Emancipation ended a horror which did not entirely disappear in areas from which slaves and indentured peoples were brought

Dear Editor,

Emancipation, or the end of slavery in this part of the world, is going to be commemorated August 1st. I have noted here previously that its significance as a historical event goes beyond the fact of the liberation of blacks in the English colonies, and extends to the comprehension of human rights for other categories of the oppressed in much of the civilised world. The human rights dimension of the act of emancipation would, in comprehensible measure, be invoked  by feminists, caste activists, practitioners of some sexual preferences, and the entire range of self-identified sufferers in many parts of the world.

The work and the discourse of abolitionists, more often than not persons of religious persuasion, would, with the power of the British Empire and later of other states, establish the paramountcy of human rights in a sense often limited by prejudices that would survive the act of liberation. Colour and class would remain primary. You were free without being equal. That much is known and it would take Marxist philosophy, the civil rights movement in the USA and the cultural changes in the West of the mid twentieth century (the sixties) to bring the world closer to the concepts of human rights with some equality that is now generally accepted in the occident. And that was fixed by the Quran centuries earlier

Which brings me to the point I wish to make.

Enslavement and indentureship as we know it, created by the economic dynamic of the centuries before, did not cease in the countries and communities from which we were taken. In this way emancipation was the end of a horror that occurred in the New World, but which did not entirely disappear in the cultural areas from which the slaves and later some of the indentured peoples were brought. The conditions under which the Irish and some other minorities and the poor lived in the United Kingdom, and the lower castes in India or slave trade in Africa, servility in the Arab lands and in the Turkish empire would continue as changes took place in Europe and many parts of the world. In many countries they upheld conditions that would enrage many of the more humane westerners and lead to calls for a better universal regime and would have resulted in communism/socialism and similar schemes.

In the meantime Africans rescued and sent home to Sierra Leone or Liberia, or re-settling in Benin, would arrive in the homeland with some of the prejudices and bad habits acquired during their sojourns as second class citizens elsewhere. The  caste systems in West Africa survive until today and tribalism has proven as stubborn as the caste mentalities of India. African independence, like the post colonial existence in most of Asia and remarkably, in Latin America, reveals that the problems were more than colonialism and western domination. In the Congo the Belgian colonisers were amputating the limbs of natives who refused to work. In Rwanda the natives were hating each other.

A reading of the peoples who benefitted from emancipation, despite themselves, would have to look at its effects in the colonies, but also its effects in the Old World from which we came.

The European coming into contact with the Amerindians encountered a people some of whose knowledge of astronomy and mastery of the forested areas would be unmatched. They would give to the West some of its greatest tradeable commodities such as corn, the potato, tobacco, cocaine, and medicines such as curare. They were wiped out and subjected in the same way, it is said that they treated their own enemies. Emancipation and the dominance of abolitionist ideas would not however save them the century and a half of living as third class citizens in their own countries without equal rights. The end of slavery was an event, but the end of the mentalities that justified it needs to be celebrated as other milestones in a universe in which slowly mankind is being drawn to the truth. A hundred years after emancipation, a second World War saw the murder  of Jews and other genocides, and was followed by Dien Bien Phu and Apartheid from the very people who had been fighting Hitler.

Evil manifests itself in many ways, and the event of emancipation need not be used as an excuse for the freedom from the moral values that enure our real freedom. The dialectics at work should not excuse an absence of all morality of the type that sees  men and women reduced to objects and actors in the pornography that life has become in much of the modern neo pagan world. 

We should be grateful for the fact that we are now, perhaps forever free from slavery and that a human rights regime in keeping with the scriptures is possible when we avoid other excesses and dangerous mentalities.

Yours faithfully,

Abu Bakr

Around the Web

Comments