An Independent People With Something to Say Worth Hearing

An Independent People With Something to Say Worth Hearing March 15, 2017

A Place to Learn
A Place to Learn

He was, he told us, the descendant of the slaves pictured in his national museum where he had taken us to learn. He said these words with no rancor, instead proud of his nation that the former slaves had created. He wanted to tell us the story of an independent people, the word independent came up often.

Anthony* told us the story of the murder of a slave by an owner who was put on trial by the local government. He was found guilty of the crime and given such a heavy fine that the owner was impoverished, his land confiscated to pay the fine, his life ending in exile from the Crown colony.

Anthony noted that the family of the victim received nothing. “Still,” he said, “few people know that there were such courts.” Slavery was terrible, but in the hard life on the frontier, enslaved people and the slavers often worked together to create something good. They had to do so or die. There was no justification for slavery, no softening of the evil, but acknowledgement that good people did some good even in a bad system.

Why did the evil continue?

Money, the love of money, corrupted everything and nobody knew how to keep making money without slavery. Even some freed slaves would enter the system to make money. The love of money destroyed independence for everyone and made everyone dependent on an evil system.

Christian nations stepped backwards morally when they “discovered” a New World and created a slave system to exploit it. There was no good excuse for this moral reversion. Slavery was fundamentally incompatible with Christianity and the message of the Gospel, but money, lots of money, and power, raw exploitation, overruled moral objections.

Once an evil system is established, then moralists might challenge the system or try to soften the exploitation, but the cruelty seemed endless and the hypocrisy boundless. British ships brought human cargo across the Atlantic and changed the demography of regions like the Caribbean forever. This was the same Empire that fought the tyrant Napoleon to the death for decades in the name of British liberty.

The inconsistency of proclaiming liberty while justifying slavery infected even John Locke. He could argue correctly that our rights came from God and were the heritage of each person, but fall short when it came to race based slavery. Yet whenever they could, enslaved people would escape and, as Anthony showed us, would create free havens where liberty could flourish. John Locke was right: life and liberty were God’s gift to humankind and revolution was the just result of trying to take it away.

The British Empire ended legal slavery decades before Americans would fight a bloody civil war to achieve the same goal when Christians in England refused to hide from the plain moral facts. Their sugar, their sweet things, were bought in brutality and horror. The change was peaceful, though justice came slowly for formerly enslaved people. Eventually positive change came to British societies where slavery ended without our bloody war and failed Reconstruction. Power and independence came to the freed men and women by legal means and without the legacy of hate that our Civil War produced.

This is place where the Queen, Elizabeth II, has personal values in tune with the majority of the population . . . unlike the British islands she also rules.

The result, Anthony proudly claimed, was a society that was far from perfect, but which values education, God, and hard work. They have a prime minister that stood up to an American president when he attempted to dictate morality to this free and independent people. The USA may sometimes proclaim liberty, but impose our vices on our friends.

Gently, very, very gently, Anthony suggested that slavery sometimes had a new name, ugly business, still the result of money combined with power bereft of morality. Did we love chocolate? We might do some research. There were companies, American companies, that used children . . . and he left us to discover the truth for ourselves. Perhaps, he said, we might do something about this ourselves. He is right, perhaps our lectures on morality should start with ending barbaric child labor for cheap candy.

He turned to us, a somewhat secular group on holiday, and said something like this: “Here we believe in God, work if you would eat and not welfare, education with prayer in schools, and a place where nobody starves or goes hungry.” He said: “We are independent and will not beg.”

It was, our educator said with a smile, a very good place, “un-Belize-able.”  I don’t know enough even to know what I don’t know, but I would love to believe this wise man is right.


*I will not use our host’s last name to preserve his anonymity in case I have gotten some of his account wrong.

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