Tidbit: July 4, 2008

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

-penned by someone who held 150 other people as slaves at the time.

Happy 4th of July.

Trackback URL for this post:

http://www.passtheroti.com/trackback/726

Comments

Let’s not forget that the

Let’s not forget that the document was signed by John Adams who although was ambiguous about emancipation never employed slave labour, while his wife Abigail condemned the institution.

If you wish, but he's also the person that signed the Alien and Sedition Acts into law, laying the groundwork for future political repression, particularly of immigrants. In fact, I just found out one of the laws remains in force today. And of course presided over a country whose economy thrived on the slave economy and permitted participation in the international slave trade while he was in office, and numerous other characteristics that make his social set, whether Northern or Southern, questionable people to look to in thinking of contemporary politics.

I think we should spend a little less time mythologizing these people or even historically focusing on them, and more time focusing on developing real history, developing real heroes or role models, and developing a sense of understanding of what the future COULD hold as opposed to what it definitely should not. How about Eugene Debs? How about Mark Twain? How about Emma Goldman and Marcus Garvey?

Or we could abandon the history project altogether for the purposes of selecting heroes and look at people today who are living real lives and taking real risks for things we might believe in or are otherwise helping us today to remind us that that's what makes a hero someone to admire, not holding political power at the top of some set of institutions. Elvira Arellano comes to mind in an American context, but so does Immanuel Wallerstein.

There is a geat speech on the

There is a geat speech on the 4th of July by Frederick Douglass.

"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."

The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II
Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860
Philip S. Foner
International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927.html

For anyone interested,

For anyone interested, American slave narratives: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/wpa/wpahome.html

What's a more interesting question than whether labor conditions in the U.S. are better in this system, even at the bottom (notwithstanding small pockets of abuse) than they were under slavery is whether they depend on labor conditions being atrocious outside the u.s. in ways that are more comparable to slavery. Or to put it more bluntly - does the American working class - migrant labour included - enjoy better working conditions at the expense of the poor abroad, and if so, how?

And to stop being all divide and rule - what do we do about it? The only thing I can think of is a world government (or effective governance) which would not solve the problem, but distribute the social violence more equitably and allow more feedback by the poor in subsaharan africa. It might also hasten the process of global industrialization which would then allow for us to have a stronger debate about redistribution vs. accumulation.

If he treated his slaves with

If he treated his slaves with respect like employees rather than slaves, then well, not so bad. I would assume that someone who penned that would have treated his domestic help with respect.

The thing about slavery is that it was considered “normal”. Just like some of the very weird things going on in our society today is also considered “normal” and humane, like paying a low minimum wage, when it’s not.

This is not perspective. The point was not to attack Thomas Jefferson, but to say that the celebration of a long-dead document by a long-dead man is not worth our time except insofar as it helps us dream of a better future, accurate renderings of history and the present included. And in that vein, slavery was likely materially worse in most cases than low minimum wages (or lack thereof). But I grant you that many social norms are f@#ked up - see undocumented labor or marriage.

penned by someone who held

penned by someone who held 150 other people as slaves at the time.

If he treated his slaves with respect like employees rather than slaves, then well, not so bad. I would assume that someone who penned that would have treated his domestic help with respect.

The thing about slavery is that it was considered "normal". Just like some of the very weird things going on in our society today is also considered "normal" and humane, like paying a low minimum wage, when it's not.

Dr. Anon 4.: Effective labour

Dr. Anon 4.:

Effective labour movements in those countries with low labour costs would do a thousand times more for workers than world government (which only happens when the aliens start invading, according to popular theories). Once the threat of moving investment to cheaper cost locations is diminished, international sourcing agents will be forced to pay more, and that eventually means that the bulk of price value will go to production rather than branding (in the case of garments), as prices can't be shifted to consumers in the long term.

Mind you, that's almost as quixotic as world government as trade unions throughout the third world are protecting the interests of public sector workers and are often ignoring private organised labour, let alone organised labour. Still, it's easier to think of new unions -- say covering industrial clusters rather than individual firms -- than establishing world government, at least in the short and medium terms. Besides, workers need to fight for what they need again and again and again before the government does anything to establish these needs as part of governance.

Actually, coming back to slavery, the central problem is restrictions on the free mobility of workers. In India right now, when the majority of (male) adult workers are not happy with a job, they just up and leave and try their luck at the factory next door or in the next town. As a result, wages tend to be regional and tend to reflect more costs of living than the ability of firms to set wages.

[In other places, such as in towns like Surat with rigid systems of labour contracting, or in other contexts, such as in TN where young women work as bonded labourers for dowry payments, this is not the case, and that needs to be addressed.]

China, however, remains the central problem: because workers require residence permits to get jobs outside their locality, workers are subject to huge amounts of exploitation by their employers, but they can't leave those firms. I'm not sure how that system can be addressed, as the Chinese state is trying to stop tens of millions of laid-off and angry workers from storming the cities. The dams will break soon, and it will probably result in a massive bloodbath and perhaps the state's death-spasm, but I have no idea what that would lead to.

Let's not forget that the

Let's not forget that the document was signed by John Adams who although was ambiguous about emancipation never employed slave labour, while his wife Abigail condemned the institution. Also not to forget that unforgettable speech by Thurgood Marshall J.

At The Annual Seminar of the
SAN FRANCISCO PATENT AND TRADEMARK LAW ASSOCIATION
In Maui, Hawaii May 6, 1987, coinciding with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the constitution convention in Philadelphia. Raead the speech here, http://www.thurgoodmarshall.com/speeches/constitutional_speech.htm

For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution we need look no further than the first three words of the document's preamble: 'We the People." When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America's citizens. "We the People" included, in the words of the Framers, "the whole Number of free Persons." United States Constitution, Art. 1, 52 (Sept. 17, 1787). On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes at threefifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years. The 19th Amendment (ratified in 1920).

These omissions were intentional. The record of the Framers' debates on the slave question is especially clear: The Southern States acceded to the demands of the New England States for giving Congress broad power to regulate commerce, in exchange for the right to continue the slave trade. The economic interests of the regions coalesced: New Englanders engaged in the "carrying trade" would profit from transporting slaves from Africa as well as goods produced in America by slave labor. The perpetuation of slavery ensured the primary source of wealth in the Southern States.

aghhhhh the stupidity burns.

aghhhhh the stupidity burns. It burns. Looks like we've got a slavery apologist on our hands.

You missed the point by a mile and your argument is ridiculous.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.