Wednesday, 2 December 2009


“Freedom is never given; it is won.” - A. Philip Randolph

The United Nations has established December 2nd as the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The resolution was passed in 1949 to recognise ongoing efforts worldwide to abolish all forms of slavery. We seem to think that slavery is something that was common in ancient Greece and Rome and died out with the emancipation of the black slaves in America, however, the stark reality is that are more people living as slaves today than at any other time in history. A shocking realisation for most people who first find out about this. The other startling and distressing part of this realisation is that most of the estimated 27 million victims of slavery around the world are women and children.

Surprised? Surely this can’t be right, not nowadays when virtually every nation on earth has condemned and outlawed slavery? Unfortunately it is true. Why? Because it is underground, because it goes by names less distasteful than “slavery” and because enormous financial interests are involved. Of the estimated 27 million people in some form of slavery or other, the vast majority (as many as 20 million perhaps) are Indians who work as “bonded labourers.”  This is an illegal system throughout India, but unfortunately is widely practiced. Most bonded workers spend their lives working to pay off debts that were incurred generations ago, according to a report by Human Rights Watch published in 1999. These people work under slave-like conditions breaking rocks, in building, working in fields or factories, for less than a dollar a day.

In today’s globalised economic market and the multinational economic concerns, labour has become a commodity that can be bought and sold. If there is a plentiful supply of cheap labour throughout the world, individuals are increasingly treated as “disposable” to be used, abused, and replaced at will. Complicating the issue is that organised crime control most of this slavery, buying, selling and transporting victims in illegal networks that span national borders.
Even in Western, first world nations, the enforcement of existing anti-slavery laws is erratic and poorly enforced. In developing nations, corruption is widespread with police and law enforcement officials being actively involved in the slave trade. Even if public officials are honest, they may not be able to act as they are “neutralised” as soon as they begin to investigate the slavery networks. The slaves of the 21st century are a diverse group made up of people of diverse backgrounds, ethnic identities and income levels. As a result, slavery can exist unnoticed even in advanced post-industrial societies like Australia, the USA, UK and Japan.

Unfortunately, even if we are becoming increasingly aware of it, slavery is not likely to be ever completely eradicated. It has been an integral part of humanity from the earliest times, and will exist as long as humans seek to exploit or dominate one another. It seem that we humans hide within us such sentiments. We may possess a fine mind, have on our exterior the veneer of civilisation and the sentiments of equality, liberty and fraternity. Given half an opportunity, the devil that lurks within will spring out and dominate, exploit and enslave others…

Hail, Homo sapiens sapiens!

The human is the wickedest animal
(If we can do to animals this injustice
By such an unfair comparison).
A human to another human
Will mete out such horrors
That no self-respecting animal
Will ever do to others of its kind.

The human mind is the most intricate,
Capable of such wonders,
Such sheer marvels!
And yet its shrewdest cleverness
Is used to wreak much evil,
That to be an idiot seems
A heavenly blessing.

The human is the peak of all creation,
Or apex of evolution,
(Depending on your credos);
Compassion, pity, love, affection, tenderness,
Can fill a heart with angelic sentiments.
And yet in most of us
A devil lurks and will often out, given half a chance…

You, human, I salute, all hail!
Murder most foul, exploitation,
Prostitution, lying, deception,
War, extortion, slavery, injustice,
Betrayal, duplicity, evil, immorality,
Are but some of your works!
Hail, Homo sapiens sapiens!

 Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday.


  1. Hi Nicholas!

    Terrible, but true that slavery isn't yet totally abolished..a friend of mine sometimes helps her husband in his charitable work overseas, and she has spoken about some of the things you mention.

    Sad that greed and the lust for power can cause humans to let loose their devils and exploit others in such a way, and sadder that those who are meant to be there to see justice and fairness done either turn a blind eye, or are themselves involved in it all.

  2. This is so depressing! I confess to being one of these people who thought slavery was all in the past. The numbers you quote are staggering!
    Your poem really takes a biting view of our humanity (or lack of it)...