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G. M. Flanders’ The Ebony Idol

2,307 words

G. M. Flanders
The Ebony Idol
New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1860

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the founding example of white guilt agitprop. Several books were written in response, including a work by Mrs. G. M. Flanders, The Ebony Idol. This obscure genre of counter-propaganda often is called plantation literature, though in this case, the main setting is an idyllic northern town, and effectively, it is more a critique of integration than of abolitionism. Some of the underlying themes in The Ebony Idol remain surprisingly relevant 160 years later. Today we regard slavery as a grotesque abuse made obsolete after industrialism brought about less blatant means of labor exploitation. Although it ended long ago in the USA, its legacy of multiracialism remains an ongoing problem and has been exacerbated by social engineering like mass migration.

The book opens with Reverend Cary, the town’s Presbyterian minister, taking up abolitionism following an ecclesiastical conference. Previously, it hadn’t occurred to him to preach about politics rather than scripture. (It’s nothing new for clergy not to regard the separation of church and state as a bilateral understanding! It’s worse when they don’t have something sensible to say. Later in the story, the reverend has delved into some highly questionable aspects of egalitarianism.) Back home, he brings up his newfound enthusiasm:

Why should I forget in my own personal comforts, the miseries of millions who are this moment held in cruel bondage, with no eye to pity, and no human arm to save! Who has made us to differ? Why am not I, and you, and Mary here, writhing beneath the lashes of a fiendish taskmaster!

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Then his wife asks if he’s gone crazy, igniting an argument. She describes a town where politicization emptied the churches. Effectively, the ministers neglected their duties when they sermonized about politics rather than religion. This raises a good point. Many of today’s churches are quite politicized. Thanks in part to certain umbrella organizations, religion has, to some degree, become yet another opinion-forming institution converged by cultural Marxism. It would be an interesting study topic to discover how many people quit attending church because of that.

Undeterred, his next sermon stuns the audience:

. . . Mr. Cary gradually enlarged upon his first intention, and warmed into denunciation, until with the blindest of infatuations he lost sight of the boundary line that separates mental independence from folly, and mingled religion with politics until he concocted a kind of moral salad, intolerable as nourishment, and unpalatable as a relish!

The highly ornamented Victorian-era prose is at its finest in passages like that.

While he prepares another political sermon, his wife argues that injustices occur in town equivalent to slavery. (She mentions domestic abuse. Other plantation literature sometimes brings up northern sweatshops. That exploitation of labor also was quite serious; reactions led to trade unionism and socialism.) He proceeds undeterred. Later, an influential parishioner, one who walked out during the first such sermon, has a pointed discussion and advises him that preaching politics isn’t his job.

Simply put, Reverend Cary introduced a source of strife that hadn’t reached the town before. An abolitionist club forms — largely an excuse to get drunk. Many of the men have stopped attending church. The women form the “Carean African Aid Society.” As for the Society’s leader:

Miss Dickey was one of those sentimental demi-intellectual personages, who seem to have been born with a book in their hand, and to have been predestined from the cradle to become at the very least the “school ma’am” of the township! At twelve years she had experienced the pangs of “first love,” and during the entire period of the “teens” had run such a heart gauntlet that at twenty that organ was as callus and impervious to the arrows of Cupid, as the skin of an alligator to the shafts of his pursuer! Like all such precocious phenomena, she had been old at fifteen, young at thirty-five; in which autumnal splendor we present her to our readers.

Wealthy from her inheritance, the schoolmarm retired early. She remains an old maid, and turns out to be rather eccentric and self-absorbed:

The strange and irresistible youth, and slashing chariot, that she expected to see at any moment drive up to her door and bear her off, regardless of her cries and the village wonder, to some far, strange castle, is unimaginable.

Thus, she imagines that some Prince Charming will spirit her away any day now. If all that wasn’t enough, she’s an animal hoarder. So this is a half-baked intellectual, burnt out from too many romances since very early on, perhaps afflicted with histrionic personality disorder, single and nearing middle age, bourgeois and idle, and basically a cat lady. The Manosphere certainly would recognize that type.

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During their society’s chaotic first meeting, they discuss how “to alleviate the sufferings of our colored brethren.” (One recommends colonization, a popular proposal then which would’ve saved the USA from endless trouble, but she gets shouted down.) Later the society hears of a fugitive slave from Alabama and plans to bring him through the Underground Railroad.

The story’s parallels to modern problems with multiracialism are obvious by this point. It describes a northern community, as white as the driven snow, and completely inexperienced with diversity. Then a group of idealistic busybodies takes it upon themselves to change that. Motivated by misplaced religious fervor, they think they know best. They actively work to bring in someone from afar, without knowing anything about him, into their tightly-knit community.

Their social experiment has no contingency plan if the outsider doesn’t integrate successfully; the thought never occurs to them. They didn’t even bother obtaining the consent of their fellow citizens about unprecedentedly changing the community. They were never asked! Nobody has discussed yet where the new arrival will stay, who pays for his upkeep, or his job prospects. Still, why worry about these details? As John Lennon would say: “Love is all you need!”

This is nearly identical to what’s being done on a far larger scale by certain ethnomasochistic Lutheran social services foundations that bring Somalis into the Upper Midwest. In a broader sense, this is what the globalist NGOs did when they caused the migrant crisis in Europe. That itself was merely a new development in the population replacement policies pursued for decades by Eurocrats. The American version was the 1965 Immigration Act. To a lesser extent, this recalls the virtue-signaling fad of celebrities (and sometimes, common people) pursuing transracial adoption as a political statement. These measures, of course, meet with the glowing approval of all those who choose to oppose Western civilization.

Other than that, plantation literature frequently alluded to runaways adapting badly after idealistic Northerners take them in, sometimes biting the hand that fed them. Perhaps some of it was grounded in actual incidents. If so, this has its modern precedent too. Numerous well-documented horrors have occurred after naïve Europeans allowed “refugees” to stay in their homes.

The cat lady plans to greet the stranger at a reception with poetry, and is dissuaded from making it an open-air event:

Miss Dickey, who had fancied herself arrayed as a sylvan nymph, hovering above the enraptured black-knight, dazzling his eyes with her beauty, as she encircled his brow with roses and his heart with love, could not resign her pretty imaginings, without some pangs of regret.

This character is cut from the same cloth as all those dodo birds carrying “refugees welcome” signs.

One of the townsfolk sets out to bring back Caesar, the runaway slave, from a rendezvous point. He tells her a long tale of woe, knowing that this is what she expects. Anticipation builds as the reception ceremony approaches. Few attendees have seen black people before, so there’s considerable curiosity. Chubby, swaggering, and dressed to the nines for the occasion, Caesar doesn’t seem as downtrodden as they expected.

Reverend Cary rather fittingly gets stuck with boarding Caesar. The newcomer tells tall tales of woe throughout the town — again, he knows it’s what they want to hear — until they tire of it. He refuses to work, sleeps whenever and wherever he likes, and torments their child. The preacher delivers an impromptu sermon to his guest, but soon after catches him stealing. Finally, enough is enough.

After that, Miss Dickey takes him in. They hit it off. With the confluence of her psychological makeup and the egalitarianism her mind has been marinated in lately, they might take diversity to a new level: “It is scarcely wonderful if Caesar began to regard the “plantation” as being within his reach.”

Now, that’s an odd Victorian euphemism. (Taboos take different forms lately. Future historians might puzzle through the coded language we presently use to get around censorship: Googles, small hats, vibrancy, etc.) However, the relationship is not to be. He kills one of her cats after getting bitten, and they part ways.

Then he stays with the Hobbs family, who are common peasants. They’re not of the bourgeoisie, so Caesar fits in, since they have mutual class affinity. He finally starts contributing to household work. The problem is that he takes a liking to their adopted teenage daughter, Mary. Mary wants nothing to do with him. However, her foster parents are too afflicted with ethnomasochism to intervene. Instead, they start pressuring her to marry Caesar, believing that virtue signaling can raise their status and get Mr. Hobbs elected to public office.

This fictional account highlights a very ugly reality of how youths sometimes are sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Sometimes parents are complicit, or even instigators, but usually at fault are politicians and judges who became enemies of the people. For example, integration and forced busing to bad schools have subjected children to much unwanted cultural enrichment. The Rotherham scandal is an even more grotesque example.

Reverend Cary finds out about this match, and speaks with Mary’s foster parents. The Hobbses falsely claim that it was her idea, and they’re going along with it to show how tolerant they are. They figured he would be delighted. Affirming that he still adheres to artificial cosmopolitanism, he states that he objects not on racial grounds, but merely because of compatibility. Despite the explanation, they chide the reverend for not following his own principles. This literary example hints at the fanaticism motivating modern Social Justice Warriors.

David, the cat lady’s nephew who likes Mary, writes Caesar’s endorsement speech for the Hobbs political campaign debut. It’s fabricated oppression porn, and the audience is taken in, but the mood instantly changes when Caesar wraps up by thanking his hosts for entrusting the happiness of their daughter to his care. The propaganda backfires disastrously, just as David cleverly intended. Ordinary Yankees had a limited nonsense threshold back then.

A vigilante mob tars and feathers Mr. Hobbs after making him promise to let Mary go her own way. (It’s quite an amusing read, though such events doubtlessly were less polite.) He and his wife visit the town lawyer, coincidentally his political rival, and demand justice. The chicken-feathered victim is advised to drop it, and billed on the spot. (Lawyers have shining moments sometimes!) It would go differently these days. If a candidate even had a mud ball thrown at him for being an enemy of the people, it would be treated as the crime of a century.

Repercussions from this incident lead to discord in the town, and the church undergoes a schism. Once more, the author denounces politicization of religion. Again, this is certainly trendy today. A commenter to “A Redpilled Reevaluation of the Peoples Temple Tragedy” put it best:

No, most denominations are traveling down the Unitarian highway – dilapidated buildings, lesbian pastors, rainbow flags, “All are welcome” signs, and empty pews. No (straight) weddings, births, or baptisms, just funerals.

There’s more to the story, but it’s time to wrap up and reflect on the strange pathological altruism in The Ebony Idol. It’s approximately what Mencius Moldbug described as “ultracalvinism.” This is a derivative of Protestant theology, but by no means the only interpretation, and it pays little attention to what the rest of the religion is about.

Was it necessary, or even viable, to argue for abolitionism on religious grounds? The truth is that the Bible is pretty thin gruel for that, unless one does much creative interpretation. (Arguing against slavery from the Qur’an would be more difficult yet.) All are precious in the eyes of God, according to the New Testament, but the ancient scriptures don’t speak against worldly hierarchies, not even those that offend modern sensibilities.

On the other hand, classical liberal arguments are very effective against slavery. One can argue that liberty is a natural right, and this moderate position doesn’t necessitate embracing egalitarianism, Jacobinism, or multiculturalism. Abolitionists could’ve stuck with that approach. Moreover, as industrialism began revolutionizing modes of production, slavery became an obsolete relic. Therefore, even just a well-demonstrated economic case directed at the self-interest of the bourgeoisie could’ve been sufficient.

Eventually, this ultracalvinism began to diminish. The political left during the Progressive Era, beginning in the late nineteenth century, usually made their arguments from secular grounds rather than dragging God into it. Better yet, mainstream leftists of the time were quite sensible for the most part. Then the aftermath of the First World War ruined it all.

One notable development was the first stirrings of cultural Marxism, which changed the left decisively during the 1960s and remains an ongoing problem. There are some shared basic premises, but what was left of ultracalvinism by then was little more than a gateway drug. Cultural Marxism was its own movement, certainly not inspired by politicized fringe interpretations of Protestantism. It was considerably more weaponized and took on a life of its own. Today, in many ways, it is an outlandish secular cult.

The return of sensible leftists can’t happen a moment too soon.

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4 Comments

  1. BW
    Posted February 25, 2020 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    If at all….

  2. rujv
    Posted February 25, 2020 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    First as farce, then as tragedy, it seems…

  3. Digital Samizdat
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Thanks in part to certain umbrella organizations, religion has, to some degree, become yet another opinion-forming institution converged by cultural Marxism.

    Or by Zionism.

  4. Bub
    Posted March 10, 2020 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic article, would love to see the author wrote more on this topic / review similar books.

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