This is quite a gloomy title isn’t it? It is not my intention to gloomify your day – not at all. It’s just that we took a visit to the Liverpool Maritime Museum the other day, I have not been there for years and I heard there had been changes to the floor that is devoted to the history of the slave trade.
You know, I have decided it is alright to pick a sombre subject to write about once in a while. I hope my site on the whole reflects the joy I feel in life. But serious sombre subjects are part of life and you have to be heartless to bury your head in the sand.
I wanted to visit the Liverpool Maritime Museum again and to produce a post about it because it provided very sobering lessons to me during my childhood years. This is one of the first museums I went to and I remember as a child being shocked and dismayed to learn about these callous pages of history. I was raised near Liverpool and I remember being taught at school that Liverpool played a pivotal role in this cruel era. And yes, our teachers taught us that it was a bitterly shameful connection.
I have spent some time out in Ghana (I also have family who have lived there for the last few years) and whilst we stayed in Accra, we were also able to visit a few other locations, Kakum National Park, Aburi Botanical Gardens and Cape Coast. I have found the journal I kept while I was in Ghana and will prepare future posts about our amazing trip out there.
The painting above is of Elmina Castle, which we did not visit when we were in Ghana. However, we did visit a similar castle in Cape Coast. When they took us on a tour down into the “dungeons” they asked us to imagine we were one of the hundreds who were crammed into that space before being loaded onto ships that were eventually to find their way to the Americas.
I already had strong feelings about how people were treated, Humans dominating each other, treating other humans as commodities, forcing other humans into labour under barbaric conditions. Yuck! These injustices and atrocities make me wonder how can it be that human beings can sink to such a degree of hard-hearted brutishness. I know slavery is perhaps as old as “civilisation”, but there is no excusing the utter disregard for your fellow human.
I have been happy to serve as an unpaid volunteer for many years, (and at times we joked that we were a bit like slaves) but I sensed I was more loved and appreciated than I have been by employers who paid me a wage. But the forced slavery that enabled a few to profit while many suffered unimaginable cruelty…that is a crime that is deeply shameful. Amongst other crimes recorded indelibly in history books.
The Maritime Museum has some pretty graphic exhibits to help you to fully realize how bad conditions were for those being transported to the Americas.
The model of a ship in the photo above shows the lower decks crammed with the cargo of Africans who were being transported to the Americas. Some of the exhibits made me feel sick. Even though I have been to this museum several times before it still makes me react the same way as I did as a child. I was so angry and sickened that a group of humans could be so wicked so as to degrade their fellow humans like this.
Of course since my childhood, I have learnt of many other acts of “inhumanity” – that is what we call it isn’t it, when a human or a group of humans commit a crime and for some strange reason they hold their heads up high for a while with clear conscience until eventually it is pointed out that what they have done is actually despicably evil. And oh so often, it is all about money, wealth, a more comfortable lifestyle…at what cost? At the suffering and cruelty of others!
I remember the impression learning about the slave trade made on me as a little girl. I felt ashamed actually. There was no possibility of me being able to develop in my heart any improper pride or nationalistic streak. No, I was struck with a determination to see a human family who are equal and can only be judged by what they say and do, not for where they were born or educated, the shade of their skin, the condition of their home or how much money they earn.
I have learned a wonderful lesson from travelling. There are people all over this world that are very beautiful in their minds and hearts. I have adopted many family members in my travels in many countries. There are people I live near and work with who I do not warm to because of opinions they voice which smack of hateful racism and a self-centred, short-sighted nationalism. Time will tell whether they are ignorant, “unwell” or whether they would go far enough to commit crimes in relation to their horrid outlook on other humans who happen to have grown up in (or whose parents grew up in) a different part of Planet Earth.
In fact, I pinch myself whenever I visit magnificent historical buildings in this country. I find them beautiful and interesting, but I remind myself that so much wealth has been amassed through corrupt and crooked means. I do not approve. I cannot feel proud of what was essentially crime on a vast scale. What were the words I used in my title? “Sinister and sadistic”… There are a lot of terrible things that have been done, but those that shock us the most are often those done on a mass scale. The Holocaust, the Slave Trade, the Crusades. It’s as if on a vast scale consciences were callous and unfeeling. Faulty crooked reasoning and degraded ignorance.
I do enjoy learning about history, very much. I am fascinated by how people used to live. Especially prior to the industrial revolution. I sometimes crave an existence without the pace of the modern technological world. And I think it would be jolly sensible for us all to spread out a bit more rather than living on top of each other. Oh, to learn some basic skills, cultivating our food, making our own clothing and furniture, that would be so satisfying. But the pace of life now, my feet don’t seem to touch the ground some days!
However, so much grieves me. So many stories I have heard, how I would like to welcome back those who led a life of unimaginable hardship they were powerless to escape, I would love to make a fuss of them. Give them a soft bed to rest in and a banquet of tasty dishes. And hugs, oh so many hugs, so much love and kindness.
Maybe you can understand why I became a volunteer?
I am still aghast at some of the situations I hear of today. As a volunteer, we receive regular updates on what could rightly be described as “humanitarian crises” in various locations. My own definition is when a human or a group of humans treat others in a way that is simply evil, and yet the oppressors do it with their heads held high with clear consciences. Others are dismayed and outraged. Yet at times, those oppressors seem untouchable, as they often have so much control and power. It seems as if they answer to nobody.
Helpless and hopeless is my overwhelming sentiment at times…yet I do feel hopeful. I am inspired by the power that is beyond any human, wicked or good to control. I read something recently that I found filled me with profound awe. There were a couple with beaming smiles, standing outside of the train station when I arrived in Liverpool, giving out free magazines. It was one of the most refreshing and positive wodge of pages I have set my eyes on in a long time. When I came back to my sister’s I wanted to verify some of the quotes in the articles I read.
As we are experiencing a heatwave here in Britain that many of us have never seen in our lifetime, this quote about the sun captured my attention.
“How much energy does our sun radiate? Imagine how fierce a fire would have to be if you were ten miles [15 km] from it and could still feel the heat. The sun is, on average, about 93 million miles [150 million km] from the earth. Yet, on a sunny day, its heat can blister the skin! Remarkably, only about one billionth of the sun’s energy strikes the earth. Still, this fraction of the sun’s power is enough to sustain life on the planet.
In fact, scientists have calculated that the total energy output from just our sun is enough to sustain some 31 trillion planets like the earth. Or to measure this enormous output another way: If all the sun’s power could be harnessed for just one second, it would provide the United States “with enough energy, at its current usage rate, for the next 9,000,000 years,” says the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) Web site.
The sun’s energy emanates from its core—a nuclear reactor that smashes atoms together and spews out power. The sun is so big and its core so dense that it takes millions of years for the energy produced within the core to well up to the surface. “If the Sun were to stop producing energy today,” says the SWPC Web site, “it would take 50,000,000 years for significant effects to be felt at Earth!”
Now consider this fact: When you raise your eyes on a clear night, you are seeing thousands of stars, each disgorging vast amounts of energy, similar to our sun. And scientists calculate that there are billions upon billions of stars in the universe!”
To be able to control power like that is mind-boggling. When I read figures and statistics like that it is hard for me to comprehend. Yet, it also fills me with hope. I might feel helpless and powerless, but I am convinced that those who are content to profit while closing their eyes to brutality and cruelty towards fellow humans are going to be humbled.
I just long for the day when a united human family, rich with varied cultures, are able to live in true freedom without being oppressed or dominated by other humans. I know there are differences in the cultures and beliefs of different people living in different parts of this planet – but I feel akin to any human who has the conscience that tells them abuse of power, disregard for the lives of others for economic gain and selfish and greedy violent conflicts are crimes. Although they may appear to get away with it, the perpetrators of such acts will go down in history as criminals – corrupt and crooked in their reasoning – no matter how much charisma they may parade.
I would give up everything I owned to see a world where everyone cares about their fellow human, their fellow family member.