Sex, Soma, and Slaves

Hosurance By now you may have heard of the series of rather crass pro-Obamacare being brought to us by Colorado. I leave it to the left to determine if their marketers have an accurate grasp of their constituents or not.

But I suspect that they do. In a way, there was something very familiar about what was being advertised, and I finally managed to track it down in some of my beloved old books. The first was a work of fiction, from the era when scifi was still in the business of forecasting the future. The second is a work of fact from nearly 200 years ago, but you may note that deep down they are both describing the same thing.

As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator (unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.

-Aldous Huxley, Foreword to Brave New World

BrosuranceLet us rewind a century or two more:

When a slave is drunk, the slaveholder has no fear that he will plan an insurrection; no fear that he will escape to the north. It is the sober, thinking slave who is dangerous, and needs the vigilance of his master, to keep him a slave. … Our pious masters, at St. Michael’s, must not know that a few of their dusky brothers were learning to read the word of God, lest they should come down upon us with the lash and chain. We might have met to drink whisky, to wrestle, fight, and to do other unseemly things, with no fear of interruption from the saints or sinners of St. Michael’s.

But, to meet for the purpose of improving the mind and heart, by learning to read the sacred scriptures, was esteemed a most dangerous nuisance, to be instantly stopped. The slaveholders of St. Michael’s, like slaveholders elsewhere, would always prefer to see the slaves engaged in degrading sports, rather than to see them acting like moral and accountable beings.

This young woman (Caroline was her name) was virtually compelled by Mr. Covey to abandon herself to the object for which he had purchased her; and the result was, the birth of twins at the end of the year. At this addition to his human stock, both Edward Covey and his wife, Susan, were ecstatic with joy. No one dreamed of reproaching the woman, or of finding fault with the hired man — Bill Smith — the father of the children, for Mr. Covey himself had locked the two up together every night, thus inviting the result.

I say nothing of father, for he is shrouded in a mystery I have never been able to penetrate. Slavery does away with fathers, as it does away with families. Slavery has no use for either fathers or families, and its laws do not recognize their existence in the social arrangements of the plantation. When they do exist, they are not the outgrowths of slavery, but are antagonistic to that system.

-Fredrick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

All of this has happened before. But must all of it happen again?

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