"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Sold Down the River
Thoughts of chattel slavery reverberate as background noise in the minds of many Black Americans, and its homilies seep into our daily conversation. One of my favorites is 'sold down the river,' referring to the Black Africans who sold other Black Africans to White slave traders. Somewhere 'down the river' waited the ocean, the middle passage, and slavery in the Americas . The saying, 'I got sold down the river' was how you described a situation where a 'Judas' would betray your trust for money, a chance to 'get laid,' or even a ham sandwich.
The lesson of 'the Judas'--of the man who will sell you down the river--is one we're supposed to learn as children. The 'friend' who cheats to get a prize in elementary school that would have otherwise come to you is supposed to prepare you for the workplace back-stabber. The future tenant of the ninth circle of hell who smiled to your face in junior high while spreading rumors about you behind your back provided you with the template of the 'buddy' who is scheming to steal your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband. At the same time, the person who puts his own sweat, blood and butt on the line to help you is the person in whom you are supposed to risk the most trust--like the buddy who stands out on a street with you when chain-carrying thugs are looking to rob you.
Unfortunately, most people ' Americans included ' never absorb their primary lessons. They don't want to grow up, and their denial of life's first basics resembles a pathological mania. For the record, let's declare the greater point in elementary language as it pertains to the state: the man who is your master will sell you down the river every time because that is what comes naturally to a master ' to use you for all you are worth. If you choose to have any members of the human race for your master, whether you are talking about a cult leader or the gang of individuals ruling a nation, they will wring out of you whatever benefits to themselves that can be had.
C.S. Lewis found this concept so basic as to include it in his children's novels. In the Narnia tale The Magician's Nephew, the words of the witch queen who single-handedly destroyed her own world have stuck in my head for going on 30 years: 'I poured out the blood of my army like water . . . I did not use (the 'deplorable word', the story's version of a WMD) till the last of my soldiers had fallen.' Naturally, the witch survived destroying her own world ' she kept her own butt as far out of harm's way as she could. The derivative parable of this story is the warning about the 'chickenhawk' ' the user who is willing to sacrifice anyone's butt for his own aims except his own. Any human being willing to place his fate in the hands of one of these people is screaming to be used like a dirty dishrag. Another author, libertarian leaning Robert Heinlein, has been accused of fascist sympathies with the themes of his novel Starship Troopers. However, he states his viewpoint plainly in the prose of his book. The reason he chooses the veterans as the political class of his nation-state is because to become a veteran, a body had to first put his own butt in the path of danger. To repeat my earlier point, he was proposing that the only person in whom you could risk placing the dangerous power of the state is the one who first risked his butt protecting the homeland.
To beat a dead horse, submit to any master, and that master will use you as best it can for its own purposes. Amazingly, no period of time is too short to forget this simple maxim which is repeated in living examples for every generation. Listen to C-Span to get a relatively uncensored window into the world, and you'll periodically hear griping veterans who feel sold out by the men who sent them to war. I'm dumbfounded by the anger of these men and women. The mistreatment of veterans by those they served is common public knowledge to the point of being a clich'. When the first war with Iraq rolled around in 1991, the media was still presenting stories in newspapers and movies of how some Vietnam veterans exposed during the war to chemicals like Agent Orange were sick and couldn't get adequate medical care. But Desert Storm I didn't hurt for volunteers. If you give the Gulf War One vets the benefit of a doubt because Vietnam was in full swing some 23 years earlier, today we have some gulf vets allegedly suffering from exposure to toxic chemicals who are repeating the refrain that their medical care is deficient. That war was just 12 years ago, but today the volunteers continue to keep signing on the dotted line and donating their lives to the state. This time, the stories of shoddy treatment began before the fighting was even a year old. For some reason, the new vets expect things to suddenly be different as if the world started turning on a new axis.
Summarily, every person must choose a master, and should count on being used. I choose the Prince of Peace, but he stressed personally and repeatedly that it was a purely voluntary association. If you choose yourself, at the very least you'll be self-employed if your life ends in a flaming ruin. Choose wisely, and if you choose the state, expect exactly what you get.