Slavery Is A Zombie That Won’t Die

Any “original sins” Eve may have committed were literary. America’s original sin — slavery — was absolutely for real. America remains a great idea thus far poorly executed. We’re an experiment in human self government going through a very rough patch because of a design flaw at the beginning. The white, Christian, land-owning men who wrote or stood by “All men are created equal” didn’t mean “all men” though they did mean “men only”. Some of them, to their credit, did grasp where the correction to their fumble would come from when they made “E Pluribus Unum” our country’s motto. But, even those white, Christian, land-owning men who hated slavery — they still sat down and made a deal with slavery when they allowed it to exist at all inside the new country they were creating. Ever notice how, when you make a deal with “the devil”, it’s always the devil who makes out? Same with slavery.

America made a deal with slavery that slavery is still winning. It’s a zombie that will not die.

The incentive to enslave people is the same as the incentive to get people to work for nothing. Or next to nothing. Free labor is slavery’s one, true goal. All its associated costs (food, shelter and clothing for the enslaved) are just part of the larger equation: what it costs to have the slave versus the slave’s productivity. If the difference between those two numbers is great enough? Slavery is profitable. That’s its bottom line. If slavery wasn’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

The nations of Europe saw the Americas as a money-making venture first and foremost. That there were humans living here wasn’t a problem for long (thanks to European pathogens, not European cultural superiority). Capitalism was always the driving force behind colonization. As soon as the Europeans who first colonized America realized how well tobacco, sugar cane and cotton grew here — all being in high demand back in Europe — the race was on to produce more of those things as cheaply as possible. If we look at it from production’s point of view, the land is a hard cost. It’s non-negotiable. Same goes for whatever the “machinery” costs are to plow, sow and harvest the crops the land produces. The one big variable — the soft cost — is the human beings needed to do the actual physical labor.

If all the other costs of getting finished sugar cane to market are, at best, minimally negotiable and therefore baked into the cost of doing business, then the one place “the money” has to negotiate with is the soft cost: labor. From management’s point of view therefore every penny spent on workers is a penny less of profit. In a fair world, management wouldn’t see this as a zero sum game. They’d have foresight that projected their thinking beyond the next quarter and well into the future. And they’d see themselves and their product in the far larger perspective of the commonweal and the Greater Good.

Too bad crony capitalism is so much more attractive than plain, old, boring regular capitalism.

Take stolen labor off the table and there’s no way the Confederacy rises. Hell, if the money that first seeded the Confederate states’ agrarian economy had paid its labor fairly on principle, they might have founded an actual workers’ paradise. Alas, not only didn’t that happen, but the slave economy that dirty money built continued on even after slavery itself was theoretically made illegal. The greed at slavery’s root grows well in a potting soil of racism. Racism justifies both the greed and the slavery to the racist. Thus is the “slavery zombie” born inside the conservative brain. Inside the conservative-money brain.

No one makes a Nike sneaker — or a Tesla or a Blue Origin Rocket — all by themselves. No one alone can fix anything. Even if an Elon Musk “eureka’s” a great idea, ideas minus execution in some practical way are worth bupkis. They’re just “ideas”. To get from great idea to money-making product in the marketplace takes hundreds if not thousands of other peoples’ input and work. Yeah, sure — in the absence of the great idea, none of this work happens. But, by the same token, in the absence of the work to manifest the great idea here in reality, the great idea doesn’t happen either.

Good capitalism recognizes it must spread the profits generated much more equitably amongst every person who made those profits possible. The idea may get a bonus — an extra point or two perhaps. We do want to incentivize great ideation. But great ideators need to see their work in perspective. Remember: insulin’s creator, Sir Frederick G. Banting wanted insulin to be free to anyone who needed it. He refused to put his name on the patent, feeling it was “unethical for a doctor to profit from a discovery that would save lives. Banting’s co-inventors, James Collip and Charles Best, sold the insulin patent to the University of Toronto for a mere $1. They wanted everyone who needed their medication to be able to afford it.” A great idea in context!

But the three companies that currently cover 90% of the worldwide insulin market (Novo Nordisk, Eli Lily and Sonofi) have tossed the intent of insulin’s inventors aside especially inside America’s borders. What costs $8.81 (in 2018) outside America costs an American $98.70.– almost nine times higher. The cost of health care gobbles up much more of an American’s paycheck and wealth than anywhere else on the planet. Nowhere else (that’s civilized) can a cancer diagnosis result in a family going bankrupt and losing their home and generational wealth.

This is how slavers think and do business.

The Civil War may have formally ended slavery but it didn’t end the sentiment that made slavery possible. If anything, the end of formal slavery made informal slavery much more successful and far-reaching in America than actual slavery ever was. Modern day slavers may not be allowed to pay their workers nothing, but paying them next-to-nothing isn’t actually an improvement from the slave’s point of view. If slavery has any “benefits” (and it doesn’t of course), it’s that its workers (slaves) don’t have to feed, clothe and house themselves. The slave master takes care of those expenses. Freedom from slavery — such as it is — makes those expenses the former slave’s responsibility. They better earn enough money — now that they earn money for working — to pay for all these things!

That’s where the slavery-zombie suddenly pops into frame.

America used to foster “company towns” — places where “practically all stores and housing were owned by one company who also employed pretty much everyone in town” Pullman, IL, Hershey, PA, Steinway, NY and Roebling, NJ all were famous company towns. Wages in a company town were just enough to pay the bills (at the company stores) but not enough to ever build any wealth. That way, the workers would always be renters with no assets to speak of, real estate being the basis for all great wealth. That is exactly what institutional racism has done to Black wealth in America — made it almost impossible to acquire and absolutely impossible to maintain.

I know exactly on whose behalf the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is negotiating. I count myself as one of those people. The Democrats therefore are negotiating on my behalf. The Republicans are the most dishonest actors to ever take up acting. They’re cynicism on the hoof (so is the news media that covers them like they’re honest actors). They represent bullshit, criminality and treason. I’m not sure why any Democrat would negotiate with that. I completely disapprove of the Democrats negotiating away the things I want my government to do with my tax dollars especially since I don’t see who exactly we’re negotiating with here as it’s not the Republicans.

There are no Republicans in the room with the Democrats trying to make a deal for Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. There are Progressives and their agenda — the President’s — and there are… “moderates”? Is that what people who negotiate against their constituents’ best interests are called these days? I hear Joe Manchin stamping his feet that “his number” is $1.3 trillion and he won’t budge from it but I don’t see for whose benefit here Joe is “negotiating”. Joe seems to think that taxpayers demanding their tax dollars benefit them is “entitlement” while rich guys putting our tax dollars into their pockets isn’t.

Greed is a foul, foul thing. Like a virus, greed turns those infects “into” it. Even good people suddenly get greedy. They may justify it a thousand different ways but that’s just the virus — their greed – talking.

Being undead, Zombies crave brains. Being greedy, slavery craves free labor — and if slavery can’t get the labor it needs for nothing, it wants to pay that labor as close to nothing as possible.