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How to Thrive in a Slave Society

Imagine if you were born a wealthy slaveowner in the year 1789…

Would you free your slaves?

Keep in mind…

The science of the time overwhelmingly supported craniology. Can you hear yourself making the argument, “Well, 99% of scientists say negroes are subhuman.”

Or do you rely on anecdotes in the news, “They can’t be trusted with freedom! Didn’t you hear a bunch of them murdered an entire white family out in Virginia?!”

Or maybe you agree with your friends, family, and demographic on every major political issue of our time and so would have likely done the same in 1789?

But let’s say despite all that you conclude slavery was wrong…

Would you still free your own slaves?

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson also believed slavery was wrong.

Slavery is an abomination and must be loudly proclaimed as such, but I own that I nor any other man has any immediate solution to the problem. — Thomas Jefferson

I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see the abolition of slavery. — George Washington

But why didn’t they free their slaves?

One word… convenience.

If you want to understand human history look at it through the lens of convenience.

A lot of these slaveowners, such as Thomas Jefferson, were in massive debt with most of their money invested in slaves.

But let’s say you wake up one night in a cold sweat, run outside, and yell…“RUN FREE! RUN!!”

You then rest easy…. until you’re awoken by your wife screaming, “All the slaves are gone!!”

You explain to her your moral awakening, but then she tells you the practical reality…

“The slaves were worth $150,000! Selling the plantation won’t even cover our debt!”

You throw on your overalls and tell her to calm down, “I’ll find a job in the city working for Big Bob the Baker.”

When you get to the bakery he informs you that as much as he would like to hire you he can’t because people will boycott and vandalize his business.

The KKK also attacked sympathetic whites

As you’re walking home with your head down, you look up to see the sheriff on your doorstep.

He informs you that he has to drag you off to debtors prison.

You then find yourself as an indentured servant to your creditors…

18th century southern society

You’re forced to work on a planation in the hot Georgian summer (with no sunblock) while your wife ran off with Big Bob the Baker so that she and your children don’t starve.

Now you wear the chains.

Are you sure you’d free your slaves?

I would like to think I would, but the decision would clearly be hard to come to and difficult to make, which is why a slaveowner freeing his slaves was so rare.

Did human nature change between 1789 and 2018? No.

“Situational variables can exert powerful influences over human behavior, more so than we recognize or acknowledge.” — Philip Zimbardo

So why did slavery ever end?

A lot of Americans believe it ended because of the American Civil War.


Slavery was already on the road to ending before the first shot was ever fired. Its end was inevitable because of one reason… convenience.

Due to the Industrial Revolution, it became more convenient to employ cheap labor than slave labor.

With cheap labor you could pay people pennies and they were highly incentivized to work hard because they knew how easily replaceable they were.

With slave labor you had to provide food, shelter, and healthcare because slaves were costly to replace.

And as absurd as it may sound to make you empathize with a slaveowner, I want you to look around your personal life and see how convenience may blur your moral judgement.

For example, do you eat meat?

I love a good cheeseburger with a side of freedom fries, but with the advent of genetically manufactured meat we will eventually get to a technological point where we no longer have to kill animals for meat.

What will future generations think of our moral judgement?

How to use convenience to thrive?

“Environment is stronger than willpower.” — Yogananda

During the antebellum era it was hard for people to just pack up their bags and move away from their church, family, community, etc because there was no cell phone service or social safety net.

But nowadays we have far more power to consciously create the environment around us…

How I mold my environment to be a better version of myself…

  • I wear a pedometer, which buzzes when I hit 10,000 steps.
  • I live and work within walking distance of each other. A long commute time is associated with poor relationships and unhealthiness.
  • Put toothbrush, laundry detergent, and shampoo together so when I shower I can clean myself, teeth, and clothes together to save time.
  • When I grocery shop I only buy foods with a B+ rating on the Fooducate app so when I’m home I’m not as tempted to eat junk.
  • I fill up my bottle water before bed so it’s within arm’s reach when I wake up.
  • I use the StayFocusd Chrome browser extension to prevent me from wasting too much time on YouTube.
  • I removed most notifications from my devices so I can live relatively distraction-free.

Ultimately, we must consciously construct our environment to make it more convenient to be our better angels.

Thanks for reading! Anthony Galli writes about the great men and women who made history so that we may make history in our own time. Watch his series @ The Great Life.



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