Sick Bastards

The “Problem”:

“The Quashees, (free blacks of Jamaica), content themselves with producing only what is strictly necessary for their own consumption, and, alongside this ‘use value’, regard loafing, (indulgence and idleness), as the real luxury good... they do not care a damn for the sugar and fixed capital invested in the plantations, but rather observe the planters’ impending bankruptcy with an ironic grin of malicious pleasure... They have ceased to be slaves, but not in order to become wage labourers, but, instead, self sustaining peasants working for their own consumption”

Karl Marx, Grundrisse [1]


“One of the greatest contributing factors to the unsatisfactory services rendered by native labourers in this country is their economic independence. For it must not be forgotten that every native is a landed proprietor, and nature has endowed New Guinea with a prolific soil, which provides adequate sustenance for a minimum of labour. Dismissal from employment, if he fails to carry out his duties, holds no terrors for the New Guinean native... Unless and until our natives reach such a stage of development that they must work to obtain sustenance or a livelihood, they will never make suitable indentured labour for any white resident.”

The Rabaul Times of New Guinea [2]

The “Solution”:

“The Black does not like work and is totally unaccustomed to the idea of saving; he does not realise that idleness keeps him in a state of absolute economic inferiority. It is therefore necessary to use... slavery to improve his circumstances and afterwards lead him into an apprenticeship of freedom.” The French Minister of Commerce, 1901. [2]

Don't think that this scenario is confined to the history books. It is part of an ongoing process that is still sucking in previously unscathed cultures. To give one example, Cameroon’s forest peoples are now required to carry an identity card - failure to do so is punishable by imprisonment. The card costs 1,500 Francs, meaning that the tribal people are forced out of their subsistence lifestyle and into the cash economy, simply to pay for the card. [3] (Another name for such a tax is a ‘poll’, or ‘head’ tax.)

Nor is it confined to other peoples. We in the ostensibly affluent populations of the West are perhaps more dispossessed than any of our ‘underprivileged’ Third World cousins. An elite in our society perfected this system here first, and then exported it to the rest of the world. Now, hundreds of years later, we have largely lost the skills necessary to be self sufficient and therefore autonomous - to enjoy a state approaching that of the Quashees and New Guinea natives described above. Our project must therefore include self-development: rediscovering the old crafts that were practised in the UK (see John Seymour’s book The Forgotten Arts for hints), learning about permaculture, familiarising ourselves with what passes for the natural world around us, and so on.

1) Green Revolution, Dec 1991
2) The Ecologist, July 1992
3) Green Line, May 1992


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