Sunday, December 20, 2009

Morality and Profit


Barbadian capitalists, kicked out of England abused the resources of their adopted island homes, founding Carolina on slave-run plantations. Elite mariners in Charleston then influenced all of the American colonies, spreading overzealous capitalism through the heavy Atlantic Slave Trade. Unbounded, this capitalism grew into a uniquely American way of life, infesting future Americans with an insatiable need for more land and enormous wealth. Manifest Destiny destroyed the lives of red people as well as black in favor of the dominant white. Though predominately colorblind today, guilt and imperialism turned profit into a fundamentalist religion preaching social destruction for all Americans.


Barbadian immigrants to southern Carolina understood the relationship: money equals power. As per the colloquialism: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It goes without question. Abuse is the inevitable result, whether it involved Africans to serve as agricultural chattel or Chinese women prostituted against their will to American businessmen. Details are sketchy because histories were written by winners, skewed to favor the powerful. Capitalism came with West-Indies immigrants and slave labor in the seventeenth century, evolved a little during the Enlightenment and then, through the nineteenth-century era of Romanticism, fell to the depths of disgust with racism. Efforts to recognize the humanity of the African and the American Indian fell short of the goal. America guiltily avoided this particular issue, detouring around it with the semi-religious worship of money. In time, capitalists learned to prey upon themselves, recapturing the glory of Barbadian predecessors and the avarice of plantation society.

The Great Seal of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, or as styled in 1663, Magnum Sigillum Carolinœ Dominorum, declared the feudal intent of the proprietors as Domitus cultoribus orbis, “to dominate and conquer the world.” After the brief Interregnum (1649-1660) period, monarchy once again found its place in England and cavaliers, or royalists spread across the Empire to settle upon mainland America. Royalist Barbadian businessmen once again in favor, rose aloft their feudal banner as the “Corporation of the Barbadoes Adventurers.” Capitalism well-defined their intentions: to continue the lucrative sugar plantation enterprises of their Caribbean home. As John Locke chastised the overindulgent reputation in 1671, saying that Barbadian cavaliers, “endeavour to rule all.” After the sale of the turbulent Carolina colony to the Crown in 1730, Thomas Lowndes, wrote to Allured Popple in reference to peopling the colony with settlers from Pennsylvania, “now their Lordships have it in their power to settle Carolina, with an industrious honest race of people.” By Lowndes assumption, the general opinion in England was that Barbadians were not honest.

Barbados was founded by extreme capitalistic ideals found in Englishmen cast out of their English home. These morally corrupt castaways tore Barbados apart and they swarmed upon Carolina to continue the process. America naturally evolved from this abuse, Barbadian hunger for abusive wealth affecting the gentler New England colonists as well. Brown University's Steering Report examines in great detail how the university owes its existence as well as much of its reputation and its present substance to the horrors of the slave trade.

Ironically, Rhode Island led America in denouncing the heavy taxes imposed by England before the Revolution. Stephen Hopkins, later President of the school that would become Brown University, wrote many treatises on why taxing so heavily was detrimental to the human race, why it was comparable to slavery. Hopkins stated “Liberty is the greatest blessing that men enjoy, and slavery is the heaviest curse that human nature is capable of,” he wrote, adding that “those who are governed at the will of another, and whose property may be taken from them...without their consent...are in the miserable condition of slaves.” Quite likely, Hopkins missed the irony. He never consciously considered the humanity of the African slave, to him, simply a product on the shelf. Hopkins, like most Americans, was concerned with free trade, the right to carry on their business. That business was predominately the Atlantic Slave Trade. Hopkins was a well-educated man. Unconsciously, he knew exactly what he was saying. God would, of course, forgive him as a Christian master over heathen slaves.

Early Anglicans in Barbados equated “God” with the “attainment of wealth.” As America grew, the ecclesiastical argument became refined and spread into many denominations, most favoring the acquisition of wealth and position. However, the "demonic" undercurrents remained within religious society as well. Greed still ran the show and won all the accolades. However, anthropologists studying human behavior realize that the need for social interaction coincident with the "survival of the fittest" ideology produces a dilemma: often, the fight will be won only with the loss of a friend. Americans desperately needed forgiveness to survive this kind of guilt, to justify what they had done. Rhetoric also found its place in that survival.

A very small percentage, mostly intellectuals, tried to avoid this destructive trend by questioning the apparent negligence of God (i.e. the great capitalist in the sky). Younger intellectuals could afford this distraction. Soon, they entered a generally accepted "American life" with responsibilities they did not have before and needed money to feed the kids that quickly came along with the stress. Social stress builds religious fervor. Americans feel the need to cling to benevolent feelings and perhaps a father figure in these often turbulent middle years. “Fighting to survive,” for dominance sacrifices your comfort zone and your friends. Idealism that may have cured the guilt of slavery died in the more immediate responsibilities.

Americans tried desperately to avoid the memory of what their greed led them to do. Millions upon millions of human beings were enslaved, beaten, and torn from their families, their dead bodies fed to sharks by the hundreds. That was before they landed on American shores. Guilt grew and had to be avoided, but it was difficult when surrounded by plantations full of slaves. Of course, prejudice is the natural result of forced avoidance, an intellectual variety of the same thing. Guilt-inspired Romanticism of nineteenth-century America overwhelmed the rationalist ideas of the Enlightenment, freeing whites from reason and the burden of conscience.

America’s present economic standing as a world power exists today from the sacrifice of slaves and Americans fight to avoid that painful history. The uncontrolled attainment of wealth, or profit became the sole reason to live, the salve for the old wound, or the crutch for the self-inflicted injury. With time, it became easier to avoid the guilt. Capitalism grew without a conscience.

The Civil War brought the end of slavery while it heralded the beginnings of true racism. Americans, filled with the pervading guilt of slavery, molded that guilt into pure, raw hatred. The beaten South justified their actions by turning the black man into something less than human. Jim Crow came to the South like Sherman to Atlanta endeavoring to maintain the romantic illusion of ruling whiteness, the heavenly-ordained fundamentality of profit. In 1898, that southern, democratic white ethic culminated in a riot, a racist coup d’état in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The African's significance was not only forced into the woods, but literally drowned in favor of the domineering white delusion, “even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses,” declared Alfred Moore Waddell. The intricate nature of that delusion was best illustrated in Waddell’s reaction to the “Negro” in the press. In Collier’s Weekly of November 26, 1898, Waddell declared, “Never a hair on your heads will be harmed. I will dispense justice to you as I would to the first man in the community. I will try to discharge my duty honestly and impartially.” No one really knows how many blacks died that day. Estimates start at ten and end around five hundred. Waddell’s actions hardly resembled justice. Moreover, the truth was and still is rhetorically suppressed or changed to suit the dominant ethnic group.

South Carolina referred to the development of their very lucrative rice agriculture as an almost divine element in their history, the magical appearance of the "Madagascar rice seed" upon Charleston docks in the early eighteenth century. Only recently are historians re-discovering the real history of rice agriculture and finding it to be the result of centuries of observation, research, and development directly derived from the western coast of Africa.

After the Royal African Company realized the “limitless” potential of America, Carolina was settled to relieve the failing and depleted Barbados. Carolinians had a number of crops to try because they knew that sugar would not be as lucrative in Carolina as it was in Barbados. Rice was one of those crops considered by the company and it became the new sugar, influencing Charleston planters to obtain their slaves from rice-producing regions of West Africa, long known for rice agriculture and the hearty constitutions of the Gambians. Why hearty Gambians? Rice, like sugar was labor intensive and was grown in disease-infested swamps, killing slaves on a repetitive basis which caused a tremendous turnover in labor. The relative immunity to such diseases doomed the African, who arrived in droves. In only 35 years, by 1705, Carolina's population was more than half black.

There is a good possibility of record destruction to hide the embarrassing African contribution. James L. Pettigrew remarked to Robert F. W. Allston in 1843, “The water culture of Rice must have been more or less understood from the beginning…[of the Carolina colony].” He elaborates further upon the gained knowledge, proprietary as well as colonial, and…“the gradual results of experience, rather than the sudden accession of discovery.” Pettigrew did not say it, but he suspected the truth: that the gradual “experience” came little by little from Africa. The “magical” appearance of rice on Charleston docks was a hastily-contrived smoke screen. Still, it amazingly went unquestioned. Our history became an intentional lie. Barbadian immigrants, the plantation-owning cream of society knew the atrocities that they committed, lied to all posterity, and did not stop. The acquisition of wealth was more important than conscience. Becoming the masters of 3,000-acre plantations, producing tremendous riches, the possibility of gaining reputation and power, that was the that justified the means. It worked like a drug. Thus, it was easy to transition one lie into another during Reconstruction after emancipation.

America does not possess the sole responsibility for the mistreatment of African culture. Gold, ivory, slaves, and then diamonds became the desire of many western nations who took it for themselves while rewriting or misquoting African history to gain access to these riches. Many European nations colonized, abused, and raped the continent of Africa in the nineteenth century. Even some Africans helped to rape Africa. The thinking process was: The helpless African cannot defend against invasion; therefore he must be weak and backward. It became the validity for capitalistic abuse. Steal the gold, salt, slaves, and diamonds. Meanwhile, we will throw him a biscuit and all will be well. Destructive tautological politics are often the “gentle” weapon of the financially and physically strong… and the morally corrupt.

This logic was used contemporaneously on Native Americans as well. Manifest Destiny became the semi-religious doctrine that overran the American Indian like a bulldozer. In the developing Romanticism, the “separate species” view of the Indian, the linking of culture and race, declared that political and economic structures, artistic expression, and ethical values were exclusive attributes of each race and non-transferable. Late nineteenth-century American legislators used this value system to legally drive allotment of Indian lands into the hands of white investors, arguably the superior race. Today, Indians continue to fight for recognition by the United States to honor at least one of the hundreds of treaties, all of which have been broken in the name of land, wealth, financial security… profit. Meanwhile, television and popular movies of the mid-twentieth century have developed the cultural stereotype embodied in the proverb, "the only good Indian is a dead one." Hungry Indians died from American bullets and federal policy. Again, we sacrificed a friend. By the turn of the nineteenth century, however, we mastered the deadlier weapons of politics against our friends to achieve our financial desires.

Opponents of white supremacy and now, capitalistic radicalism have been labeled with many obtuse appellations. They are called liberals if they are lucky. Socialists if they are not. Communists if they speak out. Atheists if they "need a killin'." America is the land of "God, guts, and glory." You must be Christian, you must possess courage, and you must seek reputation… further, you must make a profit. However, in the American context of "God, guts, and glory," capitalism became a religion, a national mandate and source of pride to succeed over your neighbors, step on their backs if necessary. No need to worry. Forgiveness is yours. God says, “keep the money!”

Some argue that it is inevitable that humans are driven to this kind of behavior, so why try to avoid it? They argue that we should revel in our natures and try to make a profit from it. The reasoning goes: If you don't do it first, then it will be done to you. However, if we use that kind of logic, then the idea of a peaceful future, a retirement in security, is lost in the rhetoric. Wealth attracts thieves who threaten security. You can never let your guard down. Attempting to build civilization by ripping out each other’s throats like ravenous wolves simply will not work. The creative dulling of greed’s consequences will stab you and your civilization in the back. Many friends will be lost. Moreover, skin color factored out of the financial math.

As advertisers irresponsibly capitalize on our moral hesitation, they become emotionally insistent upon due dates, shortened grace periods, contractual obligations and many more coercive methods, degrading human values. Service contracts are often too wordy to read in a reasonable time. They are usually signed unread. Service providers knowingly trick you to get your money. The procedure is humorously detailed in a television commercial by a local cable/internet provider that does not require contracts (currently). Every answer to every customer complaint is comically answered with, "You have a contract!" More than likely, this company will continue to grow until one day they become the media giant that hassles customers on the phone with, "You have a contract!" Certainly, the reaction to this manipulative form of business is a hardened casual thought process, a knee-jerk reaction. The problem is that it is not just one company, it is almost all companies. The average citizen cannot live the normal American life without signing at least a few contracts.

This comical commercial simply exposes American behavior for what it is. As the population grows, people become simply inanimate sources of funding to companies that once touted ideals. A handful of people nearly collapsed the economy just recently by exploiting the market in an attempt to "take it all." Perhaps it would not have been so easy if Americans had not committed themselves to such tremendous debt to maintain the glorious illusion of the romantic ideal… the right to conquer all. The American consumer has become the ex-slave, the American Indian, the “separate species” object of contempt. The stratification of society is less culturally certain and the attacks much more random and chaotic. People are sacrificing other people like them, losing friends (and themselves) to win the game. White vs. Black/Indian becomes Rich vs. Poor in the abusive game of profit.

Let’s make this absolutely clear… we are still using the same destructive capitalistic methods today that were used by those who founded our country. Nothing has changed. Given the same circumstances, the very same opportunities, we would take advantage of those opportunities in the same exact ways. Time did not endow humans with any great humanitarian traits; evolution did not occur in the space of only 300 years. The slavers are still here, sitting in class, eating in restaurants, and shopping at Walmart. Powerful executives take their businesses out of America because of moral objections. However, Americans still buy their products. We dare not ask where these products come from because we want them so badly to keep up with the Jones.

It is no great feat of intelligence to understand the "golden" position of wealth over education in our society. The general belief in America today is that there is no profit in, or from, an education. Teachers are continually underpaid. It is a casual joke in our society that "those who can, do… those who cannot, teach." As evolved human beings, we gained a greater awareness of responsibility. That tool is already at America’s disposal. However, it must be used. Every act, every thought has been molded by a pervading, fundamentalist capitalism that retards civilized growth, unless losing friends is alright with Americans. Responsible human beings must transcend these boundaries. Learn from the past. Freedom of education is vital to this effort and America holds that most golden resource within its Constitution. However, education must be allowed to resume its former, constructive social tone and disregard the rhetoric of yesterday. Education, changing young minds will alter the social inequality in America and provide the defense needed against the morally-corrupt Barbadian profiteer of the present. Terminus dominion.

1 comment:

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