The Dumbest Slaveholders

Before the abolition of chattel slavery, smart slaveholders provided adequate food, clothing, shelter and healthcare for their slaves, did not physically or sexually abuse them, hosted or permitted dances, jubilation and fun holidays, judged them fairly, and usually encouraged spirituality. None of these accommodations eliminated the intrinsic injustice of chattel slavery, but kind treatment reduced runaway attempts, improved economic productivity, fostered large slave families and created a loyalty which is difficult for modern people to believe. Respectable slaveholders reproached cruel slaveholders by saying they “did not use their people well.” It was truly in the slaveholders’ interests to treat slaves well, although as Charles Dickens said in this context, it is not in a man’s interest to get drunk, steal, gamble and indulge in vices, but men still did those things, and cruelty and the abuse of irresponsible power were bad passions of human nature.

The profit motive usually resulted in antebellum slaveholders treating their slaves well and shielding them from alcohol, violence, gambling and other vices. Before 1861, African Americans were much less likely to commit serious crimes than white people. Former slaves most commonly remembered the plantation mistress nursing them back to health when they were ill.

We may never know the percentage of slaveholders who were cruel and stupid. According to former slaves, alcoholic masters were the worst, followed probably by mentally ill slaveholders. Cruel slaveholders were more frequently put out of business or retarded in their financial progress.

To this day, many Southerners console themselves about slavery by observing the fairly clear connection between kind or at least fair treatment and antebellum commercial success. One of the least appreciated aspects of antebellum slavery was full employment among African Americans. Able-bodied slaves invariably worked hard, and this was not all bad for them. Slaves stayed in superb physical condition, and many remembered very little sickness on the plantation.

Okay, fast-forward 150 years: Many now decry New Age slavery and the New Jim Crow, our modern American regimes that incarcerate 1,000,000 African Americans and condemn many more ex-felons to severe discrimination in employment, government benefits, educational opportunities and marriage prospects. While the comparison between antebellum slavery and modern incarceration is not a perfect one, remarkable similarities justify close examination. Left-wing thinkers most often make this comparison, but the analogy reveals even more when viewed from a conservative, business-oriented perspective. When viewed from the perspective of one legally entitled to the labor of either slaves or prisoners, condemnation of modern American correctional systems on the basis of stupidity is inevitable. American citizens in the form of the U.S. government now own 2,300,000 slaves and are entitled to 100% of their labor, without pay if necessary or desirable. Unfortunately, the dumbest slaveholders of all time are modern American citizens, taxpayers and voters.

In modern times, slaves don’t make money, but instead cost slaveholders about $50,000 per prisoner per year. The direct expenditures per prisoner are only about $25,000 per prisoner per year, but the lost opportunity costs, social consequences, increased welfare costs and total economic impact may run in the neighborhood of twice the direct outlays. In other words, it costs us from $57,500,000,000 in direct costs to $115,000,000,000 in total costs every year so that the average American prisoner can loaf or sleep most of the day, plan gang activities, suffer, contract diseases, worry, get lonely, despair and too often commit suicide. These prodigious social and financial costs are not a necessary consequence of mass incarceration. Before special interests passed laws against prison industries, prisons made money. One famous prison in New York created profits four times greater than the cost of running the entire institution.

Southern slaveholders usually knew their slaves well; modern slaveholders do not want to see their slaves. Antebellum slaves invariably worked hard and boosted economic production; New Age slaves usually don’t work and are a drag on the entire American economy. Slaves usually stayed out of trouble; prisoners often stay in trouble. Slaves often respected or even loved their owners; prisoners never do. All slaves were legally free by 1865; very many New Age slaves of all races return to slavery after their first emancipation. Slaves were sometimes sold out of their families; New Age slaves are always sold out of their families when they go to prison. Some former slaves looked back with nostalgia on their lives as slaves; no ex-convicts do. Slaves raised families during slavery; New Age slaves cannot raise families. A slave child had a much better chance of growing up in an intact two-parent family than African American children today.

When we Americans seek the dumbest slaveholders, we will find ourselves. Prisoners deserve punishment, but we don’t.

The Ugly Looking Crows

Crows are very common birds most frequently observed in the sky. They are actually passerine birds belonging to the genus Corvus and family Corvidae. Their body size may vary from small pigeon to large wild raven. They are the inhabitants of temperate regions except South America. The genus was described by Linnaeus for the first time in his 18th century work Systema Naturae. The name of the genus has been derived from a Latin word meaning raven. Fossils of crow have been obtained in Europe in large numbers but their relationship with most prehistoric birds is still unclear.

Common Raven, Australian Raven and the Carrion crows are always blamed for killing weak lambs as they are often seen feeding on the dead animals no matter how that animal died. They are also known to imitate human voices just like the parrots. They are often trained to speak and are very valuable birds in East Asia as they symbolize good luck. They are also kept as pets by some humans. In United States they are legally allowed to be killed around the months of August to the end of March as during this time they become a nuisance also acts as vectore for a number of diseases. It is believed that crows first evolved in central Asia and then radiated towards North America, Europe, Australia and Africa.

They are known to produce to produce wide variety of calls for communication. They are also known to respond to the call of other species. They show remarkable features of intelligence. Crows have a special place in literature and mythology. According to the popular legends in Europe crows especially the ravens are considered as the harbringers of death because of their dark ugly looking black coloured body, big size, and horrible look. It is believed that they feed on the carrion even of humans too. In mythology also crows symbolize spiritual aspects of death. Crows have been observed hovering around the cemeteries. In Hinduism it is believed that people after death become crows and will come to eat in the form of crows to pick up the food. In Mahabharata a famous battle is known that was fought between the crows and owls. It is also believed that if a crow attacks a human ill omen will gather around that person and will bring bad luck.

Crows are also susceptible to viral attack. American crow is susceptible to the attack of West Nile virus. This disease has been recently introduced in North America. This disease is very fatal and the American crows die within a week after getting infection only few are able to survive. The virus is spreading at a faster rate. Two American species are considered to be endangered because of habitat destruction.

Wild life needs our attention otherwise our beautiful animals will be lost forever.

The Law of Fair Exchange

I recently had an opportunity to participate in a Native American Indian Ceremony known as a sweat lodge. I learned from Tribal Elders, direct representatives, (adopted tribal brothers authorized instructors) that the Crow Indian Nation permitted adopted brothers to use the Sweat Lodge Ceremony if several conditions were met. Also in previous history I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with a Chief of the Crow Nation, Chief Dan Old Elk. Old Elk and I discussed Native Indian Ceremonies and the topic of energy in general. That in its self would be a great topic for another article.

In order to have the rights to conduct the ceremony one must be properly trained. It’s all about the safety of the participants. In addition to safety the basic fabric of the philosophy must also be maintained, meaning not compromised. In exchange for the rights to “Pour” the ceremony the following items are offered in trade. A blanket, tobacco, a small amount of currency, and a personal item valued by the giver. Hence the Universal Law of Fair Exchange.

The short list of items seemed a small price to pay for permission to conduct a sacred ceremony. After A trip to Wal-Mart for a blanket and tobacco, the rest of the items were assembled easily. Currency was available. The gift of a personal item was a more difficult. I decided that my favorite old tee-shirt, with a wolf howling at the moon would be suitable. Like most of my favorite t-shirts, In Larry the Cable Guy Fashion, the sleeves were removed immediately. I also love the universal “right to bare arms” The shirt was splattered with several colors of various paints from years of prior use.

Sweat day came a little too soon for me and I was startled to hear my phone ring waking me out of a very comfortable sleep. Seems I overslept by about one hour. I jumped up to take care of the morning essentials and sped towards the location at a speed slightly over the legal limit. Upon arrival at the sweat lodge I noticed even though I was late, so were several other participants.

Training began in a circle, as is common for the Company I work for. We use a lot of traditions borrowed (with permission) from the Crow Nation. The circle represents the never ending cycle of life. Elders stand in key positions that mark the North, South, East and West. The circle begins with the leader stating; “What goes around comes around.” Then we pass the heart to heart hug. After the hug the person in the place of control, (the north) begins the instruction. In essence the next twenty minutes of discussion was about Company Policy, and safety procedures, and of course the recent tragedy that occurred in Sedona Arizona. Google that if you have an interest.

We then discussed the gifts to be exchanged. The blanket signified comfort. Tobacco came from mother earth. The currency represents fair exchange, something of value for something of value. In retrospect silver or gold would be more fitting, (because Federal Reserve Notes by definition represent DEBT.) The personal gift to me is most significant.

A co-worker provided two nice pieces of her artwork that obviously had been well thought out and highly symbolic. One pencil, the other colored pencil. For a moment I was jealous, that turned to envy, that quickly dissipated, ending up as self loathing.

Another Co-worker gave up a very special watch that she had been given as a youth. Later she lost the watch in a pond. She recovered the watch, however it was in non-working condition but very special to her. And so it went with my-self and another co-worker explaining our gifts.

It is important to note that typical ceremony participants are a diverse group with multiple religious backgrounds. The instructor clarified that while we all may have different belief systems, spirituality comes within all denominations. In order to stay true to the Crow Ceremony it is necessary to offer a prayer to The Great Father, or Grandfather. Also it is necessary to pay homage to Mother Earth. I personally had no problem with the Crow belief system. My personal preference however is to pray first to mother earth, then father sky. Does that make me a mamma’s boy?

After the gifts were collected we circled out in clock-wise rotation symbolizing an upward spiral vortex.

We then had yet another co-worker available to operate the door opening. This person, (doorman) was also responsible to pass “hot rocks” and water through the door opening at the appointed time. It is interesting that the door person is also responsible to keep trespassers from walking between the fire pit and the sweat lodge. That prevents negative energy from permeating the area. Those participating in the sweat ceremony had already conducted the ritual at the circle.

I will not discuss the process of building the sweat lodge at this time. This in itself is another ceremonial topic. However the sweat-lodge is a small dome constructed of hickory boughs frame work that is approximately eight feet circumference and about five feet high. The covering or skin is heavy weight canvas layered so that when inside it provides a pitch black environment. Within the lodge just inside the door opening is an earthen pit about a foot deep and three foot diameter. The symbolism of the actual lodge is as follows; framework and covering when inside represents the inside of the buffalo, and the pit with glowing hot rocks inserted represent the heart.

Outside the sweat lodge at a distance safely from flammable materials is located the fire where rocks are brought to temperature. Hardwoods some seasoned and some green are ideal to bring rocks to temperature suitable to produce the proper amount of steam. It is suggested that at least fifty or sixty hand or melon sized rocks are available at the sweat lodge. Rocks should not be sandstone, however that is generally what was available for this particular ceremony. Also outside the fire area was stored several containers of water to serve multiple purposes. At the conclusion of the ceremony it is necessary to extinguish the fire.

Also outside the sweat lodge was located a small mound of rocks that participants could place personal items on so as to bless them by the power of the cleansing process about to unfold. It is believed that items placed there would attract the same benefits received as within the sweat lodge.

Participants stooping or crawling filed through the doorway in a clock wise direction to continue the upward spiral theme. Once inside the actual ceremony began. There were a series of “pours” with various elements discussed relating to the number of ladles poured over the hot rocks. The numbers four, seven, ten, and millions are significant. I choose not to go into detail on the numbers subject. It is very important that “what happens in the sweat-lodge stays in the sweat lodge.”

The actual ceremony lasted about an hour and a half. There were breaks in between the pours so as to replenish the rocks, and provide drinking water to participants. I do not know for sure, but I will hazard to guess that in days of old, there were no water breaks. As a matter of fact, fasting and doing without water was likely required.

The sweat lodge ceremony ended outside the lodge, culminated by participants gathering in yet another circle. Final thanks given to all in the circle including the support staff. Afterwards, we circled out and lined up for a bucket bath. This was a nice end to an awesome ceremony.

From a personal perspective I offer the following. In compliance with Universal Laws as I understand them, A gathering of like-minded individuals is synergistic and even in business marketing circles, (that darn shape again) is known as a master-mind. Release of negative energy from the energy system and physical body is an awesome form of cleansing. Stating positive affirmations and giving thanks is certainly a form of being great full; (Self Explanatory.)

In exchange for all of that powerful energy received, and negative energy expelled, and recognizing that we earth bound spirits are powerful and capable of co-creating our own realities, I can only say Thank You to the Crow Nation.

James “Jim” Blackstone

Footnote: Another ceremony not mentioned but standard is the practice of “smudging.” Again this is another ceremony worthy of its own article.