I know, it’s been a while. I apologized for the infrequent postings in my last diatribe and nothing has changed. That said, I now have some time, and thoughts, so set yourself down, get comfortable, grab some pondering juice and let’s get started. As the title of this piece suggests, we are back on my favorite combination of notions for profound reflection, cosmology, particle physics, Constitutional law and politics.
Ponder this. “It’s all about power.” That sounds too simple to be very profound. But is it? Take a big swig of the pondering juice and ponder some more — the wormhole approacheth.
We are traveling not only over vast distances, but back in time as well, to the thus far only hypothesized place where the singularity sat, just before it is believed to have gone “Bang!” At the risk of repeating myself, which I admit I remain overly fond of doing, if the “Big Bang Theory” is actually how everything started, we have to imagine all that is about us, here on Earth, out there in our solar system, further out there in our Milky Way Galaxy; and, then still further out there, to the entire extent of the Universe, was, compacted into that infinitely small point called the singularity…just before it went “Bang!” Frankly, the notion strikes me as so impossible to actually truly comprehend, that to imagine it is about as close as we can ever come to any sense of understanding it.
In this regard, I am reminded of a college physics class, where the professor places a large jar on his desk, and proceeds to fill it to the brim with marbles. Looking out at the questioning faces of the class, he asks, “How many of you believe that jar is full?” A large majority of hands shoot up, in response to which, the professor reaches under his desk, and pulls out a beaker full of sand, which he proceeds to slowly pour into the jar, gently shaking it as he does so, to enable the sand to fill in the gaps between the marbles. As he smooths out the top of jar, he asks a second time, “Now how many of you believe that jar is full?” A still majority of hands shoot up, perhaps a bit slower, in response to which, the professor reaches under his desk, and pulls out a beaker full of water, which he proceeds to slowly pour into the jar. It’s quite a demonstration of how often the obvious is not so obvious. It takes a certain perception to cognize that the jar, when filled with marbles, is still full of empty spaces, and remains so even when many of those are filled with sand.
If you are thinking I’ve digressed, I actually disagree. Insofar as the notion I originally posited is concerned, the professor wasn’t done when he added the water to the jar. If you recollect my having discussed the notions of incredibly large numbers and incredibly small ones, and how most of the Universe, macro and micro, is empty space, you perhaps see that given the hypothesis of the “Big Bang Theory,” the professor was just warming up. In Big Bang terms, the entire rest of the Universe goes into that jar, and then continues to compress until it is an invisible speck of a point, and thus the “singularity” the cosmologists and physicists speak of.
If you have been following along my train of thought, you have perhaps made a note, somewhere in your mind’s eye, of the incomprehensible amount of energy that emanated from the singularity when things went “Bang!” Bearing in mind, matter, is in essence, congealed energy, there is a proverbial shit load of it out there in the Universe —and roughly 14 billion years ago, it was all bunched up in that singularity. Now, if you’re tempted to use the terms “energy” and “power” interchangeably, as many do, disabuse yourself of the habit now, as our physicist friends will tell you they have different meanings. “Energy” is an amount of force that is required to do work, which is what physicists further define to mean what happens when force acts on a body to displace it, in the direction of the force. “Power” is the rate of doing work, or, in other words, the amount of energy expended over a period of time. Aha! There is that temporal aspect to forever preserve the distinction between the two terms for the remainder of your tenure here on Earth, as conglomerations of quarks and leptons, (CQ&L’s) presently presenting as human beings. If that last assertion is unfamiliar to you, I suggest you read my earlier Backward Thinking diatribes, and you will be both entertained and enlightened. Now I digress, lo but for a moment.
As is my wont, we will skip the higher mathematics and illustrate the two terms in everyday parlance and examples we may readily relate to. Energy comes to us in different forms, including kinetic, potential, thermal, gravitational, electromagnetic, sound, light and elastic. Depending upon one’s particular discipline in the sciences, the standard units of energy include the Joule, Erg, Calorie and Newton. A joule is defined to mean the amount of energy required to move a newton one meter; and, a newton is the force that accelerates one kilogram one meter per second per second. A calorie is the amount of heat required to raise one kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius at sea level. This unit is the large calorie. The small calorie is the amount of heat required to raise one gram of water 1 degree Celsius, from 14.5 degrees C to 15.5 degrees, at sea level. This is equal to 4.1868 joules. Particle physicists prefer to measure energy in terms of electronvolts, one of which is equal to approximately 1.6×10^-19 joule, making it a very teeny tiny amount of energy. Non-particle physicists who prefer to measure energy in terms of the very small use the erg, which is equal to 10^-7 joules. Don’t be alarmed, I see a path to clarity.
Consider our Sun, which is a source of many of these forms of energy, the light and thermal ones being readily discernable. Because of its mass, the Sun is also a source of gravitational energy. How much energy does the Sun produce? Those who purport to calculate such things say the Sun produces 1.4 x 10^31 joules of solar energy in one hour. How much is that in relative terms? Enough to power 2880 trillion light bulbs; or, enough to give all roughly 7 billion present human denizens of our planet a light bulb that will be lit for their entire respective lifetimes. That was in one hour, and our Sun has been doing that for roughly 4.5 billion years. It’s also on the smallish size in comparison to other stars out there, but perhaps this gives you some sense of the amount of energy out there, all of which came out of the singularity.
Let’s do power. One again, the standard units of measurement employed to describe power depends on one’s scientific discipline and the specific form of power being measured. For most purposes, the standard unit of measurement or power is the watt, which is equal to one joule per second, making the kilowatt one thousand joules per second; and, the kilowatt-hour you see on your electric bill every month, one thousand joules per second for an hour. Car and motorcycle enthusiasts will relate to the term horsepower, one of which is defined as 746 watts. Returning to the Sun, it produces 3.8 x 10^23 kilowatt-hours of power every hour, which is roughly 35 times the entire amount of electric consumed on planet Earth during the same hour.
Now that we have a scientific notion of power, allow me to expand it into the other commonly human connotations imparted to it. As a noun, it can, alternatively, refer to (a) the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way; (b) the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events; and, (c) physical strength and force exerted by something or someone. Hold on to those alternate notions of power, and now return with me back to the singularity.
The singularity goes “Bang!” — and what happened? If you follow me a bit, you will see it was, and continues to be, a demonstration of every form of “Power” that presently spans some 14 billion years. According to the cosmologists and particle physicists who spend their careers pondering such matters, the very early Universe (the one measured in billionths of a second) put on a demonstration of every connotation of power that would come to be defined, with no help from any elected official, lobbyist or cleric, go figure. It seems that at the very beginning, both “matter” and “antimatter” were roughly equally divided — a situation that did not bode well for us ending up where we are, as matter and antimatter have this nasty tendency of annihilating each other upon contact. Somehow, without us presently knowing exactly why or how, matter came to very substantially predominate over antimatter, and very quickly at that. Look back on the three non-scientific definitions of “Power” and tell me true, does not the battle for survival between matter and antimatter fit into each one, snugly? Of course it does, and we hadn’t even invented the word for it yet!
As the Universe expands, and cools, the quarks and leptons begin to form elementary particles, in yet another exercise of “Power” — and in fairly short order, in another exercise of “Power,” these elementary particles begin to form hydrogen atoms. Do you remember gravity as being a power source? You do? Good! Fasten your seatbelts as we will fast-forward a bit, to witness the formation of the first stars, caused by the gravitational collapse of clouds of hydrogen gas, in yet another exercise of “Power.” (Is it me, or should the lead-in song from The Big Bang television series be playing in the background? Did I digress? Never mind.)
Fast-forward a bit more, the first stars begin dying, gravitationally collapse, explode into novas and supernovas, spreading denser elements into the Universe, fomenting further star formation; and now, planet formation, thanks to those denser elements — all in the continued exercise of “Power.” At some point, this process manages to form our Sun, the Earth and the rest of our solar system — and some time thereafter, if you ascribe to evolutionary theory, things became animate, in yet another exercise of “Power” — and all Hell broke loose.
Once again, unaided by the ravings of humans of whatever calling, the early animate life grew larger and more complex, and did so, in part, by feeding off smaller, less complex animate life, animal or vegetable, giving birth to the food-chain; and, presenting yet another exercise of “Power!” At some point, animate creatures crept out of the seas, and in still another exercise of “Power,” learned to live on the dry land — some as vegetarians, some as carnivores, and all exercising, or feeling the brunt of, “Power!”
Whether we humans evolved from apes, were planted here by aliens from some other planet; or, by God, at some point in time, in the not too distant past, relatively speaking, there we were. Unlike the other denizens of the planet, humans appeared to be capable of taking matters into their own hands, developing language, then writing and everything possible when equipped with both. Societies formed. Do we agree these early societies were not democracies or republics? I would hope so. They were largely despotic. Why? The third definition of “Power” — “physical strength and force exerted by something or someone.” In the early days, might more often than not, did make right, and the physically powerful used that to their advantage.
Let us stop for a moment and take a well earned sip of the pondering juice. Take another one, because we are about to take a look at some fairly brutal aspects of the exercise of “Power” in human society.
If human recorded history is in any way a guideline for how things were, it speaks volumes about the apparently instinctive exercise of “Power” that developed fairly early on. Humans are the only members of the animal kingdom to have practiced slavery. Ponder what it takes for a notion such as slavery to take root. First, you need a perception that all humans are not created equal. In a world where physical power was not evenly distributed, it strikes me as quite plausible that those who were born with it figured out pretty quickly how to use it to their personal advantage. Even the invention of early weaponry, such as hammers, knives, spears and swords, didn’t level the playing field — a physically bigger person armed projects to defeat a physically smaller one armed. There’s a gravitational aspect to this notion, as it is apparently quite human for physically powerful specimens of our species to attract a following. If you have any doubt about that, ponder the continued popularity of sports figures, particularly ones from the violent sports, such as boxing and football. Indeed, power, in any of its various forms is an aphrodisiac — here, ponder the attraction of various conglomerations of quarks and leptons, presently presenting as human beings, who are attracted to the financially powerful, the politically powerful and the socially powerful. Get it? I’m sure you do, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
We were pondering slavery. Physically, financially and politically powerful men found they could enslave other men, and women, and children of all ages, and profit thereby. Wars of conquest, being also a part of the early human paradigm, resulted often in what? That’s right, the enslavement of the conquered — if they weren’t outright killed first. Human enterprise being what it is, slavery wasn’t merely used to exploit humans for their physical labor, oh no — it was expanded to include sexual slavery, financial slavery (indentured servitude) and political slavery, all of which still exists and persists.
Better take another sip the pondering juice — because I’m not near done yet. I’m presently writing a non-fiction book, which I’ve named, The Reason Why, which tackles a myriad of notions worthy of extended pondering, as an exercise in learning to think clearly, from which I’m going to borrow some prose that addresses the slavery notion in some detail. You get extra credit for recognizing I am about to quite myself, which I consider a form or repeating myself, and for which I have no apologies. I will note as a preface, because of my research and study on the subject, I categorically reject the notion that slavery is and was a “white man’s institution.” Perhaps the following will show you The Reason Why I say so. I admit, that was a cheap plug.Here are some introductory words of caution. As I am a lawyer by profession, I write with footnotes. It appears the developers of the Word Press software which I use for publishing my blog could give a flying fig about that. With a little research, I uploaded an application that promised to enable me to add footnotes to my text. I am either dense or not quite up to speed on the use of same, as they do not appear in this posting in the form I pictured in my mind. Consequently, when you hereafter encounter material enclosed in ((…)), rest assured that was a footnote in my draft.Now kindly forget what I just said, because what I see what I actually publish this posting is what I would call endnotes. If we are all lucky, you can click on them and be taken to the end of the diatribe to read them, then click again and be returned to from whence you departed. If not, we will all curse profusely and find a different way of navigating. But for now, hope springs eternal. And now, with no further ado, some excerpts from The Reason Why.
“…Allow me to throw a bit more fuel into the fire. The contemporary, mainstream anthropological view, is that our present day CQ&L’s evolved from earlier primates, essentially monkeys or apes. More than just religionist CQ&L’s rile over this notion, as it is offensive to the notion of us conglomerations having been created specially by God and made in His image and likeness, which is assuredly human, not simian, because the Bible says so. Yet, the science seems to support the notion that evolution is real.
I too rile over the notion that we evolved from apes, but for a different reason, that being it is truncated, by not going back far enough. If you think about it logically, the notion of evolution itself is nothing other than the Big Bang Theory in the microcosm of biology. Why stop looking back at apes? Surely they evolved from some lower form of life too. In fact, when you look back far enough, barring actual placement of our genuine forebears in the Garden of Eden,((Or planting by aliens, but then, where did they come from?)) it appears that all of us evolved from the first cell that became “animate” and began to divide, several billion years ago. That first, single cell, was for us humans, our singularity, which went boom. We are thus all evolved from essentially what began as pond scum, which, given some of the antics of our fellow CQ&L’s, is somehow a more accurate notion in my mind, in line with the notion of us all being “String Beings,” but I digress.
It has been said that the basic conflict between science and religion has to do with the former having periodically undermined the “dogma” of the latter, through scientific discovery. This strikes me as factual, given the earlier documented instances of head-butting between the Pope and the likes of Galileo and Copernicus, to name but a few. In my head, apparently heretical though it be, good religion should, from time to time, re-calibrate its positions to reflect the ever burgeoning body of knowledge we develop through good science, if only to “keep it real” for its followers. It doesn’t bother me to learn the Earth revolves around the Sun, and not vice versa, or, that neither the Earth nor the Sun are the center of the Universe.((What is the religious purpose to alleged dogma about which celestial body orbits another? I understand it underlies the assertion of our “speciality” as a result of “Divine Creation” — but wouldn’t we be even more “divine” if we did manage to get where we are, by graduating, multiple times, from pond scum? Digression? Perhaps.)) It awes me to ponder that such a massive, beautiful, yet elegantly simple construct lies out there, replete with physical laws that govern it and which produces the likes of us to ponder it. Its existence gives me both a sense of humility and faith that this was not a mere coincidence. It is your right to feel and believe differently, but our respective rights to our feelings and beliefs strike me as having emanated from something “out there,” not from anyone or anything “down here.”
I sense the same form of conflict exists between science and society, the latter of which, as an intellectual proposition, is just another merely “human” owned and controlled institution, not markedly different, conceptually, in my mind at least, from religion, just with different governance and somewhat broader purpose (read, agenda.) Whether you join me in that notion or not, the historical record appears to be replete with evidence to support it, and suggests, to me, mightily, the struggle will continue.
I mentioned the notion of ethnicity a while back, what’s that all about? A commonly accepted definition of “ethnicity” refers to a population of human beings whose members identify with each other, on the basis of a real or a presumed common genealogy or ancestry. The notion differs from “race” in that the latter notion is alleged to be based on shared physical characteristics resulting from genetic ancestry. Are we splitting hairs here? Not really. Before I go on, let me add one other notion, that of nationalism, and then all will become clear. (Feel free to say to yourself, “Yeah, right!” Laugh out loud, if you must.)
Whereas ethnicity is based on common genealogy, nationalism is based on common identification with a nation, which usually, but not always, is a reference to people who share a common territory and government, irrespective of their ethnic make-up; or, sometimes, more broadly, as people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, or history, not necessarily confined within physical borders. I would posit the United States of America as an example of the former notion, and the Cherokee Nation as an example of the latter one.
Perhaps you garner, while pondering these notions, as I do, they are all built on the same human instinct to “classify” things along some shared line of perceived similarity. Being “human” notions, we may expect there is no universal accord on what each notion precisely means, and those who purport to know, do not disappoint. Keep in the back of your mind the Seventh Tension, between the respective freedoms to generalize and to particularize, and proceed with caution. As regards the notion of the origins of nationalism, there are two schools of thought, the primordialist perspective, based upon evolutionary theory of human beings identifying with groups, such as ethnic groups, or other groups that form the foundation of a nation; and, the modernist interpretation, that nationalism arises and flourishes in modern societies described as being associated with having: an industrial economy capable of self-sustainability of the society, a central supreme authority capable of maintaining authority and unity, and a centralized language or small group of centralized languages understood by a community of people. What matters to me the most, is not whether one school of thought is better or more accurate than the other, but that as they are schools of thought, read, opinions, neither is to be regarded as a fact, in the same sense that 1 + 1 = 2, or that matter is comprised of atomic and sub-atomic particles and forces. That is not to say neither school has data upon which their constructs are based, but only that the data is inconclusive or can be interpreted in more than one way. There is a lot of that going around, often in the guise of fact, and thus my point, which, if you can remember that far back, is where we started in this odyssey.
Race, ethnicity and nationalism all look at our CQ&L’s and purport to classify us, in one way or another. Interestingly, perhaps, our respective conglomerations appear, by definition, to have no control over where we are pigeonholed racially or ethnically, but, unless restrained by our host nation from doing so, which still happens, or by the nation we seek to move to, which also happens, we have some ability to choose our nationality. As I ponder these notions, I notice all sorts of flashes popping off in my head, of varying degrees of brilliance, and each begging for a bit of digression. The question is which direction and where to begin? Well, that’s actually two questions, no?
I will succumb to the lawyer in me, which wishes to note that the first immigration laws enacted in the United States, came about in 1875 as part of the Page Act, directed at stemming the inflow of any “undesirable” to the States, that term defined to be any individual from Asia who was coming to America to be a forced laborer, any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people, from anywhere, considered to be convicts in their own country. Quite a standard, was it not?
Before commenting further, as it is my wont to do, juxtapose the Page Act to the notion that in 1865, inspired by French law professor and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye, who commented that any monument raised to American independence would properly be a joint project of the French and American peoples, the French sculptor, Frédéric Bartholdi, fomented the notion of creating the Statue of Liberty, which, when finally dedicated in 1883, bore a plaque on the pedestal with the words of the poem “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” Apparently, unless you were an Asian laborer or prostitute, but I digress. We are an anomalous country, are we not?
Just to keep the fires burning a bit longer, consider further that shortly after the dedication, the Cleveland Gazette, an African American newspaper, suggested that the statue’s torch not be lit until the United States became a free nation “in reality”:
“…‘Liberty enlightening the world,’ indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the ‘liberty’ of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the ‘liberty’ of this country ‘enlightening the world,’ or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme….”
We apparently had a number of dissatisfied customers over here, but how did it get that way? Let’s look back in time a bit further, to garner some historical perspective, and see what we find.
Many of us tend to think of America as having been initially settled by largely English immigrants, which is a misnomer in several respects. While they for sure had the better result, in terms of grabbing a foot-hold in the New World, and ultimately keeping hold of it, the more precise history is that Spanish soldiers and settlers established a few forts in what ultimately became Florida, notably San Agustin, in 1565.((I know, the Vikings may have been here even earlier than Columbus, but they left damned little in the way of evidence to support the notion. If and to the extent they did, it is further proof the English weren’t first, which is the actual point.)) Other Spaniards, moving north from Mexico, founded San Juan on the Rio Grande in 1598, and Santa Fe in 1607, all antedating the first successful English colonists in Jamestown in 1607.((There were earlier, unsuccessful attempts at English colonization, the most notable of which was the “Lost Colony of Roanoke” first established in 1584.))
The very first of these settlers were not seeking religious freedom, they were largely entrepreneurs, here under a business charter with the Virginia Company of London to establish a colony, and make profits, originally from harvesting what was believed to be gold, in the quantities the earlier Spanish explorers discovered in the Central and South American territories they explored and exploited; and, upon failure to make that discovery, to do so through farming, particularly in the form of the newly discovered crop of tobacco. One must wonder what might have happened had the original settlers know of all the adverse effects of smoked or chewed tobacco, but perhaps I digress.
They technically were not immigrants, as the British Empire purported to claim political domain over the new land, and thus were settlers, as their allegiance remained to the British crown.((I digress to posit a notion. The Dutch, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish all established “colonies” in the New World, commencing in the 15th century, this process being referred to as “colonialism.” Under what claim of right they did so is, in my mind, no different from that which earlier, ancient cultures, such as the Greeks and Romans had, in conquering (and enslaving) large portions of Europe, Africa and Asia, yet these earlier exercises of dominion and control are not referred to as colonialism. Why not? Do you perceive any difference? Were either any different than the Nazis invading the rest of Europe in the 20th century? Thus far, Americans are the only CQ&L’s, purporting to be humans, to have landed on the Moon, and planted a flag. Do we now own it? Do you think the answer might have been different if we somehow got there in 1776? )) The balance of the early settlers were largely indentured servants, a form of slave labor, but with the term of servitude limited in duration to roughly seven years. Their passage to the new world was paid by their employers in the colonies who needed help on the farms, or in shops. They were provided food, housing, clothing and training but did not receive wages. At the end of the indenture, usually around age 21, they were free to marry and start their own farm. Keep that notion in mind when we get to the discussion of the notion of slavery.
The first 20 or so Blacks arrived ashore near Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, brought by Dutch traders who had seized them from a captured Spanish slave ship. The Spanish usually baptized slaves in Africa before embarking them to the slave markets for sale ((If you find it anomalous to baptize a slave, read on. Slavery is a Biblically cognized institution, as we shall soon see, that was legitimatized in the 15th century by a Pope. Go figure.))and English law considered baptized Christians exempt from slavery, so these Blacks joined about 1,000 white English indentured servants already in the colony. Some achieved freedom, owned land, and one later owned what may have been the American Colonies’ first true slave for life. There is evidence to support this assertion, all over the internet, but I’m guessing that it won’t be found in any contemporary American history books. Why? What hope do we have to develop as a society if we cannot take a full, honest look at our past? Warts and all.
Ascolti il Padrone ‼ Does my fellow conglomerations of quarks and leptons, regardless of flavor, get that?((Sorry, literary license. Once in a while the acronym just won’t do.)) The first real slave owner in what ultimately became the United States, was, by reliable and credible historical documentation, a Black man.
It is way too simplistic to take that historical fact, and blame the institution as practiced here, on that Black man, particularly as the institution itself was already millennia older, and, frankly, wasn’t reserved solely to Blacks. Indeed, every flavor in the pantry of CQ&L’s purporting to be humans has indulged in the institution. Nevertheless, my earlier assertion, in my mind, is a reason to learn to hold one’s tongue, reserve judgment, opinion and the needless spewing of words, in the form of fact, until one puts any assertion into proper temporal perspective and distinguishes between what is factual and what is mere opinion. As we are not yet at the discussion of the notion of slavery, I admit this was, technically, a digression, for which I apologize, but I felt the need to say it, as I find the point apt to the overall objective of this diatribe.
That what ultimately grew to become the United States of America, was a seedling founded on the quintessentially capitalistic notion of making an investment in the hopes of future profit, is, in my mind, not a mere coincidence, but a cornerstone to all upon which this nation was built. That it worked beyond the wildest expectations of those who fomented it is a testament, in my mind, to the efficacy of capitalism as a human notion, despite all the abuses perpetrated in its name, but I digress, yet again.
We were working on garnering some temporal perspective, specifically from the settlers’ point of view, and now appears to be an apt time to look at the political climate, as same existed at the time of settlement, to see why they were motivated to come here at all.
The Act of Uniformity of 1558 was an Act of Parliament, actually passed in 1559. It set the order of prayer to be used in the English Book of Common Prayer. Every man had to go to church once a week or be fined 12 pence, equivalent to roughly 11 pounds in contemporary measures of exchange, but by any measure a considerable sum for the poor at that time. By this Act, Elizabeth I made it a legal obligation to go to church every Sunday, an overt example of the Third Tension, if you will.
Taken in context, it meant the establishment of a national religion, a standardized form of prayer and mandatory attendance at a church which followed the specified prayer book. This, in the country that in 1297, adopted the Magna Carta, which, in perhaps its most significant pronunciation, said:
“…No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land…”
Had the “Law of the Land” changed to purport to regulate religious freedom? In the minds of some CQ&L’s presenting as humans, apparently it did. There developed in England a number of “separatists,” dissenters who were Christians that had separated from the Church of England, from as early as the 16th century, over one or more doctrinal issues. One such separatist group was the Pilgrims,((Not popularly known as such until the 1793 passage, by the Rev. Chandler Robbins, referring to an earlier, William Bradford account, entitled “Of Plymouth Plantation,” which contained the following passage: “…So they lefte [that] goodly & pleasante citie, which had been ther resting place, nere 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on these things; but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits….”)) who were brought together by a common belief in the ideas promoted by Richard Clyfton, a Brownist ((A reference to Robert Browne a leader in the movement that attempted to set up a separate Congregational Church in Norwich, Norfolk, England. He was arrested but released on the advice of William Cecil, his kinsman. Browne and his companions were obliged to leave England and moved to Middelburg in the Netherlands in 1581.)) parson at All Saints’ Parish Church in Babworth near East Retford, Nottinghamshire, between 1586 and 1605. Nevertheless, they arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, and established the oldest continuously inhabited British settlement in what was to become the United States of America. The Pilgrims’ story of seeking religious freedom has become a central theme of the history and culture of the United States.
The Pilgrims were not the only settlers or immigrants who came here in pursuit of religious freedom. They were followed by Quakers, a form of extreme Puritanism, who settled in Pennsylvania; Roman Catholics, who settled in Maryland; French Huguenots, who settled in the Hudson River Valley and South Carolina; and, Germans of various small sects, including Mennonites, Dunkers, Schwenkfelders and Moravians, who settled in Pennsylvania. The first Jewish immigrants arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654, escaping from the then Portuguese conquered Brazil.
Stop here, massage your temples, have a sip of (oops)… just ponder, if you must. Roughly 167 years after the original settlers landed here, our Founders embedded in the Constitution, official cognition of the right of religious freedom that the Pilgrims and other religious refugees came here to seek. Proof, perhaps, that progress is measured not in elapsed time, but in ultimately getting to that which was sought in the first instance. If that notion bothers you, I posit you are in the wrong end of the Universe, as virtually every example of progress that pertains to the human condition took much longer to effectuate than it did to conceive and advocate it. Such is the manner and pace in which our fellow CQ&L’s actually do business. Maybe this is because we are made of the same stuff, and to deviate from what all conglomerations are, by the Laws of Nature, supposed to be doing, requires a force or mutation that takes time to propagate. Think about that. If evolution is actually an accurate description of how we got here, the process often takes millennia, not the mere cognizance of a new notion.
But think some more about the broader picture I just posted for your viewing pleasure. A single CQ&L’s, in a position of power over many CQ&L’s, deigned to direct those CQ&L’s when, where and how to worship a specific deity — and all Hell broke loose. Some CQ&L’s followed their marching orders, some slept in on Sunday and paid the fine; and, some picked their asses up and left the country, to go to an essentially unknown, new world, to worship on their own terms. To put that into contemporary terms, the equivalent in my mind would be some despotic, future, President, using an Executive Order,((Any similarity between this hypothetical and the use of Executive Orders by our presently sitting President is purely coincidental, no matter what you think.)) directed that every American must attend religious services of their own choosing, once a week, or, together with agnostics and atheists, must spend an hour doing community service, or be fined $50.00 for each time they missed — in response to which, a significant bit of the citizenry volunteered to go off into the wild blue yonder and settle Mars. Frankly, I like that notion. In my opinion, the country could use a little more moral fiber, some cleaning up; and, we should colonize Mars, just to show we can. Proof, perhaps, that it’s a good thing I’m not king.
I write this paragraph to show Mo that I not only love her dearly, but actually listen to, and heed her literary criticism. Putting the matter most politely, upon reading an, albeit, incomplete draft of this chapter, she posited that whilst on my usual walkabout in discussing the notion of race, I managed to walk off the edge of the Earth. Naturally, I disagree — respectfully. At the risk of over-exposing my readers((I admit, use of the pleural, at this juncture, is pure presumption on my part, but now you digressed.)) to the inner workings of my mind, and despite the potential for being accused of repeating myself, I maintain we are still very much on track. If you accept this book is really about thinking critically, and has you look at very complex notions, in order to expose you to just how much you have to consider, to be able to look at any given notion with some modicum of confidence that you have garnered an intellectually sound viewing point, then you likely accept the validity of the viewpoint I am still looking to establish. Lying at the very bottom of this intellectual structure we are building, is the notion that we CQ&L’s presenting as humans have a penchant for categorizing people and things. Race, ethnicity, nationality and religion are all forms of categorization. What we mean by these terms, today, is often not what they connoted in the times we are looking back on, and that compels me to put these notions in a temporal perspective that will allow all of us to look upon and consider matters as they developed, so that we have a chance to figure out how we got where we presently are. Knowing, as I do, where we are still headed in this odyssey, I assure you we will step off the edge of the Earth a few times more, but always with one hand on it, so that we may pull ourselves back up, once we have seen what lies over the edge. End of digression.
To complete the settler picture, the Dutch established settlements along the Hudson River starting about 1626. Wealthy Dutch patroons set up large landed estates along the Hudson River and brought in farmers who became renters. Others established rich trading posts for trading with the Indians and started cities such as New Amsterdam, now New York City, and Albany. As these Dutch came here under the notion they were claiming lands for the Dutch crown, they were settlers too. After the British took over and renamed the colony New York, Germans, and Yankees,((A term usually applied to descendants of the original settlers, particularly those from New England.)) began arriving. Under the protocol we heretofore established, the Germans were immigrants, because the lands they came to live in and occupy, were under British rule, and thus, they entered with permission. To give one last bit of perspective, the estimate of the total population of all of the “colonies” as of 1700 was roughly 250,000 CQ&L’s all presenting as humans.
From 1710 to 1775, over 200,000 people emigrated from Ulster, Scotland, to what we would call the original thirteen American colonies. The largest numbers went to Pennsylvania. From that base some went south into Virginia, the Carolinas and across the South, with a large concentration in the Appalachian region; others headed west to western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and the Midwest. There is a tendency to refer to them as immigrants, but as they went from one area of British rule, to another, I believe they are more accurately referred to as settlers.
Pennsylvania was settled by Quakers from Britain, (settlers) followed by the above mentioned Scotch Irish (also settlers) and numerous German Protestant sects, including the German Palatines, genuine immigrants. An earlier colony of New Sweden had small settlements on the lower Delaware River, with properly denominated immigrants of Swedes and Finns, whose “colonies,” situate as they were, within lands claimed by the British crown, were absorbed by 1676.
Between 250,000 and 400,000 Scots and Irish migrated to America in the 18th century. The Scotch-Irish soon became the dominant culture of the Appalachians from Pennsylvania to Georgia.
In the late 18th century, French expeditions established a foothold on the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast, the colony of Louisiana. Several thousand French-speaking refugees from the region of Acadia, now Nova Scotia, Canada, also somehow made their way to Louisiana following British expulsion, settling largely in the southwestern Louisiana region now called Acadiana. Their descendants came to be called Cajuns and still dominate the coastal areas.
This completes the “vanilla” populace of the Colonies, pre-Revolution. We are missing the “licorice” populace. The historical record shows that about 600,000 slaves were imported into what became the United States, or 5% of the 12 million slaves brought across from Africa to the Americas. Did you get that? 95% of the slaves exported from Africa went somewhere other than the American Colonies.
I digress here to note that in fairly well documented historical reality, because slave traders tended to keep good records, that have survived, the great majority of African slaves went to sugar colonies in the Caribbean and to Brazil, where life expectancy was short and their numbers had to be continually replenished. Present day estimates are that somewhere between 3 and 4 million slaves landed and were sold in Rio de Janero between the 16th and 19th centuries, as laborers for the sugar plantations established there while under Portuguese colonial rule. Brazil was the last “American” nation to abolish slavery, on May 13, 1888. Spain’s colony, Cuba, saw the importation of over 370,000 slaves, as laborers for the tobacco and sugar plantations, until the practice was abolished in 1886. It is estimated that roughly 47% of all slaves brought to the New World landed in one of the Caribbean islands, under either British, French, Spanish or Dutch control.
These statistics are not posited as an excuse, but for the historical perspective it should provide to sentinent CQ&L’s, such as ourselves, in the pursuit of clear thoughts and efficacious reasoning, based on facts, whenever they are available. What is that perspective? In my mind, it is that whatever problems developed in the United States as a result of importing the institution of slavery, they (the problems) have a number of siblings elsewhere, that may have been dealt with less efficaciously than they were here. That doesn’t exonerate any of our forebears who exploited the institution over time, or who clung to vestiges of it, even after it was legislated out of existence, but it should keep you focused on the notion that we did do something here to address the problem, and is was more than just writing a check. Keep following me.
We now have the basic populace construct of the Colonies, just before they rebelled from Britain and formed the United States. What shall we do with it? If you think back, I entered this worm hole on the digression which mentioned the Page Act of 1875 as the first immigration act enacted in the United States. But that is from our perspective, surely the people who were already here, what we used to call the Indians,((True to the human penchant for error, the term “Indian” came to be applied to the natives already in residence here, as a result of an error (does “fuck-up” sound better?) by Christopher Columbus, who believed, through miscalculation of distance, he had reached eastern Asia, then referred to as India or the “Indies.” Thus, he mistakenly named the islands he discovered in the Caribbean the “West Indies” and the natives Indians. )) and now call Native Americans, had some thoughts on whether we were welcome to come here in the first instance. Once again, perspective is everything.
To view the exploration and conquest of the “New World” in contemporary terms is as efficacious as assessing the behavior of a child, from adult standards. You can do it, but what is the point? Such notions are akin in my mind to Monday Morning Quarter-backing. It has the benefit of hindsight and no real understanding of what was going on in the minds of the players as the game actually played out. Let’s see if we can’t do better.
It is fairly well documented in the historical record that the bulk of Native Americans were essentially nomads, usually transiting from summer to winter quarters each year, and had no notion amongst themselves of private ownership of land — that notion was brought here by the settlers. One can view the “purchase” of Manhattan Island by Peter Minuet on May 24, 1626, for the equivalent of 60 Dutch Guilders, (worth, depending on how one values same, somewhere between $1,000 and $0.50, with $24.00 being the historically bandied about price, but I digress) as the greatest land swindle in history — but was it? And if it was, who swindled whom? The issue is not without the usual dose of CQ&L’s being “human.”
As a purely theoretical notion, Minuet’s offer to purchase was a form of cognition of a superior right to the land, or at least its use, ((I use the term “use” advisedly. No Earthling owns any of the “land” comprising the Earth. That notion is uniformly accepted everywhere. In those societies where private ownership of property has been recognized, at best, a “land owner” actually owned the right to use it, extract minerals from it, exclude others from it, to pass it on to your heirs and maybe, but not always, buy or sell or lease rights to it — but always subject to some restriction or control, by government or despot acting as such. Even in contemporary America, a land owner is subject to defeasance by our government, under the exercise of Eminent Domain.))held by the Native American sellers.
As we have some credible evidence the Native Americans believed water, air and land could not be traded, they likely had a different view of the transaction than did Minuet and his fellow settlers.((An aspect of which, in my head, is, if they didn’t believe land could be traded, why were they selling it to the Dutch settlers? Maybe they thought they were swindling them? The notion is not too far fetched, as there is some academic commentary to the effect that those who sold it, were from a different tribe than the one alleged to own it. Pardon me, but that is so New York, even if it was still New Amsterdam or Manna-hata, which translates into “island of many hills” from the Lenape language of the original denizens, as same was written in the 1609 logbook of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson’s yacht, Halve Maen (Half Moon).)) But bear in mind, the Native Americans may well have viewed this transaction as a basis for ensuring future trade. The Native Americans traded animal skins for hard goods they could use and hadn’t learned to make for themselves, inclusive of implements to clear land and drill beads for wampum.
That might seem dopey in contemporary terms, but there were no computers, cell phones or electronics of any kind to trade, no internal combustion engines and no power tools available for trade at the time, go figure. I note that further trading between Minuet and the Native Americans resulted in the purchase of rights in nearby Staten Island, which involved the exchange of duffel cloth, iron kettles and axe heads, hoes, wampum, drilling awls, “Jew’s harps”, and “diverse other wares” for the land.
I am neither suggesting that all settlers sought to give value to the Native Americans for the land they came to possess, nor that our treatment of them, over time, by our American society, is anything to be proud of, and only examining some historical perspective that strikes me as apt in looking at the broader issue of how our nation came into being. Indeed, it is known that the Native Americans who were here when the settlers landed, customarily fought turf battles with other tribes, proving, perhaps, war was not invented in Europe or Asia, and is likely embedded in our animal nature. It is likely, and suggested by some historians, part of their establishment of trade with the settlers, and vice versa, was also based on securing some mutual defense understanding.
If you scoff at that notion, hold your snort for a moment and ponder this. Animals, bereft though they be of highly developed speech, writing or technology, nevertheless have a sense of territoriality.((A place to be at home, and to defend.)) If you doubt that, invade a wolf’s lair, when one is tending to its young, and see what happens. If that is too taxing, bring home a new dog or cat, and once they get the notion your home is their home, watch them spray it with their urine, to mark out the boundaries. Scientists tell us this sense of territoriality is a phenomenon in humans associated with the oldest, reptilian, part the brain and forms a biological basis for our sense of property. Go figure! ((Without wishing to venture too far afield (I know, such an assertion) the reptilian brain is credited, by those who purport to know such things, with tending to basic functions such as regulating internal body processes, coordinating muscular activity, and sensing the external environment, as well as more complex functions, inclusive of territorial, travel and social behavior. If you are a male reader, accused by a female whom you are pursuing, of being a reptile, you may now aptly tell her you are only conforming to the dictates of the oldest part of your brain, but I digress.))
I understand that to look at anything from my perspective is akin to viewing oneself in a fun house mirror, which offers a few hundred different projections of us at the same time, rendering us unable to tell exactly where we are. I have somehow learned to live with it, and enjoy it, but I can appreciate it is not to be engaged in by the faint of heart or those who don’t take the hint and have a sip of wine as they read, no matter what Mo says.
If I were to posit to you, “What is the world’s oldest civilization?”, what would your response be? It is my fondest wish that it would be, “Well, what do you mean by civilization?” If it was, congratulate yourself, have a glass of (oops) on me… just ponder a bit, and allow me to console those who answered before asking. If you gave an answer, try to remember this book is often about asking questions we simply cannot answer, either because we don’t really know how to find one, or because we can’t agree on what data is relevant to the answer or how to interpret it. If that suggests to you I am positing we don’t really know anything, you are close, but not totally accurate. We “know” in an empirical sense a lot less than what we believe we know, and my mission in life is to keep us focused on the distinction. As that notion pertains to the question at hand, the problem is, we don’t have a unanimous accord on what we mean by “civilization.” By now, I would hope you are not surprised by that revelation.
I’ll begin by noting the word “civilization” comes from the Latin civilis, meaning civil, related to the Latin civis, meaning citizen, and civitas, meaning city or city-state. That suggests mightily to me an identification of a person with a geo-political entity, and at least several of the possible uses of the term are in accord with that notion, but not all, and thus the controversy. In its broadest context, it has been used to mean approximately the same thing as “culture” and thus refer to any important and clearly defined human society. But another context suggest it refers to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are generally hierarchical and urbanized and complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. More classically, people were called “civilized” to set them apart from barbarians, savages, and primitive peoples while in a modern-day context, “civilized peoples” have been contrasted with indigenous peoples or tribal societies. I suspect in the age of political correctness, neither connotation is, well, Politically Correct, but I digress.
If we were to take the term in its broadest context, if only to answer the actual question, we find we actually can’t answer it, because we know (strongly suspect, through inference and deduction, is that better?) that even though they left no writings, human societies formed and lived together, long before other human societies learned to leave a trail, but we don’t know much about who they were or what they did. We may infer, from our being here, to argue about it, they procreated. As we unearth more and more of the fossil record, and discover cave paintings and such, we can piece together a picture that suggests that very early on, gatherings of humans learned to hunt together, display some reverence for deceased members, through interment in formal graves, with artifacts, and, at some time, to till the land and likely divide responsibilities, all of which satisfy the broad definition, without too much else in the way of specifics. We know, through carbon dating, the Natufian culture existed from 13,000 to 9,800 years ago in the Levant, a region in the Eastern Mediterranean.
If we take one of the more formal connotations, we find the ever present East-West cultural bias at work. Historically, the ancient city states of Mesopotamia ((In what we call today, Iraq, go figure.))that developed in the fertile crescent, somewhere around 6500 B.C., are most cited by Western and Middle Eastern scholars as the “cradle of civilization.”
But that ignores the fact that in the East, China is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations. The history of China is told in traditional historical records that refer as far back as the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors about 5,000 years ago, supplemented by archaeological records dating to the 16th century B.C. The oldest Neolithic cultures found in China to date are the Pengtoushan, the Jiahu, and the Peiligang, all dated to about 7000 B.C. Pengtoushan has been difficult to date and has a date variance from 9000 B.C. to 5500 B.C., but it was at this site that remains of domesticated rice dated at about 7000 B.C. were found. In other words, the Chinese culture is as old as any other we know of.
These cultures all appear to have developed independently of each other, but appearances can be deceiving, witness the following. The oldest known civilization in South America, and, indeed, in the entire Western Hemisphere as a whole, is the Norte Chico civilization, which dates back to from 3200 B.C. to 1800 B.C., and is comprised of several interconnected settlements on the Peruvian coast, including the urban centers at Aspero and Caral. The presence of an early form of quipu, an Andean recording medium, at Caral indicates its potential influence on later Andean societies, as well as the antiquity of this unique recording system. The stone pyramids on the sites are thought to be contemporary to the great pyramids of Giza.
Got that? At the same time the Egyptians were building their pyramids, across an ocean, and ostensibly unable to communicate with them, because cell phones had yet to be invented, Andean societies were doing the same thing. How did that happen? Just a coincidence? We don’t really know.
Just to screw things up a bit, contemporary, mainstream academia, ((Perhaps we should define that term. As reported in Wikipedia, the word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece, which derives from the Athenian hero, Akademos. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning. The sacred space, dedicated to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, had formerly been an olive grove, hence the expression “the groves of Academe.” In these gardens, the philosopher Plato conversed with followers. Plato developed his sessions into a method of teaching philosophy and in 387 B.C., established what is known today as the Old Academy. By extension Academia has come to mean the cultural accumulation of knowledge, its development and transmission across generations and its practitioners and transmitters. In the 17th century, British and French scholars used the term to describe types of institutions of higher learning. Somewhere along the time line of the evolution of CQ&L’s purporting to be humans, the term appears to have become politicized, for a multitude of reasons I will address, that’s right, in a future chapter.))in archeology and related fields, date the building of the Great Sphinx at Giza, Egypt, to approximately 2500 B.C., by the pharaoh Khafra, the builder of the Second Pyramid at Giza as well. This is consistent with their theories of when and how civilization developed. In the 1990’s, Egyptologists, Robert Bauval, Graham Hancock and John Anthony West, among others, published books challenging the alleged age of the Sphinx, based, inter alia on examination of the erosion on various parts of it, in conjunction with rain and other weather patterns calculated to have existed at the time, and concluded its construction was more likely begun around 10,500 B.C. As this did not sit well with mainstream academia, they were quickly branded heretics and dismissed. But did you ever hear of the “Gobekli Tepe” — which literally translates into “Hill with a Navel”?
First noted in a survey of the Anatolian plains of south-eastern Turkey, conducted by Istanbul University and the University of Chicago in 1964, which recognized that the hill could not entirely be a natural feature and postulated that a Byzantine cemetery lay beneath. In 1994, archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, visited the site and recognized that it was in fact a much older Neolithic site. Since 1995 excavations have been conducted by the German Archaeological Institute of Istanbul and the Sanliurfa Museum, under the direction of Schmidt, although all statements about the site must be considered preliminary, as only about 5% of the site’s total area has yet been excavated.
What has been uncovered at the Gobekli Tepe is a massively complex and elaborate megalithic temple site, which contains 20 round structures which had been buried, only four of which have thus far been excavated. Each round structure has a diameter of between 30 and 100 feet, and all are decorated with massive, mostly T-shaped, limestone pillars. The limestone slabs were quarried from bedrock pits located around 330 feet from the hilltop, with neolithic workers using flint points to carve the bedrock. Many of the pillars are decorated with carved reliefs of animals and of abstract enigmatic pictograms. The pictograms may represent commonly understood sacred symbols, as known from Neolithic cave paintings elsewhere. The reliefs depict lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, donkeys, snakes and other reptiles, insects, arachnids, and birds, particularly vultures.
The problem with all this is that through the scientifically accepted radiocarbon method, the end of the lowest Layer can be fixed at roughly 9000 B.C.; and, its beginnings are estimated to have begun in11000 B.C. or earlier. Now what? It appears mainstream academia will have to reconsider its theories on when and how thoroughly mankind developed — but will they?
Ascolti il Padrone ‼ We have arrived at the essence of what I’ve been preaching, albeit in a roundabout fashion, all throughout this book. The over-used substitution of mere opinion for fact is rampant, permeates all of academia, politics and science and is generally unhelpful and confusing. The onus remains on us, individually, to be sentinent for it and to do what we can to get to the truth, even if that is merely to determine what we heard was an opinion, not a fact.
If you need further proof, we will play another Q and A game. If I were to posit to you, “Who was John Cabot?”, what would your response be? This time the answer is not a question, but if you answered, “a 15th century English explorer, whose 1497 discovery of parts of North America under the commission of Henry VII of England, which is commonly held to have been the first European encounter with the mainland of North America since the Norse Vikings visits to Vinland in the 11th century,” you only get part credit, and are a victim of history book writers’ penchant for Anglicizing non-English names. John Cabot was actually Giovanni Caboto, born in Venice, Italy. Only one set of documents has been found bearing his signature, they being Venetian testamentary documents of 1484, on which he signed as “Zuan Chabotto”, “Zuan” being a form of “John” typical to Venice. My point is that if you weren’t inquisitive, you wouldn’t know Giovanni was Italian, not English, and that strikes my mind as a bit of academic, ethnic snobbery. Need I add Christopher Columbus was Anglicized from the Italian, Cristoforo Colombo?
Just to quell any conspiracy theories you might be formulating about me, as regards my alleged Sicilian roots, I note “America” itself is the feminine Latin form of first name of the 15th century Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, credited with making several voyages that explored and mapped the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502, establishing the land mass extended much further South than originally thought. In 1507, German cartographer, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent America after Vespucci’s first name, which came to be accepted, and was not the work of Anglicizing academics.
We stumbled (I dragged you, if it makes you feel better) into this wormhole on the pretext that it had something to do with garnering perspective on the development of immigration laws in the United States. More specifically, we were at the point of looking at the ethnic composition of our denizens, just before they revolted to form the United States, on the further pretext that gaining such understanding, somehow related to the notions of race, ethnicity and nationalism. You are free to decide whether the digression made any sense, but to me, it was illuminating, as well as fun.
If you are garnering an idea of how my mind works, you realize we are not going to go directly to answering the, as yet, unasked question of how and why our forebears revolted, but to instead look at the institution of slavery as it existed at that time, because to do so gives us greater perspective for answering the question, when it finally is posited. Because it existed at the time, clearly the high-minded words in the Declaration and in the Constitution, as regards the Creator, men, and their inalienable rights, meant something different than those same words mean today. Let’s see what we can discern.
Slavery is considered a human institution, with no known examples of it in the rest of the animal kingdom and only ants, in the insect world, known to practice it, by raiding neighboring nests, removing larvae, and raising the offspring to be slaves, compelled to gather food for the nest in which they were hatched.
Maybe we should begin by defining the term, as that often leads to an unanticipated problem. Surprisingly, perhaps, this time we have no definitional issues, as there is near universal accord that slavery is a system under which humans are treated as property to be bought and sold, and forced to work. Before we get to its ancient roots, I will note that the term today applies equally to any of three forms.
Chattel slavery, is so named because humans are treated as the personal property, in legal parlance, “chattels,” of an owner and are bought and sold as commodities, and is the original form of slavery. Repugnant though that notion be today, historically speaking, women and children were often considered more in the nature of personal property than independent “persons” for much longer than not. We will get to that notion too, just not yet.
Debt bondage or bonded labor occurs when a person pledges himself or herself against a loan. The services required to repay the debt, and their duration, may be undefined. Debt bondage can be passed on from generation to generation, with children required to pay off their parents’ debts. ((If that gives you pause to wonder, aloud if you wish, whether the “National Debt” we hear about in the news of late, is a form of debt bondage, your mind is functioning beautifully, particularly if you understand much of it is owned by foreign governments, with China in the lead. What happens when we default and they foreclose? We don’t know, but stay tuned. ))It is the most widespread form of slavery today, traditionally found in India, Pakistan and Nepal, but has now expanded to global proportions. It includes children trafficked between West African countries, men forced to work on Brazilian estates, and Eastern European women bonded into Western Europe’s sex industry.
Forced labor occurs when an individual is forced to work against his or her will, under threat of violence or other punishment, with restrictions on their freedom. It is also used to describe all types of slavery and may also include institutions not commonly classified as slavery, such as serfdom, conscription and penal labor.
None of the three forms are pretty. What is disturbing is that despite Mauritania being the last country on Earth to abolish slavery, in 1981, the number of slaves today, under either of the broader definitions, remains as high as 12 million to 27 million, depending upon whose estimate one uses. To demonstrate our progress as CQ&L’s since the dawn of civilization, there are more slaves in the early 21st century than at any previous time, but opponents hope slavery can be eradicated within 30 years. On what basis I cannot imagine.
Slavery in ancient cultures was known to occur in civilizations as old as Sumer, and it was found in every known civilization thereafter, including Ancient Egypt, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, Ancient Greece, Ancient Persia, Rome and parts of its empire, the Hebrews and the Islamic Caliphate. In those times, the institution was a mixture of debt-slavery, punishment for crime, the enslavement of prisoners of war, child abandonment, and the birth of slave children to slaves. Slavery is also known to have existed in China as early as the Shang dynasty, 18th to 12th century B.C., in a form of reference often viewing its objects as “half-man, half-thing.”((Consider that notion in conjunction with the Greek philosopher, Aristotle’s theory of natural slavery — that some men are slaves by nature.))
Not to exclude the Americas, before the arrival of Europeans, slavery had a history here as well, dating back at least to the Mayans, whose culture existed for two-thousand years before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores, in the 15th century, and which had a system of serfdom and slavery. Serfs typically worked lands that belonged to the ruler or local town leader. There was an active slave trade in the Maya region, and commoners and elites were both permitted to own slaves. Individuals were enslaved as a form of punishment for certain crimes and for failing to pay back their debts. Prisoners of war who were not sacrificed would become slaves, and impoverished individuals sometimes sold themselves or family members into slavery. Slavery status was not passed on to the children of slaves. However, unwanted orphan children became slaves and were sometimes sacrificed during religious rituals. Slaves were usually sacrificed when their owners died so that they could continue in their service after death. If a man married a slave woman, he became a slave of the woman’s owner. This was also the case for women who married male slaves.
In the 12th century, also pre-dating the arrival of the Spanish, the Aztecs also had landless serfs and slaves. Serfs worked land that was owned by nobles and did not live in the calpulli.((The Aztec term for “large house.” In actuality, it was an organizational unit broadly corresponding to a ward, or a Spanish “barrio.”))Individuals became slaves as a form of punishment for certain crimes or for failure to pay tribute. Prisoners of war who were not used as human sacrifices became slaves.(( “Tlacotin” in Aztec.)) An individual could voluntarily sell himself or his children into slavery to pay back a debt. Slaves had the right to marry, to have children, to substitute another individual in their place, and to buy their freedom. Slave-owners were responsible for housing and feeding their slaves, and slaves generally could not be resold. They were usually freed when their owners died, and could also gain their freedom by marrying their owner. Aztecs were not born slaves and could not inherit this status from their parents.
There is at least some credible evidence to establish other Amerindians, such as the Inca of the Andes, the Tupinambá of Brazil, the Creek of Georgia, and the Comanche of Texas, also owned slaves.
Perhaps you didn’t know these “facts,” but they are such, however inconvenient they might be to the popular notion that slavery was a “White man’s institution” as it is an apparently universal human one, however politically unpopular it might presently be to consider it as such. If the search is for the truth, then that is what it must be, no matter how puzzling, repulsive, counter-intuitive or socially or scientifically inconvenient that might be.
One last point must be made in this regard, as I’ve neglected mention of the Arab slave trade that commenced in the mid-seventh century, eight hundred years ahead of the Portuguese slave trade. Historians estimate that between 10 and 18 million Africans were enslaved by Arab slave traders and taken across the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara desert between 650 and 1900. Being equal opportunity slavers, Arabs also enslaved Europeans. According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary corsairs, who were vassals of the Ottoman Empire, and sold them as slaves between 1500 and 1800 A.D. These slaves were captured mainly from seaside villages from Italy, Spain, Portugal and also from more distant places like France or England, the Netherlands, Ireland and even Iceland. The Arab slave trade in more recent times was noted to include children, and there are credible reports of as many as 6,000 enslaved child camel jockeys in Persian Gulf countries.
The earliest written reference to slavery is found in the Code of Hammurabi, from around 1760 B.C., where the institution is implicitly acknowledged in No 7:
“If any one buy from the son or the slave of another man, without witnesses or a contract, silver or gold, a male or female slave, an ox or a sheep, an ass or anything, or if he take it in charge, he is considered a thief and shall be put to death.”
I noted in passing, earlier, uncritical mentions of the institution in the Bible, but now they are worth taking a look at. In Exodus 21: 7-11, we find the following assertion, guaranteed to endear a daughter to her father:
“And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights.”
In Leviticus 19:20, we find the following bit of protocol:
“Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free.”
In Leviticus 22:11, we find the clergy can own slaves too:
“But if a priest buys a slave as his property with his money, that one may eat of it, and those who are born in his house may eat of his food.”
Lest Christians get complacent, check out the rock upon which Christ built his church here on Earth, the first Pope, Saint Peter, in his Epistle to the Ephesians 6:5:
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear, trembling, and sincerity, as when you obey the Messiah.”
One might rightfully wonder, “Messiah, Massa, what’s the difference?” Indeed, is there any?
The Muslims don’t get a bye on the slavery issue either. Under Sharia law, which rules the Sudan and the Gulf States, Muslims are still legally allowed to own slaves. Bernard Lewis, the eminent scholar of Islam, writes “…the institution of slavery is not only recognized but is elaborately regulated by Sharia law.” The prophet Muhammad was also a slave owner, perhaps setting the example for his followers.
Viking, Arab, Greek and Jewish merchants (known as Radhanites) were all involved in the slave trade during the Early Middle Ages. Slavery in early medieval Europe was so common that the Roman Catholic Church repeatedly prohibited it — or at least the export of Christian slaves to non-Christian lands was prohibited at, for example, the Council of Koblenz in 922, the Council of London in 1102, and the Council of Armagh in 1171. However, the moral aspect was not considered binding by church representatives as regards the enslavement of Africans.
The 15th century Portuguese exploration of the African coast is commonly regarded as the harbinger of European colonialism. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull “Dum Diversas,” granting Afonso V of Portugal the right to reduce any “Saracens, pagans and any other unbelievers” to hereditary slavery which legitimized slave trade under Catholic beliefs of that time. This approval of slavery was reaffirmed and extended in his “Romanus Pontifex” bull of 1455. These papal bulls came to serve as a justification for the subsequent era of slave trade and European colonialism. Viewed in that light, it makes one wonder what the Spanish slave traders were doing by baptizing the slaves before embarkation on their slave ships? Wouldn’t that de-paganize them?
By way of explanation, not justification, a powerful and lucrative, “slave triangle,” pioneered by Francis Drake and his associates, evolved, that operated from the late 16th to the early 19th centuries, carrying slaves, cash crops, and manufactured goods between West Africa, Caribbean or American colonies and the European colonial powers, with the northern colonies of British North America, especially New England, sometimes taking over the role of Europe.
The use of African slaves was fundamental to growing colonial cash crops, which were exported to Europe. European goods, in turn, were used to purchase African slaves, which were then brought on the sea lane west from Africa to the Americas, the so called middle passage.
A classic example would be the trade of sugar, often in its liquid form, molasses, from the Caribbean to Europe or New England, where it was distilled into rum. The profits from the sale of sugar were used to purchase manufactured goods, which were then shipped to West Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. The slaves were then brought back to the Caribbean to be sold to sugar planters. The profits from the sale of the slaves were then used to buy more sugar, which was shipped to Europe, and then the cycle repeated. The profits of the slave trade and of West Indian plantations amounted to 5% of the British economy at the time of the Industrial Revolution. You might remember a song in the movie musical, “1776” that sang of “Molasses to rum to slaves.”
Just for another historical goose in the perspective department, what was the first colony to officially legalize full blown, indentured for life, slavery? That’s right, that present day bastion of liberality, Massachusetts, which did so in 1641, followed by Connecticut in 1650, Virginia in 1661, Maryland in 1663, New York and New Jersey in 1664 and South Carolina in 1691. Black slaves were introduced to North Carolina as early as 1694, before its formal split with South Carolina in 1729, but had passed a series of laws in 1715 that operated to control slaves. Pennsylvania didn’t legalize slavery until 1700, and that after passage of a 1688 Pennsylvania Quaker anti-slavery resolution. Rhode Island, which is alleged to have been responsible for half the U.S. slave voyages, legalized the institution in 1715, Georgia in 1738. Delaware was an odd duck. Originally settled by Swedes, who prohibited slavery, it came to be taken over by the Dutch, who recognized it, but apparently never adopted any formal legislation authorizing it. Instead, we know the first Black slave was brought there in 1636 and in 1721 laws were passed providing for the trial of “negro and mulatto slaves.” New Hampshire introduced African slaves in 1645, but apparently had no statutes specifically authorizing the practice. Instead, it was one of the few colonies that did not tax the importation of slaves, and thereby became a base into which slaves were imported and smuggled into the other colonies, thereby demonstrating the ancient roots of tax evasion as an American institution.
To return to that most elusive of notions, my point, it is that, tempting, and, perhaps, culturally popular though it be today, to beat the crap out of the alleged intellectual good intentions of our White, male, Founders, for spewing into the historical record those high-minded words in the Declaration and in the Constitution pertaining to being created as equals, and having inalienable rights, inclusive of liberty, given the world they were born into and lived in, their assertions were and continue to be the best expression of the way things “should be” regarding the rights of humans ever put forth. It has taken the rest of us a very long time to live up to them, and to some extent, we apparently still haven’t, so we must keep trying. The real issue is how much longer might it have taken, had not those Founders put forth those notions, when they did, and acted on them, after they did?
As I am armed with my own, personal glass of (oops…I’m just pondering) I am now ready to tackle the last bit of temporal perspective before launching into the American Revolution. Feel free to utterly ignore that assertion, but as God is my witness, that is my intention as I write. Time will tell.
I mentioned, briefly, a bit of what I’d call “intellectual bait” a while back in making the assertion that the first true slave owner here, in America was a Black man. Now it’s time to back it up.
Anthony Johnson was a Black colonist, (yes, you read that right, settler would be equally apt, given how we earlier defined the term) one of the original indentured “20 and odd negroes” brought to Jamestown after arriving at Cape Comfort in August 1619. By 1623, Johnson had completed his indenture and was a “free Negro.”((There is a word we can no longer apparently politely say in reference to Black people. We will get to how and why that is later.)) I note here for the sake of completeness that after working out their contracts for passage money to Virginia, each of the other original 19 “negroes” were granted 50 acres of land after completing their respective indentures. This enabled them to raise their own tobacco or other crops.
I note further, the colonial charter for Virginia and the other “English” colonies, entitled English subjects and their children the rights of the common law, but people of other nations were considered foreigners or aliens, and considered outside the common law. At the time, no colony had a provision for naturalizing foreigners. As we shall see, that didn’t become much of an impediment to Mr. Johnson and his pursuit of justice.
During the late 1640’s, Mr. Johnson moved with his family to Northampton County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He acquired property on Pungoteague Creek and began raising livestock. He was the first known African landowner in the colony. By July 1651, he had expanded his holdings, which he referred to in a court record as “myne owne ground,” to 250 acres, then a considerable tract by Eastern Shore standards. He was prosperous enough to import five indentured servants of his own and was granted an additional 250 acres as “headrights” for bringing in workers.
In 1653 John Casor, a Black man employed by Johnson, said that he had been imported as a “seaven or eight yeares” indentured servant and that, after attempting to reclaim his indenture, he had been told by Johnson that he didn’t have one. According to the court documents, Casor demanded his freedom.
“Anthony Johnson was in a feare. Upon this his sonne in lawe, his wife and his two sonnes perswaded the said Anthony Johnson to sett the said John Casor free.”
Casor went to work for Robert Parker, a White colonist who, along with his brother George, later testified that they knew Casor had an indenture. One commentator said that Johnson may have feared losing his headrights land if the case went to court.((Having used the term twice, it’s now time to define it. The early inhabitants of Jamestown were employees of the Virginia Company, expected to direct their labors toward the production of profits for the investors. When it quickly became apparent that gold and silver did not exist in appreciable amounts in eastern North America, the colony had no cash crop and the threat of bankruptcy lay on the horizon. The tobacco economy that began in the 1610’s changed that. Tobacco production required large tracts of land and many workers. The company held title to tremendous amounts of land, but had few workers at their disposal. In 1618, the headright system was introduced as a means to solve the labor shortage. It provided each of the Colonists already residing in Virginia with two “headrights,” being tracts of 50 acres each, or a total of 100 acres of land. New settlers who paid their own passage to Virginia were granted one headright. As every person who entered the colony received a headright, families were encouraged to migrate together. Wealthy individuals could accumulate headrights by paying for the passage of poor individuals. Most of the workers who entered Virginia under this arrangement came as indentured servants. ))
Anthony Johnson brought suit in Northampton County court against Parker in 1654 for detaining his “Negro servant, John Casor,” saying “Hee never did see any (indenture) but that hee had ye Negro for his life.” In the case of Johnson vs Parker, the court of Northampton County upheld Johnson’s right to hold Casor as a slave, saying in its ruling on March 8, 1655:((Taken from the Deposition of Samuel Goldsmyth, From John H. Russell. Colored Freemen as Slaveowners in Virginia. Journal of Negro History. Vol. 1, no. 3. (1916): 234-235.))
“Whereas complaint was this daye made to ye court by ye humble peticion of Anth. Johnson Negro ag[ains]t Mr. Robert Parker that hee detayneth one John Casor a Negro the plaintiffs Serv[an]t under pretense yt the sd Jno. Casor a Negro is a freeman the court seriously considering & maturely weighing ye premises doe fynd that ye sd Mr. Reboert Parker most unrightly keepeth ye sd Negro John Casor from his r[igh]t of mayster Anth. Johnson as it appeareth by ye Deposition of Capt. Samll Goldsmith & many probable circumstances. be it therefore ye Judgement of ye court & ordered that ye sd Jno. Casor negro, shall forthwith bee turned into ye service of his sd master Anthony Johnson and that the sd Mr. Robert Parker make payment of all charges in the suite and execution.”
In sustaining the claim of Anthony Johnson to the perpetual service of John Casor, the court also gave judicial sanction to the right of free Negroes to own slaves of their own race.((In lawyer terms, the return of Casor, to his master, Johnson, with no reference to a temporal duration, implied a life sentence, as pleaded by Johnson in his complaint. That my friends is what good lawyering is all about, but I digress.)) The defendant, John Casor, was long believed to be the first individual known to be declared a slave in what later became the United States, and Anthony Johnson (Black) the first known slaveholder.
In 1670 the colonial assembly passed a law prohibiting free and baptized negroes and Indians from purchasing Christians (in this act meaning English or European whites) but allowing them to buy persons “of their owne nation.” In this meaning, “purchase” also related to buying the contract services of indentured servants of various “nations.”
In 1665 Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary, his son John and his wife Susanna, and their slave John Casor moved to Somerset County, Maryland. Casor remained Johnson’s slave for the rest of his life.
Take a deep breath, a sip of pondering juice, allow me to digress, lo but for a moment, and tell me, is this registering with you? We are discussing documentary evidence that in 1651, a Black man was not only free, he owned 500 of his own slaves. I know I never read a history book that reported this information. Did you? Probably not. My question is why didn’t we? Isn’t this a bit relevant to the notion of how we developed as a nation? I agree, this was an exception rather than the rule, but it apparently happened, and, as you will see, wasn’t the only instance. If so, at least in the beginning, the notion of slavery here wasn’t a solely White racist endeavor as it has been portrayed. What happened to change that? We’ll probably never know. End of digression.
As we know by now, nothing, before or after the invention of videotape, is safe from controversion, I offer for your perusal a second account of who the first “slave” for life in the Colonies might have been.
John Punch was an African who lived in colonial York County, Virginia, as an indentured servant of the planter Hugh Gwyn. In 1640, after trying to escape from his indenture to Maryland, with two other servants, a Dutchman and a Scot, they were all caught, and on conviction, sentenced to whippings. The European men were also sentenced to have their terms of indenture extended by four years each, but Punch was sentenced to a life of servitude.
As he was bound as a servant for life some genealogists and historians describe Punch as “the first African documented to be enslaved for life in what would eventually become the United States.” In lawyer’s perspective, both Punch and Castor were caught, tried and sentenced on the breach of their respective indentured servant agreements, and, perhaps, given the day and age, were doled out punishments that reflected what the respective judges believed fit the breach, perhaps as a message to other indentured servants who might have considered doing likewise. Judges are known to do such forward looking things. Maybe they were merely giving effect to the admonition of Saint Peter from Ephesians 6:5. We’ll likely never know. Having been around in the law for a while, I can state with virtual certitude, the result in Castor’s case may have been different if he had petitioned the court for relief, before going to work for Parker.
To finish this riff, as only can happen in the real world, drawing on a combination of historical documents and yDNA analysis, Ancestry.com said in July 2012 that Punch was probably an eleventh great-grandfather of United States President Barack Obama through his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.((Do you remember an earlier footnote about why was Obama considered Black if his mother was White? Well, here is where the notion of purity of blood would come in. If Stanley Ann Dunham had a Black man lurking somewhere in her family tree, then in the minds of some, she isn’t really White. I still don’t believe that is the reason Obama is considered essentially as a Black man.)) You can go on-line to check it out. If so, it kind of underscores, in my mind, the significance of his election to the Presidency, in terms of how far we really have come, but I, perhaps, digress.
We don’t hear anything today about Black, American, slave owners, but apparently there were such CQ&L’s that walked the Earth. In 1860 William Ellison was South Carolina’s largest Negro slave owner, himself a former slave and then the owner of 63 slaves, his sons owning another 9.
Ascolti il Padrone ‼ Put your pondering cap back on. ((Here is a notion for the truly sentinent. Given how I’ve previously defined the notion of pondering, and if you have learned to think “outside the box,” you will note that my above assertion contained no specifics as to what a cap might be, or where it should be placed. Accordingly, you could, by expansive thinking, come to the conclusion that a wine glass, even if filled, could be considered a cap; and, placed in one’s hand, would be “on” one’s person, thereby being in full compliance with the request. Mo snarls at this assertion, but such is the fun of semantics. Digression over.))What is the intellectual significance of establishing there were Black slave-owners in Colonial America? To me it is a form of circumstantial evidence tending to prove that the Colonial view of the institution of slavery, was not restricted to White, male owners. The evidence is circumstantial in that it requires us to infer what Black slave-owners were thinking when they bought their own Black slaves. While the possibilities at to what that might have been are endless, the probabilities are not.
A sentinent jury could infer from the circumstantial proof of such ownership that Colonial Black slave-owners viewed the institution as the normal way things were done. If you added to that, proof of how rampant the institution was elsewhere in the world at that time, how long it had been going on in the world beforehand, the apparent acceptance of the institution in the Bible; and, that the Black slave-owners were themselves once slaves, likely sold into slavery by one of their own, the cumulative weight of the evidence strikes my mind as quite compelling. But what have we proven? Merely, perhaps, the complacency with which a large number of CQ&L’s, of every flavor, accepted the institution as part of the “norm” as recently as several hundred years ago. Against such a backdrop, it is a bit naive, I believe, to expect such an entrenched institution could be eradicated, overnight, by one or more CQ&L’s merely forming an opinion it was time to end it all, because it was morally wrong. Nothing in the history of CQ&L’s shows them capable of moving with such rapidity, with or without high moral purpose.
Nevertheless, some CQ&L’s, including some who were then presenting as White males, formed the idea that the institution was wrong, and started doing something about it. We are now ready to revolt….”
I admit that was a particularly long quote, but hopefully, it conveyed some sense of how I look upon and parse out these essentially difficult notions. I’d like to think it fleshed out my notion in titling this diatribe, in that much of what appears obvious, is hardly ever that.
I could extend this diatribe by turning my focus to the relationship between men and women over time, but I’ve thoroughly dealt with that in The Reason Why, and see no need to give it away. Buy the book when it’s published — which, the way things usually go with me, will be posthumously, but perhaps I digress.
I leave you with the notion that my opening assertion, to the effect that “It’s all about power,” rings true — both as regards the physical world, and the human one as well. I’ll do my best to post some additional thoughts on the notion. Until then, consider what I’ve laid out for you in this rant, and keep pondering.