Today took a look at the slavery exhibition on the Zong and ashore. Last night I watched the film Amazing Grace with the family, about the life of William Wilberforce.
It strikes me how invisible the slave trade was in the U.K. itself. Many people made much money from the trade, but because the actual transport of the slaves – the “middle passage” – was from Africa to the Caribbean the horror of what was going on was not seen by most. I wonder what are the equivalents today: the invisible cost of trade. I think of modern day slavery, of working conditions in factories overseas that would not be acceptable in the U.K. I wonder whether this is just “the tip of the iceberg.”
The slavery business was legally regulated, for example in the number of slaves that a ship was insured to carry. Mayby legal regulation can give an air of respectability to things which should not be allowed at all. It seem so easy for human beings to accept and work within a framework which legitimises inhuman behaviour – whether such examples of slavery, or of racially motivated genocide in recent wars.
Looking out from the deck of the ship, moored on the Thames, I am told that much of the wealth displayed around me was generated through slavery…