Thursday, December 09, 2004

Free Markets and Slavery...
Just something that floated across the rancid residue that used to be gray matter, but now that I live in the South, you sometimes cannot but help and think about slavery. Yeah, I know, it no longer exists and not every southerner owned slaves, etc, etc. But, the outward symbols are still here. The Confederate flag, for example, is flown proudly here, not as a symbol of a repressive system but as matter of regional and personal heritage. Some of the old plantations still exist, although they've mostly been converted to other uses: museums, wedding halls, antique shops, meeting houses, etc.

Now normally, I wouldn't care about something like that, except in the historical sense as an interesting period in history. As far as I'm concerned, the War of Northern Aggression (as they call it here) ended quite a long time ago, and after Emancipation Proclimations, Constitutional Amendments, Civil Rights and Voting Acts and a host of affirmative action programs, slavery is well and truly dead.

But you can't help thinking about it when you walk around here.

It's my contention that the Civil War need never have been fought. The Industrial Revolution was already reducing the need for massive numbers of brute laborers every day during that period. It would have been a matter of time before technology had made the business of planting and cultivating cotton ridiculously cheap, and reduced the prices for raw cotton. Thsi would have made the keeping of large numbers of slaves a more expensive proposition, and slavery would have ended as soon as it became apparent. The problem then would have been what to do about several million otherwise-unwanted, and now unwatched, blacks in the South.

Abraham Lincoln, that paragon of virtue (so we've been led to believe) had a solution: deport the slaves. He advocated sending them to Mexico, whioch would have probably started the plague of illegal Mexican immigration in 1870 instead of 1970. That assumes that Mexico wanted them. That assumes that the slaves would have wanted to leave. That assumes quite a lot.

So, I began thinking; what would have happened if several million people, formerly slaves, living under constant surveilance, tied to the land and having no legal standing, were suddenly left to their own devices. I believe one of two things would have happened: there would have been genocide or the slaves would have to be controlled in some other way.

Enter the Federal Government.

In the modern world, many blacks in this country live on a different kind of plantation, where they are kept under surveilance, kept at a level of bare subsistence, left mostly uneducated, and most, have little or no legal standing despite the laws designed to correct that. The problem is that while the Federal Government helped set up the New Plantation, with welfare, Medicaid, Foood Stamps augmenting a host of state-run welfare programs, blacks themselves do the rest.

Parents don't look after their children (a phenomenon not stricly limited to the black commuity), the schools have become warehouses, a babysitter of last resort. Two million black males are sitting in prisons all across the country. Out-of-Wedlock birth is a commonplace situation. Addictions of all kinds run rampant. Two-parent households barely exist. Speaking English and learning how to add and subtract are derided as "being white". Rap "music" substitutes for anything approaching litterature or art. These are the mental bars of the black prison system. A system that is mostly self-imposed.

I began to think of this when I happened upon a bunch of black folks around here whose behavior was bordering on that of a lowland gorilla. There was no display of manners. Cursing was the normal speech pattern. There wasn't even a display of any redeeming quality that could be called "polite" or "classy". Children ran rampant. Husbands (more likely "my baby's daddy" type companions) yelled and demeaned their women and children, complete with filthy words, in public. They dress in a way that is remiscent of Wal-Mart having blown up: bright, gaudy colors, clothes (especially pants) that do not fit, shirts and jackets emblazoned with the name of some top-flight designer (and sneakers to match), and here they are, arguing over the price of the food at McDonald's.

It started with someone asking why they couldn'ty get the 99 cent two cheeseburger deal with fries and a drink for the same price as the "Value Meal". Probably because there is not a "two cheeseburger Value Meal" offered. They way it was ordered, it was ordered as individual items.
This started a typical display of ghetto angst: the audible muttering that is intended for everyone to hear. The deriding of the poor cashier (herself black) who had tried to be patient, had tried to explain basic mathematics and economics, but still got called a "f*uckin' bee-atch. The comical hand-on-hip, bobbing-and-weaving-in-yo-face rehtoric that would even pass for logical discourse at a convention of democrats. The put-upon-I'm-a-po'-oppressed-country-niggah attitude put on display to cover the fact that someone tried to scam openly and got caught, publiclly indicating the stupidity on display. The mess, purposely, left on the table for someone else to clean up.

It wouldn't have been so schocking to me, after all I'm a New Yorker, except that this group of people seemed to be four generations strong. There was a grandmother, a set of ersatz-parents, the teenagers and their illicit progeny. And right there, I was presented with a microcosm of what Southern Rebels might have been faced with in 1860; we could give them their freedom, we could try to make amends with money, we could try to even the score with the law. But there would still be several million people not-far-removed from their tribal, uncivilized ways, running wild.

No wonder Southerners opted to fight.

The passage of time has not changed very many things. I know that the bunch I saw was NOT representative of all blacks, so please, don't complain. But from my experience, it's a pretty accurate snapshot.

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