Happiness In Slavery

The American slaves, which some of you might find is the only definition of a slave talked about in modern times, had a tough existence, though apparently the free Irish had it worse (sorry about that). Your average slave in the American south was provided with menial amount of essentials. Many slaves lived in small stick houses with earthy floors, given fatty meats and corn bread to give them that much needed energy to work the land. They had water, they had rags to wear, and some had plots of land to grow their own food and fish. 

The majority of slaves in the American South were only ever given the minimum, they were treated like some thoroughbred animal that rich people own. They were treated more like a fighting dog you’d find chained up some hell pit estate in Sheffield. But to a certain degree, the slaves didn’t have to concern themselves with too much responsibility. Their very purpose in life was created for them, and they had no say in whether they were sold, beaten, or wanted more things or less abuse. They just existed.

There were lots of slaves in the south, and very few slave owners. Slaves were the possessions of the rich landowners, and in some cities like Charleston in North Carolina, both slave and free blacks greatly outnumbered the whites. Following the emancipation, some four plus million black men, women, and children were now free. Free from abuse, free to be educated, free to choose what the wanted to eat and where they wanted to eat. But many realised there were limits and much vulnerability when it came to freedom. Some were fine to live on just bread and water as long as they were free, but there was a hard time of adjustment to come. 

A historian named Jim Downs (I don’t know if he’s an ok guy, but he wrote a book) wrote a book called “Sick From Freedom”. He detailed the truth of emancipation: many black Americans died from disease and starvation. He estimates that a quarter of the freed slaves, about 1 million people, either died or suffered greatly from illness between 1862 and 1870.  The rates of death were so severe that some believed all black Americans would just die out. Downs commented that emancipation was more complex and nuanced than we view it to be. Freedom comes at a cost.

You, more likely than not, find yourself locked in your home, possibly furloughed, and most definitely without freedom. Explaining to someone what the price of freedom is can be tricky, because even the most die hard proponent of freedom gets it a little twisted. Freedom is danger, chaos, it’s very much living in a state of the unknown. Every time you make your own decision freely, you risk paying the price. You know the old silly saying, “you might get run over by a bus tomorrow”. Old folks would say this because they wanted us to stop panicking and prascrastinating about what ifs, whether we were going to try a move with a hot broad, or just even eat something new and exotic. You have no idea what can happen.

Some people who argue against lockdowns, masks, and the banning of social mixing will tell you that the risk of Covid death is significantly low, and yes it is much lower than predicted, I even think Crystal Palace have better odds at winning the Premiership than most people dying from bat sniffles. Those who are pro all authoritarian measures will argue back, saying things like “if you eat big of 1000 crisps, and one of those will kill you, you’re going to take that risk.” This is a dumb hot take, in fact it’s not just dumb, it’s a tell tale symptom of the enslaved mind, and one that loves being that way. The chances of dying in many different scenarios can be higher and lower than dying from Covid. Here in Vietnam, a nation so terrified of the virus that they wear masks in their dreams, have only experienced under 40 deaths so far. In contrast, 13,000 people die every year from motorbike accidents, and that hasn’t informed them to try be slightly good at driving. I don’t avoid getting on a motorbike taxi, it’s cheap and quick. I know the chances of dying are higher than what I grew up with in the UK, but I’m free to die due to my own decision.

When a slave died, it was pretty much out of their hands. They could be beaten, starved, or die from an illness that their masters and overseers thought was too expensive to cure. They possibly didn’t even kill themselves because they didn’t have the means. But as free people, they too could die from making their own stupid decisions as freely as they liked. They could also survive, like the many free men who were expected to perish, because of their ability to make their own decisions and freely navigate their own future. For better or worse. For richer or poorer.

Right now many individuals, maybe including you, are collectively enslaved. They can’t get appointments for vital medical treatment, they are limited to what they can buy to eat and wear, many are reliant on what the government has chosen to allocate them in terms of revenue. If they can’t get by on that, they can’t go out to work, and unlike some of those slaves in the American South, they cannot grow their own food. Some have been able to make one free decision, which is suicide, because there was not alternative, perhaps it was because they had no-one to share their problems with, or perhaps because they couldn’t get the medical treatment they needed and decided they would go out on their own terms. Heroes come in all sorts of strange forms.

But to keep comparing mankind to the slaves would be unfair, because people today seem to be happy in slavery. Though we can’t conduct a survey on slavery, and to gauge the happiness index of such a charged subject through historical readings is difficult, there may have been many slaves suffering after being freed who had thoughts of going back to the plantation. But I like to think that they had better sense than that. Unlike the majority today. People don’t like making decisions for themselves, there’s too many outcomes to consider, and this makes them anxious and scared. They prefer the draining misery of experiencing the same outcome every day, knowing that there are no frills coming their way tomorrow, just more grey, comfortable skies. This isn’t their fault, or your fault if this rings any bells. We, particularly in the west, have aloud those in power to gain more power than they ought to have, and in turn we have become dependent on them to guide almost every decision we make. Good little happy slaves.

But I forget one thing about slavery in the American South that is very different to mankind right now. Some slaves were afforded the “luxury” of becoming house slaves, living in the quarters with their masters and forming a more complex bond. Eating better, sleeping on a better bed, wearing nice clothes because you had to look respectable when surrounded by such esteemed company. Mankind now, possibly you, and all the other Joe and Jane averages of the world, will never be aloud to live in your masters house, you won’t even be able to walk to the gates of their secure community and beg for bread. You certainly can read, unlike slaves in the American South, but it will be selective and you won’t be able to see through the nonsense hidden in all the silly words. In fact if you listen to some of these “shapers” of the new future, you won’t even own anything anymore, just have nice little things leased to you, and if you get sick, hopefully your masters will take care of you.

You will not have any dreams, just a beige wall painted with Duluxe allocated to you by the Department for Happiness. You will be very unfulfilled and limited, but you won’t have to worry about anything. You won’t worry about rejection, dying at high speed on a jet ski, crashing in an aeroplane, or even whether some strange new food will taste yucky (you’ll only have grey food). You will be a content, worry free, happy little slave in your worry free stick hut made of brick and cheap flooring. 

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