by Hannes Wessels
As a father of two impressionable teenage girls I am having a tough and at times frustrating time trying to undo the damage done at school in the course of their history studies where they seem to be learning little about European civilisation other than that we ‘pale-faces’ should be remembered primarily as the masters of the slave trade and avaricious colonialists who enjoyed being beastly brutes making life miserable for Africans.
What very few children today are taught is that the process to abolish the Atlantic slave trade began over 200 years ago and it was done primarily thanks to the intrepid mariners of the Royal Navy who set about the arduous and dangerous task of enforcing legislation passed in the British Parliament. The West Africa Squadron which was established for this single purpose was not a popular posting because it brought with it enormous risks, not least of which was death from tropical diseases. But officers and men pursued the task with almost evangelical zeal and eventually prevailed.
Little or no mention in the history lessons of William Wilberforce who was a primary player in the campaign to abolish slavery. He devoted his life to a cause that cost him his friendships and his health. Not a single African country, to my knowledge, acknowledges him nor is there any memorial to him.
They are also not told that the Arabs (Moslems) were enslaving Africans long before the Europeans arrived and that they continue to enslave Africans today. And as slaves their conditions were immeasurably harsher than those that prevailed in North America. Nothing in the textbooks about the fact that only about 2% of the people forcibly removed from Africa ended up in what is today the USA and that the Africans who came to America as slaves were the lucky ones who escaped the poverty, utter lawlessness and endemic tribal wars in their homeland to be introduced to the most advanced civilisation in history.
They are not told a form of indentured labour which would be classified as slavery in any European country is widely prevalent in South Asia, especially in India, to this day.
They also not told that virtually every dominant society in history has at one time or another compelled people to work under conditions of slavery.
Also nothing taught about the fact that in the 17th and 18th centuries hundreds of thousands of Europeans were shipped to America against their will and into forced labour. Waifs and strays were swept off the streets of London and shipped to the tobacco fields of the Carolinas. White convicts were paraded for sale like cattle and prostitutes were dragged from their brothels and shipped West against their will. Hundreds of thousands of Irishmen and women were sold by decree to labour in the fields of America.
No mention of the fact that through the 17th century over a million European slaves were abducted by Barbary pirates in raids on ships and coastal towns from Italy to the Netherlands and as far north as Iceland. In his book ‘Economic Facts and Fallacies’ Thomas Sowell (who is black), reports from references in the Library of Congress that more people were carried into slavery from Europe into North Africa than from Africa to North America.
Of course when the cry for reparations goes out there is no mention of the Arabs or anybody else whose ever abused anyone owing anything, it’s only the ‘usual-suspects’ who must cough because that’s just the way the modern world operates.
Naturally, little mention of the fact that there would have been no slave trade at all had it not been for the enthusiastic and ruthless support of African tribal chieftains who ensured a continuous supply of human merchandise was available to be loaded onto the waiting ships. Even the hardened white slavers were shaken by the brutality and savagery displayed by the Africans against one another in the competition to fill their vessels with live cargo. It should go without saying that if Africans had shown the same savage aggression in driving the slavers away there may have been no trade at all but the contrary was the norm; the ships were invariably welcomed.
This all brings me to the expose recently aired by CNN on the modern day slave trade that appears to be running out of Libya. There were lots of ugly visuals as one would expect but then rather surprisingly (for some – not so much for me) footage appeared which clearly showed some of the newly ‘enslaved’ with rather strange smiles on their faces and a look of relieved contentment, almost as if they were jolly pleased they had made it safely into the hands of the slavers who were about to drag them off and into the cruel clutches of the ghastly Europeans north of the Mediterranean.
This got me thinking, then excited, then fuming and I sought to summon my girls to see what I was seeing but my angry remonstrations and shouts of – ‘you see this is when I have been telling you all along!’ -had them darting from view with the slickness of a homesick mole sliding down a greased pole but a little of the truth had slipped by the censorious eyes of the ‘Thought-Police’ who manage the home of ‘Fake-News’.
That ‘truth’ goes right to the core of busting the myth about colonialism being a blight on the continent and the independence that followed, being a blessing, when in fact, the very converse is true. That would be made embarrassingly obvious if the countries of Europe and North America were to make it known that they were back in the slave trade and boats were on their way to the ports. The response from the forsaken millions, destined for lives of endless poverty would doubtless be overwhelming and the rush for the ships would be unstoppable. If the demand were to be there, I have little doubt Africa would soon be bereft of people, the vast majority would choose to abandon their purported ‘freedom’ on a continent fast reversing back into anarchy and savagery and become ‘unfree’ again under European suzerainty.
Hobbes in Leviathan, painted a grim picture when he suggested that the natural state of mankind is a “war of all against all” in which men’s lives are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short“. Unfortunately, in most cases he’s been proved right but if there is a chance to escape this dystopia it rests with that part of the world where Europeans built societies on a foundation forged out of the Christian ethos. But of course, nobody supposed to know that either.