Monday, August 30, 2010

A Fuck You Letter

Slave Auction

The following is a letter written, via dictation, by a former slave and published as a public letter in a Newspaper in the later half of 1865. Given that the letter was dictated by a illiterate man in an age when newspapers frequently engaged in what can only be described as fraud and forgery whether or not this letter is the real thing can of course be doubted.

In this case it appears that the Jourdan Anderson with his wife Mandy, and children Milly Jane and Grundy are real people who were indeed living near Dayton Ohio at the time. Also Colonel H.P. Anderson was in fact a slave owner who lived near Big Spring Tennessee and seems to have owned those slaves as revealed by census records.1 So the letter is not a concoction but appears to be real.

Given that it seems to have been dictated at a Lawyers office it appears likely that the letter was polished and is not a verbatim transcription of what Mr. Anderson said. The letter is in response to a letter, which as not survived, from Mr. Anderson’s former owner asking Mr. Anderson to come back and work for him.

[Written just as he dictated it.]

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865.

To my old Master, COLONEL P. H. ANDERSON, Big Spring, Tennessee.


I got your letter, and was glad to find that you bad not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know
particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy.- the folks call her Mrs. Anderson, - and the children Milly, Jane, and Grundy - go to school and are learning well The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkies would have been' proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage~ to move. back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express,- in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense.

Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve - and die, if it come to that – than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson2

The letter is a pretty excellent example of being oh so polite while telling someone to fuck off.

It also tells us about slavery in so many ways. Mr. Anderson’s telling comment about his wife being called Mrs. Anderson is a telling reference to the fact that slave could not get legally married and also a telling reference to how bonds between slaves were not respected and how slave wives and mothers were not respected. Behind all this is the horror of marriages and families broken up by sale.

The reference to the education of his children is of course a telling reference to how slaves and their children were denied education. In fact not only denied but it was expressly forbidden for them to be taught to read and write. In fact under slavery Mr. Anderson’s son Grundy would have had no chance to become a professional like a preacher.

Then comes the clincher Mr. Anderson talks about the injustice of working for no wages and being exploited in order for Colonel Anderson get richer. So Mr. Anderson says he will take the offer seriously if Colonel Anderson pays back minus expenses all of his and his wife’s wages. Which Mr. Anderson totes up to more than 11,000 dollars as a sign of good faith. Mr. Anderson notes that has an unpaid laborer and a piece of property he was just another piece of property and of course not entitled to wages. He then indirectly comments that he was defrauded. It is this rank exploitation that rankles Mr. Anderson the most. Here in freedom, which Mr. Anderson notes he already has and doesn’t need Colonel Anderson to get, that he Mr. Anderson is respected and earning a wage. While by implication As a slave he had neither the respect of others or a wage.

Finally there is a rather pointed reference to the fact that under slavery slave women were the potential victims of sexual exploitation. In fact this use of slave women who were in no position to say no was the source of great bitterness among slaves and ex slaves. Mr. Anderson reveals his fears for his daughters and gratitude that they are far away from that sort of possibility. Mr. Anderson refers rather bluntly to sexual exploitation of slaves on Colonel Anderson’s plantation.

Finally at the beginning of the letter and at the end Mr. Anderson makes sarcastic reference to Colonel Anderson's violent nature and his attempts by violence to prevent Mr. Anderson from escaping from slavery by violence and apparently almost killing him. Thus indicating that slavery was built on violence and coercion. Of course Mr. Anderson by making these comments is in effect telling Colonel Anderson that “given that you assaulted me, shot at me and tried to kill me rather than let me go free, why should I ever work for you!!”3

The letter rings true in terms of thinly disguised bitterness at being a slave and a determination to close the door and move on. One thing is also clear Colonel Anderson like so many others who have done others wrong seems to have been almost miraculously obtuse.

Despite the fact that the letter is actually on many sites all over the internet I felt I should repost it with my own thoughts, simply because it is a almost perfect putdown letter.

1. I didn’t need to do the research to check out the veracity of this letter. Commentators on a blog that posted the letter did so see Slacktivist Here.

2. Child, Maria L., Editor, The Freedman’s Book, Fields, Osgood & Co., Boston, 1869, pp. 265-267.

3. Books about what slavery was like which also describe the institutions many brutalities and sheer perversity are many. Here are a few. Stampp, Kenneth M., The Peculiar Institution, Vintage Books, New York, 1956, Kolchin, Peter, American Slavery, Revised Edition, Hill and Wang, New York, 2003, Blassingame, John W., The Slave Community, Revised Edition, Oxford University Press, 1979, Oakes, James, Slavery and Freedom, Vintage Books, New York, 1990, David, Paul A., et al, Reckoning with Slavery, Oxford University Press, New York, 1976.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top Ten

The below is my list in order of importance of the top ten events of the last 2000 years (1 - 2000 C.E.).

1, The life, teachings and death of Jesus. (B.C.E. 5 - 30 C.E. ?) Considering the impact of his life and death on the world this is an obvious choice for number one.

Modern reconstruction of the face of Jesus

2, The life, teaching of Mohammad. (c. C.E. 570 - 632 C.E.) As for Jesus the same for Mohammad.

3, The discovery and diffusion of Printing, from China to the rest of the world. (c. 800 C.E.) The incredible impact of printing on culture and intellectual activity, first in China and then in Europe and then the rest of the world are manifold.

The Diamond Sutra
(Worlds first known printed book, 860 C.E.)

4, Columbus runs into America. (C.E. 1492) From the establishment of new nations, to the Columbian exchange of plants and animals. to laying the foundations of European primacy a pivotal event.

5, Wen founder of the Sui dynasty, reunifies China after 270 years of division. (C.E. 589) Its hard to imagine what the world would have been like with a permanently disunited China, and this further establishes the period of Chinese economic primacy that lasts for over 1000 years.

Wen Founder of the Sui Dynasty

6, The Industrial revolution. Starts c. 1760 C.E. and still continuing. A radical change in how people have lived since Neolithic times.

7, The Renaissance. (1300 C.E. - 1600 C.E.) Europe after being on the margins, since the Fall of Rome, starts to return to core of Civilization.

8, Gunpowder invented and refined in China. (c. 800 - 1000 C.E.) Invention spread to the rest of the world with vast consequences, later Gunpowder weapons developed in China and spread to rest of world, for further refinement. First metal cannon c. 1270 in China.

9, The Invention and spread of "Arabic" numerals from India. (c. 350 C.E.)

The development of “Arabic” Numerals

10, The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. (70 C.E.) Its hard to see that either Christianity and Islam would have been has successful without the ideology of supercession that would have been seriously undermined by a continuing existing Temple in Jerusalem.

Does anyone have any comments or their own choices?

Pierre Cloutier

Saturday, August 07, 2010

“The Banality of Evil”

Adolf Eichmann
In 1963 Hannah Arendt wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,1 a book from which the term “The Banality of Evil” entered into popular consciousness. Like a lot of such influential works it seemed to have been far more discussed than actually read. I have discussed Hannah Arendt’s works before, in that case it was her Origins of Totalitarianism.2 Here her focus is how one single individual reacted to the stress of being caught up in a totalitarian institutional structure and in this case contact with that institution led to a disastrous erosion of his personal integrity and morality.

Hannah Arendt was struck by the contrast between the pathetic and small man that she saw and heard in the trial in Jerusalem and the monstrousness of the deeds he organized and presided over.

Eichmann was and remained in her eyes a paltry, insignificant, man. A boring small minded bureaucrat, whose imagination was limited and whose obliviousness was positively awesome. Eichmann did not impress her as some sort of paragon of evil. He was simply pathetic.

Arendt for example quotes Eichmann has saying regarding his guilt:
With the killing of Jews I had nothing to do. I never killed a Jew, or a non-Jew, for that matter –I never killed any human being. I never gave an order to kill either a Jew or a non Jew; I just did not do it.3
This helps in Arendt’s eyes set up the image of a small minded petty man whose lack of imagination is and was breathtaking. Of course it is also self-serving nonsense. It ignores basic law in which if for example you give a gun to someone knowing that the person you give it too will kill with it and who they will kill, you are guilty. Certainly in this case helping to round up people so that they can be murdered is murder. The fact that you didn’t pull the trigger is irrelevant to the question of guilt. Eichmann is being a moral retard here.

Eichmann was born in 1906 in a small German town in the Rhineland. To be blunt there is absolutely nothing about his life that sticks out until 1932 when he joined the Nazi party. Before his trial, while he was being questioned Eichmann mentioned that he had several Jewish relatives and friends and on one occasion helped one relative, who was half Jewish according to the Nuremberg laws immigrate to Switzerland and he later helped a Jewish couple emigrate at the request of another relative. Eichmann used those examples to show that he didn’t hate Jews. Of course other Nazi’s could have made the same claim on the same basis. It can be dismissed as self serving and if not that self deceptive.4 it is also ironic that after Eichmann joined the Nazi party he briefly had a Jewish mistress.5

In 1934, in the hope of securing good employment Eichmann joined the S.D., or Security service for the S.S. He swiftly became the S.D. expert of “Jewish Affairs”.6

A detailed outline of his career which was to involve him in one of the greatest crimes in history has he with ruthless efficiency organized the hunting out, deportation to their deaths of millions of men women and children need not be given here.7

A few highlights should be remembered which are pertinent to Hannah Arendt’s interpretation of Eichmann. According to Eichmann on July 31 1941 Eichmann had a meeting with Reinhard Heydrich head of the Reich Security Office and a SS General. According to Eichmann Heydrich told him that “The Fuhrer [Hitler] has ordered the physical extermination of the Jews”.8 Later Eichmann was at the infamous Wannsee meeting that helped plan the full implementation of the “Final Solution”.9

Perhaps the incident that most characterized Eichmann’s whole personality is the process by which in 1944 he negotiated and organized the deportation of the Hungarian Jewish community and the zeal with which he carried it out in the teeth of a rapidly deteriorating military situation.10

During the closing period of the war Eichmann despite Heinrich Himmler’s express order to stop the killings, Eichmann continued to zealously carry out his task.11

Perhaps the most telling indication of Eichmann’s actual state of mind regarding the acts he was involved with is the following quote attributed to him:
I will jump into my grave laughing, because the fact that I have the death of five million Jews [or "enemies of the Reich," as he [Eichmann] always claimed to have said] on my conscience gives me extraordinary satisfaction.12
How Eichmann’s claim, repeated at trial, makes much of difference to the horror of the quote is a mystery. For in the Nazi ethos and world view Jews by definition were enemies of Germany. (Of course given that Eichmann was involved in rounding up Jews for killing during the war those were the only “enemies of the Reich”, he could possibly be referring to.

After the war Eichmann managed to hide and with the aid of various individuals and organizations he was able to escape to Argentina were he was kidnapped by Mossad agents (Israeli Secret Service), taken to Israel, tried in 1961 and executed in 1962.13

Hannah Arendt covered the trial for The New Yorker magazine and she was fascinated by the extraordinary mediocrity of the man.

Hannah Arendt viewed Eichmann has a bureaucrat and in her opinion:
He merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing.14
Further Hannah Arendt says:
Eichmann was not Iago and not Macbeth, and nothing would have been further from his mind than to determine with Richard III “to prove a villain.” Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all.15
In Arendt’s opinion Eichmann was the boring faceless mass man who had no real ideas of his own, who could immerse himself into a task and quite forget the consequences and nature of what he was doing. Eichmann raised all sorts of issues for Hannah Arendt because:
The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.16
Hannah Arendt’s view of Eichmann has been criticized for being unconvincing at least in part. It is further thought that in some sense she was fooled by Eichmann into thinking he was just a faceless bureaucrat. It is interesting that Hannah Arendt’s own work provides some of the evidence that Eichmann was anything but a faceless bureaucrat.

For example Hannah Arendt does quote Eichmann’s infamous line about jumping into his grave happy. She however introduces the line with:
Bragging was the vice that was Eichmann’s undoing. It was sheer rodomontade when he told his men during the last days of the war: [then the quote]17
Quite unconvincing. But then Hannah Arendt seems to accept Eichmann’s portrayal of himself as not “really” hating Jews. So of course this comment which if anything indicates hatred must be whisked away with an airy dismissal. Similarly Eichmann’s zeal in continuing his job after Himmler had ordered it stopped is similarly dismissed as indicating a lack of imagination and an eagerness to please the man Eichmann thought has his true leader Adolf Hitler.18

Eichmann during his trial repeatedly stated ad-nauseum that he had no personal hatred of Jews. Not surprisingly given Eichmann’s own behavior the court in Jerusalem didn’t believe him. What is surprising is Hannah Arendt’s willingness to credit this. It is and remains unbelievable. What also is clear is that Hannah Arendt deliberately downplayed / ignored evidence that indicated that Eichmann did in fact hate his victims. For example that quote from Eichmann in which he talked about the “satisfaction” it gave him knowing he had helped to murder five million human beings, indicates not a mindless bureaucratic attitude towards his task but as a fanatic who carried out his task with zeal. Eichmann’s “explanation” that he referred to “enemies of the Reich”, is simply an admission that the quote was accurate, in reflecting his fanaticism, for by definition in the Nazi world view Jews by definition were “enemies of the Reich”, including helpless men, women and children. So Eichmann’s clarification is nothing more than a coded evasion that he probably hoped his Judges would not notice.19

Further the evidence indicated that Eichmann performed his task with zeal and energy. The evidence indicates that Eichmann could not rest until his task was performed.20

As for Eichmann’s defence that he was merely obeying orders it can be dismissed as self serving tripe, so is his absurd declaration that this absolves from feeling any guilt. In his interviews before the trial and during the trial itself Eichmann portrayed himself as a mere conveyor of orders and that as such his mere obedience to orders made him guiltless of any crime. In this carefully constructed mythos Eichmann argued that only those who gave the orders to him were guilty of anything and that he was guilty of nothing. Further there was no question of him even for a moment questioning these orders. In fact Eichmann argued that to do such a thing was simply unthinkable. The implication being that to disobey an order was in his eyes so mortally threatening that it constituted something in his eyes morally unthinkable. Eichmann further took upon himself the attitude that he was the victim of his superiors taking advantage of him. Whining self centeredness seems to have characterized Eichmann during the trial.21

In Eichmann’s presentation of himself he also argued that he was so constricted by his orders that he had little room for maneuver and of course refusing to carry out his orders was of course unthinkable and quitting unthinkable. That would be dereliction of duty, abandoning ones post.22

It was more than anything Eichmann’s continual repetition of this that helped to convince Hannah Arendt that Eichmann was a mindless indeed thoughtless bureaucrat who simply didn’t know what he was doing. It is also a self serving lie. It is absolutely clear that Eichmann knew what he was doing and further that he had an enormous amount of discretion which he exercised with great ruthlessness in the service of violent anti-Semitic notions he had since early on.23

All of this was part of Eichmann’s campaign to show that because he was not motivated by hatred, did not intend to “really” harm his victims, that he was innocent. In other words because his inner state of mind was pure his actual deeds were irrelevant. That this is contemptible is of course obvious. Eichmann was arguing that because he didn’t “really” hate his victims and “really” didn’t intend them harm he was innocent. Rather like a murderer saying since I bore no malice against the person I stabbed knowing full well they would die; I am innocent!

Eichmann’s statement above that he never killed anyone is of course an evasion and a deliberate self serving lie. He organized the rounding up of people so they could be murdered and he full well knew it. Just like someone who arranges for someone to be a spot X so they can be killed is a murderer, so is Eichmann. The fact that he didn’t personally kill someone is irrelevant to the issue of his guilt. As for all this showing Eichmann’s lack of imagination. I don’t think so. It shows instead Eichmann’s cunning, his desperate attempt to avoid taking responsibility in a court of law. This is the tactic of a petty murderer trying to avoid taking responsibility for his acts. In Eichmann’s case this also involved arguing that his inner “purity” of motive that was abused by his superiors made him innocent regardless of his deeds. It was and remains pathetic.

As for the superior orders defence considering how he disobeyed Himmler’s orders to stop in the fall of 1944 that can be dismissed as a self serving lie also. The fact that he carried out his task with zeal and a lot of discretion, to say nothing of gratuitous cruelty indicates he wanted and desired to carry out his orders. His claim that it was simply unthinkable not to carry out his orders is again a self serving attempt to hide the fact he approved of what was done and carried it out to the best of his ability. Also his pose as a victim was also just that at pose and a lie and an excuse for him to feel sorry for himself. If he had been truly opposed to these orders, as he claimed he would have found a thousand bureaucratic ways to sabotage them not carry them out with zeal. It was not lack of imagination that stopped him from doing so but simple desire to carry out his orders. The experience of numerous European countries during World War II in which their bureaucratic machines slowed down and sabotaged the Final Solution indicates what he could have done if he had “really” opposed it. Finally he could have quit at anytime. He choose not to do so not because it was unthinkable but because he wanted to continue his task.24

It appears that the pathetic gyrations and rationalizations of Eichmann convinced Hannah Arendt that Eichmann was indeed a thoughtless, unimaginative bureaucrat who bore no ill will against his victims. Thus it seems that Eichmann did indeed “fool” Hannah Arendt into thinking that he was “banal” and “ordinary”. In Eichmann Hannah Arendt saw not an ogre of horror but an unthinking everyman for whom her contempt was unbounded.

But if Eichmann “fooled” Hannah Arendt he outsmarted himself. For she concluded that the death sentence was just.

Why? Let me quote Hannah Arendt who is here delivering what she suggests as a verdict for the court:
“We are concerned here only with what you did, and not with the possible non criminal nature of your inner life and of your motives or with the criminal potentialities of those around you. You told your story in terms of a hard-luck story, and, knowing the circumstances, we are, up to a point, willing to grant you that under more favorable circumstances it is highly unlikely that you would ever have come before us or before any other criminal court. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that it was nothing more than misfortune that made you a willing instrument in the organization of mass murder; there still remains the fact that you have carried out, and therefore actively supported, a policy of mass murder. For politics is not like the nursery; in politics obedience and Support are the same. And just as you supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations - as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world - we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang."25
Hannah Arendt argues that Eichmann’s (alleged) lack of base motives, his lack of hatred for his victims, his very ordinariness make him if anything more guilty and responsible and hence the death penalty even more appropriate.

Further Hannah Arendt argues that death is appropriate not because Eichmann deserves death - after all considering the scope and scale of his crime his personal death is ludicrously insignificant as a punishment – but because his presence among us is so defiling and polluting that he must be removed by death from among us.

If in Eichmann’s case the evil he personified is less banal than Hannah Arendt thought there still remains on earth far too many individuals who are in spirit and deed like Adolf Eichmann.

Hannah Arendt
1. Arendt, Hannah, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, rev’d edition, Penguin Books, London, 1965.

2. Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism, New edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1973.

3. Arendt, 1965, p. 22.

4. IBID, pp. 27-32.

5. IBID, p. 30.

6. IBID, pp. 36-39.

7. See Wikipedia, Adolf Eichmann Here, and Arendt, 1965, pp. 151-219.

8. Arendt, 1965, p. 83.

9. IBID, pp. 112-124.

10. Adolf Eichmann and Arendt, 1965, pp. 194-202.

11. IBID, Arendt, 1965, pp. 145-147.

12, IBID, pp. 46, a slightly different version is available from Adolf Eichmann. It goes:
I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.
13. Arendt, 1965, pp. 234-243, Adolf Eichmann.

14. Arendt, 1965, p. 287.

15. IBID.

16. IBID, p.276.

17. IBID, p. 46.

18. IBID, pp. 194-204.

19. For the Nazi world view regarding Jews see Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Vintage Books, New York, 1997, pp. 80-128, Jackel, Eberhard, Hitler’s World View, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS, 1972, pp. 47-66, Herf, Jeffrey, The Jewish Enemy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS, 2006, pp. 50-91, Dawidowicz, Lucy S., The War Against the Jews, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1975, pp. 3-22, Weiss, John, Ideology of Death, Elephant Paperbacks, Chicago, 1996, pp. 271-287, 325-341.

20. See Adolf Eichmann, Lozowick, Yaacov, Malicious Clerks, in Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem, Ed. Aschheim, Steve E., University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 2001, pp. 214-225, Cohen, Richard I, A Generation’s Response to Eichmann in Jerusalem, in Aschheim, pp. 253-277, at 266.

21. Arendt, 1965, pp. 135-150.

22. IBID.

23. Footnote 20, see also Arendt, 1965, pp. 195-205. Regarding Eichmann’s anti-Semitism he had been a member of an anti-Semitic fraternity in 1930 and further in the mid 1930’s had authored viciously anti-Semitic reports as part of his job full of standard Nazi propaganda. See Lozowick.

24. Footnote 20, Arendt, 1965, pp. 162-180.

25. Arendt, 1965, pp. 278-279.

Pierre Cloutier

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Moral Cretinism
Part IV
Conducted Tours
Map of East Timor

In December 1975, after months of covert military attacks and in fulfillment of plans going back at least a year Indonesia invaded the Portuguese colony of East Timor. The next 24 years were characterized by brutal repression, mass murder, starvation and at times something close to genocide.1 During much of this time period East Timor was ignored by the western media. In western complicity in the invasion was abundant. From both President Ford and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger saying during a visit to Indonesia that they had no problem with an invasion but hoped it would be over with quickly.

Below is an excerpt from a Telegram giving the minutes of a meeting between Suharto (the Indonesian Dictator) and President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger. After Suharto outlines the Indonesian plan to invade and occupy East Timor the following exchange took place.
42. Ford- We will understand and not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.

43. Kissinger- you appreciate that the use of US made arms could create problems?

44. Ford- We could have technical and legal problems, You are familiar with the problem we had on Cyprus although this situation is different.

45. Kissinger- It depends on how we construe it, whether it is in self defence or is, a foreign operation. It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly, We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens happens after we return. This way there would be less chance of people talking in an unauthorized way. The President will be back on Monday at 2:00pm Jakarta time. We understand you problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned.

46. Ford- It would be more authoritative if we can do it in person.

47. Kissinger- Whatever you do, however, we will try to handle in the best way possible.

48. Ford- We recognize that you have the time factor. We have merely expressed our view from our particular point of view.

49. Kissinger- If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the president returns home.

50. Do you anticipate a long Guerilla war there?

51. Suharto- There will probably be a small Guerilla war…2
Later the United States supplied arms, air craft etc., for the invasion and subsequent repression. Further state department officials defended Indonesian actions and denied / down played Indonesian atrocities in East Timor.3

The United States in alliance with other states managed to make any UN attempt to stop or deal with the Indonesian invasion of East Timor ineffectual.4 Countries like Australia also engaged in what amounts to appeasement. Australia recognized legally and formally the Indonesian annexation of East Timor.5

Other western countries and others like Japan and the Soviet Union do not have much better records. During all this something like 150-200 thousand died out of a population of c. 800 thousand.6

During the Indonesian occupation (1974-1999), various journalists, diplomats and others were allowed on guided tours of East Timor. Many of those people were official or semi-official individuals who simply regurgitated Indonesian propaganda. In many respects they served a similar role to the fellow travellers who boosted Stalin’s Russia in the 1930’s, and told outrageous fabrications about what was actually going on.7

On April 25 / 26th 1991 for a book8 on East Timor a colloquy was held at the American University in Washington D.C. During this colloquy several representatives of the US State department and a certain Harold W. Maynard (Lt. Col. US Air Force Retired) were asked for their views on the matter of East Timor.

After other participants in the colloquy have described the various horrors of murder, starvation, torture, repression etc., etc. in East Timor. Mr. Maynard describes his impressions.

Mr. Maynard admits he flew in Indonesian Army helicopters with army interpreters and only visited for a period of seven days, but he decides that his “impressions” and “vignettes” are worth telling.9

First Mr. Maynard talks about Australian journalists getting a story wrong then he says:
I suspect that many times what we hear from East Timor about human rights violations is a case they got the facts wrong. I’m not telling you that human rights violations don’t take place. But they have to be very carefully checked.10
This is of course in many respects fellow traveller talk. It is clear that Mr. Maynard is rather partial to the side of Indonesia and its army. Thus we learn that the Indonesian army is exercising forbearance; that they could crush the opposition but draconian methods would violate their values. Thus a campaign characterized by widespread, torture, repression, massacre and countless atrocities is actually one of civilized forbearance!11 Of course for Mr. Maynard all allegations of atrocities against the Indonesian army must be carefully checked, (rather hard to do given the state of repression in East Timor), since an obviously favoured state / army is being accused.

But of course we then hear the familiar trope of those who pooh-pooh human rights abuses. We hear about economic development. First we hear that human right abuses are exaggerated, then we hear that even if they happen economic development is what counts. Thus Mr. Maynard says:
I don’t think even those who cry correctly about human rights violations in East Timor can deny that the roads have been dramatically improved, there are television stations where there had been none before, along with the stores, and the marketplaces, and the rest of that.12
Isn’t it interesting people “cry” about human rights abuses, i.e., behave irrationally when what really counts are roads and Television stations! Yup once again it is thinking similar to Mussolini made the trains run on time and Stalin built numerous factories.

Like so many of the conducted tours of the past Mr. Maynard’s “impressions” are that people are not afraid. Much like the fellow travellers to Stalin’s Russia during the 30’s he sees no fear instead he sees contentment and of course the East Timorese are not interested in politics but only in bettering their lot economically.13

Commonly in repressive societies, including those favoured by right wingers people being repressed are assumed to be a-political and only interested in economic improvement. An excellent example of this was American right-wing attitudes towards South Africa in the 1980’s.14

It seems never to have occurred to Mr. Maynard that what he saw and heard was managed. But then considering his attitude / bias it is unlikely he needed much management.

Mr. Maynard cannot claim that there are no human rights abuses in East Timor, so he instead goes into a peroration about how the human rights situation can only be improved by dealing with the problem locally. Mr. Maynard rejects the idea that it can be settled “by being internationalized and publicized”.15 Of course what he means is that he wants it settled by the Indonesians and that he desires that those outside Indonesia cease talking about it and doing anything about it. What Mr. Maynard wants is silence so that Indonesia can solve the East Timor problem.

Later like a good fellow traveller he says:
I encourage you to judge them by their own value system, and not by the words and value system we use.16
Indonesia under Suharto’s “values” included mass murder, torture, repression and rule by the corrupt kleptocracy of Suharto’s family and their cronies. Of course their “values” included such things as the great anti-Communist massacre of 1965-1966 and many other cases of murderous repression. Yes they should be judged according to those “values”!17

Then Mr. Maynard quotes from the soldier oaths and other bits about how soldiers in the Indonesian army swear to uphold “humanitarian values”, and “defend truth and justice”; no doubt while murdering, raping, pillaging and torturing. Why Mr. Mr. Maynard takes these bromides seriously is hard to take but then he is a fellow traveller and when the favoured state says something words count more than actual behaviour.18

Mr. Maynard then says that you must accept that East Timor is part of Indonesia. That the issue is non-negotiable and besides politics is irrelevant what counts is improving the economic well being of the people. Of course implied in all this is that what the people of East Timor want politically is irrelevant. Mr. Maynard accepts the political views of the Indonesian’s or to be specific of the government and the army. That the invasion was a naked act of aggression, characterized by a truly hideous level of brutality is ignored as irrelevant and Mr. Maynard wishes it to be forgotten.19

There follows a piece of advice about how to deal with the Indonesian armed forces which consists of telling people to exercise deference to the Indonesian army and be respectful. The following is quite revealing of Mr. Maynard’s attitude:
The guest in someone else’s house does not ransack the drawers, does not go in through the basement, does not publicize the diaries. If you are in Indonesia you are still a guest in Indonesia.20
What Mr. Maynard is saying is that when going to Indonesia to check out the human rights situation or East Timor; one does not investigate; one does not check government claims. One does not publicize the secret crimes of the regime. Guests should be deferential to the state. Of course this is also a dig at those individuals who went to East Timor supposedly as tourists but actually to check out the human rights situation. Mr. Maynard, who a little later mentions Amnesty International, seems to think that Amnesty when investigating human rights abuses in Indonesia / East Timor should not investigate. Thus Mr. Maynard says regarding Amnesty:
I think very few of us would be inclined to invite people into our own home in our own country if, when they come through the door, we know we are under the inquisition. If you start in with that approach I think it’s going to fail in the end.21
Mr. Maynard thus repeats the standard Indonesian Army / government attitude / opinion regarding Amnesty International. Thus Mr. Maynard shows he is a mouthpiece for the Indonesian army / government. The bottom line is that the government / army refused Amnesty’s requests because it did not want Amnesty to document the massive on-going abuses. It was in other words typical shoot the messenger logic. A powerful indication of Mr. Maynard’s biases is his comparing an Amnesty investigation to an “inquisition”. No doubt questioning people about possible repression, torture etc., is an “inquisition” of the alleged torturers etc. It’s also of interest that Mr. Maynard does not refer to the Indonesian Army / government as engaged in a “inquisition”, despite mass, murder, repression, torture, forced labour etc. One must always stand up for one’s ‘holy state’ I suppose.
 East Timorese being tortured
Later Mr. Maynard reiterates his desire, reflecting that of the Indonesian government that:
I think the time has come to put the question of East Timor sovereignty behind us and to put the 1975 events behind us and address what is good for the people, recognizing that many people think that they carry the flag of the people and that probably all of them have some part of the truth.22
Of course what was revealed in 1999 was that the great majority of the people of East Timor wanted nothing to do with being part of Indonesia. Mr. Maynard does not want to remember the sordid facts of the 1975 invasion or obviously of the atrocities that followed. He wants those to be dropped down the memory hole and forgotten. Of course his implicit assumption is that Indonesian rule is ‘good’ for the people of East Timor. Of course the “good” Mr. Maynard is talking about is economic betterment which of course in his implied view of things is all the people of East Timor should be concerned with.23

Mr. Maynard after discussing the alleged mania of Indonesian officials to collect stats, (Maynard doesn’t question whether the stats are valid), says using a metaphor that perhaps people are perceiving different parts of an Elephant and that everyone should check their sources. Mr. Maynard then says regarding his impressions:
But I don’t think that my impressions are any less valid than yours.24
Earlier Mr. Maynard said after other travellers to East Timor had described a situation of extreme repression and violence that:
I have been twice to East Timor and travelled around extensively and what you described I did not see. If you ask government officials, whether they’re American officials from the State Department, the CIA, or AID [ie USAID, US Government Overseas Aid Program], or Department of Defense, or Australian government officials, or French and German, by and large they do not see what you have described. Now, there are several things that might be going on. Number one is that they are imbeciles; number two is that they are insensitive; or number three, maybe it’s an elephant and each of us has a different part of the elephant that we are describing.25
Subsequent events and investigations revealed in abundance that Mr. Maynard’s “impressions” were indeed valueless. Like the fellow travellers to 1930’s Russia with their guided tours Mr. Maynard was not only deceived he wanted to be deceived. The same is true of the various government officials he is referring to. Of course realpolitik also played a role basically those governments supported Indonesia so of course they would not see / notice things that might damage the relationship. Mr. Maynard sets up a straw man. No one believes they are imbeciles but describing them as both insensitive and moral imbeciles seems right. They didn’t see because it was not in the interest of their governments to see. The record is clear East Timor under Indonesian rule was a thoroughly horrible place to live in; of course the degree of horror varied over time.26

In the same passage quoted above Mr. Maynard wonders:
My question for you is, if all the things you describe have been taking place and this is the greatest holocaust in this century by proportion, why is it that so many governments are ignoring it?27
Aside from indicating that Mr. Maynard does not want to believe that the horrors actually happened, is Mr. Maynard really so oblivious to realpolitik? I frankly think it is merely a pose given that Mr. Maynard thinks everyone should just accept the realpolitik of the invasion and occupation of East Timor and move on.

But like any good fellow traveller Mr. Maynard shortly before he is finished, along with dismissing the idea of the East Timorese people deciding their future says:
What I’m saying is my impression, with the exception of sullen people in Iliomar, was that the people were very happy. So my impression is that the people are happy with the Indonesian government as opposed to a viable alternative of which I see none.28
Yep like a fellow traveller in Stalin’s Russia Mr. Maynard sees happy people, but then given his mindset he would perceive happy people and not notice the others, if any on his conducted tour. Of course subsequent events, like the Santa Cruz massacre on November 12, 1991 would indicate that people were not happy with Indonesian rule. Of course so would the referendum of August 30, 1999 during which a little over 78% of the East Timorese voted for independence would indicate just how happy the East Timorese were to be part of Indonesia.29

On that suck up note lets us bid good bye to Mr. Maynard fellow traveller.

Later in the Colloquy a US State department official, (who remains un-named) states official US policy that work should be done to improve things in East Timor but that the Indonesian occupation should be accepted. Of course there is the usual stuff about dealing with “realities” rather than as implied airy idealism. The same official then declares it unlikely that East Timor was brought up during Ford’s visit to Indonesia in 1975. As indicated by the document quoted at the beginning of this post that is false.30

The official then goes on to wonder why the Portuguese government is so concerned now when in 1975-1976 they supported Indonesia getting East Timor. He also brings up the Goa comparison. (Goa was a small Portuguese colony on the coast of India. Invaded and occupied by India in 1961). Aside from ignoring that perhaps the Portuguese now recognized that going along with Indonesia on this was immoral, perhaps the horrible human rights abuses in East Timor have something to do with it. Further it does not appear that the inhabitants of Goa did not want to be part of India. This is of course different from East Timor. Obviously raising the issue of Goa is just an example of changing the subject.31

Another State Department official later acknowledges that perhaps knowing Portuguese would help while checking things out in East Timor. The official then admits that the languages used are Indonesian and English. Of course what is interesting is that no one discusses that the visits are guided tours during which the State Department officials will see what their Indonesian guides want them to see, and frankly what they want to see. In other words what will favour State Department policy which is in favour of Indonesia.32

In the Colloquy are a number of experts from Indonesia who are incredibly and amazingly obtuse to say nothing of to one degree or other suck up servants to power.33 It is amazing that the other participants tolerated the presence of these apologists for terror and fellow travellers.

Subsequently the Santa Cruz massacre exposed as hollow the argument that East Timorese were happy or even accepted Indonesian rule. Meanwhile brutal Indonesian repression and torture continued.

In 1996 Bishop Belo of East Timor and Jose Ramos-Horta are awarded the Noble Peace Prize for their efforts to bring peace to East Timor.

In 1998 because of a severe economic crisis and bent up frustration caused by decades of brutal autocratic rule, and corruption the Suharto regime collapses. The new President B. J. Habibie agrees to allow East Timor to have a referendum under UN Auspices to decide East Timor’s future.34

Elements in the Indonesian Military set up Militias in East Timor, which with the covert and overt support of the Indonesian military and police carry out a campaign of intimidation, torture and murder to intimidate the voters in the months before the referendum. Despite all this, including rumours that the Indonesian army and the Militia’s intend to devastate East Timor if the independence vote wins, the people of East Timor choose independence. Afterwards the Militias and the Indonesian army devastate East Timor creating over 250,000 refugees and destroying the economy and killing well over 1000 people.35

It will take decades for East Timor to recover from the brutal rule of Indonesia that people like Mr. Maynard white washed.36
Political Rally East Timor 1998
1. Taylor, John G., East Timor: The Price of Freedom, Zed Books, New York, 1999, pp. 68-131, Chomsky, Noam, & Herman, Edward S., The Political Economy of Human Rights, v. 1, Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1979, pp. 129-204, Chomsky, Noam, Towards a New Cold War, Pantheon Books, New York, pp. 337-370, Chega! Final Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, 2005, Here.

2. Embassy Jakarta Telegram 1579, From The National Security Archive, East Timor Revisited, Here.

3. See Chomsky, 1979 & 1982, see also East Timor at the Crossroads, Ed. Bentley, G. Carter & Carey, Peter, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1995,. The colloquy entitled Dimensions of Domination, Ed. Bentley, G. Carter, is on pp. 161-194, at pp. 166-171.

4. IBID, Gunn, Geoffrey, C., A Critical View of Western Journalism and Scholarship on East Timor, Journal of Contemporary Asia Publishers, Sydney Australia, 1994, pp. 109-134.

5. IBID Gunn, Fernandes, Clinton, Reluctant Saviour, Scribe Publications, Melbourne Australia, 2004, pp. 13-25, Kingsbury, Damien, East Timor: The Price of Liberty, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2009, pp. 48-50.

6. Estimates vary see Kiernan, Ben, Blood and Soil, Yale University Press, Harvard CONN, 2007, 578-580, and The Demography of Genocide in South East Asia, 2003 at Here. See also Chega! Executive Summary, p. 48 which gives a minimum figure of 102,000 killed at Here.
7. See Caute, David, The Fellow Travellers, Revised Edition, Yale University Press, Harvard CONN, 1988. Especially see pp. 64-139.

8. See Bentley, pp. 161-194.

9. IBID, Maynard’s first impressions are pp. 173-176, the quotes are p. 173.

10. IBID, p. 175.

11. See Footnote 1.

12. Bentley, Maynard’s impressions p. 174.

13. IBID, pp. 174-175.

14. See Minter, William, King Solomon’s Mines Revisited, Basic Books, New York, 1988.

15. Bentley, Maynard’s impressions p. 175.

16. IBID, p. 175.

17. Chomsky, 1979, pp. 205-217, Kiernan, 2007, pp. 576-578, Challis, Shadow of a Revolution, Sutton Publishing, London, 2001, pp. 104-108. 191-196. The anti-Communist massacres of 1965-1966 killed 500,000 – 1,000,000 people.

18. Bentley, Maynard’s impressions quoting the Indonesian soldier’s oath, p. 175.

19. IBID, pp. 175-176.

20. IBID, p. 176.

21. IBID, p. 176.

22. IBID, p. 179.

23. See Gunn, pp. 207-236.

24. Bentley, Maynard’s impressions p. 180.

25. IBID, p. 169.

26. See Footnote 1.

27. Bentley, Maynard’s impressions p. 169.

28. IBID, p. 181.

29, Kingsbury, pp.60-65, 71-76, Taylor, pp. 213-214, 227-228, van Klinken, Helene, Taking the Risk, Paying the Price, in Guns and Ballot Boxes, Ed. Kingsbury, Damien, Monash Asia Institute, Victoria Australia, 2000, pp. 43-68.

30. Bentley, USSD1’s impressions p. 187.

31. IBID, p. 188.

32. IBID, USSD2’s impressions pp. 189-190.

33. Footnote 8. Just read the entire colloquy it has some truly stomach turning passages.

34. Taylor, pp. 213-223.

35. Kingsbury, 2009, pp. 65-76, Taylor, pp. 223-230, Nevins, Joseph, A Not So Distant Horror, Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY, 2005, pp. 81-135, van Klinken, Kingsbury, Damien, The TNI and the Militias, in Kingsbury, 2000, pp. 69-80, Bartu, Peter, The Militia, The Military and the People of the Bobonaro District, in Kingsbury, 2000, pp. 81-98., McDonald, Hamish, Masters of Terror: The Indonesian Findings, in Masters of Terror, Ed. McDonald Hamish & Tanter, Robert, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc, New York, 2006, pp. 13-20, KPP HAM, Full Report of the Investigative Commission into Human Rights Violations in East Timor, in Hamish et al, pp. 21-66, Ball, Desmond, Silent Witness: Australian Intelligence and East Timor, in Hamish et al, pp. 177-202.

36. Just how difficult it as been so far see Kingsbury, 2009.

Pierre Cloutier

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Origins of the first Servile War
Diodorus’ Version

Map of Sicily

In the years after Rome’s defeat of Carthage, (201 B.C.E.), Rome became the economic center of the Mediterranean the result was a spectacular growth in the Roman economy which was keeping pace with the spectacular growth of Roman political / military power. The island of Sicily, Rome’s first province out side of Italy, experienced significant economic growth; however the engine of this growth was a huge increase in the numbers of slaves, most of whom were imported into the country en mass to satisfy the insatiable demands of the Romans for agricultural produce and livestock products. The result was the mass importation of human beings to be agricultural workers and shepherds.1
In like manner those that had large possessions in Sicily bought up whole gaols to till their lands – some they shackled, others they overcharged with hard labour, and branded and stigmatized everyone of them: so that such a multitude of slaves, even a deluge, overflowed all Sicily, that the excessive number may seem incredible to all that hear of it; for all the rich men of Sicily vied with the Italians for pride, covetousness, and vicious practices; for many of the Italians who had great numbers of servants, accustomed their shepherds to that degree of rapine and licentiousness, as that they suffered them to rob and steal for want of necessary subsistence from them themselves.2
So says Diodorus the first century B.C.E. Greek historian.

Diodorus further says:

The slaves, distressed by their hardships and frequently outraged and beaten beyond all reason, could not endure their treatment. Getting together as opportunity offered, they discussed the possibility of revolt, until at last they put their plans into action.3
Later Diodorus says:

Because of the superabundant prosperity of those who exploited the products of this mighty island, nearly all who had risen in wealth affected first a luxurious mode of living, than arrogance and insolence. As a result of all this, since both the maltreatment of the slaves and their estrangement from their masters increased at an equal rate, there at last, when occasion offered, a violent outburst of hatred. So without a word of summons tens of thousands of slaves joined forces to destroy their masters.4
Slave owners, not only treated their slaves brutally but they did not feed them, further they encouraged the slaves to rob and plunder to satisfy their needs. They also imported large numbers of slaves to work in the mines of Sicily. This was especially true of the slaves in the country side who were employed as shepherds and herdsman. The result was a massive increase in lawlessness and eventually many slaves became brigands involved in attacking travellers, engaging in murder and pillaging homes. Large areas of the Sicilian countryside became unsafe. Further attempts to control the widespread brigandage were thwarted by the slave owners who benefited by the brigandage in so far as it reduced the cost of the upkeep of their slaves.5

Slaves working in a mine

Finally Diodorus says concerning the Italians who after the second Punic war (218-201 B.C.E.), invested and bought land in Sicily:

The Italians who were engaged in agriculture purchased great numbers of slaves, all of whom they marked with brands, but failed to provide them sufficient food, and by oppressive toil wore them out … (Note there is a gap here in Diodorus account)6

If the above was the background to the slave revolt in Sicily, (c. 136-131 B.C.E.), the spark that stated the revolt was the behaviour of a man named Damophilus and his wife Megallis. Diodorus writes:

There was a certain Damophilus of Enna, a man of great wealth but insolent manner; he had abused his slaves to excess, and his wife Megallis vied with her husband in punishing the slaves and in her general inhumanity toward them. The slaves reduced by this degrading treatment to the level of brutes, conspired to revolt and to murder their masters.7

The slaves sought the advice of a fellow slave named Eunus, who had the reputation of being a wonder worker and psychic. He became the leader of the revolt and he told them to go ahead with their plans.8

Damophilus is described by Diodorus as insolent, and cruel towards his slaves along with being luxury loving and arrogant. Diodorus says that Damophilus:

...emulated not only the luxury affected by the Italian landowners in Sicily, but also their troops of slaves and their inhumanity and severity towards them.9

Diodorus was in many respects, as indicated by his history as having an anti-Roman / anti-Italian bias.10

Diodorus then describes Damophilus as extravagant and luxury loving and a total boor, along with being very wealthy. Damophilus also branded and tortured his slaves on a regular basis; chaining his slaves and devising along with his wife Megallis ways to torment their slaves.11

For example:

On one occasion when approached by a group of naked domestics with a request for clothing, Damophilus of Enna impatiently refused to listen. “What” he said, “do those who travel through the country go naked? Do they not offer a ready source of supply for any one who needs garments?” Having said this, he ordered them bound to pillars, piled blows on them, and arrogantly dismissed them.12

Well the revolting slaves seized control of the city of Enna and captured Damophilus and his wife Megallis just outside the city. The slaves chained and bound them and abused them. Later Damophilus was dragged out in front of an assembly of slaves were upon he was killed in the following manner:

Hermeias and Zeuxis, men bitterly disposed toward him, denounced him as a cheat, and without waiting for a formal trial by the assembly, the one ran him through the chest with a sword, the other chopped off his head with an axe.13

Regarding Damophilus’ wife Megallis her fate was as follows:

He (Eunus) gave Megallis to the maidservants to deal with as they might wish; they subjected her to torture and threw her over a precipice.14

The slaves did not similarly deal with the rest of Damophilus’ and Megallis’ family. Damophilus and Megallis had a daughter who the revolting slaves treated well because she was:

…seen to show consideration throughout, and this was because of her kindly nature, in that to the extent of her power she was always compassionate and ready to succour the slaves.15

In another place Diodorus describes this women, whose name is unknown has:

…remarkable for her simplicity of manner and kindness of heart. It was always her practice to do all she could to comfort the slaves who were beaten by her parents, and since she also took the part of any who had been put in bonds, she was wondrously loved by one and all for her kindness.16

The result of her kindness was that she was treated with consideration by the revolting slaves and escorted to safety to the home of relatives who lived in the Sicilian city of Catana.17

The lesson is clear Damophilus and Megallis reaped their deserved reward for their brutal treatment of their slaves, but their daughter who treated them with kindness reaped the deserved reward for her kindness and humanity.

For has Diodorus says regarding Damophilus, Megallis and their daughter and the larger message:

Thereby it was demonstrated that the others (other slave owners) were treated as they were, not because of some “natural savagery of slaves,” but rather in revenge for wrongs previously done.18

Although the rebellious slaves were enraged against the whole household of their masters and resorted to unrelenting abuse and vengeance, there were yet some indications that it was not from innate savagery but rather because of the arrogant treatment they had themselves received that they now ran amuck when they turned to avenge themselves on their persecutors.

Even among slaves human nature needs no instructor in regard to a just repayment, whether of gratitude or revenge.19

Diodorus’ account is in many ways unusual. His sympathy for the slaves was for his time not very common. He apparently believed that arrogance, brutality and pride reaped or should reap the reward of punishment. It is also clear that Diodorus felt very strongly that slaves deserved and were entitled to decent and fair treatment. Further masters who abused their slaves richly deserved the “reward” of drastic punishment. It is quite obvious that Diodorus had little sympathy for abusive slave owners who were killed by their slaves.

Further Diodorus clearly views slaves as moral agents, who could recognize right and wrong and that they had the right, so to speak, to take revenge and also to take note of acts of kindness and consideration.

Such an attitude was unusual at the time when slaves were habitually viewed as less than human and usually not recognized as agents. The general attitude of antiquity seems to have been one of fear and contempt. Slaves were the “other” not quite human and certainly not aware moral agents. Acts of vengeance or rebellion were frequently attributed to the alleged innate qualities of being a slave. Diodorus instead viewed it as rebellion against the basic human decency of the slaves being outraged by arrogant and brutal slave owners.20

From this Diodorus doesn’t just draw a moral concerning the treatment of slaves but a judgement concerning the obligations and behaviour of elites.

Not only in exercise of political power should men of prominence be considerate of those of low estate, but also in private life they should - if they are sensible – treat their slaves gently. For heavy-handed arrogance leads states into civil strife and factionalism among citizens, and in individual households it paves the way for plots of slaves against masters and for terrible uprisings in concert against the whole state. The more power is perverted to cruelty and lawlessness, the more the character of those subject to that power is brutalized to the point of desperation. Anyone whom fortune has set in low estate willingly yields place to his superiors in point of gentility and esteem, but if he is deprived of due consideration, he comes to regard those who harshly lord over him with bitter enmity.21

Thus Diodorus comes to a conclusion that elites should treat their less fortunate neighbours with consideration and at least minimal respect not simply because it is the due and right of those less fortunate but also out of sheer self interest.

In antiquity the attitude of elites, i.e., the rich, to the poor, (which was the great majority of the population), and especially slaves was one of snobbish contempt mixed with not a little fear. Ascribing basic human decency or feeling or moral values to such people was unusual. These attitudes were reflected in the literature produced during those times given how the great majority was produced by and for the elites of the time and so reflected the conceits and snobbery of those elites. Diodorus in his attitude towards the so-called lower orders, especially slaves indicates a belief in their basic human dignity and in their moral value.22

Medieval Portrait of Diodorus

1. Urbainczyk, Theresa, Slave Revolts in Antiquity, University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 2008, pp. 10-11, Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World, Bradley, Keith R., Indiana University Press, Indianapolis IN, 1989, pp. 50-55.

2. Diodorus, The Historical Library of Diodorus the Sicilian, v. 2, J. Davis Military Chronicle Office, London, 1814, p. 621-622.

3. Diodorus, Book 34/35, s. 4, quoted in Yavetz, Zvi, Slaves and Slavery in Ancient Rome, Transaction Books, Oxford, p. 15. (Book is a collection of source material on the Servile wars in ancient Rome).

4. IBID, s. 26, p. 19.

5. IBID, s. 27-31, pp. 20-21.

6. IBID, s. 32, p. 21.

7. IBID, s. 10, p. 16.

8. IBID, s. 5-11, p. 16.

9. IBID, s. 34.

10. Urbainczyk, pp. 81-90, Sacks, Kenneth S., Diodorus Siculus and the First Century, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1990, pp. 142-154, 157-159.

11. Yavetz, Diodorus, Book 34/35, s. 34-38, pp. 21-22.

12. IBID, s. 38, p.22.

13. IBID, s. 14, p. 17.

14. IBID, s. 15, p. 17

15. IBID, s. 13, p. 17.

16. IBID, s. 39, p. 22.

17. IBID, s 13, 39, pp. 17, 22.

18. IBID, s. 13, p. 17.

19. IBID, s. 40, p. 22.

20. Footnote, 10.

21. Yavetz, Diodorus, Book 24/35, s. 33, p. 21.

22. Footnote 10.

Pierre Cloutier