Posts Tagged ‘zmirak’

Wrong-Headed on Slavery

Márta 28, 2009

I agree with Mr. Zmirak’s overall criticism of “Slavery and Abortion” by Lewis E. Lehrmann , while being profoundly frustrated – again – with the perennial conservative prediliction for self-torpedoing a perfectly good point, with a completely unnecessary lack of respect for, and insight into, the experiences of others outside one’s own cultural fold.

I’m not at all suggesting there was any ill-intent. But it is simply not appropriate to compare the cruelly efficient, institutionalised barbarity of slavery – made all the more acute by it’s contrast with a legal regime promoting “liberty” – with “theft of labour”. Slavery as practiced was not the Internal Revenue Service; neither was it greedy capitalists exploiting the workers. To use such a phrase is to trivialise the experience of slaves.

The response above about Africa only further highlights this cultural blind spot: American slaves had families, communities and homes right in America that they were ripped away from – what African slavers had done to their ancestors could hardly be expected to lessen the barbarity of American slaves’ actual experience of this cruelty, could it?

The destruction of an isolated human life-form still in the process of being formed in the uterus is horrendous; but I don’t think many on the opposite side of the aisle (nor a lot on our side) will automatically buy into an argument, that it is obviously worse than the collective years of degradation suffered by already existing and fully-formed human beings – with their families – fully conscious of an entire lifetime of brutalisation of them and their loved ones. “Easy for you to say, Whitey” is probably an understandable and justified response.

I often wonder how nice liberals who are horrified at vivisection for science experiments, or at cruelty to animals in factory farms, can square this with an unquestioned right to rip apart humanoid organisms in the womb. I am deeply gratified to see some conservatives take cruelty to animals as a valid moral and social concern – and think that might make a far better platform on which to approach restriction of abortion: you wouldn’t do this to a farm animal, would you?

But in a similar way that animal rights lefties are way, way off when they start comparing mink farms to the Holocaust, the clinical (“Patriotically Correct”?) use of nice, polite philosophical terms like “theft of labour” when contrasting slavery to abortion, is a self-laid land-mine waiting to be stepped on in public discourse; and there’s no point in blaming others if you wind up with the legs cut from under you as a result.