The Romans of the late Republic and hte Empire were, at least by courtesy, regarded as civilized and not barbaros by their Greek subjects. So engrained was this notion that Medieval Italians took to describing the Germans and French as barbari–hence the frequently heard phrase, “Barbarians Out!”. All authentic human communities display inequalities of wealth, status, and power, but the higher one goes up the ladder, the more these inequalities turn into something like master and slave. Belloc (whom I greatly admire) argued, in the Servile State that while Christianity did not condemn slavery per se, the Church’s moral teachings so discouraged it that slavery was transformed into the more benign serfdom. Part of this is true, but tenant farmers and serfs were found, in the late empire, to be a more profitable form of labor exploitation. Besides, the history of any area or city in Europe will reveal the existence of household slaves often bought from the Muslims. On the other hand, the Venetian were well known slave dealers, selling Christian captives to Muslims!
The reason we do not see vast numbers of Americans as slaves is twofold: The first and less important reason is that a large number of our slaves do no work: They are welfare slaves, servants of the government, street thugs who justify a police state, a parasitic drain on people who work. The second and more important reason is that we have lost our understanding of freedom, which is not simply the absence of physical coercion or a deed of sale, but an economic, moral, and spiritual condition. The man who fears to lose his job, watches TV in the evenings, and goes to Disneyworld on vacation is not a free man, by any understanding that obtained in other historical periods. The economic exploitation of man by man, the degradation people are willing to suffer so long as they have security–these are not pleasant realities to dwell upon, but if we fail to understand them, we shall fall into the suicidal cant of the abolitionists. One does not have to like or defend slavery to be disgusted by the dishonest propaganda that passes for history in these United States. As an emigre friend told me on the telephone yesterday, what a corrupt and cowardly people our (the baby boomers) generation is. Yes, but successive generations are even more pathetic and degraded. Our trouble is that while we have slavery–and plenty of it–we do not have civilization. That was destroyed before I was born. Read this little piece (”A Libido for the Ugly”) written by Mencken in 1927. http://grammar.about.com/od/classicessays/a/hlmlibidougly_2.htm
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Dr. Fleming on slavery
From the comments to Dr. Wilson's post on Nathaniel Macon: