Slavery Is A Matter Of Perception
Slavery Is A Matter Of Perception
It was winter. A good friend of us stopped by our house as usual. She is an African-American lady who enjoys eating our national food. As she saw my wife ironing my shirts she said, “Why you are ironing for your hubby? You are not his slave. Don’t you know that he was washing and ironing his clothes while he was on campus?” I don’t blame her as long as her perception is concerned in a society in which the household chores are not divided by gender; or where the self-help is a norm. However, such individualistic pattern of behavior can be at odds in a society in which familial duty pertaining to women is looked upon as an expression of good womanhood ( ወናም ወይ ወሓለ ሰበይቲ).
None of these two different perceptions supersede each other in the light of cultural relativity ascribed to complex world we live in. For every culture is functional within a specific society at certain developmental milestone. Therefore, judging societal norm from the perspective of ones sentiment as akin to ethnocentrism. That is why our world has lost direction in the jungle of discord or myopia.
Let me share another story with you. In the late fifties, I was living with my maternal grandfather and grandmother in rural Eritrea. I was seven years old then. It happened one day I waked up late in the morning, and saw right in the front of our door step, a long stretch of room that looked like a country yarn (ዳስ) which was made from the branch of woods. It was quickly constructed by young men who were actively engaging in celebrating their friend’s wedding. Such communal support system (ወፈራ) is still at work not only in Eritrea, but also in the Diaspora by way of mass organizations established during the struggle era. By the same token, the present national service in Eritrea cannot be seen apart from this traditional cooperative system which is more pronounced now in building the country whose economic infrastructures about seven hundred industries in all were completely destroyed during the three decades of war, the longest in the annals of African history.
Is this a forced labor or SLAVERY in a society which is arising from the ashes of man-made destruction?
By the same token, the Japanese people, the rising stars after second world war were working without pay after their big cities such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed by atomic bombs. For it was a national catastrophe, and individual interest was in check in favor of national construction. I suggest you to read the book: The Human Side of Japanese Enterprise. It was this noble deed that moved me to write the following poem:-
IT IS DESTINED TO GROW
The Japanese …..
The people of a rising sun
Symbolized after their national flag
Are so quiet, so humble
Who achieved such an economic miracle
Within a short period of time
Have a message to their own kind
That says: never mind
The more the rain hits the ground
The more it becomes
Hard, solidified, or petrified.
Its overt and covert enemies
Might move to disrupt
Its national policies
Out of hate or jealousy.
But once and for all
It is destined to grow
Through many roads
Whose dire opponents
Have no control.
Eritreans are families of nations possessing communal lands and customary laws. Hence the word slavery is inapplicable within societal frame work shaped by marital bond, ethnic and religious harmony never achieved in our volatile region. Thus the word “Slavery” by way of projection is Euro-centric perception whose arbitrators lack cultural sensitivity. This is also very dangerous when international law fails to consider the subjective assessment of its decisions in the light of cultural diversity. This could have been dealt by UNESCO with its arms of social scientists, not by politically motivated organizations serving as front agencies of power groups.
As the Reverend Martin Luther King put it in his famous book “Strength To Love” :-
There is no shame in being a slave
But there is shame in being a slave owner.
That is why the rubric “SLAVERY” is UNERITREAN. Period.
Eritrea ever is…..!!!
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