I’ve heard a lot lately about how we need to be tolerant of one another’s political views. I hear this, I suspect, because I’m not tolerant of most people’s politics. I’m told we can have a good argument about our positions on the issues, but when we’re done, we must get over our silly infatuations so we can all be friends again. Because, after all, it’s just an exchange of opinions, right?
How about slavery? Suppose one of your friends began to argue in earnest that slavery was not only beneficial in history because the nations of the west were built on free labor from whipped African backs, but that the nations of the world need to return to a slave economy. If it’s the only political position they will entertain, would you continue to be their friend?
But suppose to justify the slavery this person said things like, “these people simply cannot take care of themselves,” “they’re far too simple and stupid to live free,” and “they need to be protected from the world and their own bad behavior.” Could you see how they might have a point?
Suppose this person said the slaves would be allowed to choose their masters and the work they did to serve those masters. It might be a bit arduous and complicated for the slaves to change their positions, or it may be made simpler with bribes and favors. But either way the slaves may not work if they don’t have a master’s even hand to guide them. And if they work for themselves, their most recent master may hunt them down and force them to work for him or even kill them if they resist. Would that convince you to believe in the righteousness of this person’s plan?
Suppose that the slaves this person wants to create were allowed by their master to keep as much as half of what they earned after all accounts with the master were settled—perhaps they could keep as much as three quarters if they weren’t able to earn much—Instead of just the shacks and rags and vegetable patches that were the bulk of the possessions of slaves in the US of old. And suppose also the slaves were allowed to trade what they were allowed to keep with other slaves in ways approved of by the masters. Would you accept their position as reasonable then?
Suppose this person insisted everybody—both you and he included—should be enslaved this way. And suppose instead of “slaves” this person says these people should be called “citizens,” that the nations of the world may be their masters, and that most of the rest of the people in the world have already submitted to this position. Would that make the enslavement they propose tolerable?
May 21, 2009