Sage Rat on Slavery

Sage Rat’s magnum opus on slavery. I don’t usually do the quote parsing thing, but his great work needs to be appreciated in detail.

Part the First:

Not wanting to be owned makes you a “problem case” who probably deserved to be whipped:

Part the Second:

Trying to escape slavery was pretty much the same as a kid running away from home:

Part the Third:

Slavers only broke up family if the slaves were bad people who deserved to be slaves anyway:

Part the Fourth:

It’s not like they minded being slaves anyway:

Part the Fifth:

Whipping people who didn’t wish to be owned as farm animals is no different from us sending criminals to jail:

Part the Sixth:

Sage Rat, the only difference between you and sewage is the pipes.

Well, a sage rat is still a rat.

Yeah, thats pretty chilling.

Thank you, Penfeather. That’s among the shittiest things I’ve seen on the Straight Dope. It completely took me aback.

What’s the over/under on “You people just don’t understand the nuance of what I’m saying!!!”?

I’d also be interested in the odds for “I’m just saying what we’re all thinking!”

Yeah, I very nearly said in the CS thread that it was one of the most horrible things I’ve seen in my 15+ years here, but I figured I’d wait for the inevitable Pitting.

I think we’ve had self-avowed neo-Nazis post here who seemed less in favor of slavery than Sage Rat.

I was getting a Smapti vibe from those quotes. Vile stuff.

You read through it just hoping that he’s trying to be sarcastic or ironic, however misguidedly, until it finally dawns that yes, he really is that awful.

No bet–he already tried that shit in the original thread.

Because he says slavery is bad, everything else he says must be A-OK.

I could maybe buy into the idea that slave owners generally didn’t behave cruelly toward their slaves just for the sake of amusement. If you’re trying to get productivity out of slaves, then widespread casual cruelty is not a good strategy. OTOH there was nothing preventing a slave owner from raping or torturing any one particular slave just because they felt like it on that particular day. So, if you’re a slave, those odds aren’t too favorable for you.

OTOH again, if one tries to compare the lot of a minimum-wage worker today to a slave back in the day… well… the comparison is uncomfortably close. But even a minimum-wage worker nowadays has all sorts of freedoms that were legally proscribed from slaves, such as reading, traveling, & cetera.

In closing I understand where Sage Rat is coming from, but he (it) is wrong.

Over the past year or so, the Dope has gotten noticeably more racist. Just an observation, but yeah he’s a piece of shit.

What odds would you give for the now obscure but once popular “ha ha – this was all a big sociology test” gambit?

Since it appears he already played the “You plebes just aren’t smart enough to understand” card, I’d say really low on that one. Like Powerball. But hey,* some*body’s gotta win, might as well be us!

They can also get an education to get a better job and lot in life. I did with the money I was making from my minimum wage jobs and student loans.

Which is what makes this bit of retardedness retarded.

I would go to bat for Sage Rat as far as agreeing that in the institution of slavery, there were rules, everyone understood them, everyone tried to maximize their own gain, and for survival’s sake it probably made sense at some point just to follow and embrace the rules. If that’s where he’s going, then I’m down with that. But the institution was morally wrong, anyone could have seen that, and that’s where the conceit breaks down.

I’m drunk. Just ignore me. Is this the BBQ pit? OK, just fuck me then.

That’s not at all what the conversation is about. Of course most slave owners were not pathological sadists. Nobody but nobody is suggesting that.

But all slavers were brutal. The system doesn’t work without brutality. If you’re not willing to do something terrible to the people you’ve enslaved–if they don’t know you’ll follow through on your threat to do something terrible–why the fuck would they follow your orders? Why wouldn’t a baker stop baking for you and start baking for someone who will pay him?

The instant it becomes clear you’re not willing to be brutal, that’s the instant when you’re no longer enslaving someone, because now they either leave your slaver ass (what most do), or on the off chance they stay with you, it’s now out of a choice rather than out of the fact that you’re enslaving them.

Sadism isn’t an inherent part of slavery. Brutality is an absolutely essential part of it.

I can maybe see you trying to justify Roman slavery in such a way. It was certainly better for become a slave when your city was conquered that killed outright, and there are documented cases of people voluntarily enslaving them selves to better their position.

But in the context of US slavery? Nope, no way. Yeah this is scumbag material.

Hmmm… I’ll play devil’s advocate again for a moment. A slave might work for a not-totally-brutal master knowing that their lot might be much worse if they cut and ran elsewhere. So you’re right, the system doesn’t work without some promise of brutality somewhere, but it does not require that every slaver was necessarily brutal.

Or, we don’t have information about Washington’s household to conclusively say whether he was arbitrarily punishing slaves (in which case, he deserves full scorn) or if he was punishing people who had committed horrible acts and deserved what (at the time) would have been considered reasonable punishment. These days, of course, there is no crime where it is considered reasonable to whip someone.

Without knowing who, how frequently ran away from whom, for what reasons, it’s entirely possible that someone was fleeing out of fear, out of desperation, or for some inane reason. With the information we have, coming down on any one answer is shortsighted. It may be correct; those may well have been people running away from George Washington, because he was practicing sadistic torture rituals on them every other Wednesday. I am not saying that slaves were well treated or that they ran away for stupid reasons. By our standards they certainly weren’t, and by our standards they’d certainly have been justified in running away for any reason at all, full stop.

But assuming that view to be correct is probably just as silly as assuming that every slave who ran away was behaving childishly.

I personally find it unlikely that for a century, every slave holding household was - as Hollywood would seem to want us to believe - ritualistically torturing the people that they had bought, just for shits and giggles. If you think that’s true, I would say that requires a higher burden of proof than someone cautioning against a view that all slaves, constantly were miserable, unhappy, and being tortured and saying instead, “You know, probably most of the time, regardless of class, life consisted of working several hours, getting some food, chatting with your pals, and going to sleep”.

You will need to point to there place where I said “slavers”. I was talking about George Washington.

You will also need to point to the place where I said “only”.

Again, it’s entirely possible that Washington was a monstrous individual who gleefully tore apart families and sent them to all ends of the Earth, just for the chance to be able to laugh about it while chatting with his mom on Christmas.

But it’s also possible, like I said, that he was sending away people who were dangerous to keep around.

I’m not assuming the latter. I’m pointing at that the former is a rather extreme reading, just as the latter could be as well. But of the two, I’d honestly find the latter more plausible for George Washington. But I’m not arguing for either case. I’m arguing caution and against reading bizarre, ritualistic torture fantasies into the lives of a people 200 years ago.

As said, life sucks everywhere. You can see modern people living in sucky situations. They live in war zones, they live in places where they could be raped by some dude trying to get rid of his AIDS.

And you ask those people how their day was and the grand majority of the time they’ll say, “Pretty good.”

And if that’s true, if people generally throughout history have spent 99% of their life going to work, eating some food, chatting with their friends, and getting some sleep, I’m just not seeing it as being very likely that most slaves, most of the time, were hating life. There almost certainly were moments where several of them thought that life was unfair, that they deserved more or different lives, and I think we can look back and say with certainty that, “Yes, you deserved better lives than you got.” But still, if you asked any slave on any random day how his day was, most often you’d probably get back a “Pretty good.”

It is entirely possible that every single slave ever punished was punished because he had gotten up and said, “I shouldn’t be a slave! This is unfair! I’m not doing any work today!” And I would agree with any slave who said that. It was unfair. He didn’t deserve the life he was given. And so it’s also entirely possible that every whipping was by a slave owner who was hell-bent on breaking the will of every slave he encountered.

But it’s just as possible that at least one slave, of all slaves, raped a woman, another slave, and when this was found out, he was whipped and then sent away to the West Indies. That isn’t a reasonable punishment by today’s standards, but at the time I doubt that anyone would have found it an unreasonable result.

So the question is, is George Washington more likely to have whipped people and to have split up families just for shits and giggles, or that this man who was well-respected for his composure and fairness and who freed all of his slaves on his death bed, meted out punishments based on merit?