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Uncle Tom's Cabin - Ch. 1 through 6 
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Post Re: Uncle Tom's Cabin - Ch. 1 through 6
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
I use 'deluded' not in any clinical sense, of course, but as applying to beliefs that become unshakable through acculturation.
This phrase, unshakable through acculturation, points to a central lesson from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The trauma induced by supporting and inflicting cruelty produces psychic scars for the perpetrator, wounds in the soul which can only be managed through the rather intense delusion of an alienated ideology, where all common humanity between black and white is erased from conscience.

This psychic strain reached breaking point early in the evolution of slavery, crippling the mentality of the owner into a warped fantasy, driven by the need to justify the unjust social relations of slavery. Given the observation of Moses in the Ten Commandments that evil inflicts suffering on the children of the evildoer, I think we can see Trump’s wall as a warped piece of antebellum nostalgia for slavery, a longing for a fantasy that is gone with the wind

I think that, on the contrary, a belief in the positive rightness of slavery would not involve the perpetrator in the stress and psychic punishment you describe. If slavery is not recognized as a moral wrong, how then could those in mastery over other humans suffer from plaguing guilt? How do you know that this psychic strain emerged "early in the evolution of slavery"? Wouldn't there have been some indication that morality was evolving in the direction of greater compassion? But no, modern Europe went right along with slavery, until Enlightenment ideals, and religion, finally introduced a belief in its evil that has become almost universal.

Slavery existed in several forms besides that of chattel slavery, practiced in the U.S. It wasn't "nice" in any of its forms, but it was a part of most types of social orders for many centuries and was often not as horrible a deal as it was here.

I abhor Donald Trump, but I can't reach as far as you do on this topic. I don't see wanting to wall people out, or to send them back by the millions, as replicating slavery. With him, there is a clear racist intent, but that is not tantamount to a nostalgia for slaves to do our work. He apparently wants Americans to do the "slave" work that immigrants are doing now.
Racial prejudice is a coping mechanism for an unjust world, a way to rationalise evil by pretending it is good. The pretence is so useful and comforting that it steadily evolves to the status of divine law, as Stowe will explain in a theological debate in Chapter 12, where Tom is revealed as only being familiar with the New Testament and its message of love and justice, and therefore lacking the resources of Moses to justify the view of the ten commandments that only a property owning father qualifies as a person, all other humans having the status of chattels.

Yet I'd find it surprising if Tom didn't have an acquaintance with the OT. The black slaves were the new Israellites, and black spirituals harkened to OT stories. Tom is not portrayed as someone who with any sort of scholarly knowledge of the texts and is not a skilled reader. Even if he had noted the mention of slaves as possessions in Exodus, he would not have felt betrayed by his God. Tom accepts his enslaved fate; that is an essential part of his character.
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
Stowe presents submission as innate to blacks, something they naturally incline to.

That is not true. Stowe’s depiction of the dignity of the slave George as like Patrick Henry, in his I AM A MAN flashing eyes as he plans his escape to Canada against his credo of liberty or death, is not submissive. The constant sorrow of mothers torn from their children is not submissive.

What color is the skin of George and Eliza? Both can pass as white. I'm not trying to pass off a revisionist version of the book, but it is clear that Stowe believes, as many enlightened people of the time did, that blacks had distinctly different constitutions from whites. They are more childlike, more emotional, and have less assertiveness and intellect than whites have. Stowe sprinkles such comments throughout the book. George and Eliza have these white or Saxon qualities because of their preponderant white blood.
The African race, in their own climate, are believers in spells, in 'fetish and obi,' in the 'evil eye,' and other singular influences, for which there is an origin in this peculiarity of constitution....which can only be accounted for by supposing peculiarities of nervous constitution quite different from those of the whites...Considering those distinctive traits of the race,it is no surprise to find in their religious histories, when acted upon by the powerful stimulant of the Christian religion, very peculiar features. From The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, by H.B. Stowe.

Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
perhaps she sees the need to make the idea of freeing blacks as unintimidating as possible.
There can be no doubt Uncle Tom’s Cabin has a keen eye for the tactical impact of specific stories on the emotional heartstrings of the American voter. Her clear aim is that people who are sympathetic to slavery will read her book and be converted to support abolition by the moral force of her argument, which naturally includes an implied promise that abolition can be achieved in a safe and stable way.

Abolitionist writings in general were fiery and in-your-face, so Stowe thought there was a way to go through the heart of readers to achieve greater sympathy for the abolitionist cause. She was right.
I will come back to this point in relation to Eliza’s effort to gain asylum in Ohio while the slavers try to catch her back to Kentucky to sell her son down the river. The contemporary problems of illegal immigration bear strong comparison to these moral challenges of escaped slaves. The idea that we can create a hermetic seal to protect the rich world from the poor world is no more realistic than the idea that the South could have continued with a slave economy. But if building walls is one proposed solution, the other extreme is the idea of open borders and free movement of people around the world. That raises a host of problems around topics such as stability, rule of law, the nation state, property rights, moral incentives, corruption, cultural identity and relativism. The problem of political correctness is the tendency to see morality as a question of rival social camps, with the left as good and the right as bad. Such polarisation around social justice illustrates how people retreat into their own social bubble. Stowe wants to respect white society while coaxing it to support reform towards equality without coming apart. Uncle Tom has a central role in that process.

How soon would it have become apparent that the South could not continue as a slave economy? The seeds of its dissolution weren't there in 1860, with the slave population at its height and the Kansas-Nebraska Act having made each state sovereign regarding the legality of slavery. Not so unrealistic after all that the slave economy could persist for a good while longer.

Again not to detract from Stowe, as her mission of ending slavery was hard enough. She did not necessarily promote equality of the races, not supporting universal suffrage for blacks until a long while after the war, and advocating in UTC (via George Harris) that the race problem be handled by expatriating blacks to Africa.

Last edited by DWill on Sat Oct 22, 2016 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Sat Oct 22, 2016 6:07 pm
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