Published On: Sat, Jun 1st, 2013

Slavery and the obscenity of cruelty

Jacob Gelt DekkerNegative labor incentives with corporal punishments, reached its climax of obscenity in Stalin’s forced labor camp archipelago and Hitler’s concentration lager. The carrot and the stick but mostly stick, is often qualified as a byproduct of protestant work ethics.
Not necessarily limited to labor, practices of heavy corporal punishment still prevail today in Jihadist and fundamentalist Muslim communities. Amputations, beheadings, stoning and hangings are regularly displayed to the masses of Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Also Africa’s tribal clashes appear to compete in brutalities, in hacking people to pieces; Ethiopia’s Mengistu in the 1970’s with 2 million, Hutus and Tutsis in the ‘90’s with 3 million, Sudan and Congo in the ‘2000 with 2 and 5 million casualties, are only scant illustrations.
Commemorating the abolition of legal slavery on 30 May, 1863-2013, inevitably confronts participants with images of negative labor incentives, of whippings on plantations. Revisionist historians seek to portray corporal punishment of slaves as an extra perverse dimension of the institution of slavery, which is was not; it was the modus operandi of that time applicable to all.
Although it is hard for many to stomach today, historic slavery was a legal institution, highly regulated when it happened. We cannot judge history by today’s laws and ethics only by the prevailing laws and ethics of its own time. No matter how much we despise and disapprove of the system of slavery, we have no choice but to accept it as it was when it is practiced legally.
Today’s slavery in its worst forms continues to be practiced on a large scale in Africa, mostly in the Sahel and at the west coast. Although all African countries officially signed abolition mandates of the United Nations, in practice, slavery and slave trade continue massively, ruthlessly and without any regard for human dignity and life. The millions of slaves in Africa today by far outnumber those in history.
Manumission laws only, proofed to be too little to make it happen. In spite of many well-meant efforts, mostly, a manumission system of rehabilitation turned out not to be possible culturally, socially, religiously and economically. Denial, disbelief and disinterest of the western world, and surprisingly of the formerly enslaved communities of North and South America, turned a blind eye, consequently, lately, slavery has been on the increase in the Sahel again.
The tribal and civil wars of Mali, Sudan, Somalia and Congo produced a stream of hundreds of thousands of refugees who easily fall victim to raiders and traders, mostly Tuareg, out for fast profits and eager to finance their bloody Jihadi wars.
I am eager to attend future abolition celebrations that focus on today’s slavery, rather than only those of the past and strongly rescind abuse of any abolition commemoration with hidden political propaganda agendas.

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