tisdag 27 mars 2007

Abolition of slave trade bicentenary


Jufureh slavery mural
Originally uploaded by lidbit.

It does no harm that the detailed horrors of the slave trade have been given an airing. I had not been aware that Britain was the dominant power in this trafficking as this uncomfortable fact is normally glossed over.

I suspect that it is a factor in the enfeeblement of the British upper classes, and in particular, the low esteem they hold for craft, manual and engineering skills. From the eighteenth century on, the English ideal was that of the country gentlemen, living off other people's labour, on the principle that it was better to keep your hands clean, sit in an ivory tower and contemplate, with hunting, shooting and fishing to prevent complete stagnation. I came across it at university, when students who were studying science and engineering were held in contempt. Nowadays, the idea persists in the ambition to make money by shifting it around rather than actually producing anything. So that is just one way in which we are still paying the price.

Another is the poorly integrated and discontented descendants of the slaves, who inhabit poor inner-city areas. There is talk about paying compensation, but from whom and to whom? Wishing in any way to play down the suffering, it is worth remembering that the heyday of the British slave trade, in the middle of the eighteenth century, was also the time when the English were forced into wage-slavery through being driven off the land by the Enclosure Acts. This, together with the Scottish land clearances, is an injustice which not only continues to this day. It is the root cause of many of the problems which we have to live with in Britain and is the same injustice which now afflicts the descendants of slaves who now live here. Most British were, and still are, victims. It is the aftermath of land enclosure which keeps so much of our population in persistent poverty.

So if there is restitution to be made, perhaps the most effective way of doing it would be to restore the land to everbody.

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