Monday, November 27, 2006


Sorry about that, things just kept coming. Back for now though, and just in time to get mildly ticked off at the furore surrounding Tony Blair's expression of deep sorrow for the existence of the slave trade. Looking at the wording of the statement, it should have ranked high on a list of thoroughly non-controversial sayings:

I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was - how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition - but also to express our deep sorrow that it could ever have happened and rejoice at the better times we live in today.

So, slavery was bad - who'd have thought it? One good thing though, whatever this is it's certainly no apology. And quite right too. Demanding an apology, as a first step towards demanding financial compensation, for the slave trade is an exercise in fatuity so pronounced that one almost expects Ramsey Clarke to get involved. Quite apart from the fact, as Tim so eloquently pointed out ages ago, the basis behind compensation in this country is to put the plaintiff in position he would have been in had the event not occurred. Since West Africa is so much poorer and less healthy, it would seem that the descendants of slaves should be grateful rather than the reverse.

Simplistic as this might be (it is not unreasonable to suggest that, were it not for slavery, the economies of pre-colonial Africa might have been significantly healthier) it touches on an important point. What actual, quantifiable loss can these descendants be said to have suffered? The question is unanswerable because the loss is nebulous. If a man (or more likely a woman) has been enslaved he shoulf have the right to claim compensation, and his slaver should be imprisoned. But for his great-great-great-grandchildren to claim compensation is as absurd as my suing St Barts hospital in London because they operated on a distant ancestor in the days before anaesthetic.


Blogger JohnM said...

Quite apart from your agument, the fact is that a few hundred years ago slavery was ubiquitous - practiced by every culture on every continent. It was accepted. The west deserves no condemnation for practicing what others practiced but recognition that it was the culture that made it unacceptable and has done more than any other to abolish the practice.

12:46 pm  

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