Godwin's law, Slaves, Hyperbole and Reality

Dec 09 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

Holy Cow. Quote from the comments:

2-That there are people saying and documenting that the USA has not being an independent country for a long while, and that the legal status of the citizens is that of slaves.

What this brings to mind is Goodwin's Law:

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1"

Aside from the fact that there are numerous characteristics that distinguish even the average working class single mom from a slave, this is a truly insulting comparison.

So first, how different? There are lots of social specifics: slaves do not get to chose spouses, and marriage in the church or state of your choice was unavailable. Slaves could not chose where they live, and what they ate. Legally, slaves were property and could not own property (such as a car). Slaves could not enter into a contract, however beneficial or not it is. Slaves did own the fruits of their labor.

And, today, whether you chose to do so or not, whether you believe it makes a difference or not, adult citizens in the US can vote. And those votes can make a difference. We only think about the president, and maybe the senate. But there are lots of local elections. There are school boards that decide whether "alternatives" to evolution get taught, whether high school sports happen, whether art and music classes are available. There may be problems. It may not work everywhere. But I have seen it work enough in places I have lived to know that it can work. If you want it to.

These are the ways in which adult citizens of the US differ from slaves.

But this is not why the comparison bothers me.

It bothers me because such a comparison at its heart is insulting to those who were slaves. Who did not have the rights we have now, even if you think those rights are a sham. The men and women whose children were taken from them, who did not get to practice the religion they were brought up in, whose ability and right to escape and abuser was limited if available at all.

Again, I am not saying that things are perfect, that problems don't exist. I am sure that if you search the internet you can find, in the US or in Europe examples of situations where these things do not work for the "free citizens", where women are abused, and children taken (wrongfully) from their parents. But, they are exceptions, and you had to search for them. It is not the experience of most Americans, who own a car, a phone, the clothes on their backs. Who have the option to send their kids to school. To pick the trade they learn.

Slavery in the US was shameful. The case for reparations needs to be discussed and considered. It is not sufficient to say "those weren't my ancestors". You need to read this article  [The Case for Reparations Ta-Nehisi Coates]. You need to read this book [The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson]. But most of all, when you talk about what is wrong in the US today, for the average citizen, you cannot call it slavery. Get yourself a different word. It is shameful to fail to acknowledge what slavery really was.


8 responses so far

  • EPJ says:

    A quick and good reply. Let's see any other comments.

  • Cerastes says:

    I'll just leave this here....


  • EPJ says:

    Thanks to Cerasites for that one.

    Yes, it looks like there's a defined profile of this man (on purpose I omit the name to decrease the bias associated with it), that carries with it consequences depending on the context and the people interacting.

  • EPJ says:

    Potnia, my point is to clarify what it means, for awareness and so as to not fall back into that. And that would be consistent with building on to progress and freedom and all the good things that should bring.

    Because what the legacy of -domination/dehumanization/objectification?-- is and what people repeat later on that is wrongful, descendants or not, lawyers or not. I know groups descendant of slaves and kind of grew up realizing the hurt that went on, but one thing I noticed in them is pride as opposed to shame, and emphasis on self-sustenance as opposed to excessive playing of the past condition of freedom.

    The legal discussion I mentioned refers to trading in the markets of what the ID of a human being is and all the other paperwork associated with a person identifier. So I wanted to have a verification from the knowledgeable group, academia and science.

    That is important from the point of view of F0, F1, and so on generations, in terms of just status and rights, and what it is being also called debt-slaves in reference to the national debt.

    And maybe money and debt is placed in the context of slavery as a way to illustrate more precisely the consequences, and as a remainder of the value of liberty for a human being, rather than as an insult to a certain group of the population.

  • EPJ says:

    Yes, serf is a synonym, a way to refer to somebody that is payed for a service.

    And so you have contracts written for many things, including teaching or working in a lab, or buying property via a loan service, or doing a postdoc, or a professorship track.

    So what exactly is the aim of tenure, and how does the contract differ?

    If you notice, it also applies to the workforce in politics, contrast that to the justice branch, or to religion, etc, and you have to admit there are differences in the language used, and so maybe in how it applies to the different groups.

  • HEW says:

    EPJ reminds me of Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that's all.”

  • chall says:

    Oh yes yes yes. The hyperbole that makes most words and situations less worth... the child's book picture is spot on.

    To me it's a description of how shallow our society is, that people don't know nuances or in betweens anymore. Everyone jumps for the BIG words, and seem to forget (or never know) that using the words make them washed out and not worth as much as they were before.

    the real relation to using the word slaves in this world imho would be people who are trafficked. The ones who are sold for money and are locked up and have no rights. and there are plenty of them (shamefully without being helped by the world in general).

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