It's Jamestown All Over Again
Have you ever heard about Jamestown, Virginia? If you know a bit about it, you might understand contemporary politics a little better. It all started back in 1607 with a bunch of clueless, work-shy venture capitalists. These venture capitalists, all younger sons who wanted to make their pile in the New World, got it into their heads that all they needed to do was to catch a boat across the Atlantic, throw a few seeds in the ground, and they'd all get filthy rich selling hot agricultural products on the European market. I mean, how hard could it be?
They soon found out that work was involved. They didn't like it at all. They needed a plan to get somebody else to do all that work, without, of course, demanding all the reward. They had a few obstacles to deal with.
First of all, indigo1 wouldn't grow in Virginia. Besides, they were scared to death of the Spanish, who kept sailing up from Florida and attacking them. So they built their settlement upstream in the James River, on an island. Now, they didn't know anything about drainage, or germs, or how to dig a good sewer system. The James River is tidal. Their sewage kept coming back. Result: typhoid fever. Between 1607 and 1624, more than 6000 settlers died. Talk about your White Man's Graveyard. We could make comments about the Darwin Awards at this point, but we'll refrain.
They solved the work problem by importing John Smith, inveterate liar – he claimed in his memoirs to have been such a supernormal stimulus to alien 'princesses' that no fewer than three of them saved his life, on three different continents – and general bossy-britches. When Smith first arrived in 1606, he was in irons in the ship's hold. The captain planned to execute him for mutiny. Unfortunately for Capt Newport, and fortunately for Smith, the sealed orders of the Company named Smith a leader. He started yelling at those layabouts and put everyone to work.
Planting apple trees helped with the typhoid problem. When the trees matured the settlers, being English, they made scrumpy. Not drinking polluted swamp water was a step in the right direction. Now, how to make those millions? They needed a crop, and they needed workers. They tried silk making, glassmaking, lumber and sassafras, but they hit pay dirt with tobacco brought from the Indies by John Rolfe. (He's the guy who married Pocahontas.) Soon they were planting tobacco everywhere, even in the streets, such as they were.
Other colonialists, such as the Spanish, solved their labour problems by enslaving the locals. To the chagrin of the English, this didn't work on the local people, who told them to pull the other one, it had bells on, and pointed pointy things in their general direction, such as spears and arrows. So they got creative with their advertising, offering poor people back home a new life and boundless riches in the colony.
When that didn't work, they tried kidnapping.
They also emptied orphanages in England and Scotland. They tightened the vagrancy laws, arrested the poor, and shipped them off to indentured servitude. Indentured servitude meant that you had no rights for seven years. If you managed to survive planting tobacco at no wages and on a starvation diet for that long, they'd turn you loose and you, too, could become a Founder. Or at least head out on your own, up to the mountains, and live with the tribal people there, who didn't try to make other people grow their crops. A lot of intermarriages resulted from that.
It wasn't long, of course, before somebody decided to import kidnapped Africans. The first ones arrived in 1619, and were sold as indentured servants. Just like the other indentured servants, they went free after seven years. This didn't last long: in 1640, an African man named John Punch was sentenced as a runaway to 'servitude for life'.
Slavery came about gradually, through shifts in policy and laws. While indentured servitude continued to be the rule for the English, Scots, and Irish, African people became slaves. Virginia passed laws that said non-Christians could be enslaved. Then, even if they were Christians, people of African origin couldn't be free because of their 'race'. Then, children of 'mixed marriages' couldn't be free if their mothers were of African heritage because…quick, think of a good excuse…'children take on the condition of their mothers'. Phew. Almost lost that one.
What was behind all this? Greed and panic. An uprising called Bacon's Rebellion had frightened the landowners – already in the middle of their transformation from ragged adventurers and typhoid survivors to First Families of Virginia near-nobility. They were terribly afraid that all of those poor people were going to realise that they outnumbered them, and gang up on them. They might have to share. And sharing wasn't their forte. So they adopted the rule of 'divide and conquer'.
They invented the 'scientific' idea of 'race'. Africans were a 'race'. Native Americans were a 'race'. The landowners, of course, were a 'superior race'. That meant they got to keep everything they stole.
Even better, it meant they could separate their original worker-victims from the others. The English and Scots worker-victims were, after all, also from this 'superior race'. (They weren't sure about the Irish2.) If the English and Scots workers worked hard enough, and bought into the going logic, they, too, could become landowners and near-nobility. Well, theoretically. Although we all knew they didn't belong to the right clubs. But anyway, they did have some advantages. After all, they were…er, what do we call this skin colour? Pink doesn't sound right, nor does 'pale in winter, freckled in summer'….I know, let's call it 'white'. White for, er, purity and cleanliness, which is next to godliness, beautiful and not at all unhealthy-looking, no, sirree…
Which, children, is the origin of 'white skin privilege'. That lack of melanin meant you were entitled to be fooled by the charlatans of the earth into thinking you were better than your brothers and sisters with more attractive skin tones, just because you looked like the greedy idiots who were busy paving paradise to put up another unneeded parking lot and pocketing all the money to hoard in some bank somewhere, of which they had the keys. If you bought into this, the logic went (and goes), you, too, could become a licenced oppressor of the masses, now, won't that be fun?
That's how it happened. By the early 18th Century, the Virginians had this system in place. They had invented chattel slavery3, a system which it would take a major war to get out of the Constitution. And that was eighty years before there even was a Constitution. Never say the greedy don't plan.
Look around you. As you can see, old scams like that are very successful because they make people rich, and make the less successful complicit in the scam, as well. They can last a long time and be hard to get rid of. What happens when people wise up and start to undo the scam? I will tell you what happens, 100% of the time. The scammers start crying that they're being persecuted. 'Oh, you big bullies!' they sob. 'You're undoing our culture and heritage! We're being discriminated against!' And you know what's not funny at all? A lot of people who should know better believe them.
Now, if you can't see what that has to do with where western civilisation is today, I can't help you. Just remember: while everybody's busy arguing because the greedy ones won't let go, and some of those who should know better are busy defending them, other nations are watching. They have civilisations, too, and factories, and experts, and internet providers. And they are perfectly capable of filling in the gaps when this civilisation falls. You may not like that, because let's face it, they may not share your ideas about privacy or personal rights. Let's face it: you won't like it because they're not you.
So wake up and smell the coffee, and stop listening to greedy politicians before it's too late.