Tuesday, January 17, 2006


As we are striving to lift the Mississippi Delta from poverty, we shouldn’t forget to give people of that region a new legal right. This is a right that will help them gain a comparative advantage in a competitive market economy world where the motto is: “Do what you can do best.” The Mississippi Delta has been best at generating that incredible patrimony from slavery and misery. The ‘Blues’ content represents a billion dollars industry worldwide through out the years. That blues content is being conveyed through out all existing medium from books to music CDs, television, DVD, radio, internet, films, festivals etc…

With the market economy in place, the descendents of the people whose life produced that content don’t see any benefit from the realizations of their ancestors; in fact, they only inherit the burdens and the injustices- not the fruits of their experience.

The Mississippi Delta remains poor. It shouldn’t depend on the good will of businesses. It’s not a favor to give Black people of the Mississippi Delta a share in the flourishing industry generated by the’ blues’; it’s a right.

It is a new right beyond civil rights, a moral right as well as an economic right that makes it impossible to separate the community with its content--like a child from her mother. With the economic exploitation of that content, the ‘blues’ should benefit the community.

This content right or patrimony right should be universal about all human beings.
For example a musician who goes to South America and records Indian tribal music, and the music later get played by commercial broadcasters and sold by stores. That Indian community deserves to get some share in the financial exchanges being made. Another example the starving child in Africa who makes the cover of all the magazines and television news deserves a share in all the revenues generated in sales and advertising by that picture.

Even further, a community living on a land from which resources are being taken to be used and consumed deserves a share in the financial exchanges taking place.

This patrimony right is inalienable to an individual and a community. Nobody including a State can take it away from an individual or a community.

The marginalization of black people in a place like the Mississippi Delta that generated the ‘Blues’ music in the middle of the slavery system raises some questions about how the fairness of the retribution of that historical content benefits in the capitalistic economy. Because of the historical empiricism or the pragmatism reasoning in connection with the capitalistic nature of slavery, it has been difficult to rethink in legal terms new rights that could compensate poor black people in that specific context for the product of their life.

We will see how the birth of the figure of the lazy ‘bluesman’ represents the social change response to the oppression. In addition we will analyze why his posture carries the solution to any alienating job for any human being in a market economy.

The first Negroes landed on the shores of this nation in 1619, one year ahead of the Pilgrim Fathers. They were brought here from Africa; and unlike the Pilgrim, they were brought against their will as slaves. Throughout the era of slavery the Negro was treated in inhuman fashion. He was considered a thing to be used, not a person to be respected. He was merely a depersonalized cog in a vast plantation machine. The famous Dred Scott decision of 1857 well illustrates his status during slavery. In this decision the Supreme Court of the United States said, in substance, that the Negro is not a citizen of the United States; he is merely a property subject to the dictates of his owner. M.L. King A
Testament of Hope 5-6.

The very idea of slavery where some people - even though black people weren’t considered human beings by white – could work for others for free had a pragmatic reasoning of doing what works for me and produces measurable results for me. Empiricism reasoning, which comes before pragmatism, is about “repeating facts already past therefore makes no place for liberty.” We would hope that pragmatics which is for James empiricism pushed to its legitimate conclusions would be emancipator for black people under slavery and post-slavery work conditions.

If we take pragmatism in the way John Dewey defines it as “the rules of art and technique which are based on experience and are applicable to experience,” we can say that because the black experience is different from white experience, the white southerner who makes a decisions according to what works – for him - and what works is to have a slave or a low paid worker. It is clear that his reasoning doesn’t works for blacks. The black condition is what works for him, because the black is literally working for him.

Why would he be willing to change that situation? That’s why pragmatism reasoning which produces measurable results could be a burden for the black condition. The other perspective the black will also make sure he does what works for him. What works for him in this context is to free himself from that condition. His measurable result will be the amelioration of his life which means freedom.
After his emancipation in 1863, the Negro still confronted oppression and inequality. It is true that for a time, while the army of occupation remained in the South and Reconstruction ruled, he had a brief period of eminence and political power. But he was quickly overwhelmed by the white majority. Then in 1896 through the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision, a new kind of slavery came into being. In this decision the Supreme Court of the nation established the doctrine of “separate but equal” as the law of the land. Very soon it was discovered that the concrete result of this doctrine was strict enforcement of the “separate,” without the slightest intention to abide by the “equal.” So the Plessy doctrine ended up plunging the Negro into the abyss of exploitation where he experienced the bleakness of nagging injustice. M.L. King A Testament of Hope 6.

“Frustrated, humiliated, and unenthusiastic about farm work, young Johnson finally ran away from home and stayed gone for approximately six months.” He knows that he lives only to increase the capital of his bourgeois master turned boss as Marx would put it. The only way to turn that around is revolution.

“He surfaced again one evening when House and Brown were playing, a guitar swung over his back.” The ‘blues’ was not just the escape but the response. The blues singer incarnated that revolution in some ways as he felt the alienation in his black body. “The bluesman, a rounder, drifter, drinker, and womanizer who disdained work and any restrains on his morality or behavior, was the antithesis of what Delta whites wanted their black worker to be. It was not just the music but also the lifestyle of the blues musician that presented a problem for the white power structure.”

The ‘bluesman’ recalls that primitive state where “he could be free doing the only work necessary to his survival.” “Refusal to work for the white man could be evidence of laziness, or it could suggest rebellion.” Work itself has created the apparition of class enemies. To those who would be telling him “don’t get on the way,” the ‘bluesman’ would answer with John Lewis that “he is looking for a way to get in the way” of the alienating work system of slavery. Change, as I learned back when I was growing up, was not something my parents were ever very comfortable with. And who could blame them? They, like hundreds of thousands – no millions – of black men and women of their generation, worked harder than seemed humanly possible, under circumstances more difficult than most Americans today could possibly imagine, carving out a life for themselves and their children in a society that saw them as less than fully human… There was a little room of change in the world my parents knew, and what change was usually for the worse. It’s not hard to understand at all the mixture of fear and concern they both felt as they watched me walk out into the world as a young man and join a movement aimed, in essence, at turning the world they knew upside down.” John Lewis. Walking with the Wind. 9.

The pragmatic selfish white view and the pragmatic selfish black view polarize the behavior in conflicting interests. Each party has this idea of being on the side of truth, as each one can envision tangible benefits they enjoy and can verify. Here time is frozen; the past and the future have been, are and will be the same. Truth is immutable, as faith is. This is what makes pragmatism dangerous as it assimilates with religion even though it is very rooted in materialism as it seeks verifiability to keep proving itself. Pragmatism is a God we can see.
Pierce’s theory opposes the idea of “achievement of a particular end, and still more to a personal aim.” It’s selfish and short sighted; he is against the idea that “reason or thought should be reduced to being a servant of any interest which is pecuniary narrow.”

How do we expand pragmatism here beyond white interest? Pierce says that “the object of philosophy would be rather to give a fixed meaning to the universe by formulas which correspond to our attitudes or our most general habits of response to the environment; and this generality depends on the extension of the applicability of these formulas to specific future events.” Pierce by saying this is expanding the white southerner pragmatism in terms of what works for him should also work for blacks. So that whatever formula he will come up with will be true for both of them as part of the universe dynamic with the others and agents. But that approach should take into account that the black is under the white power; therefore, the white will make sure that power structure doesn’t change so that he has a bargaining power to make sure he will minimize what works for blacks.

There is an obvious conflict of interest in the pragmatic reasoning that is also practical in some ways as it is related to black labor force. We shouldn’t forget like Piece says that “beliefs are really rules for action, and the whole function of thinking is but one step in the production of habits of action.” This is why as he continues, we have to make sure of “the greatest possible application of the rule, or the habit of conduct – its extension to universality.” Finding the appropriate humanist response to segregation was the most important “I grew up seeing injustice and it is so deep a part of my life. This town is unfair, has been unfair… But I had an anger that was ineffective. So that had to be channeled into a new way.” Mack McCarter .
This is where the ‘Bluesman’ approach is remarkable and it the perfect pragmatic response in the sense of what works for him in that context.

The Bluesman has developed his own pragmatic reasoning that worked for him and has produced measurable results from him by giving himself free time; the time of laziness is his measurable result.

Let’s talk about The History of Black laziness in western economy. Jan Nederveen Pieterse’s study of the history of the African stereotypical “image gained currency in the colonial situation was that of the lazy native.” Early in the nineteenth century the profile of the simple good savage out of the repertory of the Romantics still ran as follows:
“Gifted with a carelessness which is totally unique, with an extreme agility, indolence, sloth and great sobriety, the negro exists on his native soil, in the sweetest apathy, unconscious of want or pain or privation, tormented neither with the cares of ambition, nor with the devouring ardor of desire. To him the necessary and indispensable articles of life are reduced to a very small number; and those endless wants, which torment Europeans, are not known amongst the Negroes or Africa.” (Golbéry, 1803).
The poet J. Montgomery mused in 1807:
“Is the Negro blest? His generous soilwith harvest plenty crowns his simple toilmore than his wants his flocks and fields afford...”
The very qualities which at the start of the century evoked images of paradise were revaluated by the latter part of the century, in conjunction with industrialization, neo-Puritanism and the Protestant ethic in Europe, and colonialism in Africa, to give rise to the image of the lazy native, indolent and without ambition in the midst of tropical plenty. Emptiness had become a curse. That these images were both devoid of reality is not the issue here: they served as echoes of alternate desires and strivings of occidental culture. They helped shape Europe's regime of truth. The stereotype of the lazy native was inherent in colonialism and not specific to Africa. American images were the lazy ‘Injun’ and the slumbering Mexican. Surinamese Bush Negroes were described thus in 1883:”In general they are inert and lazy and onk when they are compelled by necessity...” (Oostindie en Maduro, 23). Cf. Alatas, The myth of the lazy native, 1977).

The stereotype of the lazy native correlated with the expansion of capitalism served as an alibi for forced labor and exploitation, and thus formed a lucrative component of the civilizing mission. Marx referred to the creation of “universal industriousness” as one aspect of “the great civilizing influence of capital” (Marx, Grundrisse, 1973, pp. 325-6, 409-10). The formulation is also a reaction, not without irony, to the complaint of a
Jamaican planter, in the vein of Carlyle's Nigger Question.).
The image of the lazy native performed yet another function to justify colonialism. Back in the eighteenth century the philosophy had been formulated that the possession of foreign land by Europeans was rightful if it was unoccupied, so-called empty land or terra nullius, which was defined as uncultivated. (Emer de Vattel (1714-1767), 1758. Cf. Curtin, 1971, pp. 42-5). The claim of native laziness therefore was simultaneously a claim to the rightfulness of colonialism. In another fashion the endlessly reproduced images of natives as hunters, in decorative poses with rustic arms, spear and bow and arrow, carry as a subtext that the “peoples were only hunters” and not cultivators, again
an implicit endorsement of European colonialism bringing native lands to fruition.
The Leitmotiv of colonial propaganda was economic gain. The favorite image of the colony in the home country was that of a place that was being made productive through European discipline and ingenuity, where under European management natural resources were being exploited, where order reigned so that labor could be productive. “Useful products” and (cheap) labor therefore play an important part in colonial iconography. The cheerful image of productive colonies was disseminated by means of postcards, advertising and packaging of colonial products. As an Englishman remembered his youth in the thirties:” Empire was all around us, celebrated on our biscuit tins, chronicled on our cigarette cards, part of the fabric or our lives. We were all imperialists then” (John Julius Norwich in MacKenzie, Introduction, 1986, p. 8).

We see laziness has been used to justify slavery. As slavery became unacceptable, laziness got also used to justify exploitation of black workers. The definition of laziness is according to the work that benefits the whites, the bourgeoisie for Marx. The works that serves other human beings not ourselves -not nature, not our spiritual and physical beings is alienating. Marx even wonders why we can’t be doing be doing all these activities we are interested in, improving ourselves in a field that interest us, why the system of production doesn’t allow us to be a fisherman today, a farmer tomorrow, a critic in the morning and a hunter in the afternoon? Therefore we will no longer have painters but people who paint in the middle of other things.

Another way to defy pragmatism reasoning was also consciously or unconsciously not measurable results not verifiable through the ‘Blues’ informal economy and its myths that produced long terms and long lasting results.

Marx says that market economy pushes the consumer to individualism. Therefore “The mobile of the person that practices exchanges is not humanity but egoism. In place of all the physical and intellectual senses… has appeared a new sense, the sense of having.” Marx vision is not very far from the ‘Bluesman’ posture when he imagines a society without private property where senses will be free and therefore humans. Need would
have lost its selfish nature and nature its pure and simple usefulness.

Black people’s experience of work has been nothing else than alienation of their being.
“One bluesman asked, a black man if he didn’t work out in the fields, he was called lazy, no good. But who was he working for? You figure out who the lazy one was!”

Pierre Sansot asserts “the right for every one of us to live moments that aren’t controlled by any given finality.”

The notion of work has lost its energy we find in physics. It has been replaced by the ’job’. The job is this almost a static posture that lacks energy but which only dynamic is the pay. When the blues musician sings, he works even if he doesn’t have a job. A woman who takes care of her children at home works even if she doesn’t have a job. The job is in some sense an alienation of the human being itself in regards of money. The ultimate goal of a ’jobber’ is a lazy source of income that will free him from that work they are only doing, because they are seeking a sort of freedom. There are many lazy sources of income out there: investment, inheritance, rights from creative work etc.
Because freedom is at stake, each individual goal here is get to a point where he doesn’t have to work to live. This is where the black aspiration to freedom in a post-slavery capitalistic society meets all the ‘jobbers’ aspirations of a lazy source of income.
That lazy source of income for the blues musician is doing the work he wants to do without it being working in a constrained system of production with exclusive activities for each person and without it being for other human being measurable selfish benefits.

Denis Grozdanovitch says that “The real lazy people are in fact very active, it’s just impossible for them to do what they have being told to do”

Laziness could be joyful, contemplative or contesting. It shakes the logic of the economy and the leisure free time. Through its inactivity and void, it favors self-reconquest. It’s at the same time an act of resistance and the path to wisdom.

The laziness posture has also been a way to reaffirm one fundamental right, the right of owning oneself, which a country with a slavery historical background really needs because how the system went from slavery to capitalism is not very different for blacks.
Our Patrimony Right Act is a necessary adjustment, because the post-slavery model in place has made insignificant adjustments that perpetuate the pattern set from the beginning.

It seems as if the failure of the communist model has even contributed to even reinforce more of pragmatic reasoning of “what works” and spread it globally without asking the question of “what works for whom?”

Pragmatism has been reinforcing the marginalization of blacks in America as it perpetuates the old stereotypes. While back then “refusal to work for the white man could be evidence of laziness.”

Today the rhetoric of jobs and education is present in every attempt to lift a black community such as the Mississippi Delta one from poverty, but it doesn’t take into account the historical relation black people have with work. Thus, either we rethink the nature of property itself and devise forms that combine private ownership with a high level of social participation and control, or we decide to live in the world of Richards Weaver’s “moral idiots” – a world comfortable for some or even many and brutal beyond description for the rest. This is the reason why we think it is about time to reintegrate black people’s history of slavery in the capitalistic economy of property that used that same historical content products being ‘Blues’ or something else.
“We have been enmeshed in endless arguments between the two options of the “command economy” of state-directed socialist systems, and the “market economy” of world capitalism. The failures of both systems, cry out for something new. What could it be? Perhaps the new concept we are searching for is best described as a “community economy.”…I want to ask what shifts in our economy ethics, assumptions, and ways of thinking are now required. Jim Wallis. The Soul of Politics.

The Patrimony Rights Act will also redefine the way we do politics; the democratic
power game and the political system of representation at a local, national and international level.

The individual and the community could mandate an organization to represent them in dealing with a third party. But that representation right is backed by a deseizure right. It’s a natural right in the sense of Hobbes where the individual gives up his rights to a State for example, but at the same time he could at any given moment withdraw from that contract without having to explain the reason. But the natural reason will be when the individual or the community will have a sense that its interests are not being served, and here the interest is first survival. Any life threatening or life confinement like prison could bring an individual or a community to withdraw from that contract of representation. This will generate competition among the potential representatives of individuals and communities; therefore, an ideal of the democratic society will be at work.

Hobbes deseizure right is key in changing the actual model of representation that carries an important contradiction. Let’s take the case of a black prisoner. The state has taken his freedom from him, he looses his right to vote therefore he can’t have any representation, he is denied the right to be an individual or to be part of any community while he is still an active human being in a society. This seems unfair according to Thomas Hobbes who states that if a sovereign - The State – is unable to provide security to a person, that person has the right to disease the sovereign from the right he has given to him to represent him and go seek his security somewhere else. If we apply that idea to a black prisoner in a post-slavery America, we can say that first it is his natural right to do everything it’s his right to do everything he can to recover his freedom. We can also say that it’s his right to withdraw from the representation contract he has with the State.

We can also take the example of a young African who lives under dictatorship where the sovereign benefits alone from the natural resources of a community soil in a deal with an international corporation. By giving him and his community the right to withdraw from the representation contract that ties him with his sovereign, we actually empower him and his community in the very nature of the exchanges that need to be redefined when they are happening between a private entity like a corporation and a state that represents individual and communities. It also puts community and individual survival at the very center of the democratic representation system as well as in the business exchanges and transactions.

The question is where do the African child whose picture has been shown all over the world in mall the media go for compensation? The answer is to the media. How could she do that? By given her representation right to a local political leader, Ms. Odwowun who herself will mandate a non-profit organization we will call here the The World Individual and Community Rights Society. WICRS represents communities and individuals in front of global Medias. The WICRS work consist of monitoring media content worldwide and making sure the media pay a fee to the community or the individual in the content used. The fee or percentage will have to be defining through negotiations. We could envision in the future media joining the WICRS to become an Individual and Community Right Media; a Media that pays back to communities a content fee which might be politically correct. Then the monitoring will just be a formality as the media will be declaring themselves the content they are distributing and broadcasting. “The basic problem of the multinationals is not that they are hierarchical cruel, or ill intentioned, however much they may be charged on all counts. Rather, it is that they are literally irresponsible. They operate under few if any moral constraints and can, with formal justification; claim not to be responsible for the creeping genocide in America or the savaging of the Third World, or the moral degeneracy of modern life.

The world is caught up in a cycle of production – consumption – jobs, because we didn’t find anything else. But if we can’t create revenues for people who just take care of life we will slow down the cycle that is becoming even more threatening for nature, resources and the economical system itself as India and China are joining the club.


A black community like the Mississippi Delta needs this new right, the patrimony right some critics may call the ‘laziness right’. But in fact it’s a moral right that preserves the very essential of our individual and community being and experience as an economic agent in a market economy where job are alienating. “It should not be surprising that the strength of community life has declined in America. This decline has occurred not despite liberal principles, but because of them. This suggests that no fundamental strengthening of community life will be possible unless individuals give back certain of their rights to communities, and accept the return of certain historical forms of intolerance. Francis Fukuyama p. 98 Properties and Power

Black experience in America has created an identity that paved the road through incarnated resistance figures such as bluesmen in the Mississippi Delta in an established white slavery and post-slavery dominant capitalistic society. The ‘Bluesman’ posture and behavior is a pragmatic surviving response to the alienating machine he permanently seeks ways to subvert. Spinoza says that “the effort to preserve one is the first and unique foundation of virtue” As this response is rooted in his brain; the ‘bluesman’ has created what I call the black ‘mentalis’ that produces the behavior that makes his unique identity that has been able to generate the blues as a response to the alienating system. That behavior is an asset and shouldn’t only produce prisoners and homeless. The Black Mentalis is the conscience of America. That’s why the bluesman is a “behaviorist” as his brain has “developed effecting appropriate motor responses. On the basis of the theory of evolution it is maintained that the analysis of intelligence and of its operations should be compatible with the order of known biological facts.” Damasio defines consciousness as the rite of passage which allows an organism armed with the ability to regulate its metabolism, with innate reflexes, and with the form of learning known as conditioning to become a minded organism. We become conscious when the organism’s representation devices exhibit a specific kind of wordless knowledge.

Consciousness begins as the feeling of what happens when we see or hear or touch… It is the feeling that accompanies the making of any kind of image – visual, auditory, tactile, and visceral – within our living organisms. Consciousness is Knowledge. Knowledge is consciousness. A the consciousness developed in the bluesman brain is what is called Black consciousness. Black consciousness is behaviorist universal pattern because it’s an evolution response to any alienating system of human beings as living organism developing “the art of life”. The true language of the brain is music – frequencies – not language. Who else than the bluesman can agree with the fact that “consciousness begins when brains acquires the power of telling a story without words”. The stories black leaders such as M.L.King could word out better than anyone else to making black consciousness not just an American consciousness but the consciousness of the poor. That the ambition of the Patrimony Right Act.

“Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people, individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively, that means all of us together, collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? … The Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all the export of the United States. That’s power right here if we know how to pool it. Martin Luther King p.282-283 I See the Promised Land.
M.L. King A Testament of Hope
John Lewis Walking with the Wind, A Harvest Book Harcourt Brace & Company 1998
Mack McCarter Building Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal: “Restoring Community through Christian Love” Kennedy School of Government
J.N. Pieterse, White on Black: images of Africa and blacks in western popular culture, Yale UP, 1992
« Eloge de la paresse» Magazine littéraire n°433 Juillet-août 2004
Jacques Attali, Karl Marx l’esprit du monde Fayard 2005.
Jim Wallis p.1997 The Soul of Politics A Harvest Book Harcourt Brace & Company

Thomas Hobbes Le Leviathan Editions Gallimard 2000.
John Dewey The Development of American Pragmatism.
Antonio. Damasio The Feeling of What Happens. A Harvest Book Harcourt, Inc. 1999 .
Eugene D. Genovese The Southern Traditions


Post a Comment

<< Home