Monday, January 31, 2011
Empires Built With The Lash
I was talking with a friend the other day about our WhippingDudes videos and explained how one of them was deleted by YouTube management due to containing “inappropriate” material. He couldn’t understand how this non-sexual activity could be inappropriate when, as he put it, our country was built by whipping men’s backs.
Both of us being military veterans, I instinctively understood the historical context of what he meant, and so I thought I should make it a topic for the blog. Many people will jump to the obvious reference to slavery, on which the Southern economy in the United States was based, but there is also the military aspect, which is what my friend was referring to.
The American system of military discipline derived from how the British treated their soldiers. Most of the American officers had served in the British Army before joining the War for Independence. Their comfort level with, and application of, the lash was as strong as the British. The British Empire sought to keep subject populations in control by using the force of their military, and their officers kept control of their soldiers through fear of the lash. And so it was with American officers.
After the founding, military flogging remained in force for decades. Even Louis and Clark, who were military officers, resorted to flogging their soldiers during their extraordinary exploration of the vast and wondrous American interior (although the flogging is a rarely included—or noticed—footnote).
Using just these two obvious examples of the British Empire and the United States, we can show that flogging was an accepted foundation for military discipline, and those militaries, in-turn, were used to possess and exploit the resources and populations of conquered lands. As time went on, societies developed, and subject populations became citizens, with a voice in their own governance.
But we cannot—and should not—forget the bloody backs of the men on which these civilizations were founded: The men who labored, sweated, fought, and who unwillingly endured the lash for the profits of others.