Chiefs, Indians, Slavery & Tocqueville

Leonard R. Rogers was the subject of a 1954 article called “Boss Of Million Dollar Firm At Age Of 21 Is No Pipe Dream.” Rogers, whose company was responsible for 75 per cent of America’s business in tobacco pouches, was radically revamping the mega-corporation. When Rogers took over the company founded 50 years earlier by his grandfather he quickly realized that some of the long time company executives knew nothing about anything that was happening outside their department (bubble). Thus, he made the decision to re-organize the company by rolling heads and dissolving positions, i.e. Too many chiefs and not enough indians.

Catalan human-towers

Human towers in the traditional Catalan Festival

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians” was also the phrase my father liked to use. When we were down in Brazoria County, Texas, working my paternal grandparents cattle and land during one or two of the 3-4 holidays of the year, every one of my cousins, myself, and all my uncles and one aunt of the family had/wanted to accomplish all the needed and necessary work and never-ending repairs as efficiently as possible given the usually short few days everyone had while there. With so many cousins running around wanting to play or do our own “work tasks,” that was when he’d often use the phrase on us. I have to note here, however, that with his family the chief-indian concept reflected more the later 1996 concept “It Takes A Village” by Hillary Clinton. His family had rotating or periodic leadership and supporting roles. Everyone had to do and know all positions and their functions. Dad said it many times during my school and select-league soccer games he’d attend when we’d play bad or lose.

In the exceptional 2008 animated film WALL-E, Earth has become a trashed garbage planet due to unfettered free-enterprise which led to human hyper-consumption of everything corporate manufacturers and retailers convinced and sold the poorly educated masses they HAD to have to be “truly happy.” The upper-echelon executives left Axiom starliner people_1Earth on giant starliners and charged lower-echelon humans the same type of prices they charged for all their earthly GNP goods. As a result of the never-ending, rising land-fills from impulsive, Keeping Up with The Jones consumers they ironically created, Earth was no longer inhabitable. The starliner Axiom returns to Earth to retrieve another garbage compactor EVE that is not functioning. WALL-E becomes a stow-away onboard the Axiom and when he finally sees his predecessors/creators, humans. Every single one of them are grossly obese, immobile, and totally dependent on automation to do everything for them — the consequence of widespread chief-dome and no one wanting to rotate into the support roles, the blue-collar roles, the farmer roles, the plumber and garbage roles, or janitor roles. The ‘indians‘ roles.

All the chieftain-humans on the starliners had become slaves to convenience, leisure and having anyone or everything robotic perform all the daily, humdrum labor they themselves were too lazy to do. It was below them and their pay-grade.

Slavery. Oh the irony. In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian and political scientist, wrote a book about the young United States of America while examining a spreading trend of democracy and equality in Europe as well as North America. The book was Democracy in America and Tocqueville was intrigued by America’s system of governing and its nurturing of individualism. He thought the U.S. was a leading example of liberty, equality, a stable economy, and governing in action. He noted too how popular its churches were to social life. Yet, with all those “good marks,” he couldn’t help but notice how a freedom-loving nation despicably treated Native American Indians and African slaves. With all the theoretical perks of democracy, capitalism, and individualism, Tocqueville warned that too much equality would or could lead to intellectual dilution and a mediocrity of majority rule. Regarding independent, provocative thought, theory, and debate he wrote:

The majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it, not that he stands in fear of an inquisition, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness in every day persecution. A career in politics is closed to him for he has offended the only power that holds the keys.

alexis de tocquevilleOn the other hand, the pendulum can swing too far the other way to plutarchy and oligarchy if there is an insufficient, low-quality public education system and lack of economic opportunities/mobility to hedge against such tyrannies. If or when that occurs, some “individualized” Americans independently wealthy and above a struggling majority — what is currently the case in America today — often have the delayed pragmatic realization that looking after the welfare of others is not only good for the soul, but actually is equally good for their business and wealth. Those individualized elite who never realize this profound truth, eventually watch their empire and ivory towers crumble. Just ask the Roman Empire’s aristocracy, ask the 18th century opulent French monarchs such as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, or ask those executive heads of Leonard R. Rogers’ mega-tobacco corporation, or let’s ask a modern, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz:

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this has been something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Often, however, they learn it too late.

Tocqueville had a lot to say about the bright and dark sides of “democracy” in 1835. I think he still has a lot to say about it today, along with WALL-E, Leonard Rogers, and my Dad. Everyone deserves the right to be well-educated, helped and prepared by a team/village for their rotation as a chief and as an indian. When you stand-in and walk in someone else’s shoes, that is when understanding begins. That is when appreciation begins. That is when compassion and empathy begins. That is when true empowerment with humility begins.

(paragraph break)

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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39 thoughts on “Chiefs, Indians, Slavery & Tocqueville

  1. When you stand-in and walk in someone else’s shoes, that is when understanding begins.

    Outstanding idea Professor. Great post. I have often heard, and even voiced myself, someone say that if they had a lot of money they would use it to help others. I think many who have come from a lower income level would as they understand how hard it is for people in those incomes. However if you had no experience with the issue of low income, if you always had whatever you wanted, if you were born into wealth, can any of us say we would understand what those not born into it are going through. How often have I heard wealthy congress people make statements that clearly show they have no clue what things cost and how hard it can be. Senator Grassley famously said it was right to give money to the wealthy because the poor only spend it on women, booze , and movies. I hope I have been a better human with my resources than those who withhold help from their fellows. I hope I am a good enough person that if I was able to come into a higher income, I would not forget where I can from. Hugs

    Liked by 4 people

    • You like the idea of frequent rotation throughout hierarchies Scottie? I do. Of course everybody can’t be “perfect” (even near perfect) in all roles within a system all the time, but I think it can certainly assure that all moving parts within a machine works inspired, longer, and more efficiently. IMO America needs this rotating roles BADLY for many reasons. 🙂

      I think you are on the right track Scottie as far as “a good enough person” and capable and well as qualified to be a teamplayer, in all roles! 👍

      Liked by 2 people

    • “Senator Grassley famously said it was right to give money to the wealthy because the poor only spend it on women, booze , and movies.” As a poor person who’s frequently drunk whilst watching movies, I must say, Senator Grassley is WAY out of line here. Look, I don’t spend what little money I have on women. I don’t have to. I spend it on booze, and THEN, I offer to share it with women I know; that’s how I get ’em to come on over to watch movies with me. Geez, I wish these guys would get it right for once!

      Liked by 4 people

  2. My favourite quote from Tocqueville’s book:

    “In America I have seen the freest and best educated of men in circumstances the happiest to be found in the world; yet it seemed to me that a cloud habitually hung on their brow, and they seemed serious and almost sad even in their pleasures.”

    Liked by 5 people

  3. The picture painted by the grossly obese living in automation, doesn’t even sound fun. What a waste of life. I went from labor to management, and now back to labor by choice. Simple, active, low stress living. It’s hard to set yourself up for happiness in this system. Yet we are forced to participate. The health of the 99% is important to the 1%, but just barely. I don’t like the game. I want to take my ball and go home.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Well, for the sake of full disclosure, in WALL-E and any other similar films/documentaries about orbital, interplanetary, and interstellar spaceflight, part of the human biological-physiological issues and problems are clearly microgravity or zero-gravity. After some 200,000+ years of human evolution our bodies are best adapted to one rock: Earth. Therefore, as human space travellers we MUST adapt to an entirely different set of parameters, to say the least! Hahahaha! 🤣

      That said, my fat chieftains point still applies whether on Earth or up in space.

      As I was telling Scottie above, I really like some type of incorporation — in as many workforce and governmental operations — of a continual rotation of leadership/support or chief/indian coupled with sufficient TEAM round tables. IMO, that is a better form of truer equality and democracy.

      Thanks Jim for your good feedback! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was just reading today about a relative Franklin Cannon. He was a doctor back in Missouri and took four years out to be Lt Governor. Then he left and went back to his practice. That’s the way it should be. I hate career anything, but especially political ones. In, then out. That’s the way it should go. And rotating adds character, variety, and spice to life. Who wants to be miserable stuck doing the same thing their whole life?

        Liked by 3 people

        • @ Jim , I wanted to like your comment as I like the idea of citizen politicians that do not make a career out being in office. However I do think there are many reasons to stay in the same job for a lifetime. The thing is if you enjoy doing that job. To me that is the most important part of working, and what makes a job a worthwhile thing to put so much of your life into. Second thing is if you have to learn a special skill for that job that gets better over time as you add to your knowledge such as the medical fields. Doctors, ARNPs, Nurses, scientist, engineers, computer fields are some of the jobs I think that benefit from more experience. I think that also goes for teachers that love what they are doing. Now that I think on it, add good parents who love and care for their children to that list. Best wishes. Hugs

          Liked by 2 people

        • I’d go nuts sitting at one desk forever. I’m an adventurous sort and have lived and worked many dream jobs and lived in many vacation spots. that’s my style. My dad was a welder for 50 years, i respect that in some ways, but new blood is sooo important to any venture. Most people you are referring to are just biding their time. We have many teachers here at the school looking more at retirement than students. Most, I would say. But politicians? No way. To much power corrupts. Always has and always will. Even those with the best intentions get corrupted or they quit. I totally favor term limits. Asap

          Liked by 4 people

        • You remind me of my Husband Ron. He loved to change homes every few years, and the longest he was at any job was about 6 years, until he was in his 50’s. He followed his dreams and could teach himself any job he wanted to get. He even taught himself butlering so he could apply and got the job of being the night time butler at a place known as Mar-a-Largo. Hugs

          Liked by 3 people

        • Yes, but one last thought on this. While I never minded Ron following his dreams and I followed him every time he wanted to move, there were many people who tried to tell me he was wrong and I shouldn’t go along with it. I tried to explain he was happy and productive following his interests and dreams. At the same time all that change made it hard to get equity in our homes and hard to build up retirement funds. However the memories we have and the abilities Ron has taught himself are things to be proud of. Hugs

          Liked by 3 people

        • @ Jim. OT . Jim didn’t you have a commenter who claimed to be a Dr. Guyman? I am watching a YouTuber I know who is responding to a teen boy who tries to wear a disguise and calls himself Dr. Guyman. I wonder if it is the same boy. Hugs


        • Oh sorry, this kids know and responds to atheist blogs and Youtube videos. He tires to pretend to be an adult but it is clear he is an immature teen boy. Hugs

          Liked by 1 person

        • We have many teachers here at the school looking more at retirement than students.

          Jim, that was exactly the biggest reason I could not get hired on as a full-time teacher and Spec Ed teacher at over 25 ISD’s in the DFW metroplex! None of the well-tenured teachers wanted to give up their positions they’d been in the last 10-30 years. Also, another contributing factor was that 75% – 80% of public school teachers are married females with their husbands also working for an above-average lifestyle. No one wants to give up there security, retirement(?), or nice-to-very-nice lifestyles, especially in the wealthier ISD’s. :/

          Liked by 1 person

        • Indeed Jim. Most/many humans cannot happily do one, three, or five tedious routine tasks 355 – 365 days a year, unless of course they’ve either got a mental deficiency or they’ve NEVER travelled outside of their small bubble of life. 😉 Besides, if it hasn’t already been reasonably done, every square inch of land on planet Earth is pretty well known by humans. The oceans are the exception. We are a very curious, mobile species.

          Naturally, we cannot do and know everything there is to know about life and existence. However, a species that is TOO hyper-individualized — as Tocqueville alludes to — lowers its chances of long-term survival. Perpetual fluid diversity… physically, mentally, and interrelationally, both individual and as a whole/team, better assures the machines survival. When one individual can fill-in gaps of dysfunction (whatever the cause) because they are a Jack with Many Hats & Trades, the whole benefits. Hyper-Super Specialization without at least a BASIC knowledge of other “Fine Arts,” is quite risky and vulnerable to random events and catastrophes. But I don’t mean to oversimplify my theoretical interrelational system or concept. Sometimes macro-systems and micro-systems do not function well together; they need independence or compartmentalization. What I am pointing out is that if there is always and only ONE “Chief” that knows pretty well the entire machine, nuts and bolts, etc, what happens if a meteorite hisses down out of the sky and hits him right on the noggin and kills him, or turns him into one of the future-characters straight out of the movie Idiocracy! 😮 Can you imagine what would happen to the human race!? 😨

          Liked by 2 people

      • As homo sapiens we compete for a limited pool of resources; so being at the top of the pyramid is what we’re aiming at. I think that’s both instinctive and cultural. Like Jim, I dislike the game and have taken my ball and come home – but only after I took what I needed to assure my well-being for the rest of my life.

        Liked by 3 people

        • (please pickup on my tongue-n-cheek reply here) 😊

          Ahh, so you are the type citizen that Tocqueville and Stiglitz warn us about, yes? “…I have taken my ball and come home – but only after I took what I needed [wanted] to assure MY well-being for the rest of MY life.” 😉

          Seriously though, I’d want to further examine the history, causes, sources of the description “limited pool of resources” humans feel they need to compete for. IMHO, education, and experience, Homo sapiens do have indeed a ceiling of needs for comfortable survival and a definitive ceiling for a comfortable, thriving existence… with plenty to go around for decades. Even modern remote indigenous tribes demonstrate there are many paths to a happy, fulfilling life.

          But that said, then we have some Homo sapiens today, and all throughout history, which demonstrate with horrific methods that THE WORLD is not enough for them and their henchmen. 😦 So I do read between the lines of what you’re saying Pink. 👍

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post Professor. I was intrigued by this line in particular:

    Tocqueville warned that too much equality would or could lead to intellectual dilution and a mediocrity of majority rule

    From my understanding of what you wrote, Tocqueville sort of saw too much equality and oligarchy as two ends of a spectrum. It seems that in some way he would have been a proponent of socialist democracy. One that had a healthy balance of capitalism to ensure some competition, but certainly not unrestrained such that income inequality got out of control.

    I wonder also about the truth of this statement. I certainly think that it can lead to dilution and mediocrity when this is what the government seems to value in its voters, but I don’t think it has to be this way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Swarn,

      I think you may be correct in that interpretation of Tocqueville. I am certainly not an expert biographer on him. I only became familiar with Tocqueville via Joseph Stiglitz. As Americans living here in the 21st century, I think your assessment of that part of his observations would be accurate considering he was referring to the 19th century eastern U.S. I do think it is safe to say that currently America is nothing at all like a semi-socialist nation. The enormous Grand Canyon inequality socioeconomic gap is a glaring fact and indisputable. What I think Tocqueville IS correct in assessing our country — even from the 1830’s — is how much the U.S. has indeed become as he predicted… a plutarchy and oligarchy! The fact that in 2010 Citizens United (vs. FEC) succeeded is prove enough, as one example.

      I have to agree with you Swarn, it doesn’t have to be this way and a socialist democracy can work better. The Nordic Models are also proof enough. 🙂

      As always, thank you very much for your feedback Sir.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Democracy reads well, but it doesn’t act well” — no doubt due to the fact that the actors are human beings who can’t get their act together (not that any other system of governing has proven superior). That must be why “When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.” –William Shakespeare


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