Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fear of terrorism

I was once talking to a fellow who told me with supreme confidence that slaveholders always treated their slaves well, much better than employers treat their employees. A slave was a two thousand dollar investment. It would be foolish for the slave owner to damage their own property so, of course, they never did.

When logic is sound but leads to a false conclusion it must be based on false assumptions. Surely one of the false assumptions here, a common one that leads to many false conclusions, is that people always act logically and in their own best interests. But there is another false assumption here that I have recently come to understand from talking to my brother, who is researching American slavery and the Civil War for a book he is writing. That false assumption is that the goal of preserving and protecting their financial investment was never overruled by a higher priority. Slaveholders lived in constant fear of being murdered in their beds in a slave revolt. This fear led to them savagely beat, cripple and execute their slaves, hoping to instill enough fear into the slave population to prevent resistance. A fear of being killed caused people to willingly destroy their own valuable property.

After 9/11 many Americans, reacting to a fear of being killed by terrorists, advocated and supported policies and actions as inhumane and ultimately as harmful to their own best interests as a slaveholder beating his own slave to death.

I imagine that 30 or 40 years in the future there will be people who deny that the United States ever invaded and occupied a sovereign country that posed no danger to us. "They could not have done that," they will say. "That would have put them in greater danger of being attacked by terrorist. I refuse to believe that the people of the United States did such illogical, immoral things -- acts so at odds with all the nobel principles of democracy and self-determination that they have always stood for."

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Another example of slaveholders not acting in their own self interest is their depletion of the soil on their farms. In the 1780s northern farmers were seeing greatly reduced yields due to worn out soil. They then discovered crop rotation and the use of manure for fertilizer. By the 1830s old farms in the north were healthy again but the old south had millions of acres of once rich farmland reduced to scrub and once grand plantation houses abandoned. The new land in Alabama was likewise becoming worn out. That is why southern politicians fought battle after battle in Washington to allow slavery to find fresh land in the territories.

Slave holding was simply a very corrupting influence that caused much destructive behavior. Today we see similar illogical behavior caused seemingly by militarism and a habit of looking only to violent solutions to problems.
Daniel Barrett