By Rei Tanotsuka, 11 March 2020
“Oh, Tommy is always safe when he is with Freddy”.. I must be confined to a single condition. He had grown and become a man: I, though grown to the stature of manhood, must all my life remain a minor- a mere boy.” Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
Hopefully in the course of one’s existence, you will hear a tale that makes your heart tremble, and may even bring a light stinging tear to the eye. Even though you have never personally experienced this situation, the story nevertheless draws a very lucid response.
Is this the activation of what Jung calls the collective unconscious, or do we simply marry “our” versions of a similar experience, triggering the waterfall of emotions?
The following is a story that elicits a strong response in me, and yesterday, out of the blue, I recalled it. I was just exercising and listening to some interviews and bam, this story popped into my head and lead me to a thought labyrinth.
In Douglass’ biography, he recalled witnessing an incident as a mere child which embossed the injustices of slavery in his heart.
Douglass worked on a plantation and belonged to a master called Col. Lloyd. As a child he was aware of a faithful slave, old Barney, who had served Lloyd from youth to old age.
Old Barney was a farrier (horseshoe craftsman) as well as an ostler (horse carer). He even brought his son up on the unpaid “trade”. He had loyally looked after Lloyd’s horses for decades and never was Lloyd grateful for this free service extracted from the most inhumane institution. Instead, Lloyd was pendatic and highly critical, many a time, a litany resulted in the whipping of old Barney.
As old Barney advanced in his years concomitantly with Lloyd, his station in life never ventured past his childhood barn. He was forever a “boy”, despite having already transitioned to a father and a husband. Silver now streaked his hair, usually a sign of wisdom garnering respect if he had not been incarcerated in a system that would never recognise his value by paying him his worth so that he could change his life.
On this particular day, Lloyd had once again exercised his tempestuous nature and demanded that old Barney be subjected to a whipping for having made an “error” in taking care of his prized horses…. maybe there was a dust particle on the mane, maybe a twist in the rein, anything, nothing, it did not matter. What mattered was that Lloyd wanted to vent.
“Uncover your head”, said the impetuous master, he was obeyed. “Take off your jacket, you old rascal!” and off came Barney’s jacket. “Down on your knees!”. Down knelt the old man, his shoulders bare, his bald head glistening in the sunshine and his aged knees on the cold, damp ground. In this humble and debasing attitude, that master, to whom he had devoted the best years and the best strength of his life, came forward and laid on thirty lashes with his horsewhip. The old man made no resistance, but bore it patiently, answering each blow with only a shrug of the shoulders and a groan. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
Douglass goes on to explain that it wasn’t just the whipping, which was dispensed with a “light riding whip”, which I gather caused minimal damage (relative to the conditions back then), but rather the fact that justice was so jarringly amiss under slavery that allowed one grown man, husband and father, the right to punish another for no other reason than caprice and whim.
I sometimes wonder about the hypocrisy of all this, the irony of an entire nation in advocating liberty for “all” while perpetuating slavery, lynching dissenters and basing an entire moral system on OPPRESSION.
The most frightening aspect of America is that it has NOT CHANGED. Not at all. America, by and large, from the government to its citizens, lack what I call a human conscience and empathy.
America is a global parasite and within this parasite, there are a few good microbes, like Chomsky, Hersh, Kiriakou, Mannings, Blumenthal, Malcom X, Ali… (not exhaustive).
Currently, as I write, America has been wrecking Afghanistan for 18 years, deliberately misleading Americans into justifying a war that was grounded on lies.
JOHN Sopko (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction): The problem is, there’s a disincentive, really, to tell the truth. … And when we talk about mendacity, when we talk about lying, it’s not just by lying about a particular program, it’s lying by omissions, by saying, “Oh, I can’t tell you about the casualties,” or “I can’t tell you about how good the Afghans [inaudible] weapons,” or “I can’t tell you this and that.” Turns out that everything that’s bad news has been classified over the last few years.
The American government isn’t capable of truth because it doesn’t understand what the word means, and it doesn’t have the heart to find out.
Finding out truth would mean being accountable for taking away 111,000 Afghan fathers, sons, mothers and daughters. It means looking the victims in the eyes and saying the 3 words Americans will never say: We are wrong.
I want to claim that this wanton disregard for the sanctity of life rests only with the American government, but after my interaction on social media platforms like Quora, I realise that a sizeable portion of Americans are stark raving lunatics who, like the Tin man in Oz, don’t have a heart. However, unlike the Tin man, they aren’t even on a path to seeking one!
It’s NOT just the government.
The REAL natural slaves
When I was in my early teens, I developed a passion for Aristotlean philosophy, but found the “natural slaves” discourse difficult to fathom. Nuance isn’t exactly a teen strong suit and bubble gum literature in Australia taught me that inequality was wrong. Everyone is equal.
As an adult now, and post meeting innumerable kinds of people, I think I lean towards the Aristotlean notion of there being natural slaves. Hear me out.
Aristotle has been interpreted by a veritable number of scholars, one of them being Hanna Arendt, prized pupil and lover of Martin Heidegger. She saw Aristotle as a figure who condemned the “private” life, seeing it as a clandestine sanctuary for the darker sides of human nature, due to his philosophy regarding slavery.
However, if one reads him in the context of Hellenic values, you come to understand that his notion of the natural slave pertains to a group of people who are destined to be ruled.
Aristotle delineates the difference between the enslaved and the free, to be one of reasoning – koinonon logou. Slaves “perceive” logic, however, they are not able to take charge of it, that is, their ability to deliberate is deficient. Simply put, some people can not be fully autonomous, they can only survive through vicarious autonomy.
Americans, by and large are of this type. Imagine if you will, the sheer fecundity of stupidity that must reign supreme in a nation that has CONTINUALLY and unapologetically told its citizens to fight “imaginary” enemies and each and every time, they manage to build a garrison of idiots to kill innocents and get themselves killed in the process. Repeatedly. Ad infinitum. YOUR LIFE FOR IMAGINARY ENEMIES!!!
I mean, after the Korean war, the Vietnam war with the staged Gulf of Tonkin “surprise attack” (this was after leaks that Japan’s “surprise attack” was prewarned), HOW PAINFULLY DULL, would the citizen body need to be, to then fall for the Panama invasion, Iraq WMD’s fantasy, Afghan war, scary Gaddafi Lybian war and even NOW, as I bloody type, the dumb Yanks are STILL in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan and a billion other places trying to blow up everything in sight.
Americans, you guys are pathological, homicidal, xenophobic cretins and I pray that others will follow Phillipines’ Rodrigo Duterte and END military ties with America, sooner rather than later!
Yes, Aristotle was right in his definition that there are people who ostensibly “understand” explanations, yet lack the coherence to string the incidences into a narrative that actually obeys the rules of sanity. Even now, with all the racial wars, gun wars, LGBT violence, incarceration systems tantamount to nouveau slavery, America is STILL trying to convince the world that it’s practices are the best. In WHO’S GODDAMN UNIVERSE will this ever be true?? When words fail me, I resort to pictures, and America inspires these image for me…