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A History of Man's Inhumanity to Man


Dear Source:
The Source responses from Ms. Moorehead on the reparation issues were both intelligent and to the point. She sought to explain the position her group has been involved in, namely the "repair" of the long-term effects that slavery has had on the black population. She is correct that this very controversial issue has had a lasting affect for over 300 years and it seems that the issues will not go away soon. It would be beneficial to all if the term "repair" was defined. Is it money? An apology? A long-term commitment from the Danes? I feel I am at a loss when I try to understand just what is being sought.
Ms. Clarke did bring up a significant historical point- That mankind has a history of enslavement throughout time. Even the Africans who, while at war, sought to eliminate, through genocide or local enslavement, other tribes who posed a threat to land or holdings. There was a time in history when slavery was not only condoned but it was a symbol of affluence, even in Africa. African cultures, like European cultures condoned slavery as part of their spoils of war. As Europeans found new conquests in the new world and as the need for agricultural workers grew, coupled with the fact that slavery, not necessarily African slavery, was so prevalent at that time and where enough slaves could not be found throughout Europe or in the Americas, the African slaves were found to be yet another source. Europeans thought of themselves as the master race because of religious beliefs. The warring tribes in Africa found an easy solution to their tribal problems-instead of enslaving their enemies themselves; they sold them, thus solving two problems at the same time.
The agricultural needs of Europe at that time was growing to the point where European, or even Middle Eastern or Asian sources of slaves, criminals or indentured persons, were simply too scarce. As the holdings and riches of European counties was growing through exploration from the fourteenth century on, and where new sources of wealth through conquest allowed European counties the benefit of that conquest by procuring new sources of materials for food and wealth, the need to produce and bring those newfound sources back to Europe required an enormous amount of labor thus the greater need for workers and slaves were the cheap answer. It is no coincidence that the historic times of European conquest in the new world correlated with the growth of the slave trade.
The Danes, British, Spaniards, French and other European countries all benefited from slavery because of the opening up of the new world. Later, these same Europeans brought slavery into the new North American conquest. Even the Caribs were enslaved from the very beginning of this European invasion. The thought of slavery today is repugnant to any civilized society but it was not considered that way during the opening up of the new world, especially when it was condoned by the church. Slaves and indentured persons were considered less than human or at least not of the quality of a European and thus there was no humanity when it came to the buying or selling of these persons or indenturing entire families to payless servitude or through criminal incarceration and forced labor. After all, it was the church, in many cases, that benefited from the slave trade since church hierarchy at the time was often the wealthiest of Europeans.
So then, who is to blame? The Europeans? The Africans? The church? Who do African-Americans or any person of African decent go to in order to "repair" the sins of the past? Should the Chinese slaves and indentured persons also seek reparations? Should the Irish? Should the Jews who were forced into bondage for thousands of years also ask for forgiveness and "repair" from not only the Egyptians, but from the Germans and Russians? Maybe gypsies, non-Christians and Moslems who were slaughtered by the millions in the name of the church during the Spanish inquisition, should also seek damages?
Slavery was blight on the history of man-kind no less that the fact that man killed its brethren solely for the acquisition of wealth or land through-out know history. We are still doing it today with no end in sight. Should we then, prepare a tribunal now for the perpetrators of the wars and genocide in Iraq, Africa or for the terrorists or should we wait until history has a chance to record it for posterity? When slavery was commonplace, I am sure that few would have thought about what history would say about the madness of it all.
The history of mankind is rife with war, plunder and slavery all for the benefit of the few. Should we also ask for borders back that were in place 300 hundred years ago but acquired through war? Should we ask for the riches back that were taken from conquered countries? Should we re-claim borders similar to the way the Palestinians and Israelis are trying to do?
All these questions must be decided upon before we separate out slavery as the single most atrocious act humans ever perpetrated upon one another in its history. Humans, ALL humans are not a wonderful race of people historically and we know that. To think of reparations means thinking of the human condition and the history of humans wherever they were or are found.
It is right-full to remember the past because we never want to repeat some the inhumanities that occurred. I believe that it is far more useful to teach history, than to try to change it. We must move on and remember that it's the future that's just as important as the past. Should our present and future be always hatred for the past, or should we teach our young that the present and future are going to be different? Your right Ms. Clarke, education is the key.
Paul Devine
St. John

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