Monday, May 12, 2008

Saturnalia and the City

Frederick Douglass had many intelligent things to say about slavery and liberty. One theme that he repeatedly stressed was that temperance was necessary for true liberty.

"That nation no matter how much it boasts of its freedom, no matter how free it may be from monarchical, aristocratical, or autocratical government, while its people drink deep of the inebriating bowl, they are slaves..."

He further comments that drunkenness was a primary weapon that slaveholders used to keep their slaves under control. In particular, the masters made sure that the slaves were drunk on holidays, when they had free time and were not working.

"At the time when they would be apt to think—at a time when they would be apt to devise means for their freedom—their masters give them of the stupefying draught which paralyzes their intellect, and in this way prevents their seeking emancipation."

This tool of social control had an even more insidious purpose. It trained the slaves to associate liberty with debauchery. It taught them that, when they were not working for a master, they would inevitably destroy themselves. In this way, the slaves would become disgusted with freedom. They would think that they only way for them to live a clean and sober life was to submit to the will of the masters, to spend their lives working under the control of somebody else.

Why am I thinking of this now?

I read this morning on the BBC news feed that a feature film version of 'Sex and the City' is premiering in London. As evidenced by the comments section of the linked article, there is a vigorous disagreement about the lifestyle depicted on the show. Some people celebrate the freedom of the women, some people complain about their debauchery, and others note that the women are not nearly as free as they think they are.

The connection is obvious. Anyone with an interest in keeping women down would teach them to use their new social liberty to pursue a shallow, self-destructive lifestyle of drinking and debauchery.

1 comment:

Maria said...

I think that this is very insightful. I would love to know more about what you think on this matter.