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The legacy of slavery (6): The unequal society

Karen Horney (1951) says that neurotic internal conflicts between an ideal self they feel they should have, and a real self that falls short.


el chapo mexico pixabay

Nigel Pocock

Movement for Justice and Reconciliation


The result is self-hatred, and the answer is freedom to accept oneself as one is without worry and guilt. Frederick Hickling therefore shows that at least eight areas of internal conflict need to be addressed.

This requires both individual therapy, and collective political action. What is needed is to face the pain, not to go into denial about it. This means to develop psychological maturity, which can be a difficult and challenging process.

Social factors seem to offer the best explanations for mental health pathologies within Caribbean populations, but these are intertwined with many variables, and epigenetic pathologies.

The ÆSOP Study showed that parental separation and loss before sixteen years was strongly correlated to the onset of psychosis. Absent fathers correlate to Caribbean househoids.

Marcelo Moriconi Pixabay 5One study showed a dose-response relationship, suggesting that increased discrimination may trigger schizophrenia. Pigmentocracy therefore likely plays a part, as darkness of skin invites greater racial prejudice.

Perception of discrimination increases the risk of schizophrenia. However, there may be a partial evolutionary argument, as Frank & Gilovitch have shown in their experiments with football players who wear black, and referees who penalise them. The evolutionary argument suggests that people have a natural fear of darkness which plays into aggression and defensiveness.

Fragmented parenting is also correlated to poor educational achievement, and educational achievement is correlated to literacy and democracy. Pinker’s researches suggest that increasing democracy can only help improve both education, and hopefully (eventually) a realistic and scientific acceptance of the psychological deficits of fragmented parenting.

El murcielago 3 pixabayThe unequal society

Another part of this bigger equation is the role played by equality of opportunity and income, as epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have shown.

In Frederick Hickling’s figure (which I have expanded) there are many social factors which have been analysed in detail in Richardson & Pickett’s book.

I will look at some of these here, and attempt to develop some testable hypotheses based on their researches, or researches that they cite.

However, there have been some memorable views on equality, captured in Churchill’s famous quote, ‘the inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings, the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries’, and Ruskin’s comment that ‘The socialist, seeing a strong man oppress a weak one, cries out―“Break the strong man’s arms;” but I say, “Teach him to use his strength to a better purpose.” ’ The synthesis of these two perspectives suggests that the generation of wealth should not be discouraged, but that it needs to carried out in an ethical and prosocial manner. How this should be achieved is too big a task for this paper, but we will return to a Christian value perspective, in order to suggest an answer.

Transsexuals 3 PixabayIn his recent very original book, “Against empathy”, Paul Bloom criticises the modern tendency to over-value the ‘hard science’ of neurology.

He points out that the brain scans that are so valued today merely represent a psychology―in short an electrical activity within the brain that we already knew about from psychology, the study of the mind.

The implication for slavery studies is that we need to start an aetiology of the pathologies of slavery with history (the story of individual and collective mental health pathologies), and its expression in the form of ideologies (measurable in both psychologies and brain scans) and their imposition on both the powerful (through ‘pluralistic ignorance’) and the weak. Only then should we work towards a more ‘scientific’ neurobiological understanding.

History suggests that the aetiology of slavery is driven by culture (values and world-views, not race, per se). This, in turn, has had a profound effect upon marriage and family structures in the Caribbean and southern US states.

Los 10 mil pasos FEATURED Fotos Pixabay 2As we will see, the former states of the Confederacy perform less well on every social dysfunction, than the states of the Union, and that this appears to owe a very great deal to the absolute hierarchy (extreme inequality) that existed between slaves and the plantocratic white leaders of the Confederacy.

The ‘blessings of capitalism’ were certainly theirs; the slaves were in total subjection and misery, and this was by no means a socialist vision! Far from it. Everything was justified by a distorted ‘Christian’ legitimation. The statistics for broken attachment in both marriage and family are mutual and inter-related, and reflect psychological states, and their neurological descriptions.

These are arguably universal, and reflect the evolutionary psychology of the human species; the descriptions of the deficits and pathologies of broken family attachments are not local (in time and space), although previously local factors might exacerbate such trends.

Bloom recommends a ‘rational compassion’, an idea not so dissimilar to the New Testament idea of agapē (άγάπε), a disinterested love, in obedience to Jesus’ example of God’s love for the unloved. Thus, a person’s value lies not in their possessions, but in their generous use of them, springing not out of compulsion or legalism, but from the heart.

Vida y muerte Pixabay 33What we want to do therefore, is to hypothesise that planter ideology has been carried on in communities such as the former Confederate states.

The commandment not to covet is so important in the Decalogue, for it drives all the others, viz., not to commit adultery, not to steal, to commit murder, and so on. Human nature has not changed in thousands of years, with natural selection playing its part.

The converse of a society with such an extreme inequality of power, is one based in two simple factors, both part of the notion of ‘social capital’, namely the degree of trust, and the number of organised groups a person belongs to.

The challenge is to create a plausible aetiology of slavery and pathologies. Present epidemiology cannot demonstrate a causal relationship, as they are concerned with much more recent social and medical factors. Pinker’s research does however suggest real possibilities.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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