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Excerpt from Endgame

Will Slaves Fight Back? (p. 435)

From chapter "Should We Fight Back?"

There is a world of difference between free men and women—free creatures of any sort—deciding whether to fight to defend their freedom, whether to fight to not be forced into slavery; and slaves deciding whether to fight to gain a freedom they’ve never known at all. The latter are less likely to fight, because their default, their experience, the state by which all others will be judged, is that of submission. They breathe it in from childhood, and drink it in their mother’s milk, consume it at the table, and learn it from their fathers. Gaining freedom in this case requires a long and arduous series of conscious and willful acts, many of which will be opposed not only by their owners but perhaps more effectively by all of their training as slaves, by the myriad ways they’ve internalized the needs and desires (and psychoses) of their owners, and more effectively still by all of the ways they’ve come to accept the status quo, the default, the existence of the system of slavery as anything other than what it is: a system of slavery.

Far less likely to fight back even than slaves are those so deeply and thoroughly enslaved that they no longer perceive their own slavery. This is what we today would call normal. As Frank Garvey wrote, “In this country people are rarely imprisoned for their ideas because they’re already imprisoned by their ideas. The wage-slaves of today aren’t ripe for revolt because they don’t know that they’re slaves and no more free than the slaves of yore, despite the fact that they think so. . . . You can’t get rid of slave culture until the slaves know that they are slaves, and are proud of the historical responsibility it gives them to be the agent of social change.”

It’s not too much to say that most of us have essentially no understanding of what it would be like to live free. A few years ago I interviewed Vine Deloria, American Indian author of such books as God Is Red, Custer Died For Your Sins, and Red Earth, White Lies. He commented that we all—and most especially American Indians—are now living at a very hazardous time, because most of the current Indian elders “probably reached adulthood in the 1930s. This means their grandfathers were the guys who fought Custer and Miles, and who in the ’30s were sitting on their reservations getting ready to die. Those people had been brought up in freedom. They had not had reservation experiences in their early years. We’re now losing the last people who ever spoke to the last people who were free.”

Black Hawk’s fears have come true: “They poisoned us by their touch. We were not safe. We lived in danger. We were becoming like them, hypocrites and liars, adulterers, lazy drones, all talkers, and no workers.”

If many Indians have become civilized, how much tighter, then, are civilization’s chains on those of us who are further removed from freedom? I know parts of my genealogy back several hundred years, and though I count a U.S. Secretary of State (William Seward) and Danish royalty among my relatives, there is not a free man or woman as far back as I can see. Far from freedom flowing through my veins and permeating every cell and informing every step and breath I take, if I wish to be free I must endeavor to squeeze out every drop of slave’s blood as I find it, straining and pushing hard against everything the culture taught me: how to submit, how to not make waves, how to fear authority, how to fear perceiving my submission as submission, how to fear my feelings, how to fear perceiving the killing of those I love as the killing of those I love (or perhaps I should say the killing of those I would love had I not been taught to fear love, too), how to fear stopping by any means necessary those who are killing those I love, how to fear and loathe freedom, how to cherish and rely on insane moral structures stamped into me since birth. It’s a lot of work to try to cleanse oneself of several thousand years of inculcation, even when this inculcation is into a society so obviously self- and other-destructive as this one, which is one reason so many people fail to make this effort.