I mentioned WASPs voluntarily giving up power, either because they believe in the system as good for all of us and those are the rules, or for conscience sake in a more direct way. I don’t see where else this has happened. The closest I can see is the practice of empires to extend some power to competent individuals in conquered states. They were brought to the capital, or given authority in their home territories. It did seem to work pretty well. Yet that’s not quite the same thing as extending power to a new group of people. In empire, there is a vacuum that needs to be filled. Someone is going to have to run the new place. No one back home is actually giving up anything.
The logic and the emotions of such things are far apart. Those receiving power very much believe they are entitled to it. They deserve it. It is not some gift that is being bestowed on them, it is a right. Their point is pretty strong. Women should be able to own property. Black people should be able to vote. Once the real situation has been laid bare, it is a serious act of discrimination to refuse it. Even delaying justice can be seen as a type of oppression.
Those ceding power have something of a resentment that bubbles up that is more than just the usual wrench that comes from giving things up. Yes, I suppose it’s only fair. But you know, we didn’t have to. We could have designed it so that we didn’t give up anything. That’s what everyone else does. You wouldn’t have liked being born in other times and places.
“Oh no, don’t try and pull that on us. We don’t have power because you gave it to us. We have it because it’s the right thing to do!”
Except – just humor me for a moment here. Those values don’t have any meaning outside of certain contexts.
“Contexts be damned. These are universal rights.”
The rest of the universe doesn’t seem to think so. Only in certain countries, starting with America, is the obvious even a possibility.
“Look, you’re the guys who keep saying these rights are from God, and not dependent on anything that men say. You can’t switch off now just because it’s convenient and say it’s all arbitrary.”
Well, that’s pretty much why we’re going along with this, even at our own cost. Everyone else might require everyone to put in a certain amount of labor for us. We think you should make your own decisions about labor.
“This is crazy talk. You didn’t invent these ideas. They’ve been around for centuries. You didn’t build that.”
Actually, we did. The materials have been lying around for centuries, but no one made them into a house.
“You built it? You built it with our labor – slaves, miners, foresters, soldiers”
Those were our people too. Yet even if they weren’t, maybe you‘d have been happier building pyramids. Or galley ships. Those look nice when they’re done.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.”
The part that’s hard to believe is that someone’s letting you say it. Throw darts at a map and a timeline, see what you get.
“So you think you’re going to somehow just take your marbles and go home, some Ayn Rand thing where all you supposedly better people can just keep what you want?
No, not at all. We kinda like how this has turned out, even though it isn’t quite what we thought it would be. It’s been good to have you. You’ve improved the place – well, mostly – and we’re grateful for that. But there’s another right we’re only going to share, not give up.
The right to think you’re being ungrateful assholes. You can think that about us, too, if you like. We won’t stop you.