Tag Archives: Slavery

History according to the MRAs

Once again, I have to point out the absurd perspective of MRAs, just because of how unbelievable it is

Read the posts, women are not the victims of sexism and never were. It’s all a propaganda lie. Women are and always have been the most pampered members of this and nearly every society on earth.

oh, that’s not all

Name any society in any period of history where the average man had a better life than the average woman. Quit looking at just the top tier.

All societies serve women above men. Blessed be the womb of reproduction. Might makes right, numbers make might, and women make numbers.

And the funny thing is, that this is not an uncommon sentiment among MRAs. I’ve seen the same thing repeated multiple times.

Obviously these people are pointing out to the ideas of chivalry and how the women were treated as the “protected gender” in history, without really looking one inch deeper than that. They don’t care to understand that women were protected because they were considered far weaker than men, which was also the reason why they were not allowed independence. In most of history, women were literally either slaves (to their family or husband) or outcasts if they didn’t choose this path of life.

And because  women were treated as objects, as slaves, as inferior, as commodities and so on, they were protected as an object, a slave or a commodity. Protected because they weren’t considered to have enough agency or strength to protect themselves. And that protection only came as long as they accepted this marginalization, for a woman that wasn’t in her place, became the target of violence; from her father, her brothers, her husband or just strangers. And if violence wasn’t enough, she was ostracised at best, or raped/killed at worst.

Remember, slaves were protected as well, because they were a valuable commodity. But this protection only existed inasmuch as it didn’t harm the slaveholder. Were the slaves to think and act for themselves, they would be put in their place quickly and decisively by their owner or society at large. Their protection existed only as long as they were not allowed to protect themselves.

This idea that oppressed people can somehow have a “better life” than their oppressors, is a very common sentiment within reactionary ideologies, especially those who have a purely materialistic or crassly individualistic basis. So for some MRAs, women had “better life” because they were protected from external harm and didn’t have to work for their wealth. Discounting the in-family violence, the fact that they didn’t own the wealth (i.e. if they lost their husband, they were kicked to the curb) and the almost complete absence of freedom. This is similar to the argument that slaves were better than their non-slave brethren (that some slave owners actually used), because they were protected and fed, discounting again the complete loss of freedom. This is in turn very similar to capitalist rhetoric, that workers of today are better off than free farmers and artisans of the past, just because they have more luxuries available, completely discounting the freedom they miss comparatively.

There’s a reason why so many “men’s rights” are also right-libertarians and have quite a bit of intersection with “white rights” people.

In the end, almost everyone in the world can intuitively understand now at what price such protection and “better life” was provided for women and slaves. Everyone but MRAs, for whom personal freedom was apparently not important at all, compared to ephemeral wealth and shallow protection.

Name any society in any period of history where the average man had a better life than the average woman. Quit looking at just the top tier.

All societies serve women above men. Blessed be the womb of reproduction. Might makes right, numbers make might, and women make numbers.

Slavery is not "Self-Control", it's control by others.

I just read a very misguided post over at Overcoming Bias1which surprisingly seems to be getting everything wrong and coming to the conlcusion that humans are naturally “self-domesticating themselves” for the benefit of production. I just had to take a stab at it as some of the thing I read there were just so wrong.

First of all, “self-control” here is used not as self-management but rather as self-restraint; as willingness of humans to voluntarily submit to slave-like conditions. It is a very misguiding term that implies voluntary submission to rigid organization when the truth is that the control comes from external forces, from managers and bosses and masters. Looking at it this way, makes it obvious that it’s a form of slavery.

The basic argument rests on the discoveries of economists (who else) that slave-driven production and rigid organization was “more effective” than self-managed organization and therefore “free-labour” farms had to copy this kind of organization to compete. We are also told that because firms and factories could more efficiently wield the carrot and stick, it provided a bigger incentive which eventually led to city bred humans to choose such positions while their more free brethren in the countryside starved rather than submit.

There are a lot of important things here which really throw a spanner in the way the argument has been constructed.

First of all, the carrot and stick leading to greater productivity and therefore production methods that perfected it out-competing free labour conflicts with actual Science which has shown us that the carrot and stick doesn’t work except for the most menial and repetitive jobs, of which farming isn’t. Experience has shown that self-managed (note, not “self-controlled” as the author defines it) are far more productive than managed ones.

Second, the economists doing the comparisons, as is common with economists, don’t really mention anything else of the surrounding circumstances. Why where free farmers “less productive”? Could it be that they didn’t require that they overworked themselves for the benefit of a rich white man who could then sell all that extra product on the market for his own benefit? No. Lets not get caught in the details shall we?

Third, the absurd point that:

This dramatically illustrates the huge self-control innovations that came with industry. School, propaganda, mass media, and who knows what else have greatly changed human nature, enabling a system of industrial submission and control that proud farmers and foragers simply would not tolerate – they would (and did) starve first.  In contrast, industry workers had enough self/culture-control to act as only slaves would before – working long hours in harsh alien environments, and showing up on time and doing what they were told.

This is a blatant and common reworking of history by those who would like it to say something positive about brutal and inhumane production methods. That societies somehow “evolved” towards factory production as those who did not accept it where out-competed. This ignores the very significant violence enacted from the state, the theft of a genocidal size of the common lands of farmers, forcing them to either become proletarians or starve. People did in fact NOT starve when not following factory production. They were quite capable of living “inefficiently” through their free labour. This is why they had to be forced out of it, as they would not do it voluntarily. Who would discard Self-management in favour of wage-slavery?

Finally the conclusion that workers voluntarily chose to become wage-slaves because the rewards were bigger is goes contrary to the history of the labour movement and basic psychology. Not only do humans value self-management and freedom far more than they value extra money but we have a very clear history which shows us how violence and terror was required for workers to “choose” to become wage-slaves and how, further to that, the state was all too willing to attack them when they tried to resist this process or improve their lot. There is no need to theorize randomly based on economic nonsense and lack of context. We know why humans “chose” to become wage-slaves and it definitely wasn’t for the money.

In conclusion, humans are only “self-domesticated” to the extent that those who “domesticated” humans via violence and coercion are also human. But there’s nothing voluntary in there and the sooner we discard such propaganda and realize the true history and extend of our oppression, the sooner we can get rid of it.

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  1. Funny note: A commenter informed me that I had referred to them initially as “Overwhelming Bias” which is quite an interesting Freudian slip to make 🙂 []

The oasis of free slaves

The Chebika oasis
Image by Bartek Kuzia via Flickr

Mr Jones was lucky enough to have acquired his little estate and farm before the nuclear war ravaged the world’s ecosystem and made the surrounding area into a brutal desert. His land managed to survive due to his luck, being on top of an undergound river and far from any major cities.
Mr Jones and his family was however left to fend on their own. They couldn’t toil the whole farm of course but they could certainly feed themselves and raise some animals.

With civilization destroyed as we know it, along with the major productive capabilities, slavery once again become the norm. Slavers quickly rounded up people who could not defend themselves and gave them away in exchange for food and other products. Eventually some dared the desert in a caravan, losing a few slaves in the process and reached his farm. Mr Jones became the proud owner of slaves.

He didn’t have to do much to maintain them. He simply made them build a shack for themselves and every day he would send them out to the fields to work the land, tend the animals or build new items in the workshop that he could sell to the slavers. He and his family would supervise them to avoid them making weapons to attack them or conspiring with each other.

This situation was very profitable to Mr Jones and soon his little farm had become an oasis of civilization. “The last bastion” he liked to call it. He became very wealthy through trading with caravans who came to his land for food which now he had ample due to his new productive force. He got more slaves and even got some slaves who got extra benefits and policed the others. All was going perfectly.

But Mr. Jones was still distraught. Before the war, the concept of slavery was abhorent to all but now he was the owner of all these people. But what could he do? If he didn’t buy them, the slavers would have simply let them die in the desert to cut their losses. And since he bought them with wealth he produced with the sweat of his back, shouldn’t they make up for his loss? And anyway, he wasn’t a cruel master at all. Almost no whipping.

But he still did not like it, something was gnawing his conscience when the thought of slavery enterred his mind. It was at this point that he bought an old book from one of the caravans which explained a lot of nice concepts. Liberty, justice, human rights. It was written by some Von Mises person.

All of this struck a chord with Mr. Jones. This was the solution he was looking to his moral issues with slavery. He knew in his gut that liberty was a unalienable human right that he shouldn’t have taken away from those people. How could he have been so blind? If he didn’t make up for this, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself.

So the very next day, he gathered all his slaves and made an announcement. ‘I grant you all your freedom’ he proclaimed after a short rhetoric introduction. ‘I have looked into my heart and discovered that it is not fair that I take away your human right to liberty through force. From now on, you are free to leave at any point you wish. If you do wish to remain here, you’re welcome as I will need some workers to take the place of those who leave.’ Now it was time to show how magnanimus he had become. ‘I will first of all give all of you some extra money to repay for the time as slaves, We can use bottlecaps for that since noone can make new ones anymore. If you decide to work for me, I will pay you all 100bc per month.’

And so, Mr Jones freed his slaves and his conscience. Finally he could rest certain he was not denying anyone’s right. He of course had to make them pay rent to stay on his land and he thought that 50bc per person was a good enough price. He also made his food quite affordable to them, it came to just about 40bc per month per person which even left people 10bc to save and sometime buy one of the products of his workshop.

He know he made the right decision almost immediately. Everyone decided to stay and work for him voluntarily! Nobody decided to dare the desert and that just proves how good an offer he had made to them. He could now not worry about supervising them at all and he could simply sit in his home and enjoy life. The products and well deserved profits were coming on their own now.

Everyone was free and doing what they chose to. The free market had thriumphed at last.

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Moral Relativism (and why I do not embrace it)

This is a post that was actually triggered by a piece (The Necessity of Combating Relativism) I discovered on the 90th Carnival of the Godless and further prodded by a recent comment over at the Atheist Ethicist. This label is one which, for some reason, has been directed at me various occasions in the near past.

Apparently, I am a “Moral Relativist/Subjectivist”. As an explanation of this label I will quote what was, in turn, quoted at me in the past before I was banned.

Moral subjectivism is that species of moral relativism that relativizes moral value to the individual subject.
In ethics, this amounts to saying that all moralities are equally good; in epistemology it implies that all beliefs, or belief systems, are equally true. Critics of relativism typically dismiss such views as incoherent since they imply the validity even of the view that relativism is false. They also charge that such views are pernicious since they undermine the enterprise of trying to improve our ways of thinking.
Perhaps because relativism is associated with such views, few philosophers are willing to describe themselves as relativists. Although there are many different kinds of relativism, they all have two features in common.

1) They all assert that one thing (e.g. moral values, beauty, knowledge, taste, or meaning) is relative to some particular framework or standpoint (e.g. the individual subject, a culture, [a society], an era, a language, or a conceptual scheme).
2) They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.

– Internet Encyclopedia on Philosophy.

What initially strikes me as peculiar is that this is a position that not only have I never espoused directly but I find myself actively disagreeing with. Specifically, while I do agree with the 1st point, I most certainly do not agree with the second.

Initially this whole characterization was assigned to me in, what I believed then, an attempt for ad hominem against me. I was labeled as such when arguing against the notion that you can have morality without more than one person and at some point I expressed my sentiment that all morality is subjective.

Now apparently this triggered an automatic reaction on behalf of my opponent who assumed I was espousing all sorts of ideas I do not. For example, I would never accept that all moral values are equal, nor that we should not criticize other cultures’ morality. Nevertheless, this is how I keep getting labeled as and I thought I’d clear the misconception a bit. Here are my current beliefs in morality.

Morality is subjective

What I mean when I say this is that, throughout the ages, people have held various beliefs of what is right and wrong. From what I have understood (and feel free to correct me on this), these values are the result of the current period and environment the society existed in. Ultimately, the values are the result of evolutionary advantage of one morality meme over another. One of my favorite examples to explain this is Slavery.

A Perspective on Slavery

You see, in the vast majority of the history of mankind, slavery has always been a reality. Since the early Egyptian history, to Classical Greece, to Romans, Dark Ages and finally the American Revolution, slavery was something that a sufficiently large amount of people accepted.The reason this moral value (slavery = good) was accepted, was solely based on competitive advantage of the society that espoused it.

In the days before industrialization, slaves were the only real source of cheap production. As a result, any society that accepted slavery, gained the means to faster production (Egyptians), ability to concentrate on other tasks (Spartans on Warfare) and/or better standard of living (Romans). Especially in the largely agricultural societies of the time, the ability to assign the menial labor to cheap assets meant that there was a distinct competitive advantage to be gained by utilizing slaves.

This does not mean that all societies used slaves. It only means that those societies that did, were fated to overcome or conquer the ones that did not. This is precisely what was happening in most of the world until the recent centuries (I would consider feuds and imperialism as a form of slavery.) and as luck would hold it, the people of that time, happened to write down their ideas on how slavery is right as a proof for future generations (see the Christian bible or the Hindu caste system.)

Slavery, like most forms of production had some disadvantage. Specifically, even though the cost was relatively low, it was very prone to abuse. This could lead to destabilizing situations for the society that used it, as is what happened with the Romans and the slave revolution or Spartacus. This kind of disadvantage was not enough however to overcome the significant benefit of slavery.

Abolishing and the morality of it all.

Now, most of us living in the modern society automatically consider slavery wrong. This includes me.  The reason we do this is because our upbringing distilled in most of us the notion of freedom as a higher moral value than most others. Thus, for us, owning the freedom of another person is deemed as one of the lowest situations.

But how did we reach this level from when slavery was considered acceptable by most? Once again, competitive advantage.

As I mentioned before, Slavery has some disadvantages that were not sufficient to overcome it’s advantages. However, even during the time of slavery, there were people that considered slavery to be immoral. If you want, you can see this in an evolutionary perspective. The competing organisms in this case, are the societies (or even the members of each society). The traits of the organism are the various memes in effect (Slavery, Warfare, Tolerance, Religion etc). The Environment is the technological level.

People in each society would have various ideas on slavery. If that meme (Abolishing Slavery) took hold, then the society’s paradigm would shift. You could see this as a mutation in the society as a whole which was then called to prove it’s competitive advantage.
Unfortunately, as history has shown, this trait was actually disadvantageous to the society that possessed it as it could not compete with the ones that still accepted slavery.

What was necessary for this trait to gain the competitive advantage was a change in the environment. This change was the Industrial Revolution. Once that happened, it served as the catalyst that allowed the abolition of slavery to take hold. Not because of any objective goodness but because the already existing mentality that freedom is good, coupled with the alternative way to have cheap production (industrialization) as well as the lower cost (no chance of social upheaval) gave the society that abolished slavery a competitive advantage over those who did not.

Tying it all together

It is my impression, that history has shown us that all moral values that we accept in the western society are the result of such processes. A merciless war of ideas where only the ones that were competitively superior could survive. I cannot bring myself to call this process objective for I truly do not see it as such.

The morality I have currently is subjective, not in the sense that I cannot consider anything right and wrong but in the sense that the morality memes most of us possess are the result of natural selection and not of objective truths.

How does that leave me however? Am I predestined to be a “moral subjectivist” and decry all morality as inconsequential and relative? To this I respond no. This is not what I believe.
I have my own morality that is based on personal experiences, beliefs and desires. I base this morality on my reasoning and can explain why I think my moral values are superior to others. I can have a discussion and attempt to convince or be convinced. Always based on reasoning.

I just cannot go one step further and call my personal reasoning as objective as it seems disingenuous. Morality values, in the end, can be rated as better or worse by the degree to which they lead to a better life for the individual and the society that espouses them. However, each individual is different in their desires so the same things will lead to different results.

The only thing we can do is be the example first as individuals and then as a society.

In the first step, this will lead first other people who see our life to follow our example in order to achieve the same level of happiness. They do not need to copy all of our values but even a few will be enough. Given enough people who do this, the paradigm of the society’s moral values will shift.

As a society, all we need to do is the same. A more successful society can only lead to other societies copying the moral memes that led to this success. And thus the world paradigm shifts.

What I believe is that all this can be done peacefully but not by “bending over” to other cultures. On the contrary, when an individual performs an immoral action by our perspective, it should be our duty to speak against them. When a society as a whole acts in an immoral fashion, then is should be our duty to speak against them and/or take measures to disentangle ourselves from them.

Not speaking against an immoral person (by our beliefs), because of some misguided desire to “respect his culture” is only hurting ourselves. Nor speaking out against a society or a culture because we want to proudly display how tolerant we are, will only lead us to be overtaken by the more aggressive memes out there.

This is, for example, the primary reason I speak against European “tolerance” against Islam. Not only is it not helping anyone, it is outright dangerous as the immoral behavior of Islam is given ground to fester and spread.

Epilogue

This has gotten quite long-winded so I think it is time for me to stop.

I hope I have sufficiently explained how I can consider morality as subjective but not be a “moral relativist” myself. I am, however, the first person who will agree that I can be mistaken – indeed, this is the main reason why I shy from calling my beliefs objective. There are many very interesting takes on morality that I am currently checking out, as Desire Utilitarianism. I can see the point but I am not actually convinced that they are objective rather than just superior to what we have.

If I am convinced, I will only help to spread that idea and thus help make this meme the accepted paradigm. Even then however, there is a case that we will fail. Even if DU is “superior” to most other moral systems, if the competitive advantage is not enough, it will be lost in the pages of history.

It has happened before.