Nov

17

Might is Right, from Bo Keely

November 17, 2017 |

 All the Slabs rest on these three words:  Might is Right. 

I will try to describe life here in a rational and straightforward manner. Human rights are not determined by justice, but my might. Hide it as you may, the naked fist rules and makes or breaks kings, as of yore. All of the other theories are lures and lies once you enter the town limit. 

It is the greatest human example of the Law of the Jungle that I have ever visited. The expression means ‘every man for himself’. I’ve been in every type of jungle around the world, and the code of survival is the same in Slab with reference to the superiority of brute force or self-interest in the struggle for survival.  

The phrase was used in a poem by Rudyard Kipling to describe the behavior and obligations of a wolf in a pack. In ‘The Law for the Wolves’:

Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and true as the sky,

And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

Every great Slabber is a lone wolf, for individualism runs strong in this anarchist community. But, when he must, he banks with others, to fight other packs on the trail. Everywhere Might is Right.

The Slabs consists of a warren of trailers and shanties on the dark squares of a checkerboard of WWII cement. The town rises in honor of Woodstock along the open road that Kerouac wrote about. It offers freedom lovers unmatched profoundness in contrast to the surrounding America.

A lion’s share of that freedom is accepting its tenet of social Darwinism. The term is used to refer to various ways of thinking and theories that emerged in the second half of the 19th century. It applied the evolutionary concept of natural selection to human society, especially in isolated ones like Slab City. Scholars still debate the extent to which the idea provisions opposing aggressive individualism. To roll it out into the open, Slab City believes that power, strength and superiority are the mark of a moral human being. Inherent human rights are nonexistence. Human rights instead are the spoils of the conquering man, and only to be enjoyed when they are taken and defended. 

The core Might is Right gives the superior brain and brawn an excuse to take control, and the weaker a reason to violent revolt. ‘And, that’s the way it is,’ as Walter Cronkite might sum the town’s morals. 

Moral values undergo a rampant change on passing the abandoned guard shack outside Salvation Mountain. They are the standards of good and evil which govern an individual’s behavior and choices. Individual morals are sure to differ inside and outside this town, and a visitor who stays long almost always undergoes a paradigm shift toward social Darwinism. There is no middle ground in defending yourself and, either, rising or falling. Strong personalities are built and broken here. 

The key is how to manage to live together? It is an outlaw town in the sense that there are no laws, and every disagreement that I have ever seen – thousands – have been solved by the threat or execution of the sword of principles defined in the Victorian book Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard. Published posthumously in 1890, it heavily advocates egoistic anarchism, individualism, amorality, consequentialism, and psychological hedonism. Egoistic anarchism is particularly interesting in upholding extreme individualism without regard to how well or ill humanity may fare. It rejects conventional ideas of human and natural rights and argues that only strength of mind or physical might can establish moral rights. The response to the book has been nothing more or less than either love or hatred, which is the same reaction of every visitor to Slab City. It is regularly featured on the most-banned book lists, as this outlaw town is denounced as the most desperado to be shunned. 

The book and town are a veritable political and philosophical earthquake, marking the collapse of a false and depressing ideology that has held sway for 2,000 years. The thought is positively startling. Little of what you know is true. They may take who have the power. They can keep who can. 

Some Redbeard quotes echo what I see daily in Slab City:

‘If a man smite you on one cheek, smash him down; smite him hip and thigh, for self-preservation is the highest law.’

‘The natural world is a world of war; the natural man is a warrior; the natural law is tooth and claw.’

‘Nothing so lowers a lover in a virile maiden’s estimation, than for him to be whipped in a personal encounter with a rival.’

‘A condition of combat everywhere exists. We are born into perpetual conflict.’

‘Every man’s hand against every other man: except where living individuals have formed temporary partnerships. When one partner breaks the mutual agreement, the combine is necessarily dissolved, and all become enemies as before.’

‘Every organism, every human being, must conquer or serve. This is an ultimatum.’

‘Sociology is a biological problem and nations are herds of cattle.’


Slab City supplants the ideal of what is right, beautiful, and pleasant by the terrible consequence that Might is Right. It is fearful to think of what would befall humanity if such were to spread among the masses of people. And it has already begun to spread. 

The Law of the Slabs is that those who are strong and apply ruthless self-interest are the most successful. This is a zoo of predators offering contrast to the rest of USA. It urges us to face reality and deal with life as it really is rather than what we wish it was. The town is not what it should or must be but the way it is. 

I’m open to the idea of the Law of the Jungle having survived it in as many desperate situations as the spots on a leopard. There has been nothing else since stepping into the Slabs. However, it may take others a week to acclimate to Might is Right.

There are a lot of terms thrown around here – ‘Law of the Jungle’, ‘red in tooth and claw’, ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘social Darwinism’ – but the waffle reduces to Might is Right. The town asks no questions and gives its reward to the strong.


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1 Comment so far

  1. Andre on November 17, 2017 5:28 pm

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