QOTD: "Politics is not how you vote, it is how you live. It is not how you choose, but how you think." - Nancy Fox
Reading: Leo Marks, Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945
Listening to: Yid Vicious, Klez, Kez, Goy Mit Fez
Decluttering accomplishments: filed away all of the maps that were on the living room floor
Areas of Unrest
9 September 2001 - Slavery
The new year (years being defined by my birthday, of course) brings a redesign. Let me know if it's unreadable in any way. I've also updated the faq and lifelist and I'm working on updating the journal links page. I'm not entirely satisfied with the design and I may get to something less fussy sooner or later, but it will do for now.
The work week was fairly slow, though it provided a few opportunities for outrage. You see, we work nine hour days on Monday through Thursday in exchange for every other Friday off. But holidays only count as eight hours. We were told explicitly we could either charge vacation or make the exta hour up by arrangement with our supervisors. On Tuesday, Jim sent out an email saying he expected us to use vacation unless there were "extraordinary circumstances." The timing was particularly annoying since most people gave up their regular day off last Friday to go to a design review. I talked with Milo and he had me write a note justifying the comp time on the grounds of all of the 16 hour days I put in during the design review preparation. While I realize Jim has legit concerns about audit trails, he didn't have to handle it in such a smarmy way.
While I'm on the subject of smarminess, the newspaper today had an annoying bit in the celebrity Q&A column. A reader asked if there was any possibility that Paul McCartney will use his songwriting talent to do a Broadway musical. The response was that Paul "thinks the musical is an old-fashioned form that isn't worth his time and energy." My immediate thought is that at 59, Paul has become an old man who isn't worth my time and energy.
One other brief news item is that I went to see The Curse of the Jade Scorpion today. It was okay, but I'm starting to believe Robert's theory that Woody Allen makes twice as many movies as he should. There were some good lines and nothing fundamentally wrong with the movie, but it should have been a lot funnier than it was. My own movie-going experience was livened up by an earthquake about a third of the way through. Most of the audience left, though it isn't clear to me why. There's not much in a movie theatre that's likely to fall on you and, since the power didn't go out, it was doubtful that it was all that major a quake. (It turned out to be a 4.2 near West Hollywood. Not insignificant, but not huge either. Incidentally, the theatre was in Century City which has some of the better ground in the area, geologically speaking, so there was even less reason to leave.)
As for what I really wanted to write about, I've been following the UN Conference on Racism with some interest. I'm not all that crazy about Middle East politics overshadowing some real issues - caste in India, widespread discrimination against the Roma, etc.. But what I want to write about is the question of slavery.
First off, I don't think reparations make sense. In the case of war reparations, the payments are generally made to the actual victims. Direct payment to victims by perpetrators is reasonable. How to deal with the after effects generations later is far more complex, but writing checks doesn't seem to me to be the answer.
Then, I have two questions. Why was only the trans-Atlantic slave trade addressed and not the Indian Ocean slave trade? I realize that the numbers for the latter may be smaller, but it was also pretty horrible. I remember standing in a room in Zanzibar that had been used as a prison for slaves and fighting my horror at the cramped space. Ending the East African slave trade is the major reason that David Livingstone is still so revered. More significantly, where are the calls for apologies and reparations by the coastal tribes that brought members of other tribes to the ports to be sold into slavery? In fact, where is the outrage at the ongoing enslavement of Christians in Southern Sudan? And the lingering remnants of slavery in Mauritania?
I'm not excusing slavery. I think it's bad for people not to have control over their lives. But I suspect that if I had been a resident of, say, Louisiana in the 1830's (or Mauritania in the 1970's), I'd have owned slaves and not really thought about it. I like to think I'd have been one of the more humane slave owners, but that's something I like to think from the perspective of a liberal 20th century American upbringing. Of course, it's other people with similar upbringing to mine who were behind the local slavery cases I know of - sweatshop owners in suburban Los Angeles who enslaved immigrants. I find their actions inexplicable, and they should be paying reparations to their victims.
Let's just move on, forgive the sins of the fathers, and focus on how we can help improve people's lives here and now.
Copyright 2001 Miriam H. Nadel
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