Slavery re-imagined — Part II

Franklin Johnston

Friday, August 03, 2018

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Slavery was once global. Major ethnicities had a domestic version, some in Europe, Asia, the Levant were invaded or exiled and enslaved or exported slaves to fill demand for workers and male lust. Those moved up and are strong, except in sub-Sahara Africa, so now the African Diaspora seems more resilient, innovative than the fatherland.

Blacks in white nations live better than in continental Africa or the West Indies. What's wrong? Many e-mail ask us not to expose black ennui or racism and write “Jamaica, no problem”, but will that help the poor? Sunlight is the best disinfectant; so open up!

This conversation on slavery is overdue as it impacts crime, growth and the national project. Since youth we have all heard negative mantras which may have caused high crime and low productivity. Jamaica has the best university but does no impact research on slavery. Peeps say some fear they will find blacks, whites equally flawed.

Cabinets tackle shibboleths as buggery, hanging, ganja, but ignore slavery retentions in our DNA, fables etc. Why has the West Indies not prospered despite bauxite, oil; billions in aid; centuries of freedom, 80 years of self-government, and 56 of independence? We must dissect slavery as our masses evince a pathological resistance to education, endemic low productivity, mega antisocial tendencies and crime, violence off the charts. What moves them? Slavery matters!

The UN Global Slavery Index 2018 says slavery is in 197 countries with African nations up high. Jews, Europe under Romans, China under the Japanese were slaves, but are now strong. The West Indies were gifted freedom and new lands fail to develop, are in a bind, and need help. So they leverage the dry bones of our ancestors and, despite high-minded chat, it's the money, stupid!

This is a first. The scion of long dead people seek cash for a past legal disability. Wow! Will they also retroactively apply modern law and values to the 17th century; another first? Every heart has its grief, but did my ancestor suffer more than a Taino? Personally, I would like to catch the black bastard who sold my ancestors! In famine Africans gave up kids (Jews too) to save their bloodline — as even gold can't buy water or food. We have a good life, but we must now make life good for all Jamaicans. Selah.

Slavery is about power; so the weak serve the strong. Of the 40 million Africans traded in trans-Sahara, Indian Ocean and Atlantic slavery most were legal trades of sub-Sahara businessmen, and those of Arabia, the Mahgreb, India, the Levant, and centuries later Europeans got 11 million. Ours lasted 500 years; those lasted 1,500-plus, so Africans were sold to many ethnicities from time; and some two million whites kidnapped from Europe were sold to Arabs.

Demand for labour fuelled all slave trades and Arabs got slaves for pleasure or eunuchs to guard their harems too. The rich needed slaves for plantations, to row ocean galleys, and mining. Investment in slaves was not to kill or injure but most overseers were employed on contract and man's inhumanity to man is not pretty. Just check conduct here and weep; we have education, police, law, social services, but brutal murder is high. Are ignorant 17th century people more wicked?

African export slavery was transaction driven. Foreign captains of land or sea caravans went to Africa and traded 'manufactures' — tools, guns, fabric, beads, or horses — for slaves. Captains then went to primary producing states and traded slaves for rum, sugar, dates, minerals. Captains then returned to investors with cargo and were paid. Investors sold the cargo, made profits, and paid taxes.

Did Africans pay tax? Was the State involved? Our estates were private, but slaves and sugar were taxed locally — that's well documented. The University of the West Indies must analyse the value-added in all these supply chains to get at truth.

So do slavery retentions affect us? Jamaica is the only island in the Greater Antilles that never won freedom or independence in war — shame? With this — and the wisdom of psychology — does the seeming cowardice affect psyches of our 98 per cent blacks? The generation after Emancipation was peaceful, productive and self-reliant. Peeps say resentment, depression, self-hate, low productivity, and gratuitous violence stems from old mantras and boasts of penis size are a cover for damaged goods.

So, what mantras? Writers make two arguments. First, they say 400 years of slavery affects descendants (us) physically and psychologically. Second, blacks are just like whites. One of these is wrong, but for either the implications are dire. More anon!

The old slavery mantras need research as they are widely used and impact crime or growth. Some as: Men don't marry or maintain kids as ancestors were forced to breed serial partners; blame slavery! Ancestors did enough work to afford today's men a work-free life; blame slavery! Many diss “slavemaster” English, undermine education, so 70 per cent of youth fail. For cane piece morality as “informa fi ded”; blame slavery! Their model is Anancy, the trickster, who scams people. Taken together these mantras justify or give comfort to criminals, unproductive men, and project Jamaica fails!

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Sir, slavery matters! Do something! Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and teaches logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or

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