This post is a follow-up to THIS.
Remember my recent post on consciousness? Or on Pynchon? I said that defined levels of "consciousness", socially, are metered out as a way of classifying and manipulating lower classes of people and of animals, (and of plants). When someone says that a cat is nothing like a human, they usually mean that a cat is not conscious because it is not SELF-CONSCIOUS. That's a big fucking error right there, but, let's get on with it...
I had said that the delegation pf supposed levels of consciousness to certain classes, specifically to black, was what lead to the rise of the Civil War. Right? Blacks were only considered to be a fraction of a person, as a kind of legislative compromise. That was a very different time.
However, I was mostly making a philosophical argument. Consciousness is not so much used as a meter of classism as is the related concept of, "soul." And, that gets tied into the whole idea of who is good and who is bad. Which means: We get to wage war. Yay! This is what the early Americans were up to: Defining certain animals and people as having more or less soul, or goodness. Then, along came Darwin's, "Origin of Species," which both threw elitist thinkers for a loop, and also confirmed prejudices against black monkey people.
Today, we retain a derivative of Calvinism, wherein we secretly judge the worth, or soul, of a person, based upon how much money they have/made. But, as Thoreau noted: We regard someone who sits idle in the woods as a kind of bum, yet we laud someone who goes into the woods, rips it all up, and owns it for profit. We do not see the evils behind the money. Money is a good, an end, in itself, somehow. Which is absurd and insane. This line of thought makes a few men kings, and the rest of us slaves.
Thoreau read this and decided that, because all species are cognizant and transcendent in their own way, blacks must be aided, whether or not they were considered to be "sub-human" by some. This decision to, ultimately, consider blacks to be fully and potentially human, is why the civil war, for state's rights, ended up favouring the North.
Having said all that, here are some good links about Thoreau and his thought. It was nicely coincidental that the STANFORD feed for LJ just now posted about Thoreau. It offers a nice summary of his philosophical thought, including how his activism was based on it. Recommended. It was Thoreau who inspired Gandhi and MLK; it was Thoreau who helped build the Abolition and Environmental movements, and it was Thoreau who bought me my first bicycle.
Stanford THOREAU'S THOUGHT
Some esseys (including on John Brown)
Slavery in Massachusetts...
- Thoreau's Stance on Abolition - by Shannon Riley - "...the one movement which he finally could not resist allying himself to was the abolition of slavery. He was one of the most respected and simultaneously controversial abolitionists of his generation."
- Eloquence in a Waterlily - by Ann Pepi, on The Victorian Web - "With plain language and straightforward structure Thoreau manages to successfully conjure the image of a lily being plucked for a murky pond and seamlessly weave it into a metaphor for society."
- Slavery in the Massachusetts Courts - "In 1638, the first African slaves arrived at Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Few English settlers thought to question the ancient institution of slavery — although it never existed in England"
- Slavery in Massachusetts - "Most, if not all, of the limited 17th century New England slave trade was in the hands of Massachusetts."
- African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts - "Although the complex role of African Americans, both enslaved and free, in colonial Massachusetts is an important part of our state and local history, the struggle for personal liberty in Massachusetts is central to a full understanding of our national history."
- Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett) - "The jury ruled in favor of Bett and Brom, making them the first enslaved African Americans to be freed under the Massachusetts constitution of 1780"
- The Trial of John Brown: A Commentary by Douglas O. Linder - "Brown's efforts to secure racial justice were numerous ... He insisted that his two hired black employees be allowed to sit in his pew at his Congregational Church - an unprecedented demand"
- Wikipedia: A Plea for Captain John Brown - "Brown fought bravely and independently for justice, something his government failed to provide. - Unrealized, Brown's deeds can only be fully recognized when slavery has been abolished."
- Us and Them in Thoreau's "A Plea for Captain John Brown" - "Henry David Thoreau combines rich prose and distinct political and social messages that guide the reader from the opening statement until the dramatic conclusion."
- Re-evaluating John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry - "There is ample proof that John Brown was not a madman, but rather a dedicated activist who had perhaps more courage, not less sanity, than other antislavery men and women of his generation."
- John Brown, 1800-1859 - "Of all the characters that played significant roles on the Kansas stage during the drama that was Bleeding Kansas, none left a legacy that compares to the controversial abolitionist, John Brown."
- John Brown's Holy War - "I thank you that you have been brave enough to reach out your hands to the crushed and blighted of my race. You have rocked the bloody Bastille"