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Archive for the ‘Slavery’ Category

To get a sense of what it was like to travel on a slave ship, I resort to a Wikipedia post:

Slave ships were large cargo ships specially converted for the purpose of taking slaves, especially newly captured African slaves to the Americas. Living conditions for slaves on these ships was inhuman. Men, women and children were crowded into every possible space leaving no room to move or even breathe. There was little food and the smell could not be described. Between 1526 and 1867 about 12.5 million slaves were sent by slave ships from Africa to the Americas. But only about 10.7 million slaves actually arrived. Of all human migrations it was the most costly in terms of human lives lost. The average time to sail across the Atlantic took from 60 to 90 days. Sometimes the trips took up to four months.

Here are some charts showing the way people were crammed into the vessels:

Now for the shocking visualization.

The video below shows the movement of slaves in over 15,000 journeys. Every one of the moving dots on this graphic is a journey of a ship holding hundreds of victims, for 3 or 4 months, in these conditions, against their will.

More than 10 million human beings were displaced in this fashion.

 

The scale of the slave trade and its injustice comes to life this video.

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What were they thinking?

Why would a presidential campaign, just because two southerners were running, use a symbol of oppression, hate and treason as one of the campaign icons? Or were we less sensitive then?

Here is more of what I think about the confederate flag.

 

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“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.”

— Ben Carson, Secretary of HUD

An immigrant is someone who left his country voluntarily to look for a different, usually better life in another country. To even suggest that slaves were immigrants is preposterous.

Slaves gut ripped from the arms of their families, often as children, shackled like animals, driven by whips to the coasts of Africa, where they got dumped into the bottoms of ships to hopefully survive months of squalor, starvation, disease and heat before they arrived in countries they didn’t know, where they didn’t want to be, with no way back, with no hope of any end, just so they could work all waking hours for nothing but the food they were given and the chance for another day of the same. Even their children were automatically slaves.

Immigrants?

How out of touch the brilliant brain surgeon must be to make such statement!

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The whales are so smart they know that even if they hear the cranes coming up the pathway [to lift them out of the pool] or certainly if they see them, they won’t separate, they won’t allow it to happen because they know the possibility … that one of the members of their family or their social group could be taken away from them. … You’ll [hear] extremely upset vocalizations from whales that are … being taken away, and then the whales that they’re being taken away from.

— Former Orca Trainer for SeaWorld

This reminds me of the practice in human slavery, when female slaves were forced to “breed” children so they could be sold off as quickly as possible for profit.

SeaWorld has never really recovered after its drop in stock price and popularity resulting from the movie Blackfish. Recently I have seen prime-time TV advertisement by SeaWorld defending its practices.

Here is another, somewhat older website about the Miami Seaquarium – called in parody Seaprison.

We consumers can help by not patronizing businesses that enslave animals to make human profits.

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Check out this comment on Reddit – describing modern-day slavery.

May I remind you that Obama bows to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Recently there were many allegations about Saudi Arabia actually funding 9/11 activities. I can’t find any confirmation of this to show, but still looking. This is one messed-up country, yet, we seem to have no trouble supporting it.

Our country supports nations that openly practice modern-day slavery. All in the name of “our freedom.”

I don’t like it.

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War is the game played by old men with the lives of the young.

RiverGodRiver God is set in Ancient Egypt, some time during the speculative 13th or 14th dynasty, or roughly between 1700 to 1500 BC. Egyptologists call the era the Second Intermediate Period which followed the Middle Kingdom. Even though that time is about 3700 years ago for us, the Egyptians of the time already thought of themselves as an ancient people. Note that the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Giza was already almost 1000 years old then. To them, that was ancient, ancient antiquity.

The story is told in the first person by a slave and eunuch. Taita, the slave, happens to be brilliant and talented. He knows medicine, architecture, writing, city planning, engineering and many other skills. Such a slave is worth his weight in gold many times over, literally, and rich people will do anything to possess and retain such a slave for themselves.

Taita, therefore, has access to the most powerful people in the empire, and through his eyes we get a first-hand view of the machinations of power in ancient Egypt. The politics, the intrigues, and the sheer struggle for survival, not just for the working class, but also for royalty, comes to life in brilliant colors.

The story is well conceived and plays against a historical background, even though the actual players and their names and individual stories are fictional, yet entirely credible and plausible.

Written in 1994 and filling 662 pages, the story is loosely historically accurate. I am sure it’s not enough for an Egyptologist, but for a novice in ancient history, it serves as a great introduction to a mysterious world far, far away from us, yet, one that lasted many thousands of years longer and our own modern American civilization thus far.

Incredible!

Rating - Four Stars

 

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Korean Concentration Camps

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea estimates that North Korea holds as many as 120,000 people in its system of concentration and detention camps, and that 400,000 people have died in these camps from torture, starvation, disease, and execution.

Some reports indicate that they also practice generational imprisonment:

Many prisoners of the camp were born there under North Korea’s “three generations of punishment”. This means anyone found guilty of committing a crime, which could be as simple as trying to escape North Korea, would be sent to the camp along with that person’s entire family. The subsequent two generations of family members would be born in the camp and must also live their entire lives and die there.

Source Wikipidia

See this Wikipedia article for more details and links.

If you are unlucky enough to be born the grandchild of a person who tried to escape the country, you will serve slave labor for your entire life. Imagine the world-view you would have under those circumstances?

And we, in 2014, allow this to go on, while the baby face dictator gets media coverage.

Bees are Dying

In North America alone, the National Agriculture Statistics Service reported that there were 2.44 million honey-producing hives in the United States in February 2008, down from 4.5 million in 1980, and 5.9 million in 1947. This is also happening in similar proportions in Europe and the rest of the world. We don’t exactly know what is causing it, but we suspect pesticides. Our agriculture depends on bees to a large degree, and entire crops are in peril without sufficient numbers of bees available.

Overfishing the Oceans

Faced with the collapse of large-fish populations, commercial fleets are going deeper in the ocean and father down the food chain for viable catches. This so-called “fishing down” is triggering a chain reaction that is upsetting the ancient and delicate balance of the sea’s biologic system.

A study of catch data published in 2006 in the journal Science grimly predicted that if fishing rates continue apace, all the world’s fisheries will have collapsed by the year 2048.

National Geographic

Anthropogenic Climate Change

97% of climate scientists agree that human activity is causing climate change.  We are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at rates that will result in global warming to a degree that the ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica will melt, causing a rise of sea levels and overall changed in weather, resulting in droughts and many other climate related disasters, all within the next 100 years.

Most of the educated world agrees with this assessment. In the United States, however, there is a strong movement of “climate deniers” particularly in the conservative population that is well-funded by the oil and coal industries, putting the general consensus in question. Since the U.S. is by far the largest polluter in the world, this strong anti-climate-change sentiment has global implications. One of the arguments of deniers is that since China and India are just starting to pump pollution into the air, whatever we do will not offset that, so we might as well not even try. A significant percentage of the U.S. population seems to have bought into this philosophy.

We didn’t want to face that smoking was dangerous to our health, until the first generations of smokers started dying early in the millions in the 1960s and 1970, so the inevitable evidence eventually came and changed our attitude. This will happen with climate change, but the nature of the problem is much more calamitous in the event that climate scientists are right. We could ruin the planet for centuries or millennia – before it can recover again.

We are playing a big-stakes game of dice. Our conservatives are not even willing to hedge their bets – they’re betting the planet in exchange of jobs and profits.

Mass Extinction

Human beings are currently causing the greatest mass extinction of species since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. If present trends continue, one half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in less than 100 years, as a result of habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species,
and climate change.

Source Link Here

Depletion of Fossil Fuels

Oil companies are making record profits, and did so during the hard years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Right now, the United States has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer in the world. Oil companies are raking it in while they can, because they know the gravy train is coming to an end. The International Energy Agency announced in 2006 that the world had hit “Peak Oil” meaning that oil production worldwide had hit the maximum. Going forward from Peak Oil, it will be harder and more expensive to extract and deliver oil, and new supplies will lag behind new demand.

The evidence for is, of course, is the price we are now paying at the pump, which is more than twice what it was just five years ago. The free market speaks the ultimate truth here. Oil is in more demand than can be fulfilled.

There is a lot of controversy about the Peak Oil theory. People argue that the Peak Oil crowd does not know what they are talking about. So, for a moment, let’s put aside all studies and all science, and especially all American politics.

It took about 450 million years to make all the oil in the world. Oil is basically the end-result of millions of years of sunshine (solar energy) being trapped in organic material, mostly plants. The earth is not making any more of the stuff at an appreciable rate. About a hundred years ago we started using it up by burning it and as ingredients for manufacturing, and we have made a measurable dent in our supply. If you trust the doom-sayers, we have about 20 years of oil left at the current consumption. Some say 20 to 50 years. Wild and crazy optimists say 100 years. But it’s limited, very limited, and we will run out.

The question is not if Peak Oil is real. The only question we may ask is if it really happened in 2006, or if it’s still off in the future, perhaps in 2016 or 2026.

I once calculated [see formula here] that roughly every day we are using up as much fuel as it took nature 5,000 years to create.

We. Will. Run. Out. Of. Oil.

When the time finally comes, perhaps centuries hence, our descendants will have figured out how to make do without it. But there are legitimate uses of fossil fuels in reasonable amounts, and they will wish we had not squandered it to make plastic grocery bags or plastic forks for one time use; or for teenagers to drive to the mall. Fossil fuels are a limited resource, and when they are all gone, we’ll have to wait another 450 million years to get more, and haul them here from another planet with life on it.

Our strategy is pretty weird, isn’t it?

Slavery

There are more people in slavery today than any time in previous history. Slavery has many faces. Keeping people trapped in sweatshops in Bangladesh so we can buy cheap shirts at the mall in the United States is a form of slavery. Holding young girls as sex objects is a form of slavery. Bringing laborers from Pakistan to work in construction in Dubai and taking away their passports is a form of slavery.

We are making it possible and we let it happen by our willingness to consume the products of the various forms of slavery – at Wal-Mart and all the other retail stores in our neighborhoods. Go to the mall and try to find a shirt made in the United States, and you will recognize what I mean.

Wars over Religion

It’s 2014 and we are still bickering and shooting each other over whose god is right and whose is wrong. It’s been going on for thousands of years, and we’re still willing to die for stuff written in books in the bronze age or in medieval times. I know people in and from Israel, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. They are all good human beings, people who only want to make their lives and the lives of their children better. That’s what everybody wants. If we just stopped bringing gods into the picture, we’d all get along just fine.

The gods are propped up by those that get fat off of them. The religious leaders wearing Rolexes and driving Bentleys. The politicians who build palaces. The kings who tax the rest of their countrymen. And the whole religious food chain below them, all the way down to the basket that’s passed down the rows of pews on Sunday morning.

I say we just abolish religion and save humanity in the process. But I am naïve.

 

 

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Some of the greatest novels of all time have one distinct villain who dedicates his life to making the hero miserable by pursuing him relentlessly, against all odds and reason. Examples are Javert in Les Misérables or Danglars in The Count of Monte Cristo. We draw some comfort from the knowledge that those are fictional characters, and the stories are made up. Sadly, there are many examples in real life where tormentors do target single individuals with the simple objective of hurting and breaking them. Recently I reviewed the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. She tells the story of “the Bird,” a sadistic Japanese prison guard who tortures a prisoner of war. Unfortunately, “the Bird” is a real person, and the victim could have been any one of us.

slavegirlDr. Flint was a slave owner who took a liking to his slave Linda when she was a little girl. When she didn’t respond to the sexual harassment and abuse, he made it his life’s quest to hurt her in every way he could.

The book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, one of the first autobiographical stories of female American slaves, was published as a novel in 1861 under the pseudonym of Linda Brent. It was based the real story of Harriet Ann Jakobs, who was born a slave in South Carolina in 1813. After escaping slavery she became an abolitionist speaker and reformer.

Harriet educates us about aspects of slavery that we might not have thought about, particularly as it concerns women and girls. Since the slaves are the property of the master, they can do anything they want with them. That opens up obvious and unspeakable possibilities, especially concerning young and beautiful girls. Owners would abuse the girls sexually. The girls would get pregnant at a young age, and since the children follow the status of the mothers, the children, too, would be slaves. All the owner had to do is feed them to grow up, and thus they could expand their stable of “livestock.” Many of them were not morally concerned that these slaves were actually their own children. The mothers were inferior, so the children were too, no matter that they sired them themselves.

One of the most brutal practices of slavery was separation of families. Even if slaves were married and had children, the families still belonged to the owners. In times of financial distress, the owners would sell of the families, often in pieces. Fathers who were strong could be sold off for plantation work, while the mothers stayed behind. They would never see each other again. Worse, children would be sold one at a time, or as sibling packages, without the mothers. Scenes of wailing mothers begging to be bought along with their children, just so they could stay with them, were frequent at slave markets. The markets were the most dreadful experiences for slaves.

Injustice abounded. An old man, who may have worked as a family servant for generations, would simply be discarded like trash when he was old and feeble and could no longer work. Sometimes a slave might manage to get the funds to “buy himself” free. Often there was fraud, and the owners would take the money only to re-enslave the subject under some pretext or legal loophole that the hapless slave didn’t know about.

Slaves were kept ignorant. It was forbidden to teach them to read and write. An ignorant, uneducated man cannot improve his lot and certainly he can’t challenge authority.

When Linda escaped, she was hidden by her family in a little attic over a storage shed next to the porch of her grandmother’s house. The attic had a hidden trapdoor for access from the storage shed. It was nine feet long, seven feet wide and at the highest point only three feet high. It was completely dark, insect and rat-infested and not insulated. So in the summer it turned into an oven, and in the winter it was bitter cold. The roof leaked and could not be fixed without exposing the occupant.

In this hell hole Linda could not even stand up or exercise. She drilled a few small knot holes so light and air could come in. She tried to keep herself busy with sewing. Not even all the occupants in the house, like other slaves, knew about her presence there. Only her grandmother and uncle tended to her for her necessities.

She lived in this coffin for seven years.

Here I must stop, because Harriet Jakobs tells her own story in brilliant clarity herself much better than I ever could recount it.

If you are only going to read one book about slavery in your life, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is the one I would recommend you read.

Rating: ****

 

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12 Years12 Years a Slave is crushing at the deepest levels.

Masterfully done cinematography, a haunting musical score and powerful acting tell the story of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a respectable middle-class family man who lives with his wife and two children in Saratoga, New York in 1841, when he is lured away and eventually abducted into slavery. Solomon is sold and resold, from one plantation to another. Through his eyes we see mothers separated forever from their children, women abused sexually, people whipped until the flesh peels from their backs for no reason but the egos of the owners. Ignorant, insecure and vindictive individuals in arbitrary positions of power have ultimate control over the lives, happiness and health of others – by “owning” them. Being a slave means being subject to the whims of the lowest of the low characters the human race has spawned: slavers.

This movie is based in part of the memoir of Solomon Northrup, which he wrote after he was able to escape from captivity by proving his freedom in 1853, twelve years after he was abducted. The film illustrates in brilliant colors the terrible injustice our own system of government inflicted on the slaves.

I cannot imagine how it is possible, after viewing 12 Years a Slave, to wrap yourself in the Confederate flag now and today and protest for secession of Texas, or march in front of the White House. Do these people really yearn for those conditions to return? What does the Confederate flag mean to them?

12 Years a Slave reminded me Django Unchained, another masterpiece about slavery, but it has a different, more emotionally intense approach.

Watching two hours and 15 minutes of that took a lot out me, but it is a story that must be told, over and over again.

This is particularly true in a world where human trafficking in 2013 is alive and thriving. There are slaves right now working in factories all over the world. There are slaves in Europe and the United States providing sexual services against their will. There are slaves all over the middle east working in households for no pay, 18 hours a day. We ignore this while we post cat pictures on Facebook.

12 Years a Slave brought forth all these images in me, and they are not going away. I predict there will be many awards for this movie. It is definitely one of the best, most powerful ones I have seen this year.

Rating: ****

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Afghan wife Sahar Gul being taken to hospital. Her in-laws tried her to force her into prostitution

Afghan wife Sahar Gul being taken to hospital. Her in-laws tried her to force her into prostitution

This is a 15-year-old Afghan girl. She was sold as a wife when she was an illiterate 12-year-old. Her in-laws waged a campaign of unimaginable torture. They starved her, chained her in a basement bathroom, beat her, burned her with red-hot metal pipes and pulled her fingernails out, trying to force her into prostitution.

Another problem in Afghanistan and many other Muslim nations is the systematic and institutional sexual abuse of young boys, something that has been going on for thousands of years in those cultures, and something that is going on today, every day.

Remember your own childhood. Remember how vulnerable you were being in this magical world where adults were gods and omnipotent, where you didn’t know the rules and were completely dependent on your parents for nourishment, shelter and emotional well-being. Now imagine that those parents had looked the other way when you were an eight-year-old boy and some uncle came to the house and spent the night in your room, your bed.

As a girl, imagine if your father had sold you to some old guy for a few sheep or goats when you were twelve years old.

Yet, while I sit here safely in the United States, sipping my Negra Modelo beer while typing this post, this is exactly what is being done to thousands of children in the Arab world, right now, right this minute.

I know I cannot change the system of what is religiously acceptable in an Islamic country. I cannot change what other sovereign nations allow to be done to their people, and particularly the weakest members of their society: children – and unfortunately worse – female children.

But I can stand up and state that I do not agree that my country supports the regime that allows this to occur. I despise that our own young men and women are being sent to this country under the pretense of “securing our freedom” only to come back in body bags, in the worst case, or maimed physically, or permanently damaged emotionally due to having had to observe atrocities, and being asked to look the other way.

I can stand up and categorically state that I do not believe that United States taxpayer money should be sent to a country that promotes this type of atrocious abuse.

In God we trust?

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In China, soccer ball manufacturers make their employees work 20 hour days, for a month without interruption. Have you bought a soccer ball lately? If you did, you have slaves working for you. How many leather shoes are in your closet? How many gadgets do you own? Do you use coffee? Do you have jewels? Silver or gold?

In Pakistan, boys get placed in servitude at age 13 and don’t get released until age 30. You know how long ago 17 years was? Clinton was dilly-dallying with Monica 17 years ago. That’s how long.

Take the Slavery Footprint Survey and be amazed how much your actions and your purchases contribute to slavery all around the world.

I found out that 29 slaves work for me. I think my score is low.

slavery

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African Slave Being Shackled

African Slave Onboard Ship Being Shackled

At least eight of our 44 presidents were slave owners. Note that John Adams (2) is missing. Adams is actually famous for being against slavery when it was a mainstay institution of the American economy.

1. Washington: 316 slaves

3. Jefferson: 187 slaves

4. Madison: 106 slaves

7. Jackson: 160 slaves

10. Tyler: 70 slaves

11. Polk: unspecified number of slaves

12. Taylor: 100 slaves

18. Grant: at least 1 slave

source: U.S. Slave

As for some of the other early presidents, I speculate that they were simply not rich enough to be able to afford slaves.


					

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Be Careful What You Post

Like saying in a comment that “slavery is not all that immoral” could end up getting you on the cover on the New York Times – or into my blog….

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The first census was done in 1790. The population of the U.S. was found to be 3,929,214 people. In 1776, at the time of the Declaration of Independence, historians estimate the population to have been about 2.5 million people. That is less than the population of San Diego County today.

It’s also interesting to compare population and population growth of the white versus African-American population, including the percentage of black slaves:

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