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‘For the Best’
The Old Conductress: Chapter 1 of Voltaire’s Candide, pages 3-6
One might say that we all have our “Old Conductress” in the form of this worn crone of a world…
“How Candide Was brought Up in a Magnificent Castle and How He Was Driven Thence…”
“In the Country of Westphalia…” Voltaire introduces us to a man of innocence born in the very cradle of the modern Nation State, Candide…
“…a youth whom Nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition. His face was the true index of his mind. He had a solid judgment joined to the most unaffected simplicity; and hence, I presume, he had his name of Candide. The old servants of the house…”
Exactly halfway through the first paragraph of the first chapter the reader is introduced to slavery, the presence of “servants” in the house, a term, which in French was equated to “tool” and “to use” and finds its expression in the modern term employee, which is to say a useful human tool for the User’s will.
The Lord told stories and his servants feared to disapprove of his humor.
Candide, bastard orphan of the house was in love with his maser’s daughter, who was “fresh-colored.” This love turned to action when the girl saw the teacher of the house, Master Pangloss, having sex with “a little brown wench” which may very well have described a European “sylvid” a person of the lower orders who spent much time out of doors and was tan, unlike the heavily clothed and sheltered gentry, who wore the prize of pale skin.
Master Pangloss had inculcated a doctrine that all things were for the best in young Candide, who was left to fathom the results of his flirtation—a kiss it seems—with Cunegund, the daughter of his Master. When the two are discovered embracing behind a curtain Candide is beaten and kicked by the master and the girl is punched in the head by her mother, demonstrating the standard behavior of European Masters towards their children. Interestingly, scholars of today insist that the Master Class, who constantly beat their own children, refrained from beating their European slaves because they were European. If family mattered so little to these brutes, what matters race?
Is not race an extension of nothing other than the family?
It is also of interest that when this noble house is wiped out in war, no mention of the fate of the slaves is made, only of the masters, predicting the trajectory of our own historical denial of self.
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