked and still like those. We need to pay attention to everyone in history and around the world, not just the most privileged.

"If technological society crumbled, we'd have slavery again in a hot minute. This leads me to admiring technology, no kidding."

Yeah!

"But it also leads me to looking at the conditions under which slavery is a greater or lesser toxin. And to come to my own conclusions about when it is most poisonous. And the conclusions I come to are the following:
1) If the slave cannot earn his freedom.
2) If the children are automatically enslaved.
3) If the slave's cultural memory is erased, and replaced with beliefs and values that make them submissive and dependent.
4) If the society promotes beliefs that the slaves are inferior human beings who are fit only to be slaves.
5) If those beliefs outlive the institution itself.
6) If there are no legal protections for the slaves: no laws against rape, murder, etc."

Much much much better than "sometimes it's *not* toxic because sometimes it's part of their culture"

"Back to the main point: a behavior nearly universal needs to be understood as a human attempt to maximize survival of individuals, tribes, or values"

sometimes as an attempt of privileged humans to maximize their privilege at the expense of other humans.

""One thing I've wondered about is the actual treatment of the slaves."

"No need to wonder; read about the debasement and brutality of slavery in Frederick Douglas' "My Bondage and My Freedom"."

Yeah, it never hurts to look at real-world examples when there are real-world examples to look at, instead of ignoring them while playing with hyptheticals (like you suggest here, and like looking at southern Somalia while considering the effects of not having a government, and like looking at the Netherlands while considering the effects of legalized prostitution...)

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