Re: sentient, malevolent, whatever :-)

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From: Strata Rose Chalup (
Date: Mon May 22 2000 - 11:11:35 PDT

Dave Long wrote:

> >From "sentient, malevolent, whatever": [strata]
> > and the folks trying to argue for sentiency are getting the same old
> > stuff that went on for generations in the slave era as "proof" that
> > folks with a different skin color couldn't be as human as others.
> Of what "slave era" do you speak? It was a historically common
> institution, and depending upon how narrow a definition of liberty
> one subscribes to, it could be argued that the wage slave is with us
> still. Probably even common pre-historically, but it was agriculture
> which made large scale slavery economically worthwhile, and when
> people do enough accounting eventually they wind up literate. (the
> quipu may be an exception -- anyone know of good quipu resources?)

Actually, to my knowledge, the slave era of which I speak (European
and American enslavement of Africans, before, during, and after the
"antebellum south") had an unusual, if not unique, property for a
multi-generational slave culture-- there was no automatic route to
manumission, to freedom and acceptance in the culture.

Equating "wage slavery" with being treated as a sub-human creature
is a bit strong, and smacks of hyperbole to me.

> If you are speaking of the antebellum south, then I believe the
> justification was based on:
> 1) strong property rights, and
> 2) the good of "exporting values", and
> 3) slaves are cheap. To the low cost producer in a global economy,
> the invisible hand writes clearly, and of course a little short
> term vice is good in the name of economic development, right?

This level of speciousness is usually absent in your arguments on the
list, Dave-- or is my irony filter broken today?

And you are missing the point that I tried to make in my earlier post.

To rephrase: the reason why the majority Southern culture of the time
could make those arguments in the first place is that they truly did
not believe that the slaves were sentient human beings the same as you
and I. That is the context frame that is missing from most of these
"economic" arguments.

Slavery is documented from Biblical times, and whether any Judaic or
Christian culture followed the Biblical laws, the law said that in
the seventh (shemittah) year, slaves were freed. In the Roman and
Greek cultures, as well as (I believe) old Persian culture, there
were well-documented and well-understood ways in which a slave
could become a citizen, if not in his/her generation then in the
subsequent generations. This understanding that the slave was a
fellow human, whose state was temporary and due entirely to poverty
or the fortunes of war, was utterly absent in the American slave

> Perhaps the similarity between that time and our own should disturb
> only those who believe both in freeing the slave and the substitution
> of economic for moral choices.

Yes. And since so many people seem to believe one or the other, or
even some not-well-thought-out version of both, the disturbance
should become widespread, and brought out into the open for discourse.
That way, perhaps we can come to some kind of understanding, as
individuals and as a culture, about the economic "inertial forces"
that will work against any new sentients discovered or created
in the modern world.


Strata Rose Chalup []   |
Project Manager                             |     VirtualNet Consulting
iPlanet/Netscape Professional Services      |

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