Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

7.09.2014

Requires a Vast, Permanent Underclass

A friend shared this image-quote earlier today on Facebook:

A friend of that friend (that I don't know) commented:
But that is the American Dream according to some: start a business, get lots of people working for you, profit from their labor, buy the biggest house in a gated neighborhood that your employees can't enter. You worked hard to get your wealth by being fortunate enough to have a vision, capital and be in the right place at the right time to start a business, so you earned it. This is the dream that Republicans offer every poor, white male and which keeps them voting for things that do them personal harm as a poor, white worker, but help preserve the lifestyle of the very few who have achieved the dream they are peddled.
Which made me think of a section from American Nations (blogged previously at the link), which I shared:
On the founding of the American colonies that became the southern states and the philosophies driving their economic systems, a heritage we still see clearly today:

From the outset this was a society of a few haves and a great many have-nots. At the top a small cadre of increasingly wealthy plantation owners quickly came to dominate the economic and political affairs of the colony. At the bottom was an army of bound laborers who were effectively without political rights; they were expected to do as they were told and could be subjected to corporal punishment if they did not. It was a pattern that would carry on well into the twentieth century. . . .

Life as a servant was harsh, brutal, and demeaning, but it did not last a lifetime, and it wasn’t an inherited position. Those who survived their indenture received land, tools, and freedom. Like Anthony Johnson, many of them were able to become landowners, a status they could never have achieved in England. . . . With good health, perseverance, and a little luck, some built up substantial birthrights to pass down to their children, who were beginning in many respects to resemble the landed gentry back home. . . .

Whether highborn or self-made, the great planters had an extremely conservative vision for the future of their new country: they wished to re-create the genteel manor life of rural England in the New World. . . .

One might ask how such a tyrannical society could have produced some of the greatest champions of republicanism, such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison. The answer is that Tidewater’s gentry embraced classical republicanism, meaning a republic modeled after those of ancient Greece and Rome. They emulated the learned, slave-holding elite of Athens, basing their enlightened political philosophies around the ancient Latin concept of libertas, or liberty. This was a fundamentally different notion from the Germanic concept of Freiheit, or freedom, which informed the political thought of Yankeedom and the Midlands. . . .

The Greek and Roman political philosophy embraced by Tidewater gentry assumed the opposite: most humans were born into bondage. Liberty was something that was granted and was thus a privilege, not a right. Some people were permitted many liberties, others had very few, and many had none at all. The Roman republic was one in which only a handful of people had the full privileges of speech (senators, magistrates), a minority had the right to vote on what their superiors had decided (citizens), and most people had no say at all (slaves). Liberties were valuable because most people did not have them and were thought meaningless without the presence of a hierarchy. For the Greeks and Romans there was no contradiction between republicanism and slavery, liberty and bondage. This was the political philosophy embraced and jealously guarded by Tidewater’s leaders, whose highborn families saw themselves as descendants not of the “common” Anglo-Saxons, but rather of their aristocratic Norman conquerors. It was a philosophical divide with racial overtones and one that would later drive American’s nations into all-out war with one another. . . .

While they were passionate in defending their liberties, it would never have occurred to them that those liberties might be shared with their subjects. "I am an aristocrat," Virginian John Randolph would explain decades after the American Revolution. "I love liberty; I hate equality."

While the gentry enjoyed ever-greater liberties—including leisure (liberty from work) and independence (liberty from the control of others)—those at the bottom of the hierarchy had progressively fewer. Tidewater’s semifeudal model required a vast and permanent underclass to play the role of serfs, on whose toil the entire system depended.

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