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  • Tuesday, January 03, 2006


    The New American Slavery?

    Wyoming Attorney Gerry Spence, in his book Give Me Liberty: Freeing Ourselves in the Twenty-First Century, published in 1998, shares some interesting thoughts worth considering in analyzing the current state of American government and culture.

    Spence asks: "What if we have never known freedom and have been taught to embrace our bondage, to fight for it, even to worship it?....What if we are taught in school the state religion called capitalism, a religion that condemns as heresy all that interferes with the monied class extracted yet more money from those least able to protect themselves?...What if a form of subtle slavery has been taught to us, made acceptable to us, made to appear even as freedom itself?"

    Spence asserts that we, i.e., Americans, have become a nation of slaves. He defines slavery as "that state in which the person has no effective control over the course of his or her life."

    For an individual, "If no matter how he schemes or toils he cannot explore his boundless uniqueness, if he has lost his only power, the power of the self, he is enslaved."

    For an entire nation, "In the same way, the people of a nation are enslaved when, together, they are helpless to institute effective change, when the people serve the government more than the government serves them."

    Spence elaborates: "When the course of government, like a descending glacier, cannot be altered by any action, by any petition, by any protest, by any desperate striking out, the nation is enslaved.

    "When the people have at last discovered that it makes no palpable difference to their well-being which party takes power and, in despair, display the pain of their impotence by shunning the polls on election day, the people are enslaved."

    According to Spence: "Our bondage is more pernicious than the slavery of old, for the New American Slave embraces the myth of his freedom as he would a dead puppy and, with all affection, speaks to it as if it were alive."

    If we are slaves, who is our master? Spence answers this question as follows:

    "The New Master is an entanglement of megacorporations on the one hand and an omnipowerful national government on the other, each stuck to the other like a pair of copulating dogs, each unable to move without dragging the other behind it, each dependent on the other, hating the other, but welded to the other in a dissolute enterprise."

    Spence finds the seeds of what has flowered as our current condition of slavery in the birth of America as a nation:

    "Can we not see them - Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the others - waving the Declaration of Independence in the face of King George III, crying that, as a self-evident truth, 'all men are created equal'? And in George Washington's slave quarters, when the light of liberty penetrated the fog of hypocrisy, three hundered African men and women huddled half naked and half starved, their backs bearing the scars of the overseer's whip."

    According to Spence: "America was founded on slavery and prospered from the sweat and misery of black slaves for nearly two hundred years before the Civil War."

    What Spence views as our current slavery is attributable, at least in part, to our ability to accept and feel comfortable with contradictions:

    "That many of the Founding Fathers - including Washington, Madison, and Jefferson - were slave owners is seen as but a fascinating contradiction. We have grown used to contradictions and accept them. Democracy and the corporate ownership of our politicians is a contradiction. Free speech and the control of the airways by the corporate few is a contradiction. Free enterprise and vast numbers of the population who are so poor they cannot begin to rise up from the pit of poverty is a contradiction. That the Founders made their fervid entreaties for liberty while they laid their whips to the backs of their slaves was a contradiction explainable, we say, by the fact that slavery was an accepted institution, acceptable because that abomination had become the way of things."

    In Spence's view: "By the time of the American Revolution, the prevailing religion in America was profit, a religion demanding freedom for those with the power to pursue it and slavery for the helpless whose labor produced it. Slavery could be immensely profitable. James Madison told a visitor shortly after the American Revolution that he could make $257 a year on every Negro, and that the cost to him for the poor wretch's keep was in the neighborhood of but $12 or $13 annually. By 1776 slaves were at ignoble toil in all of the thirteen colonies....King George III's crime was, of course, that he dared collect taxes without representation. But before 'the shot heard round the world' was fired, the colonists had pressed into labor for their own profit over a million black human beings who, without tolerable food, clothing, and shelter, and without hope, toiled under lash and torture."

    Spence asks us to look again at the Founders without the glare of their halos:

    "They were never the champions of the struggling masses. In the colonies, they occupied the high ground of power and enlisted powerless poor whites to support them. Possessing power, they exercised it for themselves. Can we not see slave owner Patrick Henry in his wig standing at the precipice of the Revolution, stabbing his fist in the direction of the throne, the great defender of the rights of men, ensconcing his immortal words in the wet cement of history? 'I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!'

    "But who spoke for the slaves in the squalid quarters within earshot of Patrick Henry? And for the free women? And, at last, the poor? And in this weary, repetitive drama, who now speaks for the great masses of the powerless in America, both the rich and the poor, who have abdicated their right to govern to the corporate oligarchy?"

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