Initial Encounters: (Ante-Bellum/Focus)
The subject of human relationships in transitional American is a complex an dynamic research topic that gives insight into the genesis aesthetic postulates that have defined the uniqueness of American culture and the dawning of the modern era. In seeking to learn about this subject one is given an opportunity to examine both the universal and particular components of the American experience as well as the role base sentiments have played in shaping the ‘psychological umbrella’ of present day global and planetary awareness. It is through the historical process where the complexity of this subject can be scrutinized and pondered- to serve as a backdrop anchor to compare notes (and ‘incidents’) about the human species – as a way to better ‘understand’ human motivation and complexity, and the ‘wonder of earth experience’. The phenomenon of ‘initial encounters’ in this context is also a way to examine fresh interaction experiences as ‘source-initiated’ phenomena that has universal qualities ( and as such, from this perceptual vantage point we can begin to look past regional and/or so-called racial categories into the essence of human behavior and universal ‘tendencies’). The wonder of the American experience is directly related to the challenge of understanding universal human relationships as well as the subject of composite existential experience. This is true even though the history of America has always been ‘somewhat complex’ (to put it mildly).
From a continental perspective that seeks to map zones of identity with respect to regional, communal and symbolic correspondences the phenomenon of ‘initial encounters’ for this paper involves the genesis documentation sentiments that defined early social interaction experiences between the newly arrived European settlers and the non-Europeans of the new world, as well as the necessity to establish an ‘adjusted perspective’ that reflected the ‘weight’ of new ‘fusion’ experiences; that being 1) the discovery of the Native American people and the land mass of North America 2) the historical and present day experiences of African Americans and finally 3) the internal sub-identity experiences (complexities) of this subject as it relates to the situation of women. The thrust of this paper will seek to integrate the readings of our class into a unified perspective that can be used to reflect on the subject of human experience and social reality. I will seek to emphasis the ante-bellum period of early American culture as a primary subject focus as well as a formal constraint that hopefully will give my paper clarity and focus. But the dynamics implications of this subject cannot be contained in the iconic reference constructs of any one group experience and/or aesthetic domain. Because the subject of human relationship and interaction dynamics transcends any one intellectual framework and/or thought-construct. In seeking to understand this subject we are really looking into the heart of human psychology and physical universe change ( as well as the genesis ‘qualities’ that blossomed forth in the ‘New World’). The landing of the Europeans to the North American continent would open up a new chapter of human experience.
The phenomenon of initial encounters for the subject of this paper involves a) the aesthetic dimensions of the early experiences b) the political implications of the new experiences and finally c) the emotional/psychological historical undercurrents that defined the backdrop of new world human relationships. In the first category the accelerated momentum of the printing press in the 1600′s would set iconic devices in place that would define the parameters of non-European identity properties to an expanding new world settlers community. In the opening-experience encounters of the 1500′s the Native American people were recognized by the Europeans as a positive people who were deserving of respect in every way . This viewpoint of the settlers was consistent with the apparent situation of a transplanted people in need of fresh knowledge in a new environment and how to survive the rigors of a continent very different from their native mother land. Later as the process of continental acclimation proceeded the Native American community would suddenly find itself portrayed in the press as barbaric and inferior. The accelerated thrust of the new captivity novels would have extended political and social implications not limited to any one Native American culture or land region, but rather the early colonial writings gave a clue into the psychological and political dimensions of the new world. It is at this point where the early encounters with the non-Europeans can be examined. Because the mis-characterizations of Native Americans in the early captivity novels was directly related to a psychology that took root in the Enlighten period – a psychology that would elevate the European man at the expense of the world group and composite nature . Yet in seeking to understand this phenomenon we can not afford to over generalize the extent of its range ( or scope) – for the heart of this subject sheds light on the accelerated domain of individual rights (and contracts) as well as the forming of democracy ( and the expansion of human rights). In seeking to understand the phenomenon of ‘initial encounters’ it is important to note that the resultant depiction of non-European people that emerged in the eightieth century did not happen in one ‘fell swoop’ ( as the result of a single policy and/or strategy from a given individual or political faction) but rather, in looking at this phonomenon we are observing the collected forces of western culture as well as the collected sentiments of documented human nature.
The early European depiction’s of Africa were already developed before the colonization of the new world. Mr. Winthrop Jordan writes ‘that virtually all descriptions of the “dark continent” portray its inhabitants as unattractive, un Christian, and grossly uncivil”. And while in theory at least African cultural shortcomings could possibly be corrected to suit the European concept of culture, still the fact of their physical presence could not be altered ( and the English clearly documented their ‘aesthetic dis-pleasure’ of the African physiognomy- including stature, facial features, and hair texture, for example. The thrust of the early European writings would seek to focus on the particulars of African progressionalism (i.e. spacial territories and physical characteristics) and laid the basis for the bi-polar continental perspective that led to the ‘northern Africa versus the ‘south of the Sahara’ Africa mentality. In the early sixteen hundreds the phenomenon of color recognition would provide the first attempts to classify human beings into sub-specie categories. The English of the ‘Enlighten’ era would refer to the Africans as “blacks”, “blackamoors”, “Negroes”, “negras”, etc. The extended implications of this phenomenon would see the beginning attempts to associate blackness with ‘impurity’ or negativeness. These associations were connected to the vibrational dynamics of Elizabethan England- ‘the lighter the skin the closer to goodness and Godliness’ and the poet Thomas Peyton would incorporate these sentiments into his work.
The American ante-bellum period was a dynamic social experiment that was consistent with the expansion of trans-European political and scientific processes on a global level. The reality of this phenomenon would dictate the transitional balance of global political alignments in the colonial era and the emergence of the new world as a political player ‘to be reckon with’ (- leading to the political structures of the modern era). In seeking to understand this subject and its relationship to the concept of ‘initial encounter’ there are five aspects to this phenomenon that can be commented on: 1) the dynamics of exploration and documentation as a restructural phenomenon in its own right that carries unique global implications 2) the aesthetic and spiritual dimensions of the transitional Enlightenment period 3) the phenomenon of attraction and repulsion and the phenomenon of sexuality 4) the forming characteristics that led to the image-remodeling of non-European peoples and 5) the political need for slave labor ( and what this phenomenon would pose to the emergence of democracy and the idea of human rights). In the first category the thrust of trans-European expansion dynamics can be viewed as the beginning of important breakthroughs in human knowledge and especially the establishment of modern science. Europeans are right to be proud of the achievements that would redefine the course of human social and social interaction. It is in the realization of ‘what these breakthroughs have wrought’ where one is confronted with the ‘actualness’ of present day cultural reality. Because both the Asian and African continental peoples are documented as having developed their own sciences and construction techniques ( as a given discipline related to their concept of reality- and the particulars of their environment), but in the end it was the post-Aristotelian processes that led to the construction of boats that could cross the Atlantic. It was also the calibration processes of European science that led to the evolution of navigation techniques that allowed for longer and longer voyages to search for new lands. The undercurrent psychological components of these new successes would become a component in the transitional mentality of the settlers in the new world. This is true even though the early settlers could not have survived the early colonial experiences without the aid of the Native American people (and later the slavery of African people). As such, the early encounter experiences that led to the ante-bellum period would see a trans European settlement of people who were working through the existential complexities of their ‘mother country’ ( i.e. the search for religious freedom and political fairness) as well as extending the ‘vibrational psychological momentum’ of European exploration successes at the same time. The accelerated dynamics of the Enlightenment period would establish global exploration and colonization on a level unheard of in human history.
The significance of the early documentation that defined the phenomenon of ‘initial encounters’ in the ante-bellum period is a multi-dimensional subject that extends into every aspect of the forming new world. In seeking to understand this subject we are forced to confront the uniqueness of the transition that allowed for the creation of America. The imperial conquest of the Enlighten period would be a time of restructural breakthroughs and the development of the printed press and mass communication. This would be the time period where given sailors and adventurists would record and document their exploratory experiences for the emerging secular middle class expansion that took place in the ‘mother country’ Effective documentation in this context could help raise possible financial backing (and/or speculation) that would later become a minor sub theme of the imperial national explorations ( leading to the slave trade). The composite weight of this phenomenon must be considered if one is to have insight into the forces that promoted (and ‘introduced’) the images of non-European peoples as a subject of fresh curiosity ( and scrutiny).
The aesthetic and spiritual dimensions of trans-European exploration can be understood by examining the role religion has played in shaping apparent reality. There are two aspects of this subject that interest me: 1) the phenomenon of religion and its role in shaping human psychology and 2) the phenomenon of religion and its role in shaping existential identity. In the first aspect of this subject the role of religion provides the aesthetic backdrop component that give insight into human value systems and ‘vibrational motivation’ ( as opposed to ‘target motivation’). The emergence of Christianity as the composite spiritual identity of the expanding European nations would establish an internal code-structure that produced spiritual certainty based on the ‘righteousness’ of spiritual law as it relates to human inter-action dynamics as well as human divinity ( and the perception of God like qualities). It is in this domain of experience where the backdrop vibrational ‘affinities’ of the trans-European aesthetic nature would evolve and it is also in this domain where the seeds of the so-called superior European perceptual model would come into its own. In itself the human longing for spiritual identity and ‘holistic connections’ that emerged into the establishment of institutional religion can be viewed as a universal ‘quality’ of human nature that transcends any one race or class of people. Still the unique qualities of the Christian movement would isolate non-European sentiments in a way that was unique and would require a complete subjugation of individual identity in a way that was restructural (i.e. the act of identifying with a divine spirit who looks different from the person identifying with it is an historical position given new life with the new restructual theologies). Starting from a perspective that viewed ‘color/complexion’ as something that makes the African a separate race unto himself and extending to the ‘condition’ of blackness as connected to god’s curse on Ham, the Europeans would establish a concept of “natural infection” based on physiological characteristics ( in Genesis-9&10: the concept of blackness as part of a curse). The second aspect of this subject involves the aesthetic complexities related to the spiritual tenets of the trans-Christian movement. That being: the belief that human beings were created in the image of God and the ‘aesthetic weight’ of spiritual conversion (and salvation). The new world of the Americas would give the early European settlers an opportunity to apply this spiritual mandate on a global level. But the political decision to take the land of the Native American people and the emergence of slavery as an American political institution would cloud ( or clarify- depending on how one looks at it) the meta-reality implications of the trans-Christian aesthetics. It is at this point where the phenomenon of spiritualism becomes a principle component of the new American identity (and psychology).
The subject of the Ante-bellum period cannot be understood without some attempt to recognize the profound sexual undercurrents that influenced the forming of the new world. In seeking to understand this subject one is again reminded of the iconic image-constructs that had already been put into place in Christian theology. The image of the black man as primitive did not begin in America but rather was an outgrowth of the Medieval period of reaction and global isolation. This is a complex subject that resist any one application but certainly the Inquisition experiences would reflect the aesthetic dimensions of European sexuality from a spiritual perspective while the Enlighten period would produce a similar aesthetic viewpoint from a scientific perspective. By the time the Europeans arrived at the new world there was already a separation between the mind and body ‘qualities’- between so called mental processes and physical and/or emotional processes. Besides, the image of the black man was ready made for the needs of the new frontier- the iconic properties needed for a transitional perceptive to develop had already been set in motion in the early traveling reports ( and the early exploring narratives that sought to inform the intellectuals of Europe of new exotic lands and peoples from the ‘east’- who were simply waiting for the leadership of the Europeans). Even so, Mr. Jordan writes, ‘Miscegenation was extensive in all the English colonies, a fact made evident to contemporaries by the presence of large numbers of mulattos. It is impossible to ascertain how much intermixture there actually was , though it seems likely there was more during the eighteenth century than at any time since.’ (pp. 137). Mr. Jordan then goes on to write about the general assumptions that came to characterize how African American women were perceived by the Europeans ( that is, as especially passionate) and the later use of dismemberment and sexual politics (i.e. including castration).
The extended implications of the de-humanization of African Americans would involve the development of Ante-bellum image constructs that would lead to the present time period. The black man in the ante-bellum period would be portrayed as a) a happy ‘darky’ from a continent that never evolved any significant information b) the black man as instinctual as opposed to rational c) the black man as overly sexual- but not to white women d) the black man as a problem that eventually will be absorbed into the composite Euro-genetic mixture -mainstream- of American culture e) the idea of the African as physically repulsive and f) the emergence of biology and the study of human evolution that lead into the Darwinian movement. In the early period that preceded the ante-bellum period there were many problems that had to be overcome in the African slave quarter communities- the most basic problem being the diminishing birth rate of the slaves and the unbalanced proportion of men and women. The African man sexuality in this time period was viewed with suspicion and the acceleration of slavery was only one policy that could be used until the ‘slave breeding’ problem could be maintained on the new continent. It was for this reason that there were periods of incoming slave ships that were balanced by other periods of inactivity.
The phenomenon of image-remodeling as it relates to the African slaves in the ante-bellum time period can be understood by 1) the emergence of attempts of view African slaves as something humorous and degraded at the same time 2) the idea of the ‘slow witted’ African man who is somewhat like a child 3) the concept of the ‘three-forths’ of a man statue 4) the idea of the docile African man that did not mind being a slave (and would not try to escape the ante-bellum universe if given an opportunity) and 5) the idea that the African man did not value his family. In the resulting transition after the colonial period African slaves were also portrayed as a simple people that had no connection to genesis Africa (no roots) while at the same time viewed as a despised composite race unworthy of equal treatment by Europeans. The significance of the ante-bellum period was the fresh use of image and political manipulation tools that could be utilized to exploit dis-enfranchised non-European peoples-to begin the clearing work needed to build the new frontier. The serious of this need would affect the concept of ‘human status’- bypassing the complexities that opened up in the humanist ‘freeman’ political syndrome ( because up until the ante-bellum period in time the subject of slavery was expansive: anyone could be a slave as a transitional bargain agreement that had nothing to do with human status and equal rights).
The subject of ante-bellum reality dynamics cannot be understood without also including the documented writings of the early men of power- both political power and economic power. It cannot be underestimated that many of the great leaders of early America were ensnared in the dubious value systems that sought to separate ‘perceived’ intellectual concepts from the actual experiences taking place in the country. It is the distance between what our leaders expoused as a political body and what these same people actually practiced that connects the present time period with the ante-bellum period. What can be said about a man like Thomas Jefferson who help to lay the aesthetics for justifying slavery. To read his writings is a kind of nightmare of national proportions. The intellectual and spiritual confusion of the ‘early fathers’ in the opening forming of America period is one of the main legacies we have been given. That confusion lies at the heart of the spiritual crises western civilization finds itself in at the closing of the second millennium. The ante-bellem time period was a period that saw a kind of mytholization of the aesthetic dimensions of the American dream- yet, even in the beginning it was always clear that the new world was only for the Europeans.
The subject of ante-bellum American history extends into many different directions and gives insight into the diverse forces that make up continental identity. I am particularly interested in the situation of women in the early period and the progressional effects of the new social possibilities. In seeking to understand this subject I am reminded that 1) the early political organizations of American women were not necessarily interested in aligning themselves with non-European peoples- let alone slavery 2) that the reality perspective of the early women settlers were not that different from the men- this is true even as the women from the upper and middle class had no rights themselves 3) that even in the ante-bellum period there was an understanding of the internal relationships between human rights and the scourge of slavery 4) that the subject of economics would permeate and influence the political alliances of the ante-bellum time period in much the same way as in the present time period. To write this is to acknowledge that the Sufferite movement did not embrace the anti-slavery movement until it was politically expedient as oppose to a moral imperative that valued religious freedom and equality as recognized tenet of Christian faith. The subject of the African American slave would become one of the hidden truths imbedded in the essence-lining of American culture. Here then is a subject that could be tied to the ‘spectacle-diversion’ tendencies of American progressionalism- something that resurfaces under various disguises in the ‘aesthetic-affinity’ of our national identity. African Americans are three fifths of a person but when the going gets rough are needed to join the army to fight the British- suddenly for a minute these guys have become ‘men’(!). African Americans as the bastion of emotion at the expense of intellect yet entrusted with the responsibility of child rearing- in many cases the African slaves would have more contact with the ‘masters children’ than the parents themselves. later the African man would become an ‘iconic’ identity that individuals can ‘identify with’ when one is seeking to reject the system or reexamine masculinity)- not to mention the under current sexual dimensions of this phenomenon.
In the end, the ante-bellum time period is a subject that allows for an examination of the genesis components of American culture as well as the composite modern era. Even in the early period the early settlers would come to understand the role of music in the African American community and modern scholarship can help us to better understand African retention and every direction. It is in the ante-bellum time period where the second restructural formal constructs of African American music would come into play. For if the northern New England environments would begin the process of American synthesis in the beginning teaching of the hymnal tradition ( and the beginning of the so called ‘civilizing of the African’) the extended implications of this phenomenon would see the evolution of the African American spiritual music – leading into the restructural gospel and exploratory music. This development cannot be under emphasized because the dynamics implications of American creative music contains more than ‘fifteen percent’ of African American influence ( and aesthetic ‘tendencies). The extended implications of this phenomenon would see the evolution of existential improvisation as a phenomenon that is consistent with the idea of human rights and democracy. African American cultural retention, as a composite phenomenon, would play a profound role in reshaping the psychology of the post modern time period. This is true for both the extended use of Africanisms into the new religions from the Caribbean to the Americas as well as the vibrational properties of abstract model correspondences ( and identity associations). The thrust continuum of African invention dynamics has expanded European ideas of mind/body integration and co-ordination. And the extended implications of the African phenomenon has provided a wedge that allowed for the re-evaluation of sexual dynamics and human nature. In every case one can see a kind of absorption process that takes in the phenomenon of the environment and aligns it with a ‘fresh sensibility. By examining the ante-bellum time period it is possible to view the beginning fascination between the European settlers and the ‘spectrum of others’ who provided the backdrop components that gave ‘mixture’ for the new world. Even the consideration of African American language would become a source of curiosity in the ante-bellum period – just like today. All of these matters form the base components of the American experience and makes our country unique.