03 July 2006


We are all equal in the eyes of God, right?

Well, that’s what religion promises us. But I’m not so sure of it. So, I appease myself with the answer: Yes, we are all equal; but perhaps, after death. In this living world, we have to face the consequences of our birth – and all that we try to achieve ourselves. Because, this living world is full of inequality; and that’s the reality of the situation.

Many human beings feel inequality is a reality for them. Think of a child’s feelings when he or she is forced to eat a bowl of insipid porridge when the parents gobble up scrambled eggs with bacon and toast, and you’ll get the picture. You don’t have to belong to a specific race or religion or gender or social class to be stripped off your rights as a human being. It can happen to anyone.

Just for a moment, imagine this: It’s some time in the future. Things have gone out of control and you suddenly find yourself as a slave to a person who considers himself or herself, by some decree, superior to you. What would be your notion of equality? Would you feel like one of the human prisoners of Pierre Boulle’s ‘Planet of the Apes’? Or, would your world be something different?

While you think about this, here’s an excerpt from ‘The Newness of New World Slavery’ (from African American Voices, Digital History, University of Houston) about the lives of slaves in the ancient world:

“In Homer’s Greece, it was not a crime for a master to beat or kill a slave, and the testimony of unskilled slaves was not allowed in court unless it was obtained through torture. Nor does the Bible prohibit the beating of slaves. In the Roman Republic, a master might kill a slave. Vedius Pollio, a citizen of Rome, reportedly fed the bodies of his slaves to his pet fish. Flavius Gratianus, a fourth century Roman emperor, ruled that any slave who dared accuse his master of a crime should be immediately burned alive. Roman slaves who participated in revolts were crucified on crosses. In ancient India, Saxon England, and ancient China, a master might mistreat or even kill a slave with impunity. Aztec Mexico publicly staged the ritual torture and killing of slaves…

…slavery in the classical and the early medieval worlds was not based on racial distinctions. In ancient times, slavery had nothing to do with the color of a person’s skin. In ancient Rome, for example, the slave population included Ethiopians, Gauls, Jews, Persians, and Scandinavians. Unlike seventeenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth century Europeans, the people of the ancient world placed no premium on racial purity and attached no stigma upon racial mixture. Ancient societies, however, did tattoo, brand, or mutilate their slaves as a symbol of their debased status.”

Slavery is, perhaps, an extreme form of social inequality. But, it aptly demonstrates the lack – and the purposeful destruction – of human rights that we all believe is ours from birth.

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