When you cannot see that you own a slave

I couldn’t sleep at all last night.

All I keep thinking about is Lola.  A slave in 20th century America.  One of millions of slaves worldwide.  She merely stands out starkly in our landscape. She’s normal in the Philippines.

My brain just kept warming over the utter loneliness and unfairness of her life.

It kept feeling a sort of nausea at how cruelty can be normalized.

About how something so humanly wrong as slavery can be so deeply denied by the slave owner on an existential level that she is offended when the word slave is thrown at her.

An educated woman.  A doctor.  Owned a slave in 20th century America. But she couldn’t think of it like that.  That’s wasn’t what Lola was in her mind.  Lola was just there.  Always had been there.  No reason to question it even when she learned more about what it meant.  It’s easy to learn things but to assume those things are other.  They are ideas that belong to other issues, they don’t belong to the minutia of your life.

I imagine she couldn’t face it because if Lola was a slave then what was she?

There are 2 options when faced with the rightful shame of your life. And the easier one is to double down into deeper denial and acceptance of the situation as normal.  To loudly fight anyone who points at your disgrace.

The harder one is to deeply expose it to yourself and the world.  To face the condemnation, to face the consequences and to act to correct it in whatever manner is possible.  The harder one does not lead to blue skies.  It’s murky and painful and probably never complete.  Shames this big are not fixable, merely malleable.  But the efforts do preserve you in the long wakeful nights.

The easier one is the path to deeper and deeper levels of personal hell in the long term.  But the short term is just a continuation of habit.  A denial of the reality that surrounds you.  The small moments of not looking too hard at it. The nights are probably hard.  And they probably get harder as time goes on.  Nights are the feeding grounds for shame and self disgust.

There are a lot of people in world managing their life on what seems like the easier path.  But in the long term the pendulum swings.  And then long terrible nights probably start to stretch into the days.

That seems like a small almost just end to a slave owner.  It annoys me that a religion would offer any palliative from that on a deathbed in the form of forgiveness.  Let the crawling guilt strangle us when we die if we have done something to deserve it.  It did little enough to us in life.

But my need for cosmic karma is just another human frailty.  A need for reciprocity.  A need for punishment and justice, when those things cannot fix the crime.  They are merely ephemera against the unbearable past and uninterested universe.

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3 thoughts on “When you cannot see that you own a slave

  1. Great points, never understood but the religious fundamentalists I knew in college. They’d say, “Why are you a moral person if you’re an atheist? If I didn’t believe in hell, I’d do whatever I wanted — lie, cheat, steal, etc.”

    They never understood that hell was my own head when I tried to sleep at night.

    Liked by 2 people

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