Essays and Theories
Master and Slave:
the ultimate dehumanization dynamic of Homo sapiens. An evolutionary perspective on in-group - out-group bias through the use of the narrative to isolate and identify such behavior. The novel: The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Craft. A fugitive Slave Recently Escaped From North Carolina, circa 1852.
William A. Spriggs
June 16, 2002
One of the great difficulties in evolutionary psychology compared to, say anthropology, has been the lack of fossil evidence that one can physically hold and make reference to. To create theories pertaining to human behavior, evolutionary psychologists have to rely on past studies, observations of current human behavior, opinion surveys with cross references, and detailed recorded cultural variations. From these studies, scientists then sift through the various cultures and establish behavioral patterns of commonality; these then, have to be consistent with observations concerning our primate cousins, current knowledge of the brain's architecture, and biochemistry. Piece of cake.
One new vehicle of study that has just begun in evolutionary psychology to yield significant results is the study of emotions. Emotions, as we understand them, are the biological chemical states of being that swirl to and fro within our bodies; what is significant to me, is that they represent the greatest legacy from our ancestral past that we, as humans, still rely upon to go about our daily business; what is important is that some of these emotions can be recorded physically -- heart rate, skin temperature, perspiration rate, etc. -- and that is physical evidence. What is of particular importance to me, is that in attempting to teach regular street folk about this new science, such emotions as fear, lust, anger, disgust, and joy are already part of the basic emotional group that every common person can easily understand. The common person can "get it" -- comprehend them -- because, well....they "have them" -- process them daily. The phrase, "fight or flight" echoes across the eons and is part of most elementary educational studies in basic biology.
These emotional chemical states fluctuate in accordance with every individual when faced within their own unique situations; some humans are more timid; others are more favorable toward taking risks. How the individual relates to other people is also important; since evolutionary psychologists have established that we humans evolved from hunter-gatherer groups, emotions, particularly those messages that are sent to the face and body (language) and change muscle structure, also are used to send "messages" to others within the social group to assist other individuals, or a group (whether small or large), of the particular state of being that one is having or "feeling" at that particular moment. Humans on the receiving end of someone's facial expressions or body language interpret those "signals" and decisions are made, either by the group at large, or just one other individual as to what those "signals" mean; this empathic messaging then leads to "action" or "non-action" from others. Such questions may arise, as say, does this person need any assistance? Do we help this individual? Is this a threatening individual? Should we avoid him or her? Here's the bottom line: the ability to project and "read" facial emotional readings and body language configurations most likely evolved to help in survival -- in particular, the ability "transmitted" valuable survival information regarding others within one's immediate group.
In our modern day situations, the rules and clues still are the same as our ancestors; questions that we may have about others and what others may thinks of us. And why is that important for some people? Because all this face and body language reading, emotional interpretations, assistance behaviors, or denial of assistance, etc, leads to varying accesses to resources that every group develops, maintains, and distributes. This then, according the evolutionary theory, leads to varying degrees of choices through sexual selection and the access to mates and the passing of one's genes. Unfortunately, the use of emotional measurements in evolutionary psychology is in its mere infancy and other sciences also have yet to reach a consilience across various disciplines as to how to interpret the data, but the time is coming, trust me. [I strongly suggest you get the book, Emotion Handbook]
Beyond the emotional chemical measurements, facial expressions, and body language observations lies another area in which evolutionary psychologists can gain clues about human behavior. This method is the rising study of the narrative -- a fictional story that someone tells to others expressing how they feel; how others feel; how we might feel if things and situations were different from what they currently are; how another person's view might differ from ours; what people should do, or not do, about a particular subject or overall objectives; internal expressions of how passionate one is about a subject, etc. A narrative is an excellent example of internal thinking that one uses to delay immediate emotional expressions that one passes on to other individuals, or to one's immediate group (in 2002 terms, attempts are made to communicate beyond one's local environment to include, even, an international audience. Beside the attempted "influence peddling" of the narrative, it also is an invaluable tool in the use of educating others in one's group concerning immediate survival. The use of the narrative exists in hunter-gatherer society's today, as it most likely did for our ancestor's, because it adds spice and excitement to sometimes dull subjects of rote learning, and as a result, proves highly effective in capturing the attention and teaching of the young. The "ghost story" around campfires is a perfect example of lessons to the young for the overwhelming benefits of group security against the evil that "lurks in the darkness beyond" the clan's perimeter.
Like old bones, the older the narrative, the harder we seem to look at the work; it seems to carry, stripped of its cultural timeframe where it once stood, a true reflection of the outward local social environment that the author’s found themselves locked in. However, all scientists must approach fictional work with caution in mind because fiction is exactly that -- fiction [isn't it really a form of deception?] However, since fictional work does reflect the writer's craft and their own reflections and beliefs of some subject that they understand and wish to express to others, one can also make the strong argument that the writer expressing those thoughts is attempting to "connect" with others in their local environment. The narrative is a form of communication, and if you can't communicate, then any type of influence that the writer was attempting to tell in the story would be lost if the message transmitted contained no "common knowledge" shared by others. The more "popular" a piece of fictional work became in history, or becomes today in 2002, the more one can make the argument that it "resonates" with a larger and larger audience; perhaps, if it becomes widespread, it could became part of the general cultural adaptations in how one views, treats, and executes behavior mechanisms within one's group; all of which are very important in our quest in understanding human behavior. Writer's merely put into the written word their internal, and then ultimately their verbal thoughts, which are part of the larger expressed mechanism of "influence" that all humans attempt to perform within their hierarchies. Hence, if one strongly accepts this view, "old" written narratives are like "old bones" of thought; not quite solid empirical evidence, but pretty darn close
As we study narratives from various historical timelines, cultural norms become obviously "out of place" to us, and thus, easily recognizable. In our hectic world where we are bombarded in every direction by stimuli, we tend to filter out the repetitive and the "normal" and seek only that information that is of a danger to us, that can give knowledge, plan our lives in the manner we seek, give advice on gaining access to mates or mating, or, just entertain us by lifting our spirits; our own biochemical receptacles release us from "over stimulation" by avoiding the common and the mundane -- but it is these common and mundane themes that are very important because they contain bits of information that contribute much to our understanding of group dynamics, individual behavior, and ultimately, survival.
The reason for such a long introduction of this essay/book review is to emphasis the importance of group dynamics between subgroups that transpire behind the scenes of our modern world. People and events flow back and forth in our busy world; we adapt to the local situations where we find ourselves, and yet, over 99% of us are totally unaware of the evolutionary pressures that surround us. The vast majority of people are not aware that we are constantly struggling to maintain or seek a higher place within a hierarchy of a group in which we belong. In fact, the vast majority of people are not even aware that they are part of a particular group or groups. We attend elementary schools, high schools, churches, synagogue, colleges, universities, fraternities, sororities, or even academic societies, without the slightest hint of the “pressures" and dynamics that swirl around them.
If all of the common people had more basic evolutionary knowledge, in particular chimpanzee politics of hierarchical positioning, they might have a greater understanding when they themselves fail to achieve even the slightest "success" in their lives. They may come to understand that the "failure" that has just occurred to them may not be the fault of their efforts, but of the evolutionary dynamics that exist within group living. Having the wrong colored skin, non-stylish hair, a distinctive accent when talking, or origin of their parents birth, may not have the open stigma that it once held, but let me emphasis right here and now, these are still powerful "gates" that equate to closed doors of opportunities. Without the slightest doubt, I personally believe that most of human "misbehavior" such as, racism, sexism, homophobia, shunning, age discrimination, gender bias, "profiling," or any form of discrimination -- is still rampant in all of our societies belying the "instructions" from the dominates that one merely has to "work hard and play by the rules." A more varied genetic mix is the victim here, and despite all ancient beliefs that only those of "a true blood line" are superior, and one should not mix races or ethnicities, the true fact is that all of us are "winners" if we exist in physical form today. To limit others by some form of criteria only weakens our changes of survival, not help to endure the genetic line.
We can overcome these discriminations only if and when we understand them, and only when it becomes our desire to eliminate them; we know that they are not suited for our highly evolved minds in 2002; they are part of our destructive ancestral past, and there is a reason we no longer fight tooth and claw to the death to achieve our goals -- because it is a waste. The problem is getting a critical mass of the population to understand how all this works and relates to them, and to stop believing that the answer to all of our problems is following the "in" group that cherishes material goods and selected company to a fault.
That is the job of evolutionary psychology, and one of the goals of this essay/book review is to bring out my beliefs regarding the dynamic "tension" that exists in any group relationship, and in particular, the dynamics that exists between dominate persons and submissives, or "subordinates" -- and in particular between master and slave. The dynamics between dominates and submissives begins at the lowest level of a group - two individuals. We have known since the 1980s that if two female hermits are placed in the same cage, the menstrual cycles of the two begin to drift towards one another; but at closer inspection, the truth reveals that it is the submissive female's cycle that moves in the direction of the dominate female; the same appears to be the case with humans. A now famous paper published around the same time confirmed this astonishing reality. That if two human females of child bearing age share the same dormitory room, the timing of both of their menstrual cycle's begin to move closer toward occurring at the same time of the month. Also at closer inspection, it was found that the lesser dominate of the two females', (in terms of greater social interpersonal behavior, extroversion, etc,) menstrual cycle was the one that began to shift toward the more dominant’s. (This is called the Wesleyan effect in honor of the women's college where the paper was published). It should be pointed out that the case of the hermits, pheromones (air borne chemicals) have been found to be the direct result of this transformation (found by blocking the olfactory sensors of the submissive hermit) while in the case of the human females, no research has been done with olfactory sensors due to ethical considerations). It is generally assumed that the cognitive abilities of the human female submissive, based on perceived social setting, sets off a series of chemical "directives" to the body to begin to change. [Professor Robert Sapolsky, Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, lecture five, The Great Courses on Tape, The Teaching Company, Springfield, VA, 1998.]
The basic evolutionary pressure that exists behind the physical "movement" seems to indicate that the submissive "looks up to" the dominate to gather important resources, whether real or implied that could be helpful in survival. (Perhaps the Wesleyan submissive believes that the dominant’s family connections could help in a future job search; help her to gain access to a "popular" sorority, or get "hooked up" with a much more handsome boyfriend then she believes she could ever garner on her own). The other distinct possibility is that submissives in general are more cautious, allowing the dominate person to take all the risks in a series of sequential activities and the submissive "sits back" and waits for the results of the dominates' action. To the "brave" who are willing to take the risk, go the rewards -- but if the risk proves fatal or permanently "disabling" to the dominate in some way, the reward goes to the cautious who were wise enough not to be "foolish," and they win the evolutionary race.
I'm sorry that I can't cite the following study of marketing focus groups, but I do recall from memory that soon after a group of complete strangers are placed in a room, hierarchies form between dominates and submissives. Within a matter of minutes, dominate or "aggressive" persons will soon dominate conversations and attempt to influence others with their opinions on the subject matter. Also within the group, there will be found people who sheepishly follow the lead of the dominate. They do this either because they do not care one twit about the subject being discussed (say yogurt, underarm deodorants, or dental services), or as I mentioned above, they take the "lazy" or "freeloader's" approach in letting the dominate take all the risk and merely take the route of least effort.
Does the existence of dominate and subordinates in any group indicate that the dominate is more biologically superior? Well, it depends by what you mean by biologically superior. In "lower" animals, perhaps the physical is more important, but in Homo sapiens, the new "physical" -- "fittest of the fit" is our mental abilities. Studies of vervet monkeys have determined that the magic ingredient in dominate and submissive behavior is the brain chemical serotonin. Dominate vervet monkeys are easily spotted in their group. What is significant is that they are not particularly large, fierce or violent, but that they are excellent at forming alliances, reconciliations, and remaining calm throughout their reign. Here is an excellent quote from Matt Ridley's Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Harper Collins, New York, 1999, describing a dominate vervet monkey: "...any group of people, even children, can immediately spot which of the monkeys in this captive group is the dominant one. Its demeanour and behaviour -- What Shelley called the 'sneer of cold command' -- are instantly familiar in an anthropomorphic way. There is little doubt that the monkey's mood is set by by its high serotonin levels. If you artificially reverse the pecking order so that the monkey is now a subordinate, not only does its serotonin drop, but its behaviour changes, too...serotonin levels respond to the monkey's perception of its own position in the hierarchy, not vice versa...Of course, monkeys are not human, but much the same seems to happen in human beings. In university fraternities, the leading figures are blessed with rich serotonin concentrations which fall if they are deposed...Your brain chemistry is determined by the social signals to which you are exposed. Biology determines behaviour yet is determined by society." p. 171. So what Matt Ridley is attempting to teach us here is that when a complete group of strangers sits down in a room to discuss dental plans, or underarm deodorants, there is already someone there who PERCEVIES that they are a dominate person; quickly assesses the "competition" and evaluates the "cost risk ratio" of action toward achieving whatever resources are to be gained from their behavior; the same would be true of the submissives. But where does the dominate behaving individual get his or her PERCEPTION that they can behave in such a manner? Where does it all come from? It comes from a person's particular brain chemistry; it comes from the lessons learned from parents; it comes from supportive ideas from immediate friends, and it comes from group norms, or display rules established in any group. But most of the behavior, I argue, comes from evolutionary pressure to advance in one's hierarchy, assessing what others have done in the past or can do in any situation in the present (rationalizing that one's behavior is OK), and the human ability to perceive an opportunity.
I argue that group dynamics is one of the major contributing factors in dominate and submissive behavior because it flows from group loyalty and group identification. This is called ethnocentrism, and it has been found to be worldwide in a 1979 survey of twenty cultures. ["The role of Ethnocentrism in Intergroup Conflict." In The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Edited by W.G. Austin and S. Worchel. Monterey, Calif: Brooks/Cole: 71-84.] Ethnocentrism was defined as "the view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything...Each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior...and looks with contempt on outsiders." [Folkways, W.G. Sumner, 1906, Boston: Ginn]. In fact, some may argue that ethnocentrism is merely the plural of individual genetic self interest. The many stories of male bonding merely are a reflection of group identity with a gender twist; but the results are the same: they provide a prop -- support -- justification -- deterministic self-assessment -- to give the mental processing part of our brains the green light signal to do the things that it desires -- not just what it needs; it is both a blessing and a curse of our human species.
Here is an excellent quote from Richard Wrangham's Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, New York, 1996, to describe the process of group identity: "The process begins, say social psychologists, with people categorizing, mentally putting people into coarse and general classes that ultimately boil down to Us and Them. Next, people start to discriminate, favoring Us over Them...Finally, they stereotype. They say nice things about Us and nasty things about Them...The temperamental complex involved is what we call the ingroup-outgroup bias. The ingroup-outgroup bias is often ethnocentric, which mean that the ingroup and the outgroup are perceived as different races or ethnicities, but it can appear with equal ease around other categories, such as religion, sex, age, or sports team. In striking contrast to many or most processes they describe, social psychologists describe this complex as universal and ineradicable. Taken to an extreme, ingroup-outgroup bias effectively dehumanizes Them, which means that moral law does not apply to Them and that therefore even ordinary and very moral people can do the most appalling things with a clear conscience." p. 195 & 196.
And that quote leaves us at the front door of dynamics that exist between master and slave. Unless one chooses to only focus on the many incidences of genocide that have occurred, where else in our species' history do we see the ultimate dehumanization of our fellow human -- the total domination of one by another? It is obvious that nature had no hand in the behavior -- so we must conclude that the human mind, in its evolutionary voyage decided that there were advantages to the practice. Who, or by what authority, gave some people the right to believe that they could own other humans and treat them as cattle? For a clearer picture of these questions that have clouded my mind, I sought them in the novel, A Bondswoman's Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, written by a house slave, circa 1852. After exhaustive investigation by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard's Afro-American Studies Department, the novel was deemed to be authentic, and as such, I sought out the novel because I thought that it would be an invaluable tool in searching for group dynamics that were at least 150 years old. (The analysis of the book's authenticity was accomplished through ink and paper analysis -- infrared, chemical, and ultraviolet exams, type of pen used, handwriting, binding, date indications, literary style, and background investigations into the possible inventory that existed in the master's personal library)
What is truly unique about this narrative is that it was written by a house slave in America's South, (most likely North Carolina) who truly did the writing. Other slave narratives from this period were written with the assistance of abolitionists, who perhaps, shaded the narrative with their own perspectives. Here we have a slave, who was obviously taught how to read and write; in the narrative, Ms. Craft tells of a kindly neighbor who took her under her wing and taught her how to read and write. And at great risk, I might add, because it was against the law to teach African slaves to read and write because the owners -- rightly so -- were afraid that if they could read and write, the slaves would then communicate with each other, understand the commonality of their predicament, form alliances, and then rise up and rebel. The fear in the white masters existed because the farm work required for rice, sugar, cotton, and tobacco in America's deep south was all highly labor intensive, and at the height of slavery, just before America's Civil War, the slave population was very close to being 50% the white population.
Here, in a two paragraph nutshell is the theme of Ms. Craft's novel. As house slave, she is assigned to assist the mistress of the house, who is herself of white and black heritage, but is passing for white. Her mistress is hounded by a white male lawyer who knows the secret of her past, and is about to tell her unwitting husband in a conceived plot to blackmail him. At the threat of being caught and being sent into slavery, Hannah convinces the mistress to escape with her. After several months of surviving on berries and roots, the two are captured by a passing hunting party and are put in a local jail to await their fate. As events unfold, the master learns of his wife's black heritage and commits suicide; the heirs of the estate want nothing of the two slaves and sell them to a slave trader. Unfortunately, the fail mistress dies from her exhaustive ordeal, and it is Hannah who is taken away by the slave trader. But, in transit, a storm frightens the horse that carries their carriage and runs off a steep ravine; the slave trader is killed, and Hannah severely injured. She is taken into a white slave owner's home and nurtured back to health. After all the legal details are worked out, Hannah is sold once again to another mistress whom is married to a politician who travels to and fro from North Carolina to Washington D.C. Here, Hannah details the trivial excesses of her mistress and the obsession she has with her fading beauty. Hannah also gives us a rare glimpse of the Washington political scene at this timeline where there was a common practice of males obtaining jobs with the federal government with the assistance of their rich wives' fortunes and their family connections.
Although it may be the influential wife that helped to secure employment for her husband, the culture of the times still dictated that males were truly masters of their domain. Hannah details the sexual peccadilloes of the master having several slave women and their illegitimate children living in the same home at various times without the mistress' knowledge. Upon discovery of her husband’s indiscretions, the current mistress is furious at her staff for not "snitching" on her husband. To complicate matters, Hannah’s position in the household was derogated at the same time by another house slave that "competed" with Hannah for the position of hand maiden to the mistress; Hannah lost. To "punish" Hannah and to send a message to the staff for not telling about the master, his black mistresses, and their children, Hannah is "assigned" to marry a field hand who made a request for Hannah’s hand. To Hannah, this fate is worst then death. She is dragged totally uncooperatively to the male field slave's structure, and then escapes in a moment of domestic confusion that occurs within the slave household. After several days, she miraculously meets up with her benefactor we met in the opening of the novel, the old lady who taught her how to read and write in the first place, and she hides Hannah from any search parties for several weeks until it is safe to assume that they have stopped searching. The benefactor also arranges for Hannah’s train fare to New Jersey, where the novel ends happily with Hannah a free woman married to a pastor and teaches elementary school.
Throughout the book, every author who writes fiction, begins to muse on either their life, events that occur to them or to others, or their opinion on things in general, and we, as outside observers, can sit back and gleam the best that there is to offer.
Hannah gives us a brilliant passage concerning the subjective feeling of what perhaps a slave might reflect upon about being owned like a piece of chattel: "It must be a strange state to be prized just according to the firmness of your joints, the strength of your sinews, and your capability of endurance . To be made to feel that you have no business here, there, or anywhere except just to work -- work -- work -- And yet to know that you are here somehow, with once in a great while like a straggling ray in a dark place a faint aspiration for something better, with a glimpse, a mere glimpse of something beyond. It must be a strange state to feel that in the judgments of those above you are scarcely human, and to fear that their opinion is more than half right, that you really are assimilated to the brutes, that the horses, dogs and cattle have quite as many privileges, and are probably your equals or it may be your superiors in knowledge, that even your shape is questionable as belonging to that order of superior beings whose delicacy you offend." p. 201
In the next passage, the author gives us a glimpse of a divided world in even her own slave world: the separation of house and field slaves into two separate group identities. We have to be honest here, Hannah Crafts is also a bigot in her own right; she detests the field slaves as much as the established white establishment hates all slaves, and gives us an invaluable clue to the group identity bias that rules our social order and dynamics and how they can be used as an advantage by some people and to the disadvantage of others. "Of course the family residence was stocked with slaves of a higher and nobler order than those belonging to the fields. They were better dressed, better provided for and better looking. p. 202. This process of "removing" oneself from the same class or identity that others would assign to her is what I call, Origin Denial, Resource Realignment. It is the process of denying one's origins -- in Hannah's case, a slave -- and realigning one's self image toward the group that controls the most resources -- in this particular case, the white slave owners -- hence, a form of "loyalty" emerges. Actually this "loyalty" is really a form of "obedience" and "submissive signaling" in order to curry favor from the dominate, or to avoid physical "punishment."
In another passage that describes her "disgust" with her own race, and her attempt to "send the signal" to us that she is no where like the "lowly" hierarchy of field slaves, Hannah describes "a negro" who was frightened by, what appeared to him, as a ghost. "There might be a robber in the house, or some one bent on an evil purpose. But instantaneously, and before I had time to decide Old Jo, a negro, who loved above all things to indulge in strong potations of brandy, burst into my apartment in the most ludicrous state of terror conceivable. His eyes, large and glaring, seemed actually starting from their sockets, his teeth chattered and his whole frame trembled as with the ague." p. 133. This passage could almost have been written by a white supremacist in demeaning blacks as stereotypically frightened, ignorant, and stupid. It also points out the "separation" that Hannah uses to deny her origins as a "negro" herself. Later, when Ol Jo tells of his meeting with the apparition in front of other slave hands, Hannah again includes the gathered group into a stereotypical putdown. "...we were surprised to hear the sharp and unmusical voice of Jo detailing to a group of wondering listeners an account of his night's ghostly visitant. Of course the story lost nothing of the strange or marvelous by the recital, and the ludicrous countenances of the auditors (listeners), as they were variously excited by fear, wonder and apprehension were enough to have provoked a smile on the lip of Heraclitus...Jo was certainly drunk, and as all the servants are acquainted with his peculiar failing how absurd it is in them to encourage him to tell such stories." p. 138 & 139.
In the following passage, Hannah gives us an wonderful description of a "display rule” established by the white dominates in telling us "what was necessary" in order to maintain the order that surrounded her and her white mistress. "It was necessary that those surrounding the person of the Mistress should have nothing offensive or disgusting about them. It was necessary, not for him but her, that the coachman should be cleanly and well kept, that the cook should be neat, that well washed hands and a snowy apron, and that all their attendants should well understand their part and preserve appearances." p.202. This is an excellent point to make that the female dominate, at least in Hannah’s timeline and circumstance, was running the evolutionary show. It is also my belief that the female elites in the 2002 timeline are in much the same situation and hold more power then we have assigned to them.
This next passage is particularly important in the novel because it establishes what I have been labeling, The Resource Evaluation, that I feel we humans attach to other things, situations, and of course, to our fellow humans; we use this in preparation for behavior that will advance our position in our human group hierarchies. We evaluate those situations, things, and people, and based on our desires and wishes, temperament, and display rules that society in general forces upon us in our local environment and make advances toward those goals. In most cases, we humans take the behavior what I have labeled, Origin Denial, Resource Realignment as I mentioned above because it seems to have the least offensive cost while judging the benefit of the advancing behavior as a positive move. Here Hannah physically describes her mistress in the opening of the novel: "She was a Quadroon, almost white," and you can almost hear Hannah’s desire to pass as a "white" and all the advantages that lie in that direction. "She came, she said of good family and frequently mentioned great names in connection with her own, and when I smiled and said it mattered little she would assume an air of consequential dignity, and assert that on the contrary it was a very important even to a slave to be well connected -- that good blood was an inheritance to them -- and that when they heard the name of some honorable gentleman mentioned with applause, or saw some great lady flaunt by in jewels and satins the privilege of thinking he or she is a near relative of mine was a great privilege indeed. " p. 33 & 34. In this last passage, we see the power of the human mind attempting to "cross" the gatekeeper's entrance into another world by "denying" that one lives in an underprivileged state, and that "crossing over" or "realigning" into someone else's hierarchy and all the privileges that it attaches is as simple as picking up a fork to eat. It is the way we humans survive in dire situations and continue to hold out hope in the most hopeless of situations -- like being a slave or being held in a concentration camp.
In this next passage, Hannah and her mistress make an attempt at fleeing into the wildness but fail at that attempt and are placed in a prison apartment. There Hannah introduces a new character, an old woman who has been a prisoner for years and tells Hannah and her mistress the folly afforded to escape: "Oh you must not ask me such questions, indeed you must not. It might involve us in a great deal of trouble. I have learned what all who live in a land of slavery must learn sooner or later; that is to profess approbation where you cannot feel it; to be hard when most inclined to melt; and to say that all is right, and good; and true when you know that nothing could be more wrong and unjust." p. 84 In other words, she is telling Hanna that fantasies will do you no good in a hard world of realities; but of course, the words really are those of the author herself.
After her accident, Hannah is taken care of by the Henry family. Here she describes the male master, a clergyman: "...how should I convey in words an adequate idea of a manner refined by education, polished by mingling in good society, and perfected by that true Christian politeness which springs from kindness of heart? p. 124. Here we can almost hear the wheels turning in Hannah's head in observing the "refined" things that surround her at the new estate and the expected behavior require for "entry" into the white society that surrounds her.
This next passage is interesting passage: "Since in a multitude of cases the greatest favor that a mild kindhearted man or woman can bestow on members of the outcast servile race is to buy them." p. 127. What Hannah is describing to us is that the best that could ever come of slavery is to owned by a benevolent and "kind hearted" soul; a patriarch of sorts, who would look upon one's slaves as his or her children. The worst of course, would be to be owned by one who would consider the slaves as cattle or animals, sexual objects to exploit, and thinking that slaves would be a burden of responsibility.
One would think in the South were the institution of slavery is strongest; one would get the impression that distancing oneself from the slave would be a top priority. But this next passage is quite interesting because it tells us that it is quite opposite, at least in Hannah's perception. "Those who suppose that southern ladies keep their attendants at a distance, scarcely speaking to them, or only to give commands have a very erroneous impression. Between the mistress and her slave a freedom exists probably not to be found elsewhere. A northern woman would have recoiled at the idea of communicating a private history to one of my race, and in my condition, whereas such a thought never occurred to Mrs. Wheeler." p. 151. I'm not sure here, but I believe that the "closeness" that Hannah feels is really her own Origin Denial, Resource Realignment at work; in reality, the "closeness" is the manipulative use of the slave as "messenger" by the mistress to other slaves or members of the household, who then pass "messages" via direct word, facial, or body language indicators; this further establishes display rules of behavior within the household.
In perhaps one of the most moving statements regarding the dynamics between slave and master is Hannah's mental swipe at Mrs. Cosgrove, the politician’s wife. After the scene where the dominate female finds a female mistress slave and her two children living in an concealed apartment within her very own home, and in a fit of rage at her husband for his acts, and being humiliated in front of the other house slaves, turns the slave women and her children out into the street and gives them their "freedom." Thinking about the poor women and her two children "out in the cold" Hannah muses eloquently at the true nature between that of master and slave. "Did it not occur to her that night when lying down on her splendid bed with snowy counterpanes and downy pillows that the poor freed slave with her tender infants had not where to lay her head? Did she think that waking up the next morning and preparing to breakfast daintily on soft rich cakes and golden butter, with luscious honey, strawberries melting in cream and the richest beverage that the one she had so unfeelingly dismissed had not a morsel wherewith to satisfy the cravings of nature, or support her strength under the most onerous maternal duty -- that of providing nourishment for her offspring. Did she remember when the dinner hour with its bright sun drew near that one whom she had driven out to be a wanderer might be fainting wearied and toil-worn beneath the roadside hedge?" p. 183.
These are the perceptual thoughts in the minds of those so desperate that they have nothing to lose by choosing revolt. While the mistress was "having her cake" the outcast slave woman languished one instant away from death. It is from incidences such as these that the poor today ask the question of the rich: "What makes you so special that you should live and I should die?" It is the gap between rich and poor, master and slave that separates the two. With resources as the attentive focal point, the only thing that stops the submissives is the perception of possible physical violence when reaching out and taking those resources from the dominates. Once the perception by the submissives reaches a point that their is nothing to gain by "looking up" to the dominates; that their is "nothing to lose" by protest; that there is no longer any benefit in waiting for any gains to be met from the dominates, comes the perceptions from the submissives that the cost of protest and revolt exceed the benefit of potential loss of resources -- or perhaps, even life.
In our modern world, what creates the wall between people that keeps them separate and creates class divergence? By what authority do dominates in our society feel they have the power to rule over others? How did class differences evolve when we look at the process through evolutionary pressures? What human dynamics are at work that creates divisions? There are no written laws, but the division is real as the physical difference between mineral and liquid. What we have here is the real crutch of human social group living: In our ancestral past, dominates obtained their "rule" through the use of real violence that placed them in command; brain chemistry and muscularity were the main ingredients, plus the physical act itself. As we evolved, we recognized that physical violence in group living was not the answer as it was more evolutionary beneficial to attempt to get along with our fellow humans. But the dominates persisted; brain chemistry and physical strength in group living situations gave rise to alliance formations of elite groups that used their positions to garner whatever resources were considered important at their timeline; but the potential threat of violence still persisted -- the perception that violence could erupt had to be expressed verbally, facially, and emotionally -- hence another reason for language and the ability to express and assess facial and body language; hence, as I suggested above, the subtle hint of violence or expulsion (freedom) is the crutch of the dynamics between slave and master found in this novel.
Nothing has changed. Today in 2002, groups of elites still rule our societies with alliances backed up with armed bands of beta groups to enforce their rule "for the good of the country." The elites perceive that their families, religions, and wealth give them the "green light" to proceed along the lines that they desire. Their perception is that we submissives must be led as we have do not have the ability to lead and create the wonders of the world that they created -- of course, they do not make any concerted effort to find out what we think -- well, because we have no resources and no clout -- and that to the dominates, establishes their evolutionary proof of their superiority-- too bad, you lose, we win, it's Darwin's law of natural selection, they pontificate. Not really. The bad news is that all this great dominance leadership (do it our way, or you can take the highway) has placed our world in peril with global warming and the threat of nuclear war in faraway places (Pakistan and India). Globalization of industries has given rise to a new form of elitism and a new form of slavery in obscure lands with the trumpeted announced objective being that the desperate poor "are being saved from poverty." As past industries and factories in the industrial worlds close, the newly unemployed of the industrial world remember the "good life" that was taken from them. The perception by submissives, that resources have been taken away from them without any compensation, plus the sense that have no control, gives rise to this anger of angy mobs that we see at international business meetings. The crowds are sending a deep evolutionary message to the elites: "What makes you so special that you should live and I should die?"
Now, do you see the benefits of reading a novel and extracting lessons about human nature? Don't let your education stop at just non-fictional, academic journals, books, and conferences.
Copyright, Evolution's Voyage, 1995 - 2011